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A New Way to Think of "Sunday Best" + When Our Sunday Best Doesn't Feel Good Enough

by | May 25, 2019

Mormon Life

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in his April 2019 general conference address, warned members against complacency in their Sunday worship:

“‘Sunday best’ has lost a little of its meaning in our time, and out of esteem for Him into whose presence we come, we ought to restore that tradition of Sabbath dress and grooming when and where we can.”

Most discussions surrounding Latter-day Saint members’ dress pertain to modesty, a common topic in our meetings and conversations. Modesty is defined by ChurchofJesusChrist.org as "an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to 'glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit'  (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19)."

► You may also be interested in: What We're Still Missing About Modesty

But what about the less-defined dress standards members adhere to on Sundays?

On any given Sabbath day, you can walk into a Latter-day Saint church and find its members busy in their worship. Most are relatively uniform in regards to dress. For men: slacks, dress shoes, a dress shirt and tie, and, depending on the time of year, a suit coat. For women: dresses or blouses with skirts.

But what is the purpose for adorning ourselves in our best clothing on our days of worship?

For the Strength of Youth provides this reason:

“Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him. . . . When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.”

With this standard of dress, it’s easy to discern members but equally easy for investigators, visitors of different faiths, or less affluent members to feel left out, even if the sign on the exterior of the church welcomes all.

And if you can’t dress as other members do? Does God appreciate your devotion less? Is your worship less meaningful?

Julie Elswood shared an anecdote on ChurchofJesusChrist.org about the subject:

“Every week at church I only cared about what others thought of me, not what the Lord thought. That’s when a familiar scripture came to my mind.

"‘For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart’ (1 Sam. 16:7).

"It was at that moment I decided . . . my Sunday best was about the attitude in my heart.”

Additionally, Sister Carol F. McConkie, in a video titled "Lifting Others" said:

“I know people who come to church every Sunday so that they can be inspired and uplifted and who just simply walk away feeling judged and unloved—unneeded, like there is no place for them at church. We need to do this differently.”

The term "Sunday best" can be extended to all parts of our worship, and, just like arriving on time for Sacrament meeting or remaining reverent throughout church, dressing our best is an individual aspect of worship, and our current best is all the Lord requires.

► You may also be interested in: White Dress Shirts: What the Church Has Actually Said

Elder Holland, in another address titled "Be Ye Therefore Perfect -- Eventually," said:

"My brothers and sisters, except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call 'toxic perfectionism.' We should avoid that latter excessive expectation of ourselves and of others."

As we strive to achieve our Sunday best, let us also uplift and help others obtain their Sunday best by reaching out, loving, and accepting. Heavenly Father appreciates our diligent efforts to come closer to Him, and one should never feel precluded from attending church service due to his or her clothes or any deficiency in his or her worship. In fact, it is only by attending that we can improve and ultimately become more like Christ.

Lead image from Getty Images.
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