Latter-day Saint Life

‘Is she wearing her garments?’ Why measuring others by our own standards rarely leads to righteous judgment

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When we question others’ choices concerning wearing garments without genuine, loving concern and in the appropriate setting, we run the risk of judging erroneously.

“Is she wearing her garments in this wedding photo?”

As a Utah native, I remember hearing that question asked a lot in my community of mostly Latter-day Saint neighbors and friends. In my experience, it was often asked more in a spirit of nosy scrutiny than out of genuine love and concern for woman smiling at the camera.

To me it seemed that such scrutiny was a way to assess the woman’s commitment to the gospel, her personal modesty standards, and her temple worthiness.

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When we ask this kind of question, we may think we’re simply showing concern for other person. But it’s not quite that simple. As Jalyn Peterson pointed out in a recent episode of Sunday on Monday podcast, “It’s tricky … in this day and age, to be the keeper without being the judger. There’s a finesse to being the keeper, especially with friends that we have that are teetering on the line.”

Tammy Uzelec Hall then goes on in the episode to highlight the fine line between keeper and judger. According to Hall, when we fail to see that we’ve strayed out of keeping and into judging territory, we may have defensive thoughts, such as, “Judging? What are you talking about? I’m concerned; I care about you.”

It can be difficult to discern whether our concern about others’ choices is springing from authentic love or from judgment, feeling personally threatened, or some other motivation. But when we question others’ choices concerning wearing garments without genuine, loving concern and in the appropriate place and setting, we run the risk of judging erroneously.

This is because, according to the Church’s General Handbook, wearing the garment is an outward expression of an inner commitment to follow the Savior Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).

Judging another person’s inner commitment to follow the Savior—especially based on their choices regarding garments—can be a serious matter. As the Savior taught in 3 Nephi 14:2, “With what judgement ye, ye shall also be judged.”

Making such judgments is especially unproductive because we can rarely see the full picture. Maybe the bride in the photo is a new convert, or maybe she’s wearing a special heirloom dress that belonged to her mother or grandmother. Perhaps garments fit her differently than others because of her body type. In nearly every case, we just don’t know the full picture and are imposing our judgments on literally a snapshot in time.

In his October 2013 general conference talk, Bishop Gérald Caussé admonished us to unite others with Christ instead of treating people as outcasts or as uncommitted disciples:

“In this Church there are no strangers and no outcasts. There are only brothers and sisters. …

“In this Church our wards and our quorums do not belong to us. They belong to Jesus Christ. Whoever enters our meetinghouses should feel at home. The responsibility to welcome everyone has growing importance. …

“Unity is not achieved by ignoring and isolating members who seem to be different or weaker and only associating with people who are like us.”

So, instead of wondering whether any member of the Church is wearing their garments, it’s more productive to wonder whether they are feeling valued and loved by God and those around them. We could ask, “What could I do to make sure this person feels the love and acceptance of the Savior?”

This eliminates the risk of judging someone wrongfully, and it allows sacred space for everyone to focus on what really matters: their own personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

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