"Is she wearing her garments in that wedding dress photo?"
In 2017, former YSA bishop Richard Ostler's response to this question went viral. But is there more to this question than a discussion about another's modesty standards?
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On the new Listen, Learn, and Love podcast, Ostler shares how questions like these—questions that polarize and ostracize members of the Church—are harmful in ways we may not even know.
In the case of questioning whether or not a bride is wearing garments under her wedding dress, we may not know the whole story. Maybe the bride is a new convert or maybe the dress belonged to the bride's mother. There are so many unknown factors in situations where we are outsiders looking in. But one thing is clear: our covenants should never be used as a "measuring stick to judge others," Ostler says.
He adds, "Now in saying this, I'm not giving permission for members not to wear their garments or take a more casual approach." Instead, Ostler says he uses this question: "Is she wearing her garments in that wedding dress photo?" as an example of how we can stop judging and shaming others even when they appear to be living contrary to our standards.
"I meet with so many on the fringes of [Latter-day Sainthood]," Ostler says. "And it is often the culture, not the doctrine or the commandments, that cause them to withdraw. They feel judged. So instead of coming to church and having it feel like the balm of Gilead, where they feel loved and accepted, people walking with them as they try to move forward in their life, rather, they feel eyes on them, judging them."
To help all members feel welcome at church, Ostler suggests seeing others as equals—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, occupation, appearance, and so many other things that may cause us to be quick to judge.
Instead, keeping the mindset of what we have in common, our divine heritage as spirit brothers and sisters, can help us be more united as a church.
Quoting Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, Ostler says, "'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… . 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" (Bishop Gérald Caussé, "Ye Are No More Strangers," October 2013 general conference).
For more ways to help all members feel welcome at church, click the link below to listen to the full podcast: