… that often. They just don’t appeal to or look good on me. How far back this aesthetic concern goes in my life I am not sure. Perhaps its only as recently in my life timeline as returning from my mission. Every day from dusk until dawn a missionary wears white shirts and ties, if not suits, as a servant of the Lord. Like any uniform, after the official reason for its use ends it feels good to change into something else. No reason to wear a drab color when there are so many other choices. The reason I don’t like to wear white shirts might sound shallow, and there is truth to that consideration, but tastes are not always complicated.
Part of my personality is less than white shirt and tie compatible. From an early age I have been an artistic minded person. My most distinct youthful memories include drawing or coloring on whatever piece of paper crossed my path. As an example, on Saturdays after cartoons there was a classic monster show that came on one of the channels. Giant monsters were my favorite. One of those was a giant tarantula that terrorized the American foothills of some unnamed geography. Having at the time fallen in love with the show the first viewing, I put that fandom down in art. Not just any old picture would do for my enthusiasm. No, I drew and colored (for a black and white film) the basic storyboard of the movie’s events. In the mind of that young boy sitting half the Saturday doing his creation, he was writer and director of a remake. White means fill the space up with shapes and colors.
My favorite colors are red and blue, but have nothing to do with the flag of the United States because white is missing from that lineup. No nation that I know uses those color combinations for a flag without having some tinge of white. I often in my everyday attire use black as opposed to white as my neutral color. Never would I choose to wear a black shirt to church even if a black tie is personally acceptable. I want to look good, not make a statement. The majority of dress shirts I own are shades of blue, followed ironically by white that seldom get used and then an assortment of others.
Wondering if my preference for wearing other than white made me stand out, for a couple Sundays I looked around my ward. Needless to say almost all the men had a white shirt and tie. A lesser number wore, including all leadership, a suite. Without making any kind of judgement, a heavy set person was more likely to wear a colored shirt of some kind. Those very few who were not physically larger and didn’t have white on had a known independent streak. For the record, I am far from large and only tangentially related in temperament to the others. I have always been more strange than independant minded.
Of course, my dislike of white shirts doesn’t translate into absolute. A religious person of the Western tradition cannot get away from the formal requirements of wearing them. Even more so a Mormon where white represents purity in particular observances. My preference will not get in the way of faithfulness, worship, and obedience. When a white shirt, and for that matter all white clothes, matters then personal proclivities go to the wayside. Temple attendance is too easy a target of this disregard. More to the point, I would never pass the sacred sacrament without wearing a white shirt and tie. I think what Elder Holland said in the October 1995 General Conference for Aaronic Priesthood holders goes for the Melchizedek Priesthood holders equally:
May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers, and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and onto your missions.
That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. As President David O. McKay taught, a white shirt contributes to the sacredness of the holy sacrament (see Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 89).
That same goes for leadership or representative callings. Missionaries go out into the world and preach. They are a symbol of the Church and the Lord’s gospel, and therefore what they wear is itself a symbol of them as messengers. Likewise, a position in the Bishopric or Stake Presidency carries a sacred responsibility. Mormonism doesn’t have any official vestments for both practical and theological reasons, but business attire comes closest to a gesture of the calling’s importance. There is cultural reasoning for sure, but that is not entirely the case.
Until and unless there are religious reasons that present themselves, I will continue to not wear white other than once every two months or more. That doesn’t make me or anyone else who does the same a bad person. Another orthodox member of my ward is also not a white shirt kind of guy. It just makes me an individual. But, when it matters I put down my style of dress and put on white without protestation. It is the simple sacrifice I pay on occasion for my faith and beliefs.