Kirby: Why can’t Mormons just say no to neckties?

By Robert Kirby

Tribune Columnist

Published: June 5, 2014 02:50PM
Updated: June 26, 2014 11:30AM

Looking around my LDS ward during sacrament meeting, it’s easy to tell who is dressed inappropriately. If you’re the sort of person who notices stuff like that, it jumps right out.

For once this isn’t about short skirts, low necklines and sleeveless blouses on women. I’m talking about men.

It’s easy to pick on women when it comes to dress standards. So much is made about what constitutes immodest dress that the missing bits of clothing are airbrushed onto them in LDS church publications — and sometimes high school yearbooks.

This is about the inappropriate dress of male members of the congregation, specifically who is and isn’t dressed according to priesthood and general authority standards.

Mormon men have no standard church uniform, although it’s generally understood that baggy shorts, flip-flops, wife-beater T-shirts, and pork-pie hats are unacceptable. Proper priesthood wear comes in two distinct classes:

Class A • At the top of the male dress standard is the LDS general authority look — conservative dark suit, understated necktie, white shirt and sensible shoes. Oh, and socks. They should be dark socks, though.

Class B • Everything else, including slacks, blazer or sport coats, loafers, a light-colored shirt and a necktie.

There’s actually a third class but no one likes to talk about it. It’s virtually any other form of attire sans necktie.

Neckties are so important to Mormon men that it’s almost a gospel principle. It’s in the scriptures. Check it out.

Alma 62:47, New Revision: “Yea, and regulations were made concerning the neck binding, that those who were obedient in donning them would not suffer to burn.”

You could show up to priesthood meeting in SCUBA gear and it would be OK as long as you were wearing a necktie. An oxygen hose would not count.

It’s a Mormon thing. I asked my wife if anyone ever wore a necktie to her church. She said if anyone did, the congregation would automatically assume a Mormon was visiting.

I can’t remember when I stopped wearing a necktie to church. One day I just decided that I’d rather attend without the aggravation of a colored yoke around my neck.

Stop and think about a necktie for a moment. There’s nothing useful about them. They don’t offer protection from the elements. They’re not antennas for the Holy Ghost. What purpose do they actually serve?

Correct answer: convention.

Neckties are a symbol that you’re in harmony with the spirit of things, which is generally understood by us to mean “obedience.”

There’s an old cartoon strip on the bulletin board in my office. A small boy is watching his father getting ready for work. When asked why he has to wear a necktie, the father explains.

“It’s an easy way to identify people who’ll do anything they’re told.”

I can be obedient for about five minutes. If I’m asked to say a prayer in church, there are several hideously ugly neckties on the back of the door in the bishop’s office. I’ll put one on, do what I’m asked, then pull it off on the way back to my seat.

Neckties are so important to Mormons that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them airbrushed onto young men in church publications.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.