Can you wear casual clothes inside the temple? Though the answer may seem obvious, I’ve heard this question more than you might imagine as a temple worker for the last five years. And, in fact, the full answer is a bit more complicated (and surprising) than you probably think.
In short, a technical yes. Casual, but still modest, clothes may be worn inside the temple. As temple workers, we are trained not to turn away or correct patrons who arrive at the temple in clothes less than what is considered “Sunday best.” We are not even supposed to ask questions about why a patron in dressed in a certain way. In 1993, President David King, the temple president of the Washington D.C. Temple, said:
Once a patron arrives at the temple in good faith and with a valid recommend, temple authorities are not to pass judgment on that person’s worthiness nor upon the appropriateness of his or her attire and grooming. Attire that seems inappropriate to those of more conventional tastes does not constitute grounds for refusing admission to the temple. Every faithful member, regardless of attire and grooming, is entitled to a satisfactory temple experience.
However, the in-depth answer is much more important and can help us reflect on the state of our hearts. While our clothes may be casual, our attitude shouldn’t be. If we are wearing casual clothes to the temple simply because it is more convenient or we haven’t planned well, we are not approaching the Lord’s house with the proper sense of reverence and respect. Unless circumstances permit it (more on that in a minute), we should come to the temple well-groomed and in Sunday attire.
Temples are sacred buildings dedicated to Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. They are holy and when we come to the temple, our attitudes should be holy. We should look at visiting the temple as a great privilege and do all we can to show how we feel about that privilege in the way we dress, speak, and act. If we have the means and opportunity to wear our Sunday clothes to the temple, we absolutely should. Persons preparing to go to the temple should be taught about appropriate temple attire and encouraged to do everything in their power to prepare to enter the temple properly dressed each time they visit. Dressing appropriately represents how we feel about the temple and about God. Here is another quote from President King:
Persons who adhere to appropriate standards of dress and grooming condition their minds to a greater appreciation of the temple experience. This extra effort helps highlight the temple’s uniqueness, whereas inappropriate dress or grooming may betray one’s unconscious indifference to the temple’s special sanctity. Temple service provides opportunities to enjoy the things of the Spirit; doing so requires our worthiness, prayerful commitment, and other careful preparations.
A training video in the temple highlights a real experience that helps illustrate these principles. A couple enters the temple in jeans. The wife is pregnant. They are terrified they won’t be allowed into the temple because of how they’re dressed, but they’ve just come from the hospital. They have just learned their child died in the womb. The video shows how kindness and love from the temple workers, in spite of how the couple is dressed, helped the couple have a powerful and comforting experience.
Circumstances such as this are not because of a casual attitude and heart. Quite the opposite! Money and purchasing nice clothes should not be a cause of embarrassment, preventing you from coming to the temple. Nor should health issues or disabilities that make wearing certain types of clothing painful or difficult, such as dress shirts with lots of buttons. No one should ever judge another person who has come to the House of the Lord because of how they are dressed. However, we should be in communication with God about how our dress reflects our attitudes towards Him.
If we feel unable to dress appropriately for the temple for any reason, we should take an honest look at our efforts to do our very best to meet His standards, whatever that looks like for us individually, and then go to the temple in faith.