#hearLDSwomen: I Was Shamed and Turned Away From a Temple Recommend Interview for Not Wearing a Dress

Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

When I talked about wearing pants to church, a man I know insisted women HAD to wear skirts. When I asked where that rule was, he recited that verse in D&C about how we should not be compelled in all things, so checkmate.

That verse means we should think for ourselves and not wait for authority to tell us what to do. It’s not a blank check to enforce your personal list of unwritten rules.
– Anonymous


Several years ago, my son was returning home from a Spanish speaking mission and was headed to BYU. He and I decided to take a Spanish class together. I would need an Ecclesiastical Endorsement from my bishop and Stake President to apply to BYU. (Already having a degree from there).
So on a Tuesday night I headed over to the stake center on Temple Recommend night to have an interview. This is a statement saying you will abide by all the moral standards at BYU. As I entered the room, a member of the Stake Presidency said to me, “Sis. Clark, I just want to remind you that any time you meet with a Priesthood Authority you need to wear a dress.”
– Pam


Last year, I had an 8:00 appointment with the bishop one Tuesday night. This was only my second time ever having a temple recommend interview. Shortly after 6:00 that day, I got a text from the executive secretary asking if I could come at 7:00 instead because of a cancellation. I said yes. I finished feeding my infant twins, quickly fed myself, and changed out of my spit-up-stained clothes. I put on a nice shirt and sweater, jeans, and flats.

When I approached the bishop’s office, he was standing in the doorway. I said hello, but he gave me a strange look and motioned me into his office. He spent a few minutes asking about how my family and I were doing, then he told me he would not be interviewing me that night. He explained that the way a person is dressed shows the intent of their heart. I protested that I had never been told the “appropriate” way to dress for the interview, and I rushed out the door to convenience him. He said he understood, but he still would not be interviewing me.

Humiliation washed over me. I’m a quiet person and not one to challenge authority, but I knew there was injustice here. I said, “I believe God knows the intent of my heart, and I don’t think He’s disappointed in the way I’m dressed.” The bishop said that this is the policy in the stake, and went on to say, “It’s a good thing you didn’t go for your stake interview; they would have turned you away.” I thought later, Would Jesus have turned me away?
The bishop interviewed me the following Sunday when I was wearing a dress.
– Shelly Sarfati


I was meeting with my Bishop on campus on a Tuesday night after class to get my recommend for either the Winter Quarters or Palmyra temple dedication broadcast. I was coming from a late class, carrying my giant guitar case, having been in class all day long. I was wearing jeans and a peach sweater. We chit chatted a bit and he interviewed me and signed my recommend. Just as I was about to leave he said, “Oh, you know what? If I were thinking, I would have never signed that recommend or even started the interview.” I was like… Whaaaaa? And searching my brain for some unknown sin his “discernment” had unearthed. That’s when he said that I should have been in “Sunday dress” because “when you meet with your priesthood authority, it’s as if you are meeting with Christ himself.” I told him I had never heard of that. In my ward in Houston, they routinely pulled us into temple recommend or other interviews from Wednesday night activities. None of us were in Sunday dress. No one ever said anything about being in Sunday dress. He then made some comments about how he couldn’t believe I grew up in the church and never heard of that. He then asked what calling my Dad held. (??? as if that is super pertinent? Trying to discover how my Dad failed me perhaps, and if he were in a lowly calling, it would explain things?? Whoever knows!) So I told him my Dad was currently in my ward’s bishopric. He wasn’t really sure where to go after that. But he said he would let me keep the recommend “this time” but that I need to be in proper attire in the future. Oh yeah, I was the Relief Society president at the time. So much wrong with that to unpack. Still makes me angry. Talk about having a God complex!
– Anonymous


Pro Tip: Remember that the Lord looketh on the heart. Don’t judge people based on how they’re dressed, and always put people before policies, particularly policies that are unwritten or unimportant.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)


  1. Every year our stake does a Stake Women’s Conference. They will on purpose have classes or the opening in the chapel to try and manipulate the women into wearing dresses. The invitations always say “chapel attire please”. This is exactly why I do not go. The manipulation drives me crazy. Why does it matter what we wear? What matters is that we are there, get spiritually fed, and develop relationships with others in the stake. To me this is “straining at gnats”.

    • I was on a planning committee for one such event and they likewise said “keynote speaker MUST be in the chapel so we can tell everybody to wear dresses.” But we had half the gym already set up with chairs for a luncheon, and the other half had chairs set up too for a musical number, so we could have easily sat in those seats in casual clothes. Also it was super hard sitting on the floor to tie fleece blankets during service hour at that same activity in our dresses!!!

  2. This sort of domineering behavior is such a concern to me. I’d be interested to know the geography for those who have had an experience like these. Is this predominantly in Utah? Or is it everywhere? What is up with this emphasis on wearing a dress?

    • By far the worst authoritarian overreach and unrighteous dominion of this kind from priesthood leaders I’ve ever experienced was in Iowa. There are pockets that are “better” here and there, but men who believe they are just one step down from God are everywhere, unfortunately.

  3. This is so wrong and bizarre. I’ve gone to the temple before in jeans right after work. This was in Boston. I got some disapproving looks, but no one said anything. It’s my understanding that temples don’t turn away anyone with a recommend no matter how they are dressed. It is incredibly ironic then that these leaders are turning away women for how they are dressed.

  4. I’ve attended other churches (Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist, and Lutheran) with family and friends and they all seem so much less stern in their dress. Yes, there are men in suits and women in dresses. But I’ve seen lots of women wear pants and *gasp* sleeveless tops! I’ve seen men wearing slacks and polos or a colored button up shirt without a tie. All kinds of shoes. Some blue jeans and t shirts. It is so refreshing and it feels much more welcoming and inviting.

    I feel like the church has lost it’s focus in this area.

  5. If those accounts are true, it just goes to show that people are human and fallible and they make mistakes even when in pursuit of an overall good. There are always going to be a few idiots mixed in with the rest of us. My guess is that Jesus would not have turned you away, but He also would have forgiven those individuals for their errors. Be like Jesus 🙂

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