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A friend called and asked to borrow an article of clothing to wear home teaching. I turned him down. I'll do a lot for my friends and church, but I'm particular about where my pants go without me.

Carl was stressed. His stake president had issued a major dress-code announcement. Among other things, home teachers had to wear ''Sunday best'' when making their monthly visits.

For Mormon men, Sunday best generally refers to jacket, tie, shirt and slacks. If you want to be in full fashion fellowship, you get yourself into a nice, sober General Authority suit.

Carl's stake president had improved on the informal Sunday-best code by actually counseling against particular brands of pants. That's not all. ''Righteous priesthood holders'' should wear white shirts and be free of facial hair.

Carl had the shirt and the smooth face. But he only owned pants of a discouraged brand. The full richness of the Lord's blessings might be withheld from him if he goes home teaching in Dockers.

It was just as bad for women. Carl said the new stake directives included specifics on the amount and location of jewelry and a panning of denim skirts.

Wait, it gets worse. Apparently members of Carl's stake are exhorted to wear their best in engagement and wedding photos - and to not allow family members to be included in them if they aren't dressed appropriately.

Hey, I'm just telling you what Carl says he heard in church.

It wasn't always this way. Once, starving and chased by mobs, it didn't make any difference what Mormons wore to church so long as we managed to get there.

Today, overfed and underhunted, not only is it important that we get to church, but also that we arrive in uniform.

I'm not completely against dress codes. When I go to a restaurant, I want everyone in there to be wearing something. I also think it should be against the law for some people to wear Spandex.

It's even OK to crank it up a bit for church. As flexible as I am in matters of faith, it would be tough to take seriously anything my bishop said if he came to the lectern in surfer baggies and a wife-beater T-shirt.

But I do wonder about the real possibility of becoming a bit too busy with things that don't really matter. It's one thing to ask people to dress nice for church and another to start holding color swatches against their clothing.

It's a valid concern considering what God has done to ''righteous'' people in the past when they started showing signs of not having enough to do.