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Collars & Ties

I have a confession to make: I hate ties! I dislike wearing a tie and always have done, from my first school uniform at age eleven to the present day. The concept itself is ridiculous: take a narrow piece of cloth, wind it round your throat, make a slip knot and pull it tight. What sensible person would invent such a thing? A visiting Martian would laugh at the absurdity. For years I had to leave the top button of my shirts undone, to make tie-wearing bearable. I covered the gap more or less successfully with a wide tie knot. It wasn’t ideal, but at least I could breathe. But then, about two years ago, in a revelatory moment I made a discovery: the collar size of my shirts was too small. For many years, since my wedding at age 21 I had worn 14½” shirts, not noticing, or perhaps subliminally refusing to accept, that my neck was imperceptibly but irresistibly swelling. So a couple of years ago I bought a Marks & Spencer 15½” shirt and experienced immediate relief. I now wear a 16” collar, and I’m contemplating moving to 16½”. Barbara says I will look like a turtle but I don’t care. I can button-up the top button of my shirts now, and tie wearing is a little more bearable. But I still hate wearing ties!

Nevertheless, as I type this, I’m wearing a tie; why? Well, it’s Sunday today. We can’t worship at Church, because of Covid-19, so we worship at home, and during our family service I wear a tie, a white shirt, and smart trousers. I do it out of respect for the Lord’s Sabbath even though we are in our own home and there’s no-one around to see what I’m wearing. In the Old Testament we read that Moses encountered a burning bush, where he hears the Lord’s voice. Before the Lord gives his message though, he says: “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground”. It seems clear that symbols of respect and reverence for Heavenly Father are important in life: shoes in Moses’ day, a tie in mine. It isn’t just a matter of religious faith either; there are numerous secular situations where formal dress (i.e. a tie) is respectful. Sadly, this principle and its symbolic significance seems to be in decline. Yet we live in a world of symbols that shape much of what we do.

Today, instead of our usual family sacrament service, we had a stake conference. There was a tiny physical congregation of around thirty, because of Covid-19 restrictions. The majority of us viewed an internet broadcast of the conference. Elder Hall, of the Seventy presided, and he was assisted by Elder Hirst, also of the Seventy. It was particularly significant for my family, since our son-in-law Mark Stewart was released as our stake president after more than eight years. End of an era, for the stake as well as our family. He’s a hard act to follow. I think he is the best stake president we have ever had (he is the sixth). Naturally, I am not at all biased! Of course, he had Ailsa behind him so how could he not succeed!

Jordan Broadbent is our new stake president and I’m sure he will be outstanding, especially because he has Debbie behind him.

One thing I’m absolutely sure about: Mark’s release and Jordan’s call were guided by the Lord through his Holy Spirit. These callings and appointments are never accidental. And so I honoured both Mark and President Broadbent by wearing a tie throughout the conference, even though no-one could see me except Barbara. (Although I confess I’ve taken it off now, and what a relief!)

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