Hello, and welcome to our jewelry (and dancing) multipost. We’ve received a few questions regarding jewelry (see above), so we decided to lump it together in one easy-to-see post. We (Howie and Yvonne) are writing this one together, but if we have a specific difference in opinion or thought, we will clarify who is speaking.
Now, before we get into the questions, we’ll give the church’s official stance on jewelry. In 1972, the General Conference voted on this issue and then issued that:
That in the area of personal adornment necklaces, earrings, bracelets, jewelled and other ornamental rings* should not be worn. Articles such as ornamental watches, broaches, cufflinks, etc., should be chosen in harmony with the Christian principles of simplicity, modesty and economy. (source)
This was implemented based on Bible verses such as 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-6, emphasizing modesty in dress. This was also commented on by Ellen G. White in several places, such as Messages to Young People, where she said:
Christians should avoid display and ‘profuse ornamentation.’ Clothing should be, when possible, ‘of good quality, of becoming colors, and suited for service.’ It should be chosen for ‘durability rather than display.’ Our attire should be characterized by ‘beauty,’ ‘modest grace’ and ‘appropriateness of natural simplicity.’ (source)
Now, as far as the questions we’ve gotten go, it’s pretty dang solidly assumed that the issue of jewelry is a controversial topic. Whether it should be or not isn’t entirely relevant at this point, but I’ll leave that one untouched for now.
On the question posed by koriru on Adventists wearing jewelry: as per the opinion of myself, Howard Von Howardstein, the point is that jewelry has had plenty of meanings throughout our religious history. In Daniel 5:9, Belshazzar gave Daniel an extremely gaudy outfit (purple dyes were ridiculously expensive to obtain) and a gold neck-chain as a mark of office. In Luke 15:22, the Prodigal Son’s father sent for a ring, likely a mark of familial association, at the same time he sent for shoes.
In Ezekiel 16, God talks about Jerusalem as though it were a person - a woman. Among other things, He bedecks her in jewelry and gives her the finest food to eat. Some might look at this and think that means that jewelry for the sake of beauty is acceptable… I look at this and think “well… it’s GOD. He doesn’t exactly spend a lot of money when he’s giving someone gold and gems and silver and whatnot.” The point of the whole thing was that God was showing Jerusalem’s status by taking her as His queen. Now… as Christians, as romantic as it might seem, it’s rather preposterous for us guys to treat our girls as though they were actual royalty. We’d be broke within a week. And even if we were super-rich, jewelry still seems like it’d be out-of-place. Jewelry doesn’t make us beautiful… it makes us enviable. It draws attention from the person to the money, and that’s not where the beauty is. Beauty and value, especially as Christians, should come from God and not anything physical. This could be said about jewelry or houses or cars or hairstyles.
It seems to me (still Howard Von Howardstein) that as long as you’re not using jewelry to augment your looks and it actually serves a purpose (be it symbolic, functional, or sentimental), it should be fine. Anyone that says that it’s plainly written in the Bible that jewelry shouldn’t be worn… it’s true. Somewhat. But not entirely. The history of jewelry in religious context is… complicated. My opinion is that the act of wearing jewelry isn’t an issue… it’s the thoughts behind it, and that one should just make sure their heart’s in the right place.
As for my opinion, Yvonne Who-will-not-add-a-silly-last-name, I mostly agree with Howie’s standpoint. However, I am not sure how I feel about modern Adventists wearing jewelry for pure ornamental reasons. Being raised in a somewhat conservative household when it comes to that aspect, I didn’t even give wearing jewelry a thought, but after going to an Adventist college, I realize that it’s more of a thing that I grew up believing. After some time, I came to the conclusion that I do think that we have no true need for ornamental jewelry and that our worth and beauty should come from God, but different people are at different places in their lives and spiritual walk, so I don’t have the right to condemn anyone.
Moving onto the inquiry posed by at-least-close-the-blinds. This is Yvonne again on this topic about wedding rings….
But in all seriousness, the topic of wedding rings has been tacked by the church before. Ellen G. White herself said in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, “In countries where the custom is imperative, we have no burden to condemn those who have their marriage ring; let them wear it if they can do so conscientiously”, yet, she did not think missionaries needed it to increase their influence. (source 1 and 2)
Back in the 70s when the General Conference did the vote on jewelry, they advised ministers not to perform ceremonies with wedding rings because it was judged as a non-“imperative” custom for North America. This is probably where wedding watches became a thing. In 1986, however, this stance was revisited again, and they voted:
To recognize that in harmony with the position stated in the Church Manual (pp 145, 146), some church members in the North American Division, as in other parts of the world, feel that wearing a simple marriage band is a symbol of faithfulness to the marriage vow and to declare that such persons should be fully accepted in the fellowship and service of the church. (sources 1 and 2)
Now it is said in the Church Manual:
In some countries and cultures the custom of wearing the wedding ring is considered imperative, having become, in the minds of the people, a criterion of virtue, and hence it is not regarded as an ornament. Under such circumstances we do not condemn the practice.
So, according to the church and Ellen G. White, wedding rings (and other symbolic wedding jewelry for other cultures) is considered a-ok.
Just a tack-on from me (Howie)… Wedding rings are symbolic of marriage - they can also function to deter people looking for potential dates, and they’re usually extremely sentimental. Going for the $7,000 wedding ring with celtic knotwork and a dozen 8-carat diamonds (I know nothing of jewelry, just throwing junk out there), though, doesn’t help any of those points. It’s needlessly extravagant and frivolous. It goes beyond serving the function, sentimentality, and the symbolism, and kinda ends up rolling towards being “bling,” as they say.
And onto the dancing aspect of your question.
In doing about a half-hour’s worth of research on Mrs. White’s writings as well as various debates/arguments/explanations on the internet. As far as I’ve (Howie) been able to discern, the problems surrounding dancing are focused on why it’s done. This typically boils down to two things - the sensual arousal that’s brought on by “fashionable modern dance,” and on the nature of the environments in which one typically dances.
It’s important to note, however, that Mrs. White has a far higher standard for Seventh-Day Adventism than we seem to have currently. I’m not going to say that her standard is right or wrong. I’m saying that whatever the case for the individual, her advice will almost always stand as being useful. If one wishes to gain a better understanding of what’s good for us, both physically and spiritually, one could do a lot worse than to read what she has to say on various matters, as long as one doesn’t take her writings as cannon.
It is yet to be ascertained that there is any good to be obtained from these amusements. They do not give vigor to the body nor rest to the mind. They do not implant in the soul one virtuous or holy sentiment. On the contrary, they destroy all relish for serious thought and for religious services. It is true that there is a wide contrast between the better class of select parties and the promiscuous and degraded assemblies of the low dance house. Yet all are steps in the path of dissipation. (The Adventist Home, p. 516.3)
To be clear, Mrs. White has said good things about “dancing in joyful praise to God,” and has made distinctions between this and “[dancing] associated with folly and midnight reveling.” What most people might think of “dancing” is dancing to music, however it moves you. People like dancing. It’s a pleasure, and God made us capable of feeling that pleasure. I believe it is Mrs. White’s belief that dance should be reserved for praising God. Do I think poorly of the dances usually seen in clubs or parties? Yes, but then again, I wouldn’t enjoy them myself. But then, I don’t condemn people for that. I’m just the kind of person who wouldn’t be exactly comfortable in that setting.
…I do seem to go off on tangents, don’t I?…
In answer to your question of “what’s wrong with dancing,” the most definitive point I’ve come across is this: there are two different kinds of dance - “The one [tends] to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God and to dishonor Him” (TAH p. 517.1). However much weight you put on EGW’s writings, the Bible’s set precedent for a different issue that I believe still holds wisdom for this issue:
It is better not to [engage in controversial activities] if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should [partake in] something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (Romans 14:21-23, NLT) [altered for both accuracy and associative purposes]
I’m going to close this here. Yvonne and I have been working on this post pretty much all day, from about 11:30 (an hour after I got up… confounded time change and all that) to now what is about 10:30 at night. I offered to finish this post up as she’s got things to do tomorrow before class, and needed to turn in early. She’ll look over things before she puts it up, but I felt a need to explain why you haven’t had her input on that last point we’d made.
Regardless… I pray our answers have helped the askers as much as they need. As always, we’re open to input from everyone else, but please keep things constructive. Lately, we’ve had a lot of questions that, being controversial as they are, spark a lot of responses from people who’ve got different opinions. Unfortunately, although these responses tell us that there’s a lot of people who are passionate about what they believe and tell us that we’re getting heard, we’re honestly getting a tad bit worn down. We’re not likely to respond to every question that’s asked of us these days, especially as Yvonne’s working hard with her last semester in college and I’m struggling in school myself. But trust me when I say we’ll do what we can while maintaining our collective sanity. God bless, tumblr community, and good night.