I am confused by the scriptural reference in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 to women covering their heads for prayer. Is this something we should practice? Thank you for any light you can shed on this subject for me.
The covering of women’s heads during prayer in the days of Paul was the local custom of the time. It had significance and meaning to the folks of that day. To behave in any other way would have been out of context with the times.
In our time one or two generations ago it was the custom for men to wear hats out of doors, and to tip or remove their hat in the presence of women. It was appropriate at that time to observe that custom as a sign of respect to women.
In an earlier day many of our prophets had beards. Today all members of the church who hold positions of authority are expected to be clean shaven. In today’s society the wearing of a beard has often come to be a badge of opposition to those who are well groomed.
It is well to adhere to the customs of the day as they represent the norms of society. But those customs change with the times; the principles of the gospel do not. It is important not to confuse custom with principal.
In commenting on this topic, Bruce R. McConkie had the following to say:
“In connection with these basic gospel principles, Paul comments on local customs and traditions, for instance, that a woman should have her head covered when she prays or prophesies, lest she be as though her head were shaven, which according to local custom would identify her as an adulteress. In the eternal sense it is wholly immaterial whether a woman wears a hat or is bare-headed when she prays. In Paul’s day the bare head was irreverent; in our’s reverence and respect are shown by removing the hat. In other words, gospel principles are eternal, and it is wise to adhere to the passing customs which signify adherence to that course which adds to rather than detracts from the great and important revealed truths.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2: 361)