“Put Off Thy Shoes”

When God appeared to Moses “in the midst of a bush” on Mount Horeb, He said, “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

This action was a meaningful metaphor for the purity we seek as we approach God. By virtue of living in this world, we all pick up some dust, particularly on our feet. Removing our shoes is a way of symbolically setting aside those impurities.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband explained how we might follow Moses’ example as we prepare to enter the temple:

Putting off our shoes at the door of the temple is letting go of worldly desires or pleasures that distract us from spiritual growth, setting aside those things which sidetrack our precious mortality, rising above contentious behavior, and seeking time to be holy.

Recommended to the Lord,” General Conference, October 2020

The Savior referenced clean feet several times, including in His instruction to shake the dust from our feet when we’re treated unkindly. (See Matthew 10:14.) I used to think of that as an expression of disapproval, but I increasingly see it as a way of ridding ourselves of a bad experience, letting the unkind feelings go.

Similarly, the Savior washed the feet of His disciples shortly before His death. When Peter protested, Jesus replied, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8).

Alma asked us to consider the importance of cleanliness when we approach God. “How will any of you feel,” he asked, “if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?” (Alma 5:22).

And Isaiah immediately sensed his own uncleanness when he saw God in a vision. Notice that he felt unclean not only because of his own actions but because of his associations:

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Isaiah 6:5, 2 Nephi 16:5

In response, a heavenly being touched his lips with a hot ember and assured Isaiah that he was cleansed.

We may not be able to make ourselves holy, but we can certainly remove some things from our lives which make us less holy. Moroni exhorted us to “deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness,” so that “by [God’s] grace [we] may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32). As we make the effort to rid our lives of impurities, God will acknowledge that effort and make us holy.

Today I will strive to be more holy. I will think of the symbolism of the shoes and consider what I can do to be more ready to stand in holy places.

2 thoughts on ““Put Off Thy Shoes”

Add yours

  1. I was particularly struck by your interpretation of washing feet against
    someone or some locale as a way to move beyond a negative experience and
    let go of negative feelings. Thanks for sharing it.


    1. I’m glad you liked that interpretation. Truthfully, I’m not sure it’s fully supported by the text, but it does seem consistent with the Savior’s teachings about forgiveness, and I find it to be a useful metaphor.


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