The Holy Garment

by
March 16, 2009

Q. What are magical Mormon underpants?

We Mormons are usually pretty understanding and thick-skinned when it comes to questions about our faith, but it is offensive to us when some of our most sacred concepts are treated lightly.  The holy garment is one example.

When I hear it called “magical underpants” I cringe.  I realize you had no ill-intent; you were probably just repeating someone else’s words, but I hope to convey that sacred things need to be treated with dignity and respect.

The Washington DC TempleThe holy garment is clothing worn beneath street clothes of latter-day saints who have gone to the temple.  When we go to the temple for the first time, we enter into an important covenant with the Lord.  We promise, basically, that we will live in obedience to the Lord through sacrifice, purity, and giving.  The Lord promises protection from temptation and physical harm, as well as a place at His right hand (if we honor our part of the covenant).

The garment is provided as part of that protection from temptation and physical harm.  It is also a daily reminder of these promises we’ve made, much the same way a wedding ring reminds a man to devote himself to the vows he made to his wife.

Another part of the covenant is that we keep our covenants and our garments sacred and holy.  There is a reason we don’t display them on the outside of our clothes.  It’s the same reason a Mormon might balk at your question.  Jesus taught on the mount, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6).

And in case you think this is some sort of exclusive secret club, know that we want you to join us and enter into these same covenants with the Lord.  You are invited!

Boyd K. Packer, the current president of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles gave this invitation (emphasis is mine):

“The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.

“All who are worthy and qualify in every way may enter the temple, there to be introduced to the sacred rites and ordinances” (The Holy Temple, Packer 1995).

The garment means a lot to those who wear it, but it isn’t meant to be shown to the world.  Please be one of our few allies in showing respect for our sacred things.

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30 Responses to “The Holy Garment”

  1. I’m glad we have this post. There’s so much curiosity all the time about the garment. It may seem a little strange, but wearing a specific kind of clothing as a symbol of a commitment to God is not unusual at all, it’s found in every major world religion, from the Jewish tallit and yarmulke to the clerical collar. Why all the commotion?

  2. Carol

    I see the temple garments as another ploy to guilt people into obeying the church. (notice I didn’t say God) If bad things happen to Mormons then it is invariably always their own fault then! They must have some secret sin for God to not protect them. What bung!

    Jewish tallit, yarmulke and robes and clerical collars are warn where they can be seen by everyone and not in secret. What does the Bible say about things done in secret??

  3. Carol

    I should have read the entire article here. Your quote from Matthew 7:6 doesn’t apply here. Pigs were unclean according to God’s law so anyone who touched an unclean animal became unceremonially unclean and could not go to the temple to worship until the uncleanness was removed. Jesus says that we should not entrust “holy teachings” to unholy or unclean people. It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don’t want to listen and will only tear apart what we say. He is not talking about wearing secret clothing that no one can see but that the person is wearing them are aware of 24-7. Underwear are very personal – wouldn’t a solemn oath suffice here? It smacks of occultism otherwise.

  4. Bret

    Thaddeus’s use of Matthew 7:6 is quite fitting here actually. Like you said, Jesus said that we ought not give things that are sacred and holy to those who are not ready to understand its significance. We hold the wearing of garments to be a very sacred and personal thing that we usually don’t publish to everyone out there because there are many ill-willed people out there who ridicule the practice. Underwear is in fact very personal and is the closest thing one wears to the body, which illustrates further the importance of keeping the promises made with the Lord close to one’s heart.

    I’m not exactly sure what you were trying to say in your first comment but obedience to God’s commandments is a privilege, not a burden forced by any person on earth. Also, bad things happen to good people just as good things happen to bad people. More important than what happens is how we react to it. Should we be furious with God for hardships or should we understand that trials will pass? There are more important things to worry about.

  5. Dave

    Carol,
    Inasmuch as I wear neither a clerical collar nor a tallit, I can’t tell you why people do it, but I suspect it has more to do with the personal meaning that comes from the symbol of a personal commitment than with displaying something to the world.

    In any case, consider the most well-known speech of all time, where Jesus of Nazareth instructed his followers not to “be as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast,” but rather, “when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret.”

    The same man repeated the instruction twice, urging people to do their almsgiving and prayer “in secret”, saying both times that “thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

    I would think that the man who said those things rather approves of showing your devotion to God in secret.

  6. David

    Sikhism is a worldwide religion of over 25 million members. It may be more well known for its men wearing turbans and wise teachers called gurus. An important article all baptized members must wear are the kacchā or special undergarment. The garment is a reminder to the Sikh to be mortal and controlled and gives honor, dignity, and modesty to those who wear it.

    I do not feel it necessary to justify or make common the practice of wearing garments, but this insight might add some understanding and thoughtful consideration to sacred practices.

  7. carol

    Dave,

    Prayers and almgiving in secret yes but no where does Jesus tell us to don temple undergarments for individual members. When we have Jesus Christ in our life we do not need protection with temple garments or rabbits feet, etc.

    I’m speaking to the psychological effects of this temple practice and ask you what else will you do for this church? Where other churches have gone away from touching members here you have people thinking it’s fine to strip down and have someone touch your body parts in the guise of a sacred ritual. And please, all this information is available on the internet so we all have a fair idea of what goes on not to mention the hundreds of thousands who have left the church and are not keeping silent.

    And finally, no, I am not anti-Mormon but I am pro-Truth.

    I don’t know much about shikkism but since you (they) don’t claim to be Christian I don’t have a problem with any of the rituals.

  8. Ben

    Dear Carol:

    I appreciate your position, but how does my wearing garments as a symbol of my commitment to God affect you or anyone else? I made covenants with God that I would be obedient to his commandments and serve him all of my life. In return I was made certain promises. To me, the garment is a symbol of these covenants and promises. I really don’t see anything wrong with that. Why does me wearing garments as a symbol of my commitment to God rub you so wrong? With regard to psychological issues, do you think that Noah was mentally deranged? People ridiculed him, but I bet that when they saw the rain, they wished they would have listened.

    I hope that rather than setting out to prove us wrong in the name of truth the way you see it, you would see that we are committed to doing good in the world, serving God and his children, even if some of the beliefs we have don’t match up with what you believe.

  9. “It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don’t want to listen and will only tear apart what we say.”

    I couldn’t have said it any better.

  10. Carol,

    I recently had a similar conversation with a Catholic friend, who was surprised by the number of Hasidic Jews in my neighborhood and was surprised by their manner of dress. He kept making fun of the men’s fur hats. I asked him how their hats were any different from the crucifix a Catholic wears around his/her neck. He didn’t have much of a response, because there really is no response. The same goes for Mormon holy garments. While the garments may seem strange or unusual to you, they’re sacred to Mormons. You say you seek truth, but to an atheist such as myself, your brand of Christianity is no more inherently truthful than the religion of anyone else.

    I don’t feel a need to revere or respect anyone’s religion, but I do think we all owe each other understanding, respect, and an open mind.

  11. Carol

    I set out to discover what Mormon’s believe and not to disprove anything but I was appalled at what I found. Here is a page from this website http://www.gotquestions.org/book-of-Mormon.html that I whole-heartedly agree with.

    After all are we not challenged to show you the error of your thinking by both the prophet himself and at least one of the presidents? The temple garments are just one of many issues but I am sticking to my guns on Christians not relying on anything but Jesus Christ for protection.

  12. Ben

    Dear Carol:

    I appreciate your desire to find the truth and I wish you the best on your quest, but please don’t try to drag our beliefs down, we wouldn’t do that to you (and if you feel that we have, I apologize, because that is not what was intended). The purpose of our blog is not to start fights, but help educate others about our beliefs, so that even if they don’t agree with us, they will at least be a little better informed. Will you please respect us and our beliefs and leave it at that?

  13. kate

    Is every mormom wearing these holy garments?
    I mean, is it just a thing you could do if you wanted, or is it actually required?
    From which age on would you wear them?

  14. Thaddeus

    Kate,

    Thanks for your question. Not every member wears garments, only those who have received their endowment in the temple. This usually happens between ages 19 and 29, depending on various circumstances (a mission, a marriage, worthiness, and maturity, etc).

    Your question about it being required is a little baffling to me, since I view the wearing of the holy garment as a high privilege. Once we receive our endowment and make covenants with God, we do promise to wear the garment appropriately and keep it holy, so in a sense it is “required,” but it’s not really a burden.

    Please look around our site and continue asking questions.

    Oh, and Kate, where are you from? Your email address suggests you are German, nicht wahr?

  15. kate

    Thaddeus,

    I’m very sorry if I am/was insulting. That’s not my intention.
    Is it appropriate to explain how the holy garments look like?
    Could you explain what the endowment exactly is, please?
    Yes, I am from Germany.
    So you speak German, too?

  16. Kate,

    You weren’t insulting, don’t worry.

    Garments just look like modestly-cut underclothes. They cover both top and bottom, and they are white to remind us to remain pure.

    We will soon write an article about the endowment, but for now I would recommend reading about learning in temples, and the Temple Endowment.

    Ich lernte ein bisschen Deutsch im Gymnasium. Woher in Deutschland kommen Sie?

  17. Brian

    If the intent is to inform people in general about Mormonism I suggest pointing everyone to the exmormon blogs. This is a community growing faster than the church membership and they are hard to ignore.

  18. Thaddeus

    There is no shortage of anti-Mormon material all over the web. One of our purposes in creating this website was to provide our perspectives as believers, because many websites that present our beliefs are severely biased against us.

    The ex-Mormon community has little in common aside from dislike or distrust of the LDS Church. I’ve surfed through the community and come away feeling demeaned and scorned. There is plenty of good the Church is involved in that gets no press there.

    I would feel much more comfortable sending visitors to say, a pro-Buddhism site (if an ex-Mormon found joy in embracing the Buddha) than an anti-Mormon site. I’m much more interested in learning what they may have found to build their lives on rather than seeing them stew over demolished remains.

  19. Brian

    Excuse me, Thaddeus,

    No one said anti-Mormon – EX Mormom! These people are sincere in their pain at having been so utterly deceived. It’s so very typical of you and your kind so use that derogatory term. These are honest people with real stories to tell. The majority of these exMormon’s still love the LDS people but they cannot continue the lies. Get educated bud!

  20. Brian

    Thaddeus,

    I said EX Mormon not anti. These people still love the LDS people and spent months agonizing over their decision to leave knowing that they would lose friends and family members alike. However, they could no longer live the lies. Sadly enough many of these EX Mormons feel so deceived that they can never trust another church.

    It doesn’t matter how much good there is in the LDS church if you are spreading a false doctrine and misleading people. Why don’t you just accept the name “cult” and then have people join who are like minded in that they will do good works and raise money for the church to build temples and malls. This could then be like a country club which I would have no problem with.

    My problem is you masquerading as the only true church and that you are Christian and better Christians in fact than the real Christians. You’re idea that we have strayed from God’s Word which is a real hoot because my God would never have let anyone lead his church astray. And He didn’t.

    If I want to know how Walmart treats its employees what better place to start than with people who have worked there and know first hand. Of course, some people may rant and rave and you can just move on but when they give a fair account of what happened, what it was like and how they came to leave then they have my attention; especially, when the accounts are very similar.

    There are after all people that will tell you that the holocaust never happened; should we discount the thousands of stories from people who lived it. Are these people just anti nazi?

    Brian

  21. Bus Gillespie

    The sad fact is Brian, that many EX-Mormons become the most anti-Mormon. From Thomas Marsh during the Kirtland period to folks like you. I don’t hear such emnity from people who have left other religions. Disaffected Catholics just seem to move on but disaffected Mormon’s seem to feel the need to justify their stance by attacking the Mormon religion. Why is that?

  22. Brian

    Bus Gillespie,

    There’s that word again. What makes you think I am anti Mormon? People leave churches for many reasons and some of them are definitely bitter. The ex-mormons (of which I am not one) feel betrayed and need to vent in some cases but also want share their pain with others who also feel the hurt.

    In answer to your questions about why Mormon’s need to justify their stance:

    -Probably because of the way the Mormon community turns their back on them and accuse them of sin or worse or being disaffected. (And later label them anti-Mormon).

    - Possibly because they have been duped for so long and they are pissed as I would be and they want to share so others don’t have to go through it.

    -Perhaps they need to vent to get over the betrayal – it’s therapeutic.

    -Last I checked the Catholic church was still teaching the correct gospel despite all their added man-made rules.

    I would imagine that people who have been abused by a priest, though, may have a lot of venting to do and might become very vocal against the church. Can you blame them?

    Disaffected, anti Mormon, anything derogatory so you don’t have to answer to the real issue. There is a huge movement of people who are telling the world what a crock Mormonism is. No, that’s not anti Mormon that’s the truth. I pray for people like you daily.

  23. Ben

    Brian,

    I am sorry that you are upset and that you have seen people become upset, feel shunned, etc for deciding to no longer be a part of the LDS Church. I can see that this is a very tender subject for you, as is evident from the tone of your writing.

    I appreciate your concern for us and that you pray for us. Who is to say that Mormonism is a crock though Brian? Obviously, those that feel disillusioned for one reason or another have their opinions, but that doesn’t mean that we feel the same. Mormonism, for me, is like looking through a telescope and a microscope simultanesouly, I can see afar off and yet I can still go deeper and deeper. Mormonism, for me, completely answers life’s most fundamental questions and gives me the freedom to act according to God’s commandments.

    It saddens me that there are those who feel that they have been maligned, who feel that friends they have in the Church have turned their back on them. I don’t have an answer for you on how to fix it, other than to say that we could all develop a little more love for each other in our lives, kind words spoken and a smile go a lot farther than we sometimes think. Please realize that we, as contributors to this website, are doing our best to love all of God’s children, regardless of what path they choose in this life, or what they might say about us. I hope that you would respect that.

  24. Brian

    God gave us a brain and he expects us to use it. I think we have gone full circle on this one (as seems always to be the case with Mormons.) It’s a lot like talking to telephone solicitors – there seems to be a universal script of so many things that can be said.

  25. Thaddeus

    Brian, our religion is not a side-show to be mocked and jeered at; it is integral to our identity and purpose. You have made it clear that you don’t believe it, and we are willing to respect that, if you will leave it at that. Please don’t be rude. Read our comment policy.

  26. Brock Landers

    What is frequently misunderstood is the ontological fallacy inherently manifested in such garments. These ‘holy’ garments are merely reflections of the corporate machine, whereas the sin is born unto the sinner as their smite upon God is only recognized posthumously.

  27. Thaddeus

    Come again?

  28. Kassie

    I have never understood all this fasicination with temple garments by people outside the Church! Why is it such a big deal to people? With the advent of the internet ex-mormons have paraded temple garments around with photographs and everything else about the temple ceremonies. I understand that people by nature are “curious” of things they do not understand. Yes, I wear temple garments. Yes, I have worn them for 22 years since the day I was married in the Washington D.C. temple. Yes, I believe they are sacred, but it is not the garment itself that is so sacred, as the symbolism associated with them. Do I believe they “protect me” like a superstitious person holds a “rabbit foot” or “talisman?” No, I do not. Though there are certainly stories where people have believed the garments have protected them in times of war, or accident, or tragedy. I have never experienced those things (thankfully!) but my garments remind me EVERY SINGLE DAY of the covenants I made in the temple that day, and the covenants I make every time I go to the temple. My children know these garments are “special” and “sacred” and that it is a benefit of temple marriage and a blessing. Are they curious? not really, because they have grown up with them around in the wash, etc. But I don’t walk around the house in my garments,nor flaunt them. We Mormons get so uptight when people ask us about garments. I think we need to realize we don’t need to get all bent out of shape and just explain them the way I have. (and btw I just found your site today and I love it! Excellent way of discussing doctrine, you are right on and your knowledge of the gospel is pretty amazing! keep up the great work!)

  29. James

    Friends,
    I have to agree with the previous post that this blog rocks. The article was well written and the comments have been great too. I’m happy to have find you guys and I plan on reading often!

  30. baseemah

    Hello Thadeus,

    I had never heard of holy garments until my roommate happened to bring it up yesterday. I was curious about it so i googled “mormons holy garment.” Your blog was near the top of the search, so here I am :)

    Something I have felt very confused about is what goes on in the temple exactly. I spent part of the summer in Salt Lake and talked with many mormon sisters and mormon guys. I also went to the temple square for tours, etc. But they would never tell us what actually happens or what the temple actually is. It’s very confusing, and I feel like if more people understood this they would want to become Mormon if there wasn’t this secrecy.

    Please let me know your thoughts. 

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