The Holy Garment

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.

Missions of the Church

christAs a teenager, one of the things we were taught over and over was that the Church had a three-fold mission: Perfect the Saints, Proclaim the Gospel, Redeem the Dead. This is the basis of all of the programs, lessons, ordinances, callings and everythingness of the Church.

As I taught the gospel in Russia, however, I understood better that these weren’t three separate entities that we were supposed to divide our time and attention between. These are all part of the main mission of the church:
Bringing people to Christ.
This is the ultimate goal of Christ’s church, and it applies to every person on the face of the earth.

Perfecting the Saints is the broad label given to all of the ordinances and activities of the Church. It comes from Christ’s directive both in Matthew and in the Book of Mormon to “Be ye therefore perfect, [even as I] or your Father in Heaven is perfect.” In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believers and members of the Church are called “Saints”. Yes, just everyday people in the grocery store are Saints. In this context, Saints are those who are following Christ’s teachings and trying very hard to live as He has asked them to live. Perfecting the Saints is no easy task, and here are some of the ways that Saints cooperate with Christ in perfecting themselves:mission1

  • Sincerely praying and studying the word of God.
  • Attending the temple to make covenants with God.
  • Attending weekly church meetings
  • Volunteering to serve in any number of “callings” in their congregation. From the leader of the congregation right down to the person collecting lesson manuals after class, everyone is donating their time, energy and talents to serve the Lord and each other. We don’t have a paid clergy.
  • Striving to have strong families through Family Home Evening, family prayer, family vacations, family meals, family reunions, and just generally supporting and loving each other in the family.
  • Living the commandments as found here, here and here.

We truly believe that in doing what Christ has asked us to do, we draw nearer to Him and as we are closer to Him, we are more perfect. That’s what this life is all about.

mission2Proclaim the Gospel addresses the next group of people who need to come to Christ–those who aren’t already members of His church. The LDS Church has thousands of missionaries all over the world, teaching Christ’s doctrines to cossacks, Buddhists, ninjas and pygmies, and everyone else in between. Every single person on this earth is invited to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. This aspect of Church activities is very much tied in with the first mission of perfecting the saints, because when a person is baptized into the church, they are one step closer to Christ.

mission3Redeeming the Dead strikes people as one of the most bizarre of our doctrines. We do temple work for our deceased ancestors so that they can choose to accept the ordinances in the spirit world (if they wish to–our ordinances are not binding on them if they don’t want them). But in the context of bringing every single person to Christ, this practice fits perfectly. The church was restored on the earth in 1830, 1750 years after Christ’s Church and its authority disappeared from the earth. There were a lot of people in those 1750 years, and they are each, individually important to Christ. He atoned for them too, and if they are to benefit from His sacrifice, they need to do what He’s asked them to do to be admitted into His church (baptism by immersion, followed by higher ordinances and covenants). He asks members of His church to reach out to those who have passed on as well as to the living.

So that sums up all of the Church’s activities and programs. Christ wants us all to come unto Him and be perfected in Him. For members of the church, that involves living His commandments and serving others. Some of that service is directed at helping other people join His church also to come unto Him and be perfected in Him–living and dead.



Q. What and how do you learn at the temple?

The temple in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the most sacred and holy edifice that we have. The ordinance of baptism is essential to entering the kingdom of God; however it is the mere departure point or gate to a life of learning. As a member of our Church grows in knowledge, they are encouraged to prepare themselves to attend the temple to be taught even more.

5470_loganut_stFirst, I want to discuss the question, “How do we learn at the temple?” God has always used symbolism to teach his children. For instance, Jesus taught in parables (symbolic stories), partly so that a wide range of people who were all at different stages of learning and understanding could be taught at once. This is no different in the temple. Virtually all teaching in the temple is accomplished in a symbolic way. For instance, have you ever wondered why the LDS temples are usually set on a hill, where they can be viewed easily, and are lit up at night? This is a symbol of the light of the Gospel that will eventually fill the whole earth. Or why is there a gold statute of an angel sounding a trumpet on the highest spire? This is a symbol that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has once more been restored to the earth and will be sounded to all nations. Or how about the exterior of the Salt Lake temple? On the lower level there are stars, the next level the moon and higher yet, the sun. This symbolizes the kingdoms of heaven, but also how we acquire more light and truth as we progress. These are three small examples of things we can learn from the outside of the temple.

The interior of the celestial room in the Salt Lake TempleTo learn effectively in the temple one needs to come to the temple in humility, being willing to be taught. We attend the temple as often as we can, because each time we are able to understand better what God is trying to teach us. In essence, the way we learn in the temple is the same way we learn in life, step by step and line upon line, receiving more knowledge, as we are able to understand it.

Washington DC TempleAt this point I want to comment on why the members of our church who have attended the temple do not talk openly about what occurs in the temple. First, these places and what takes place in them is sacred and there is no reason to flaunt before the world that which is sacred. I doubt that Moses said everything that he learned on Mount Sinai. After all, he was up there for forty days, certainly all he learned wasn’t the Ten Commandments. I know that many are curious about what takes place here, but mere curiosity and interest does not qualify a person for receiving this knowledge from God. God imparts knowledge only when we are ready to receive it. Thus, we hold things back and shield them from the world. Not because we are ashamed of them, but because our knowledge is sacred. I will say though, that nothing occurs that would be offensive to anyone.

To address the question, “What does one learn in the temple?” I will say this, within these sacred buildings we are taught more fully the plan of salvation and how we, as God’s children, can receive all of the blessings that He wants to give us. More specifically we learn about the nature of God, the relationship between God and man, the creation of the earth and man, the fall of Adam and Eve, and the role that Jesus Christ plays in our salvation.

celestial_idahofallsI do wish to inform you that before a temple of the LDS church is dedicated for use, it is opened to the public for tours—anyone, including those not of our faith can walk through on a guided tour. If there is one in your area being constructed, please take this opportunity to go on a tour, to see and feel for yourself the grandeur and awesomeness (proper usage of the word) of these buildings. Here is a link that shows the temples in operation and those that are currently being constructed. From this site you can find out when the open house for a particular temple will be. The Draper Utah temple will be having an open house from January 15-March 14, 2009.

Thanks for your inquiry.