Alright, as you already know, temples like these are very sacred places for Latter-day Saints. As we’ve explored in other videos, we go to temples to participate in ordinances and to make covenants (or promises) with God. Some ordinances require the wearing of sacred ceremonial temple clothing. These clothes hold great significance for us, as the sacred clothing of any religion does for its adherents. Of course, if you’re not familiar with a religion’s sacred clothing, it might understandably seem a little weird at first. Some people might be especially curious about sacred Latter-day Saint clothing because we don’t wear it in public or at church on Sunday and because we simply don’t talk about it much outside of the temple. So in this episode, I’m going to give you a little crash course. Let’s talk about it.
So, when Latter-day Saints visit a temple, they enter the temple just wearing the same “Sunday best” clothing you might see them wear at one of our Sunday worship services. But once inside, “…all participants change out of their daily clothes to simple white clothing in a dressing room like this. This creates a sense of unity and inclusion and reminds us that we’re all children of God and are equal before Him.”
The ordinance you plan on participating in will determine what, if any, special clothing will be required. For example, if you want to participate in baptisms on behalf of the dead, you’d change into a white jumpsuit like this. If you want to participate in the washing and anointing ordinance or the endowment ordinance, you’d change into white clothing like this. And, of course, underneath these white clothes, you’d be wearing your white temple garments, which we’ve talked about previously. Those who participate in the endowment ordinance also bring with them a small white packet of additional ceremonial clothing.
A couple of years ago, the Church published a video showing what those additional clothes look like. There are four items: A robe, a sash, an apron embroidered with fig leaves, and a hat or cap for men, or a veil for women. Altogether, we call these clothes the robes of the Holy Priesthood. In a nutshell, the endowment ceremony is a microcosm of our journey through mortality and ultimately back to the presence of God the Father. As the endowment ordinance progresses, we put on these items of clothing over the top of our white clothes.
To understand why we do this today, it can be instructive to look at the sacred clothing used in the ancient Israelite temple. The regular priests wore a white coat or tunic, a white girdle or sash, a white turban or cap, and a white undergarment described as “linen breeches.” The high priest also wore the white undergarment, coat, and turban, but his sash was an intricate mixture of symbolically significant colors, and he also wore a blue robe, a colorful ephod or apron, a breastplate attached to the ephod, and a golden headpiece or crown.
Researcher Daniel Smith noted that “Unlike today, clothing in ancient times was very costly and difficult to make … Thus, the giving of clothing, especially ceremonial clothing, represented a significant bestowing of authority and power.”
That is what priesthood is — it is the authority and power of God. As men and women put on the robes of the Holy Priesthood, they symbolically put on that power and authority. Apostle David A. Bednar taught in 2019 that “Everything in the temple points us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.” As you study and attend the temple, look for that symbolism.
For example, Latter-day Saints scholar John Tvednes noted that “According to Jewish tradition, the earliest priestly clothes were the garments of skin provided to Adam and Eve after the fall.” The Book of Moses reinforces that perspective, teaching that after Adam is dressed in this special clothing, he starts offering sacrifices on an altar similar to ordinances that later Israelite temple priests would perform.
In Hebrew, the word for atonement means “to cover.” So in this story of Adam and Eve, we see that in response to the fall, it’s implied that at least one animal died in order to “cover” Adam and Eve. Putting on temple clothes — perhaps especially the temple garment — can be a powerful reminder of how the atonement of Jesus Christ “covers” each of us.
Now, each individual item of modern temple clothing is rich in symbolism. But the thing about symbolism is that it’s often in the eye of the beholder. We’re given some instruction in the temple about what a couple of items represent (for example, the apron of fig leaves clearly represents the aprons worn by Adam and Eve), but as far as I am aware, the Church does not have an official stance on the full depth and breadth of what each individual item symbolizes today. Personally, I take that lack of detail as an invitation to attend the temple and discover why each item is meaningful to me, even though that meaning may not be “official doctrine.”
It may also be instructional to look into history at what similar clothes have symbolized in various other ancient cultures and contexts. BYU professor Alonzo Gaskill’s book, “Sacred Symbols,” is a great resource for that kind of study.
So, in this episode, we’ve talked a lot about some of the ways ancient temple clothing parallels modern temple clothing, especially in terms of their fundamental Christ-centered symbolism, but it’s also important to recognize that on a broader scale, while modern temples are similar to or reminiscent of ancient temples, the two are not the same. And that’s a good thing.
Ancient temple clothing pertained to Aaronic priesthood ordinances under the Law of Moses. Since that time, Christ has fulfilled the Law of Moses. Latter-day Saints aren’t in there sacrificing animals. Our temple clothing and ordinances pertain to the higher Melchizedek priesthood. And if terms like Aaronic and Melchizedek are unfamiliar to you, go watch this episode.
Anyway, we’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, I hope this enriches your temple experience. If you’re not a Latter-day Saint, I hope this gives you greater insight into who we are as a people and why temples and temple clothes are so important to us. If you want to dive deeper into this subject, check out the resources in the YouTube description, especially Daniel Smith’s YouTube channel, Messages of Christ. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a great day!
- “A Sacred House of the Lord | Washington D.C. Temple” via the Church’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3dzCn0N
- “What Is a Temple Endowment?” via the Church’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3wbdBdL
- “Two Apostles Lead a Virtual Tour of the Rome Italy Temple” via the Church’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3bUz5Vv
- “Sacred Temple Clothing” via the Church’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3K1loAo
- “Clothed in Holy Garments: The Apparel of the Temple Officiants of Ancient Israel” by Alonzo Gaskill, BYU Studies: https://bit.ly/3zZuzNd
- “Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing” by Elder David A. Bednar, April 2019: https://bit.ly/3K6eYAk
- “What Can We Learn From Ancient Sacred Temple Clothing?” by Donald W. Parry, Meridian Magazine: https://bit.ly/3dtVt8p
- “The Priestly Garments of the High Priest & Ordinary Priests” via Temple Institute (Jewish source): https://bit.ly/3ppa0oI
- Daniel Smith’s “Messages of Christ” YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3JXeI6u, and the Redeemer of Israel blog (by the same genius, Daniel Smith): https://bit.ly/3povjXm
- “The Laver and the Washing and Anointing of Priests,” via Daniel Smith: https://bit.ly/3T2Y0XF
- “Aprons of Fig Leaves and Coats of Skins,” via Daniel Smith: https://bit.ly/3wgtsI9
- “Primeval Coats,” via TheTorah.com (Jewish source): https://bit.ly/3QNj6HP
- “The Nakedness and the Clothing of Adam and Eve,” by Jeffrey Bradshaw (Meridian Magazine): https://bit.ly/3CsbKp4