I don’t know why people are so interested in our underwear, but people obviously have questions about it, so in this episode, we’re going to talk about what they are, what they’re for, and if they’re really as magical as everyone except Latter-day Saints say they are.
After a man or woman participates in the Endowment temple ceremony, they wear what we call the Temple Garment throughout their lives as an outward reminder of the promises they made with God within the temple. These undergarments are meant to be a spiritual protection for us inasmuch as they recall to our minds our temple commitments and fortify our resolve to keep them. To help us remember the Savior and those covenants, there are a few different symbols placed on different parts of the garment.
Temple garments are meant to symbolically mirror the coats or garments of skins the Lord made and gave Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. We see similar sacred clothing worn by Levite priests in ancient Israel for the same reason:
“And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation…”
The Temple garment is sacred to Latter-day Saints, just as other religious clothing is sacred to other faiths. In the Jewish faith, men wear the small tallit under their clothes every day, and the large tallit outside their clothes on the Sabbath or in the synagogue. In the Roman Catholic faith, there’s the scapular along with several different articles of clothing worn by the clergy. The Buddhist Kasaya, the Sikh turban, the Muslim hijab, etc. I guess people just think we’re extra weird because we wear the garment under our normal clothes instead of outside them and that makes it secret or scandalous or something? I don’t know.
Anyway, people have a lot of practical questions about the Temple garment, so I’m going to rapid-fire answer some of the most common ones: Do your regular clothes have to cover your garments? It’s encouraged, yes. This isn’t doctrine but in our culture, the Temple Garment acts as sort of a rough standard of modesty. We don’t alter the garment to fit different clothing styles. That said, sometimes neck edges or sleeves poke out a bit, it’s not a huge deal.
Do Latter-day Saint have to wear garments? NO. Only those who have gone through the temple Endowment ordinance are encouraged to wear them both day and night. If you take those covenants seriously, you wear them. But even if you don’t, you’re not going to get kicked out.
Do Latter-day Saints wear garments AT ALL TIMES? Obviously not all the time. It’s very practical. If you’re going swimming you’re probably not going to wear them. Or when you shower in the morning. There’s also the rumor that if you and your spouse are spending some ‘alone time’ together you have to wear them. And… NO. Of course not. Look what you—now we’re all uncomfortable.
There’s another rumor that’s been going around for almost 200 years now: Some people have been under the impression that we believe the temple garment is meant to provide some kind of magical physical protection—that it’ll stop bullets and such. Unfortunately, as awesome as that would be, it’s simply not true.
This rumor probably started in 1844, when Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, and John Taylor were attacked by a mob while in Carthage Jail. Joseph and Hyrum were killed, and John was shot up pretty bad. John later said that he, Joseph, and Hyrum had removed the garment prior to traveling to Carthage because of the hot weather. So at the time of the attack, only Willard Richards was wearing the Temple garment, and only Willard Richards escaped virtually unscathed.
This led many people, including members, to believe his garments physically protected him from harm. And it didn’t help when Hubert Howe Bancroft perpetuated this idea by writing in History of Utah: “This garment protects from disease, and even death, for the bullet of an enemy will not penetrate it. The Prophet Joseph carelessly left off this garment on the day of his death, and had he not done so, he would have escaped unharmed.”
This may reflect Mr. Bancroft’s opinion, but not the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now, is it possible that garments can physically protect people? Sure, God can do whatever He wants. Heck, he can heal blindness with mud.
But temple garments are meant for spiritual protection, not physical protection. “When worn properly, the garment provides protection against temptation and evil. Wearing the garment is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior.”
That’s a quick overview of what the Latter-day Saint temple garment is. If you have questions, check out the links in the description, leave us a comment, and have a fantastic day!
- Video from the Church’s website about the Temple Garment: https://bit.ly/1MqJPSA
- Why wasn’t Joseph Smith wearing garments in Carthage?: https://bit.ly/2mFnQWP
- More on temple garments: https://bit.ly/2l67G8B