Known to some is the fact that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) wear a special kind of underwear in connection with their religion. This is true of most faithful adult members of the Church. (Mormon children are generally dressed the same as any other children.) The special underwear is called a "garment" by Mormons, and it is directly related to Mormon temples.
Garments are a symbolic gesture of the promises that Mormons have made to God. The garment is always worn under other clothing, next to the skin. In fact, for most people who wear it, the garment takes the place of regular underwear. Mormons begin wearing it during their first visit to the temple, wherein they receive individual instruction on how the garment should be worn and cared for, and furthermore, they undergo a sacred ceremony called the temple endowment. Solely during this ritual, additional special clothing is put on; by contrast, the garment or special underwear is worn at all times, both day and night, from then on. It serves as a constant reminder of the covenants made during the temple endowment.
Mormons believe in being "in the world, but not of it," and the garment helps in privately yet consistently setting temple-going Mormons apart from the world. A particularly sharp contrast is felt in today's society, where morals and modesty have deteriorated to a most horrific degree. Many moviemakers and clothing manufacturers, for example, design their respective products to reveal so much of the human body that virtually nothing is left to the imagination. Mormons, on the other hand, are encouraged through the modest length and cut of their temple-got garments to always dress appropriately. Devout Mormons further understand that in only a very few instances might the garment be removed, such as for swimming, using the bathroom, or being intimate in marriage. The reasons for keeping the garment on far outweigh the reasons for taking it off.
The special Mormon underwear consists of a top and bottom piece, and it is made from a variety of lightweight fabrics. There are some special colored temple garments that can be worn by members of the armed services, but for the vast majority of Mormons, garments are always white. This symbolizes physical and spiritual purity. It fosters a mindset of continual obedience to the Lord, which is crucial in keeping the covenants entered into in the temple. Through such obedience, a person can find physical and spiritual protection. The Lord God is enabled to grant promised blessings, fulfilling His side of the temple covenants. Thus, the garment is sacred to the wearer not for what it is, but for what it represents. The garment helps the wearer to focus his or her life on Jesus Christ and to thereby lay claim to the blessings promised to those who do so.
Mormons are not unique in the wearing of special clothing for religious purposes. Perhaps the most well-known example is the yarmulke, which is worn at special times by many Jewish men or at all times by devout orthodox Jews. Similarly, in some religions a minister or priest might wear a special collar that has religious significance, or nuns may wear special clothing that signifies the religious order to which they belong. In all cases the special clothing reflects the religious conviction of the wearer.
There is a historical precedent for wearing religious clothing. Mormons emphasize the fact that Adam and Eve wore clothing that was made for them by God before they left the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:21 states that "unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." Mormons believe that such clothing was provided as part of the religious instruction given to Adam and Eve by God. This is the same context in which Mormons receive the garment: as part of the religious instruction contained within the temple endowment.
Other religious figures throughout history have also worn special clothing as they performed their religious duties. For instance, Moses was commanded by the Lord (as recorded in Exodus 28:1-3) to place holy garments and priestly vestments upon Aaron and others in preparation for officiating in the tabernacle.
There is no professional clergy in the Mormon Church, so in some ways the garment serves as a symbol of the lay clergy, where both men and women share in the responsibilities and blessings of the priesthood, particularly in the temple.
For more information visit Mormon Underwear.
Article authored by the More Good Foundation.