A couple of summers ago my wonderful husband was at his parents house after attending the temple with one of his siblings who was receiving their endowment. As he was getting ready to go one sibling burst into tears and told him how much they were worried about him. There had been times off and on over the past year or two prior that he had not worn garments and she had noticed.
Why is it anyone’s business to talk about what underwear one is wearing or not wearing? Why do they care so much? Why would anyone actually ask me about my underwear?!
I have heard these questions of frustration from so many people who are all over the church membership spectrum. I get it. It IS, at it’s most basic level, underwear.
But it seems like everyone also forgot that garments are actually so much more than just underwear for Mormons. Do you really wonder why people ask you about them?
I feel like there is some kind of lack of understanding. Or maybe people are trying to reduce their meaning. For some people they no longer have meaning to them personally and they try to communicate that by saying they are “just underwear”. Sure, that’s for you. But if you ever were a member, you at least kind of get it, right?
To laugh about garment checking in forums (which physically invading a person to check for garments is quite silly and VERY intrusive), or be appalled that your mother had a sit down with you and began with, “I noticed you’re not wearing your garments…” just seems, well, weird.
For those who went to the temple and received the garment when you received your endowment, you DO remember the part when they talk about the garments meaning, that they are sacred and a physical reminder of the covenants you made in the temple, right? You were instructed on how to treat and wear the garment and are reminded of it’s importance and meaning every time you do an endowment session. It was kind of a big deal.
It’s one thing to reduce the garment to just underwear for you personally. That’s fine. But to not be understanding of why devout members of the church would ask you about your garments I feel is simply not fair.
And herein lies the problem of garments.
Garments are a physical, visible marker of ones faith.
And they shouldn’t be.
By wearing them, you are making a physical, visible showing of your commitment to your faith.
By not wearing them, to many devout members, you are essentially saying that you are not living in accordance to your temple covenants.
Not wearing the visible marker of faithfulness can have big implications. Consider how not wearing that visible marker can effect family relationships and even in some people’s employment.
We can talk all day about how we would never judge someone who is or is not wearing garments. And for the most part I don’t think we do.
However, we talk about those people. We wonder in our minds and whisper about what’s going on with them. Some people may even have the gall to personally interrogate and scold someone they barely know (or even someone they know well) over their apparent lack of commitment/loss of faith.
The bottom line should be that it’s no ones’ business. How you wear your garments SHOULD be between you and God only.
However, the visibility of them makes it impossible for ones wearing of them to remain between that person and God.
Why does our personal commitment to God and this church have to be “discreetly” on display?
For those ready and willing to go further down the rabbit hole you avail yourselves with this very interesting article detailing the history of the LDS garment.
Actually, unless something has changed since I last went, the endowment really doesn’t give specific instructions in regards to garment wearing. It literally only says you are now authorized to wear garments. Doesn’t say when (or even if) you are allowed to take them off, doesn’t say how they are supposed to fit, doesn’t talk about disposing of worn out garments – nothing. And it’s presented as instruction, not covenant, despite what the TR interview says. We never raise our hands to the square and agree to wear garments. Not saying that we shouldn’t wear them – but the actual instruction is very limited and very vague. Everything else (ie cutting up and burning discarded ones) is disseminated by word of mouth. This is also how Mormon urban legend gets started – ie. that garments will stop a bullet, or that you can’t take them off for sex!
It’s all very, very weird.
Exactly. We are only instructed, not covenanted.
I think maybe because receiving garments and instruction on them happens in the temple, and that it is presented in a serious ceremonial manner is what makes everyone so serious about them.
Did you think about me when you wrote this?
Good article, Carrie. I did one about a year ago on RNS about asking Mormon’s whether or not they hold a temple recommend (while in casual conversation, not in regards to a calling). Similar reasoning on both the impetus for the question and my suggested response.
By and large I think when we’re tempted to pry into someone else’s life we should pause and remind ourselves we do a lot better as disciples of our Savior when we pay more attention to our own salvation, and a little bit less to everyone else’s.
Great post, Carrie! And, of course, it took 60+ years after the first garment was made — before women had their own garment design. Women who designed and constructed men’s garments and who made repeated requests, were forbidden by these same men from designing something more appropriate for women. Some things never change. #patriarchy
Wait – so women had to spend 6 decades wearing men’s underwear?
Isn’t that cross-dressing? Weren’t they worried that those women were going to turn into men, or worse?
This was a really great article. The article you posted at the end is actually the article that started tipping me over the edge when it came to the LDS faith. For being so borderline obnoxious about the WoW (giving someone the eye when you see them with a Starbucks cup…could that be…coffee?!) and the For Strength of Youth pamphlet, let alone the proclamation on the family, I suddenly wondered where on earth was the revelation that we could all point to and quote repeatedly about garments?
Then I saw the article about the history of the garments and reached a couple of conclusions: first, the garments were Joseph Smith Jr’s way of delineating those practicing polygamy and those not; second, this started to fall under the “culture, not doctrine” category of the religion. I understand that they were supposed to be simply a reminder of the promises made, and that is how we talk about them now, but I’m still surprised we don’t hear often about the history of the garments as we do with so much else in the church. Then again, how do you explain that this was to show who was a polygamist and who wasn’t, that it was one of the “absolutely no tampering” then suddenly, they started getting shorter, else we’d all be having to talk in modesty lessons about how knees and elbows must also always be covered?
I think, like much else in the church culture, garments are one of those checkboxes to see someone’s progress to the kingdom. They tell you who to worry about and who not to worry about, or who to mutter about and who not to mutter about. In other words, it gives us one more item with which to judge each other, allowing us to wholly miss the point of what I think is the gospel message: be kind to everyone, have a good, forgiving heart, and treat each other well.
I don’t know a lot about LDS but, as a nondenominational Christian, I don’t think Jesus cares about our choice in underwear.