The following was originally printed in the January/February 2015 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
Among the many unique aspects of the LDS faith, the peculiarity of the Mormon temple garment has attracted a lot of curiosity as well as ridicule among non LDS members.
Known in Mormon circles as the garment of the Holy Priesthood, this curious piece of clothing is described in the LDS temple endowment ceremony as representing “the garment given to Adam and Eve when they were found naked in the Garden of Eden.” Because of their alleged sacred nature, the Mormon Church has refrained from any meaningful public discussion of the garments. In fact, LDS members have often been quite vocal in expressing their distain whenever the garments became a topic of discussion on public websites.
Recently, however, the official Newsroom website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a 4-minute, 17-second video that explains the purpose of their “sacred temple clothing” by comparing them to other unique clothing worn in other religions throughout the world. Along with a close up of the garments, the narration states, “The nun’s habit. The priest’s cassock. The Jewish prayer shawl. The Muslim’s skullcap. The saffron robes of the Buddhist monk. All are part of a rich tapestry of human devotion to God.”
The video goes on to state:
However, many faithful Latter-day Saints wear a garment under their clothing that has deep religious significance. Similar in design to ordinary modest underclothing, it comes in two pieces and is usually referred to as the “temple garment.” Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as magical or “magic underwear.” These words are not only inaccurate but also offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and Church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of goodwill.
You would think that the apparent misunderstanding regarding what some believe to be “magic underwear” would be explained in this clip, but that is not the case. Rather than tackle why such a misunderstanding prevails, the video simply dismisses the charge without any explanation whatsoever. Ignored are the many times the temple garment have been credited with actually offering physical protection to the wearer. The failure to address this is what makes the comparison misleading since this unique attribute of the LDS garment is certainly nothing like the clothing worn by various religious adherents.
The endowment ceremony itself claims the garment “will be a shield and a protection” to the faithful member on the condition that they do not defile them and if they are true and faithful to the covenants they make in the temple.
Leaders such as Spencer W. Kimball have been more specific, “though generally I think our protection is a mental, spiritual, moral one, yet I am convinced that there could be and undoubtedly have been many cases where there has been, through faith, an actual physical protection, so we must not minimize that possibility” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.539).
A simple Google search verifies this Mormon belief. Under the title of “Testimony Builder,” one family blog site credited the garment with protection from a hot piece of metal:
We had a very neat experience at our house! Jestin has been working on a steel fabrication job for his uncle the last few weeks. Today he was grinding some metal. He said he saw a light out of the corner of his eye and ignored it for a bit. But when it didn’t go away he looked down. His shirt was on FIRE!!! He patted it out frantically and then looked at his temple garment underneath. There was brown burn marks on the outside of his garment, but nothing on the back side. The kids were in awe… what a testimony builder about the blessings given for our temple garments! I am so thankful he did not get burned today! We feel very blessed!
It should not come as a huge surprise when outsiders hear claims like this and conclude that Mormons do believe their garments contain some sort of divine or “magical” power.
For more information on temple garments, check out the following articles: