There is an excellent commentary by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, who is Catholic, on the LDS (Mormon) garment. In her article she describes the garment as not dissimilar to the sacred clothing of many religious groups around the world, including Jews, Catholics (Roman and Eastern), Sikhs, Buddhists, Amish, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, and tribal religions. I too once wrote about the sacred undergarment of the Jews, the tallit katan (and its tzitzit).
I appreciate her respect for this sacred aspect of temple attending members of the LDS Church. As she puts it, it seems that most sacred clothing such as the garment has four main purposes:
- Recognition that there is Greater.
- That one Accepts certain truths as outlined by usually a holy book[s] belonging to that group.
- That one is now identified as and belongs to a certain group and there are actions required, for some it is evangelization, for others (refering to Amish again) it is only to live not in, but AS peace and love and care for the world within one’s reach.
- That the wearing of various is a demonstration that one is of this world, but also of another world.
You may read her commentary at the link below.
Be forewarned that there is a photo of the garments shown in the article (as has been published elsewhere by those disaffected) (Update 9/2/12: Dr. Estés has kindly removed the photo of the garments from her article.) This is one thing that I wish Dr. Estés had not published. In spite of everything else she noted which respects our practice, the public display of the garments is frowned upon by the LDS because of its highly sacred nature, and because we wear it very much like underwear, not as an intermediate or external robe as many other religions whose clothing can be seen in public freely without discomfort or shame to the wearer. The garment is a very personal and private element in a Mormon’s life.
And here is a commentary by Daniel C. Peterson on the same subject of the garments, and the respect they should garner, and an accompanying excellent article he links to by Robert Rees, a great Mormon perspective, with an intro by Jana Riess:
Robert Rees’s commentary on the “sacred” and the “profane” is equally well said:
We live in a world in which the secular seems increasingly to triumph over the sacred, in which the number of sacred spaces and experiences seems to be diminishing as a part of our lived human experience. In actuality, we lose an essential part of our collective culture when we lose the sacred. To consider nothing sacred is, to paraphrase Rumi, to create a division between our hearts and our ability to act in the world. Believers of all persuasions (and hopefully non-believers as well) have a responsibility to preserve the sacred, to keep at least some flame of the holy alive. If Thoreau was right in stating, “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” we might also say, “In the sacred is the preservation of humanity.”