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). [Read more…]
There was an article published yesterday on Beehive Standard Weekly by Emerson Chase on the subject of “The Sacred Garment of Mormon Theology.” I think that the author is generally sincere in his object of attempting to combat the barrage of criticism and ridicule that the members of the LDS Church receive for what the world has nicknamed “Mormon underwear.” Chase gives an overview of the process by which a member of the Church becomes converted to the gospel, a process by which one continues to receive higher ordinances of the gospel until they come to the temple where they partake of the most solemn and binding covenants that man can make with God. These highest and most sacred covenants are symbolized by the wearing of the garment. As Chase says:
In essence, the garment reflects the promise to each other [husband and wife] and to God to obey God’s laws for their own benefit, for the benefit of their marriage and ultimately for their families. . . .
The Mormon Garment is not worn in such a manner as to display the covenants made by the individual to the world. Where a pastor or preacher might wear a white collar or robe to indicate authority and covenants to God, Mormons are very personal with their commitments and wear the garment under their clothing. In short, it is a statement that the covenants established are between that person and God and the opinions of others don’t count. There is no show-and-tell because the covenants are sacred, and because of their personal nature, secret. It is somewhat like medical records or financial information. It is not something that is considered appropriate for public discourse or disclosure.
However, referring to his own counsel, where much direct discussion of the garment is not considered appropriate, and where the object of the address was to combat the criticism members receive because of it, I believe Chase may have been somewhat overzealous in explaining and describing the culture and idiosyncrasies which surround this sacred symbol of our worship.
We are told to “Trifle not with sacred things” (D&C 6:12). While it is entirely appropriate to talk generally about what the garment is for and what it means as a symbol of our promises to God, we must always maintain the utmost respect in our dialogue of such sacred subjects and not bring it to the level of humor, dating games, and how to spot a Mormon. Indeed, such talk can unknowingly fuel the fire of scoff from our detractors, instead of helping to extinguish it.
As Chase points out, the garment is used by Latter-day Saints similarly to the way other religious traditions have clergy that wear special robes or other unique identification as symbols of their solemn obligations to God. As these things are not treated lightly by other faiths, so should we be very careful and considerate in our discussions about the garment.