Mormon Underwear Garments

 

 

 

 



Regarding Mormon Garments, LDS leaders have taught:

"Church members who have been clothed with the garment in the temple have made a covenant to wear it throughout their lives. This has been interpreted to mean that it is worn as underclothing both day and night."

"The promise of protection and blessings is conditioned upon worthiness and faithfulness in keeping the covenant. Members of the Church wear the garment as a reminder of the sacred covenants they have made with the Lord and also as a protection against temptation and evil. How it is worn is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior."

- Letter of the First Presidency, 10 October 1988


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mormon garment originsOrigins

In 1842, just two months after being initiated into Freemasonry, Joseph Smith introduced the wearing of garments to a select group of men. On Wednesday, May 4th, 1842, Joseph Smith initiated nine men into his new inner-circle called the "Holy Order," the "Quorum," the "Holy Order of the Holy Priesthood," or the "Quorum of the Anointed." This ritual would later come to be known as the LDS temple endowment.

Performed in the upper story of Smith's Nauvoo store, this new ritual was a significant departure from the simple feet washings Joseph Smith taught in Kirtland. In addition to body washing and anointings, these select men of Smith's "Quorum of the Anointed" received garments.

The original garment was designed only for priesthood men, after the pattern of mid-nineteenth century longjohns. It was originally a one-piece garment made of plain, unbleached cotton cloth that covered the body from ankles to wrists. No buttons were used on the garment. Four to five tie-strings took their place to hold the front closed.Mormon LDS Garments The garment had little collars which were not visible from the outside of the shirt worn over it.

In the crotch area was a large flap, which ran from the back below the waist all the way under the body and met the front tie closing. The flap was completely double so the men had to pull it apart in order to expose themselves.

Ceremonial markings on the garment were originally snipped into the cloth as part of the man's washing and anointing ceremony. This helped keep the markings secret from those who had not been through the ritual, including the women who sewed the garments. These marks made during the endowment were much more prominent than the marks in garments today.

Purpose

The original purpose of wearing garments was to remind Smith's priesthood brethren of their sacred oaths - especially oaths of secrecy regarding the plural marriage doctrine.

Today, church leaders still describe garments in terms of "armor" which has the primary purpose of reminding members of their temple oaths:

"The garment, covering the body, is a visual and tactile reminder of our covenants. It fosters modesty and becomes a shield and protection to the wearer."

"There is, however, another piece of armor worthy of our consideration. It is the special underclothing known as the temple garment, or garment of the holy priesthood, worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have received their temple endowment. This garment, worn day and night, serves three important purposes; it is a reminder of the sacred covenants made with the Lord in His holy house, a protective covering for the body, and a symbol of the modesty of dress and living that should characterize the lives of all the humble followers of Christ."
- Apostle Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, page 79, 75

Protection

Garments were not originally believed to provide any physicial protection. However, this idea came about by the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the jail at Carthage, Illinois. Neither Joseph, Hyrum, nor John Taylor had been wearing their garments. Willard Richards, who had been wearing his garments, escaped unscathed in the attack.

In Mormon folklore, garments have sometimes functioned as a classic amulet that has power in itself independent of the righteousness of the wearer: Mormons tell stories of members in fires having all of their clothing burned from their bodies except where their garments were. The only burns suffered are on hands and feet, which are not protected by the garments. However, such stories are not endorsed by church leaders.

Making the Garment

There are conflicting accounts of how the first garments were designed. According to one account, the original temple garment was made of unbleached muslin with markings bound in turkey red, fashioned by Nauvoo seamstress Elizabeth Warren Allred under Joseph Smith's direction. Joseph's reported intention was to have a one-piece garment covering a man's arms, legs and torso, having "as few seams as possible" (Munson n.d.; see also H. Kimball Diary, 21 Dec. 1845; Reid 1973, 169).

Another story circulated to temple workers in the late 19th century said:

"When Joseph Smith received the endowments and revelation from the Lord to be given to his people by authority, he also received instructions as to how to make this garment. None had ever seen anything like it and the sisters who made it were under his direction and when it was submitted to him, he said that it was right and the way it had looked to him and he accepted it. This garment had a collar and it had strings to tie it and sleeves that came to the wrist, not to the hand, but about an inch above, and the leg came down to the ankle joint. This was the pattern given and it is right for Aunt Eliza Snow was the governess and seamstress in his house at the time the first garments were made and heard the instructions to the sisters."
- TEMPLE INSTRUCTIONS; Zina Y. Card; "Garments"

Male-only Design

Because women were not originally intended to be a part of the endowment ceremony, when they were finally admitted, women received the same garment as the men. Women and men in the church wore the very same garments until 1965. Thus, all Mormon pioneer women wore the men's garment, which were 100% cotton longjohns.

As early as the 1890s, LDS women tried getting their own garment pattern, but to no avail.

"Sister Zina D. H. Young submitted a knitted garment something like our garments which is made in the East and asked if such may be marked & have a collar put on it and used as out Temple garment. It was decided by the First Presidency that such garments should not be used in lieu of the pattern given."
- L. John Nuttall Journal, Vol 3, p. 227; 8 December 1890
Church priesthood leaders made it very clear that there was only one pattern for making and wearing garments and they must never be altered:
"Each individual should be provided with the endowment clothing they need. The garments must be clean and white, and of the approved pattern; they must not be altered or mutilated, and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles, and around the neck. These requirements are imperative; admission to the Temple will be refused to those who do not comply therewith."
- President Joseph F. Smith, "Instructions Concerning Temple Ordinance Work," President of the Salt Lake Temple 1898-1911

Nevertheless, at the turn of the 20th Century, more LDS women were altering their garments for comfort. In response, temple president Joseph F. Smith declared:

"The Lord has given unto us garments of the holy priesthood, and you know what that means. And yet there are those of us who mutilate them, in order that we may follow the foolish, vain and indecent practices of the world."

"In order that such people may imitate the fashions, they will not hesitate to mutilate that which should be held by them the most sacred of all things in the world, next to their own virtue, next to their own purity of life. They should hold these things that God has given unto them sacred, unchanged and unaltered from the very pattern in which God gave them. Let us have the moral courage to stand against the opinions of fashion, and especially where fashion compels us to break a covenant and so commit a grievous sin."
- President Joseph F. Smith, "Fashion and the Violation of Covenants and Duty," Improvement Era 9, August 1906, 812-815.
That same year (1906) church leaders had the following instructions printed and displayed in the women's dressing area of all church temples:
"The following is to be regarded as an established and imperative rule. The garments worn by those who receive endowments must be white and of the approved pattern; they must not be altered or mutilated, and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles and around the neck. Admission to the temple will be refused to those who do not comply to these requirements."

"The Saints should know that the pattern of endowment garments was revealed from Heaven and that the blessings promised in connection with wearing them will not be realized if any unauthorized change is made in their form or in the manner of wearing them."
- Messages of the First Presidency 5:110; President Joseph F. Smith; 28 June 1906.
Ten years later in 1916, the Prophet instructed the women of the church:
"The garments worn by those who receive endowments must be white and of the approved pattern. They must not be altered and mutilated and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankle, and around the neck. Admission to the temple will be refused those who do not comply with these requirements. The Saints should know that the pattern of endowment garments was revealed from heaven, and the blessings promised in connection with wearing them will not be realized if any unauthorized change is made in their form or in the manner of wearing them."
- President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 9:812, 28 June 1916

Garment Changes

In April 1923 the First Presidency formed a committee to investigate the origin of the garment and to recommend "reconsiderations" in their pattern.

temple president george richardsThe suggestion for the reconsideration apparently came because of Salt Lake Temple President George B. Richards's questions raised after a conversation with Sister Maria Dougall in October 1922. At that time he learned that Joseph Smith had not designed the garments and temple clothing.

In fact, a group of sisters led by Emma Smith and including Bathsheba Smith had fashioned both the garments and the temple clothing, and presented them to Joseph Smith for his approval. The collar on the garments had been put on because the sisters could think of no other way to finish it at the top, and they added ties because they had no buttons. The original cap in the temple clothing had looked something like a crown, but Joseph Smith had them redesign it to look more like a baker's cap.
- President George F. Richards Journal, October 11, 1922, April 5, 1923

On April 14, 1923, Temple President Richards discussed the garment design with the First Presidency. At that time, they considered such changes as removing the collar, using buttons, and allowing women to use elbow-length sleeves and shorter legs presumably to coordinate with women's fashions, which had changed considerably by the 1920s. On May 17, 1923, the entire council and First Presidency approved the new design.
- President George F. Richards Journal, April 14, May 17, 1923.

Here is that First Presidency Letter:

Heber J. Grant Letter Books; pp. 436, 437; 14 June 1923:

To Presidents of Stakes and of Temples.

Dear Brethren:

For some time past the First Presidency and Council of Twelve have had under consideration the propriety of permitting certain modification in the temple garment, with the following result:

After careful and prayerful consideration it was unanimously decided that the following modifications may be permitted, and a garment of the following style be worn by those Church members who wish to adopt it, namely:
(1) Sleeve to elbow.
(2) Leg just below knee.
(3) Buttons instead of strings.
(4) Collar eliminated.
(5) Crotch closed.

It may be observed that no fixed pattern of Temple garment has ever been given, and that the present style of garment differs very materially from that in use in the early history of the Church, at which time a garment without collar and with buttons was frequently used.

It is the mind of the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve that this modified garment may be used by those who desire to adopt it, without violating any covenant they make in the House of the Lord, and with a clear conscience, so long as they keep the covenants which they have made and remember that the garment is the emblem of the Holy Priesthood designed by the Lord as a covering for the body, and that it should be carefully preserved from mutilation and unnecessary exposure, and be properly marked.

It should be clearly understood that this modified garment does not supercede the approved garment now in use, that either of these patterns may be worn, as Church members prefer, without being considered unorthodox, and those using either will not be out of harmony with the order of the Church.

In order that there may be uniformity in temple work, and that the expedition in the administration of the ordinances of the House of the Lord may not be impeded, we recommend that people doing temple work, whether it be ordinance work for the dead or first endowments for the living, wear the approved garment now in use. If persons appear at the temple with the modified style, however, they should not be refused admittance, provided they come properly recommended. Bishops, in giving recommends to the temple should call attention to this recommendation.

Will you advise the Bishops of your Stake of these changes, being careful to give the matter no unnecessary publicity.

This letter is not to pass from your hands, nor are copies to be furnished to any other person.

Your Brethren in the Gospel,
Heber J. Grant
Charles W. Penrose
A. W. Ivins
First Presidency.
The introduction of this new-style garment caused considerable unrest among church members. As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune in June 1923:
"In the old days the temple garment was made of plain, unbleached cotton cloth. Unbleached linen was as far afield in 'finery' as the devotee was permitted to go. No buttons were used on the garment. Tape tie-strings took their place. The garment itself was uncomfortably large and baggy. But despite these imperfections, the old-style garment is faithfully adhered to by many of the older and sincerely devout members of the church. These regard the garment as a safeguard against disease and bodily harm, and they believe that to alter either the texture of cloth or style, or to abandon the garment altogether would bring evil upon them."

"One good woman of long membership in the church, hearing of the change that has recently come about, went to the church offices and uttered fervid objection. 'I shall not alter my garments, even if President Grant has ordered me to do so. My garments now are made as they were when I was married in the endowment house long before the temple was built. The pattern was revealed to the Prophet Joseph and Brother Grant has no right to change it,' she said."
- The Salt Lake Tribune, "Temple Garments Greatly Modified, Church Presidency Gives Permission, Style Change Optional With Wearer"; Monday Morning, 4 June 1923

First Design for Women

In 1965 for the first time, Mormon women received temple garments modified for them. In a First Presidency letter to all temple presidents, the presidency explained:

To PRESIDENTS of TEMPLES
Dear Brethren:
This will advise you that approval has been granted for limited modification in the design of the garment used in the temple to allow for better fit and greater wearing comfort.

The approved modified design for women has a button front rather than string ties, a brassiere top patterned after the brassiere top of garments used for day-time wear, a helanca stretch insert in the back at the waist, and widened overlapping back panels with a helanca stretch piece at the top of each panel and a button to assure panels remaining closed. All other features of the garment, including the collar, long legs, and long sleeves, remain the same as heretofore.

The approved modified design of the garment for men has a button front, closed crotch, helanca stretch insert piece in the back at the waist, widened overlapping back panels with a helanca stretch piece at the top of each panel and a button to assure panels remaining closed. All other features of the men's garment also, including the collar, long legs and long sleeves, remain the same as heretofore.

OFFICE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY
Salt Lake City 11, Utah
June 10, 1965

While these changes did lead to more comfort for womem, some church members noted that the female garments were still unattractive and contributed to sexless or near sexless Mormon marriages.

Despite these changes, the pre-1923 style garment was still required in the temple ceremony until 1975 when its use became optional. Occasionally, minor design changes have been implemented such as lowering the neckline and shortening the legs and sleeves.

Garments are manufactured by the Church's Beehive Clothing Mills. While members are not now permitted to make their own garments, they may make their own temple clothing provided it follows the approved design, although this is not openly encouraged. Upon approval of the stake or mission president, a handbook may be lent to worthy members who must make the clothing under the supervision or direction of the stake Relief Society president or mission president. One additional recent policy change allows guests at temple wedding ceremonies to attend in street clothes, provided they have donned white slippers. Previously, all those attending wedding ceremonies had to wear the full temple clothing.

The most dramatic recent change was the two-piece garment in 1979. In a letter to Church leaders dated December 15, 1979, the First Presidency announced the introduction in February 1979 of two-piece temple garments. The new style garments were offered in addition to and priced about the same as the regular one-piece variety. No explanation for or description of the new garments was given.
- Dialogue, Vol. 20, No. 4, p.56

Garments have remained the same since the last changes in 1979, although more women today are wearing their bras underneath their garments. Traditionally, temple workers have told women that they must wear the garment on their skin and bras must be worn over the garment. Although some temple workers continue to give this directive, there is no documented instruction from the First Presidency to do so.

Even though women continue to suffer discomfort (especially while menstruating) and a higher incident of yeast infections, wearing garments as the church prescribes continues as a fundamental practice of endowed women today.

Mormon Garments in the Military

Some time around 1999, the garment began to be released in olive-drab green, for military members. The temple marks were still embroidered on the outside of the garment, and thus visible when troops worked in shirtsleeves. In order to avoid public ridicule and embarrassment, most military members during this era would wear two undershirts, with the military garment worn underneath a civilian military issue T-shirt.

Around this same time, individual military services began to abandon the Army-controlled battle dress uniform (BDU), which was to be worn with standarized OD-green undershirts. As individual services began to produce their own BDU, the array of undershirt colors expanded to include black, desert tan, green, and many other variants.

With increasing troop deployments to hot places like Iraq and Afghanistan beginning around 2003, Gen Bruce Carlson, Air Force Materiel Command, and highest ranking military member of the LDS military affairs committee, communicated to church leaders that deployed LDS military members were inordinately suffering from heat-stress due to the double undershirt issue.

In response, around 2005-2006, Beehive clothing began to produce desert-tan undergarments, with the marks silk-screened on the inside of the shirt. These new garments with the marks hidden on the inside elleviated the problem of members having to wear double t-shirts.

As of the winter of 2007, Beehive clothing also released a desert tan cycling style lycra undershort, intended to be worn during unit physical training exercises. The new lycra form-fitting brief has also been released in white, currently for women only. It is the most form-fitting of the female undergarment bottoms. Beehive Clothing also sent a memo around 2005-2006 to active-duty military members, offering to custom silk-screen the marks on the inside of other colored T-shirts for military and police officers. Beehive Clothing requires proof of military or police officer status to purchase these garments.

If you have questions or comments, e-mail ldsgems@hotmail.com.

Next >>: Mormon Garments, A Relic of Polygamy


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