Mormons who have participated in the endowment ceremony wear underclothes called temple garments or, more properly, the garment of the holy priesthood.
Garments are produced in men and women’s versions, in a variety of fabrics and styles. One style of garment is a single piece, but the most common style consists of two pieces. In the two-piece style the top is roughly the cut of a typical t-shirt and the bottoms are analogous to boxer shorts, reaching just above the knee.
The garments are a reminder of promises made and principles taught in the temple. For example, during the endowment’s ritual drama, garments are said to represent the coat of skins which God gave to Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). Thus, the garment represents the atonement of Jesus Christ, a gift from God which covers our sin and weakness so that we can stand unashamed before God (Romans 10:10-11, 1 John 2:28).
“The clergy and many of the committed in almost all major faiths wear special clothing. For Latter-day Saints, among whom there is no professional ministry, men and women from all walks of life share in the callings, responsibilities, and blessings of the priesthood. Their sacred clothing, representing covenants with God, is worn under rather than outside their street clothes” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:534-535).
The design of garments also ensures that endowed members will always treat their body with modesty and respect, since clothes which cover the garment will not be inappropriately revealing. “Among other things it symbolizes our deep respect for the laws of God–among them the moral standard” (Packer, 1982, p. 20).
Garments may be removed for activities (such as swimming) which cannot reasonably be done while wearing the garment.
Mormons do not regard garments as having special power in and of themselves. The garment serves rather as a symbol of their beliefs and promises.
The decision to wear the garment is an outward manifestation of an inner desire to follow the Savior Jesus Christ.
To learn more:
- Evelyn T. Marshall, “Garments,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:534-535
- Carlos E. Asay, “The Temple Garment: ‘An Outward Expression of an Inward Commitment’,” Ensign (August 1997), 19.