Garments a Protection?

by: Guy Templeton

August 7, 2014

During the initiatory rite, patrons are clothed in the garment of the holy priesthood.  During the ceremony, Mormons are promised that the garment will serve as a protection to us until we have “finished our work on earth”, so long as we do not defile them through sin.  Mormons love to promote stories in which the garment served as a protection to us.  One of the most famous stories was Bill Marriott, (Chairman of the Marriott Hotel chain) claiming that his pants were burned right off of him, but his garments were not singed and protected him.  He told Mike Wallace of the 60 Minutes program.

In another case, we can see that Travis Alexander defiled his garments by having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend Jody Arias.  She was later convicted of his murder.

But there are stories of missionaries dying on their missions in which seemingly they didn’t defile their garments.

Advanced Body Protection

Maybe if the missionaries had worn something like this, they would be better protected. (Do they make these in white?)

These missionaries were seemingly not defiling their garments.  Is this simply a matter that they had finished their work on this earth?  Why didn’t the garments protect them from harm?

If we wear the garment worthily, they provide:

  • spiritual protection (44%, 63 Votes)
  • neither (44%, 62 Votes)
  • both (12%, 17 Votes)
  • physical protection (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 142

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45 Responses to Garments a Protection?

  1. Howard on August 7, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Yes garments are a protection, they protect you from looking good as you disrobe and from being comfortable as any good hairshirt would. But substituting them for Kevlar isn’t recommended.

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  2. whizzbang on August 7, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    I have never ever heard the idea that the garment was a physical protection against anything, I can’t imagine why anyone would think otherwise. I have also never heard the idea the idea that the garment protected someone else from harm. Who are we to say that these folks time on earth were or weren’t up? we just don’t know

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  3. PZ on August 7, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    The symbols are meant to be an open declaration and reminder of our temple covenants, specifically in aligning our lives with Christ. There is nothing particularly significant about the length, color, or “modesty” of the garment. The power is in the symbology. And I agree with whizzbang. They are not a physical barrier, but rather a shield and protection against forgetting what it means to be Christlike. They are meant to be a protection from more insidious maladies like pride, seeking power and authority, the love of wealth, and neglecting the poor, the subtle things that destroy the spiritual character of nations (like the Nephites).

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  4. Mormon Heretic on August 7, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    So Bill Marriott was wrong in his interpretation?

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  5. Jeff Spector on August 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    ‘so long as we do not defile them through sin”

    Where does it say “through sin….”

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  6. Howard on August 7, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    I think the symbols ought to be organized into an attractive stylized logo and embroidered on any commercially available under garment in a comfortable location. The church could copyright the logo and control the embroidery service.

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  7. IDIAT on August 7, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    For a bunch of people who don’t “look good” (Saints who wear garments) they sure manage to have a lot of children. The garment is a protection from the destroyer. And who or what is the destroyer? See the Topical Guide for references. “In later Jewish theology (the Targums and Midrash), the “destroyer” or “angel of death” appears under the name Sammael (i.e. the poison of God), who was once an arch-angel before the throne of God, and who caused the serpent to tempt Eve. According to Weber, he is not to be distinguished from Satan. The chief distinction between the “destroyer” of early thought and the Sammael of later Judaism is that the former was regarded as the emissary of Yahweh, and subservient to His will, and sometimes was not clearly distinguished from Yahweh Himself, whereas the latter was regarded as a perfectly distinct individuality, acting in independence or semi-independence, and from purely malicious and evil motives. The change was largely due to the influence of Persian dualism, which made good and evil to be independent powers.” D. Miall Edwards.

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  8. Howard on August 7, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    If they are protection from the destroyer shouldn’t they come with hoodies, gloves, footies and a facemask?

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  9. Mormon Heretic on August 7, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Is there a non-sinful way to defile garments? I don’t think falling in a mud puddle defiles your garments.

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  10. Nate W. on August 7, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    whizzbang:

    I have never ever heard the idea that the garment was a physical protection against anything, I can’t imagine why anyone would think otherwise. I have also never heard the idea the idea that the garment protected someone else from harm.

    I am guessing by this statement that you have never lived in the Jello Belt and/or are under the age of 35.

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  11. Jeff Spector on August 7, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    “Is there a non-sinful way to defile garments?”

    That wasn’t the question. The question is where is the term “through sin” used? I’ve never heard it. As such “defile” is left for us to determine. “Through sin” implies a very conscious effort. I think there are a number of ways to defile garments that are not “through sin.”

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  12. Hedgehog on August 7, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    whizzbang, Nate W.
    I’ve heard it, and I live well outside the Jello belt, but have a decade on 35.
    So… do we have statistical analysis available on rate and severity of accidents of wearers and non-wearers of garments?
    My husband had a missionary companion who told him he’d had a chain saw accident in which his jeans had been frayed by the saw, but garments and leg remained in tact.

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  13. Mormon Heretic on August 7, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    I think there are a number of ways to defile garments that are not “through sin.”

    I’d be curious to hear these ways to defile garments. I’ve always assumed defiling them was through sin.

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  14. Observer on August 7, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Garments protect you by serving as a reminder to avoid things/situations that would corrode your character, which is your most valuable asset in this life!

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  15. Mormon Heretic on August 7, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    It seems to me that the idea of physical protection goes right back to the Carthage jail. Both Oliver and Joseph were hot, so they took off their garments and were shot and killed. Willard Richards, on the other hand, wore his garments and was unscathed. It seems to me that the early saints felt the garments were a physical (as well as spiritual) protection.

    I am a bit surprised that Whizzbang, Observer, and PZ seem to think that it is only spiritual protection. While their may better explain the missionaries deaths, it isn’t the historical understanding and certainly disagrees with Bill Marriott’s interpretation (which is what I believe the majority of Mormons think when they hear the blessing in the initiatory rite.) Each part of our bodies are physically blessed to perform their proper functions, and the garment seems to cap that with physical (as well as spiritual) protection, provided we do not defile the garments.

    I think I will add a poll to see what people think here. Check it out in a few minutes!

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  16. Kristine A on August 7, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    when I first moved into this ward last year there was a lesson in relief society about covenant keeping about how our garments protect us. I commented that I believe the protection we have is from obedience – an added layer spiritual safety.

    I think it was the most controversial thing I’d said all year – most women in the room were visibly uncomfortable that I was discounting their “physical protection” and I had two women come up to me afterward to tell me “physical protection” stories so that my waywardness could be corrected.

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  17. Observer on August 7, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    But as far as what really matters, I believe their primary purpose is to protect from spiritual dangers (i.e., things that would weaken our character). I don’t discount there are incidences where they have protected people from physical harm, but I think those are exceptions. If my garments somehow miraculously protect me from unseen physical harm–great, but I’m not counting on it. I personally find them much more effective as reminding me of my covenants which aids me on staying on the straight and narrow, thus helping preserve my character.

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  18. Jeff Spector on August 7, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    ” I’ve always assumed defiling them was through sin.”

    Treating them in a casual manner such as:
    – Throwing them on the floor
    – Not retiring them when they are full of holes, tears or discolored
    – Wearing them contrary to instructions
    – Trying to adjust them to wear some clothing.
    – Not wearing them, when you can.
    – Letting them hang out your shorts on the bottom in public Seen that one in Utah)
    – Even discussing them in a very disrespectful manner

    Those are some of my thoughts. but again, It is individual and maybe some might not agree. I wouldn’t call those sins with a capital S.

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  19. Douglas on August 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    #15 – if the garments were INTENDED to afford physical protection (“shields up, Mr. Chekov”…”Shields up, Keptin…”) they wouldn’t leave the throat, neck, and head unprotected, especially against a “head shot” (I recall almost 20 years ago G. Gordon Liddy recommending, sort of tongue in cheek, we hope, that if one were besieged by maniacal ATF agent, ala Ruby Ridge or Waco, to fire upon the GOVERNMENT agents in the presumably unprotected head…I do note that on most raids these otherwise civilian federal peace officers wear a version of the PAGST, which can turn aside a glancing shot from most rounds). I don’t presuppose the ability of the Lord to afford His servants some manner of protection from physical harm as He deems fit; likely as a teaching opportunity. However, the greatest protection is the individual’s good sense and discretion to avoid danger in the first place!

    The wearing of the garments is part of what’s kept me active all these years. Once in the “habit” (pun intended) of wearing them, they serve as a daily reminder of who I am and my testimony. And at times, especially of late, it’s been darned easy to forget!

    At times, when changing clothes at the gym, I’ve been asked (most of the times it’s sincere and not a form of ridicule) about why the “long, funny underwear”. I take it as an opportunity to show that Mormons DO have a sense of humor, affecting my best impression of Mel Blanc doing Bugs Bunny: “Gee fella, I didn’t know ya CARED!”

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  20. Nona on August 7, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Just a note, for your poll–I was always taught that they could serve as both a spiritual and physical protection. I don’t believe that anymore. But I was taught it.

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  21. Roger on August 7, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    I remember returned vets who claimed that their platoons or squads had them walk in front while on patrol in Viet Nam since they wore garments and would be protected. Hear lots of unusual stuff while residing in Helaman Halls forty-plus years ago.

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  22. handlewithcare on August 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    If we believe that the garment if worn as prescribed is a physical protection, does that mean that all dead endowed mormons have failed to wear their garment correctly?
    Just barmy.

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  23. Douglas on August 7, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    #22 – No, and your retort, if intended to be serious, is ridiculous. Even those that, IMO erroneously believe that temple garments perform some body armor function don’t typically believe that the wearer acquire’s “infinite lives” like in a video game. Faithful LDS who don’t even completely take them off to bathe (I’ve heard rather amusing anecdotes on this) and don’t remove them for sex (that’s what the HOLES are for, RIGHT?) nevertheless do fall to various infirmities. No one gets out of here alive, save for the One that conquered death.

    I’m glad my beloved has a “liberal” attitude on the subject, our respective conservative politics notwithstanding. As far as she’s concerned, we can paste some marks on the INSIDE of the front door (don’t want to spook the neighbors by posting them on the OUTSIDE) and run about the house buck-nekkid when it’s just the two of us. Even on that, opinions vary. One good story goes that a bishop yanked the temple recommends of a young couple, whom, in their proverbial “salad days”, frolicked about the house in the buff, putting on a bath robe quickly when someone came to the door. I guess at some point the curtains weren’t parted or there was too much gap in the fence slats. If that’s so, and the good bishop was upholding Gospel principles, then we truly have the Gospel of “no fun allowed”.

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  24. Mormon Heretic on August 7, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    No. Old people who die have “finished their work on earth.” The same could be said for people stricken with cancer or serious illness. The real question comes when young people die an accidental (potentially preventable) death, because it seems to me that it is highly debatable whether or not they have finished their work on earth.

    For example, as mentioned in the OP, Travis Alexander died needlessly, but he also had a sexual relationship with a woman not his wife. Preventable? Yes. Defiled his garments? Yes. Finished his work on the earth? I’d say no. But missionaries dying accidental death seems to me that they haven’t really finished their work on the earth. All of the deaths mentioned above seem to have been preventable (at least to God.) They weren’t stricken with cancer or something.

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  25. Douglas on August 7, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    #24 – “Stuff” happens. And, as John Milton, Esq., as portrayed by Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate” observed, “Free Agency…it is a (witch with a capital “B”)”.

    I myself don’t believe in predestination. I make choices every day, hopefully righteous ones. However, even seemingly innocuous decisions, made in good faith, can have profound impacts, however unintended (The premise of the otherwise forgettable “Sliding Doors”). For example, on 22 Feb 2000, my then 14 y.o. son had to do a school project, and it was due the FOLLOWING day, of course. So off we trudged to the public library, and spent about an hour there. Following that, we headed across town to get his older brother who was at their mother’s house. On the way, in conditions of pouring rain, another vehicle slammed into a utility pole, which downed a 1″ steel cable crossing the road…RIGHT IN OUR PATH. The otherwise improbable combination caught the undercarriage of my car like an arrestor cable snagged a carrier plane by the tail hook and caused it to flip “arse over teakettle”. Going 40 mph, flipping about 50 yards airborne, and then landing on the roof, ought to in most cases have been fatal to us both. We both survived with moderate injuries.

    Therefore, I feel that it’s useless to speculate on what God intended in the face of random events and choices made in good faith. We can only do our best with what we know at the time.

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  26. anon on August 7, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    The garment affords protection from the danger of entering the presence of God in the celestial kingdom. The positions of the marks in the veil are oriented such that if they are projected on the garment, the interior is the terrestrial side, and the outside is the celestial side.

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  27. Mary Ann on August 7, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    The garments are outward reminders of the sacred covenants made in the temple. I think Kristine was right on when she said that obedience to those covenants and commandments are major factors in any “protection” afforded. That being said, why are some people saved from horrific situations while others are not? MUCH bigger issue than garments, and assuming personal righteousness must necessarily be a factor is a mistake. Christ’s example gives us more than enough evidence that personal righteousness does not give anyone a free pass against all traumatic life-altering situations.

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  28. hawkgrrrl on August 7, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    My mom told a story about a guy who drowned, and his garments were intact although his body had been eaten away by fish. She cited that as evidence that garments provide protection. I said it sounded more like they are inedible.

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  29. Kt on August 7, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    It seems to me that the whole point is the covenant keeping to an all powerful God. If in fact it is an all powerful God, and one has kept their covenants, why would that very same God not protect all of any part of you, rather than just where the garment is….?

    So, the real question is, who/what do people believe is doing the protecting? God and that God’s power, or ‘the priesthood’, and the power thereof, or is it one and the same? And even if it is, do we not arrive again at the idea that it’s an all powerful God, so why only protect where the garments are…?

    And then, if you believe them to be a physical protection, since garments have gotten shorter, why did God find it necessary to have more protected before than now, and if it is a physical protection, why wouldn’t one want full length Gs?

    And if it’s just spiritual protection, then why not wear a charm bracelet, a necklace, a tattoo, or whatever.

    This makes me think it’s about control….

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  30. Mormon Heretic on August 7, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    According to dictionary.com

    de·file [dih-fahyl]
    verb (used with object), de·filed, de·fil·ing.
    1. to make foul, dirty, or unclean; pollute; taint; debase.
    2. to violate the chastity of.
    3. to make impure for ceremonial use; desecrate.
    4. to sully, as a person’s reputation.

    I guess Jeff’s examples above fit #3. I have a hard time believing that a missionary wasn’t protected in Guatemala from electrocution because he defiled his garments by dropping them on the floor, or wore some with holes because he couldn’t afford new ones. Jeff, is that what you think? Is that grounds for God not protecting someone physically?

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  31. forgetting on August 7, 2014 at 10:55 PM

    After reading all this one could conclude that the garment is exactly what we think it is, or intend it to be. Or maybe rather, it is what it is based on our behaviors toward it.

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  32. Jack Hughes on August 7, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Stories about garments providing miraculous physical protection (stopping bullets, etc.) should be relegated to the land of folk doctrine. Most of them probably have their origins in Paul H. Dunn talks anyway.

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  33. Casey on August 8, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    Garments are just underwear, full stop. Therefore I feel no compunction whatsoever about tossing them on the floor or opting out of wearing them on a hot day–and I have no expectation that they’ll save me from any physical harm that a Hanes undershirt couldn’t!

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  34. jspector106 on August 8, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    “Jeff, is that what you think? Is that grounds for God not protecting someone physically?”

    I’ve never bought into the idea of physical protection any more than the idea that “putting on the full armor of God” required us to wear armor as described.

    As someone pointed out, what about your head, arms, lower legs and feet?. Not worthy of protection? Expendable? Probably not.

    I found the Marriott story a bit cringe worthy. If he wants to believe it, if others do, fine with me.

    Taking it to an absurd level, no Mormon who is wearing garments should ever die, if his or her garments are physically protecting them from harm. Except if it affects their head.

    I am of the mind that it is a symbol of our faithfulness and a reminder of our covenants. A spiritual protection.

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  35. fbisti on August 8, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    It is all psychology. Perhaps inspired psychology, but nothing more than an intelligent (if obvious) extension of the well-known mindset/perspective-changing that is intended to occur through making covenants, in special ceremonies, with important-sounding words like “saving ordinances.”

    Weddings, graduation ceremonies, pledge allegiance ceremonies, funeral ceremonies–all are examples of psychological manipulation (not pejorative, just descriptive) or effect. A common, and mostly ineffective due to overuse, example is genuflecting.

    The spiritual “protection” (a positive change in our intent to do good) is all in our heads (in our Agency). Nothing more. The physical protection is pure hyperbole and propaganda. Marriott’s garment bottoms were simply less flammable than his pants.

    Being well over 60, I have heard many such (Marriott) stories. I am now knowledgeable and intelligent enough to know better. IF God interceded it had nothing to do with garments.

    IMHO

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  36. whizzbang on August 8, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Just to clarify! I don’t and have never lived in the Mormon Corridor, I am over 30. I guess I just have never heard people talking about their garments as being some physical protection. Mormons die in tragic accidents all the time and garments didn’t protect them-maybe it was their time to go as I say we just don’t know. So, based on that I don’t view them as some super hero protection suit thing.

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  37. Kullervo on August 8, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    The garment affords protection from the danger of entering the presence of God in the celestial kingdom.

    Sorry, anon, but only the blood of Jesus can do that.

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  38. Roger on August 8, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Thank you, Kullervo. I am wondering if this has become an almost forgotten and discarded concept.

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  39. Douglas on August 8, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    #34 – Ok, I gotta put “Snips” up to this one…when the “big day” gets close, we should go to Deseret Books (the one in Fair Oaks, like most, has a temple items distribution counter inside) and she can ask the clerk if they have a pair of women’s bottoms that are EDIBLE. I’m fairly sure that’s NOT in the catalog, but if a third party were authorized to fabricate a suitable item, it’d have a niche market.

    I do know from my experience of working in the funeral industry that G’s (those made of 100% cotton, anyway) are useful if cremation (which is typically avoided by LDS folk and AFAIK, almost proscribed per Church policy) is done. The nature of any cotton item is that once the burners get going, the cloth chars but is not typically consumed right away. The fibers are still useful to wick away body fluids as the corpse is basically roasted and ensures quicker and more thorough cremation..which for most of the duration is essentially a drying process. Of course, in most cases the mortician wraps the body in several layers of a cotton twill made specifically for this purpose, but even if (s)he weren’t given a request to leave the garments on, (s)he’d do so anyway as they’d help.

    I should think that if the G’s by default had a miraculous property, which would also strike me as superfluous (if the victim dies but the body under the garments is unmolested, what good is that?), of preventing penetration, laceration, or burning, then I’d think there’d be a boatload of anecdotes by policemen, highway patrol, and paramedics working in predominantly LDS areas of this phenomenon. Wouldn’t it be narrated by Leonard Nimoy as one of the “mysteries”?

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  40. anon on August 8, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    The garment is definitely not salvific on its own, but Jesus himself thought clothing was a useful symbol for demonstrating the requirements for remaining in God’s presence.

    Matt 22:8-13
    8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

    11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

    13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    I’m not going to cry out, I wanted blood, if Jesus offers clothing and a seat at the wedding.

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  41. Kullervo on August 11, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    You know that’s a parable, right? It has absolutely nothing to do with ceremonial ritual underwear.

    We are told in the New Testament to put off the old man (Colossians 3:9 and Ephesians 4:22) and put on Jesus Christ (Romans 13:13 and Galatians 3:27).

    The man without the wedding garment is cast out because he hasn’t been called by God and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t invited to the wedding feast. Look at Ezekiel 16:5: God finds us wretched and filthy, and He dresses us in glorious new clothing.

    The Mormon temple garment is not just “not salvific on its own;” it’s not salvific at all. Nothing is but grace.

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  42. […] post is adapted from a comment on Wheat & Tares, and that comment was mostly a paraphrase of John Calvin’s […]

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  43. anon on August 11, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    If you want to argue against the concrete expression of symbolic teaching you might want to steer clear of Ezekiel, or better yet the entire Old Testament. Even the New Testament makes it pretty clear that Jesus recognized the temple as His Father’s house and the apostles continued to worship there even after the resurrection. You could come up with arguments that mormon temples are not a continuation of the true temple worship but to argue that there is no place at all for ritual or ceremonial clothing in worshiping God is insupportable.

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  44. Kullervo on August 12, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 9 in particular, is pretty clear about it, anon.

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  45. Rigel Hawthorne on August 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    “I think the symbols ought to be organized into an attractive stylized logo and embroidered on any commercially available under garment in a comfortable location. The church could copyright the logo and control the embroidery service.”

    Since the church is not likely to do this, anyone want to set up an online company where we could have this done on commercially available undergarments?

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