What Do You Know About My Underwear . . . And Would You Like to Know More?

by: hawkgrrrl

November 20, 2012

Clearly this is not our preferred method for introducing a conversation about our faith, and yet, this is a topic of prurient interest that has come to the forefront of many non-LDS minds.  A few years ago, I had a brief Facebook conversation with a former high school friend who wanted to know what colours garments came in and was it true that a list of attached businesses were run by a secret Mormon cabal (and should therefore be boycotted).  The list of businesses included American Express because the former CFO, Gary Crittenden, was LDS.  Interesting conspiracy theory, but easily debunked.  Clearly the real culprit is . . . ancient aliens!

A family friend who works for the embassy shared a story about having lunch with his colleagues who were talking about Mormon undergarments.  They were curious about the garments, and they wanted to know if Mormons really think they are magical. They asked my LDS friend these questions, and he was relaxed and had a sense of humour and answered their questions in a straightforward manner.  No, they aren’t magical.  They remind members of their religious covenants.  Not everyone wears them, but I do.  They look kind of like boxers with a tee shirt. After this exchange, one of his colleagues said that he was a very atypical Mormon because he wasn’t evasive or upset or trying to cram religion down their throats.  My friend commented that he’s not atypical at all, and it probably just means this guy doesn’t know that many Mormons.  A pretty reasonable response.

A recent article written by a Mormon journalist who was on the Romney campaign bus shares another example of the non-LDS fascination with garments:

Earlier in the day, one of them had happened upon the candidate and his wife doing laundry in the basement of our Columbia, S.C. hotel, and a small cluster of colleagues had now gathered to listen to him relate the anecdote, lapping up every mundane detail of this rare interaction with the closed-off couple.

Finally, another reporter interrupted. “Did you see their underwear?” she asked, grinning mischievously as though she had just said something naughty. “What do you think it looks like?” inquired another. “I think you can see pictures online,” someone chimed in. The exchange prompted giggles from the group — some nervous, others indulgent — as I slid down in my seat and pretended to look at my phone, hoping it wouldn’t occur to any of them I might be wearing the strange, exotic garment they were all gossiping about. It wasn’t that their tone was antagonistic or insensitive; just uncontrollably curious — like virginal adolescents talking about sex during a sleepover.  And as a lifelong Mormon, I had grown fairly used to hearing my religion talked about that way.

I love the juxtaposition of the Mormon being the wizened, experienced one, and the non-LDS reporters being case in the role of neophyte.  Several months later, the author contrasts this with a later experience:

Toward the end of the election, I was sitting on another dark campaign press bus in another battleground state, when a correspondent flopped into the seat behind me and began making casual conversation. His topic of choice: Mormon underwear. “So, do you wear them?” he asked at one point. “What do they look like?” he inquired at another. The questions were generally similar to the ones that had been naughtily whispered among the press corps nine months earlier, but this time the tone was entirely different. The reporter was speaking in full voice, gliding through the conversation with the same nonchalance he exhibited in his assessment of the pulled pork sandwiches we had just eaten for dinner. Romney’s underwear — and the faith it symbolized — was no longer considered taboo. As the bus started up, and began rolling away from the site of the rally, the correspondent remarked, “I saw some pictures of the underwear online. They didn’t seem very weird to me.”

I’m not sure I like the proximity of pulled pork sandwiches to this conversation, but otherwise, very encouraging!

It has been said that the higher you climb on the ladder of success, the more people can see up your skirt.  (Well, at least it is said about female executives).  Ann Romney has learned this lesson the hard way.

During the campaign, many members and non-members tried in vain to spot Ann Romney’s underwear when she sat on interview couches, her knee length skirt riding up to mid-thigh.  Speculation ran rampant.  Was she not wearing them?  Or was she just so tall that they didn’t show?  Was she not observant or did she forego them for television appearances so they wouldn’t be visible and ridiculed by non-believers?  Some of her Sisters in Zion were very critical of her perceived lack of observance while others were giving her “atta girl”s for pushing the envelope, hopefully with a future benefit to them in terms of shorter underwear and eliminating the cap sleeves.

But wait, here’s where the story gets really weird!

Are you aware that the interest for Mormon garments became so acute during the campaign that an ex-Mormon is now marketing a line of replicated garments at MormonsSecret.com?  The site sells four styles, labeled Magic Mormon Underwear.  My first thought is “What the what???”  If it weren’t for religious reasons, what person would voluntarily wear this style of underwear with all the other options available?  Women’s bottoms are $42 and tops are $46!  Go back and read that again.  That’s $88 for one pair of garments.  Clearly no Mormon would pay that much for underwear, even if a ticket to the Celestial Kingdom was sewn into the inseam.  That price is a bargain only if you factor in never paying tithing.  Weirdly, the site shows what appear to be Abercrombie & Fitch models wearing them, making them seem all sleek and sexy.  What’s next?  Fake yarmulkes and forelocks? Father Guido Sarducci’s “papal pantsuit” for women?

Time to discuss.

  • How comfortable are you discussing garments with non-LDS?  Have you felt mocked or put on the spot?  Do you laugh it off?  What do you say when asked?
  • Do you know members who do in fact believe they are magical?  Do you believe they are?  Do you think most wearers believe garments have supernatural protective powers or do they perceive the protection to be spiritual or symbolic in nature?
  • Is it justifiable not to wear garments when you appear on television so that they won’t be inadvertently seen and mocked?  If you normally wear them, do you avoid wearing them in other situations where they will be seen by non-believers (e.g. doctor’s office, gym locker room, etc.)?
  • What kind of person would voluntarily wear garments without having attended the temple?  Is this kinky role play stuff?  Mardi Gras mockery?  Something for the person who has everything?


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22 Responses to What Do You Know About My Underwear . . . And Would You Like to Know More?

  1. Brian on November 20, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    As a 17 year old convert, I was told by those who helped me in to the church, that garments had protective powers. They told me stories much like the ones that abounded in the early church that Willard Richards wore his garments at Carthage while the others did not. I mentally beat myself for being so gullible but at that point I believed that god appeared to a teenager in Podunk, NY and told him all churches were wrong. After believing that, what boundaries does your reasoning have?

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  2. NewlyHousewife on November 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    I don’t currently wear mine because of my nursing infant. After spending 2 months feeding her by syringe because her suck was not strong enough (she was healthy in all other regards), I did not want to deal with another 2 months of figuring out how to breastfeed with the most awkwardly designed nursing top ever and risk losing my supply.

    Which then means this past year as been the best year ever as I find myself not caring what other sisters are wearing, and I feel less preoccupied with my wardrobe. I’m sure some will feel that my actions are scandalous. Personally, I no longer care what you think.

    As for when anyone else brings it up. I simply say “They’re the Mormon equivalent of what Jews wear to weddings.” The conversation usually ends there, if it doesn’t I say “They make me fly ok. And if you don’t watch it I’ll hit you with my lazer eyes.” That’s a guaranteed conversation stopper.*

    *To prevent the inevitable comment of how incorrect my responses are: Anyone of whom I discuss religious matters with understands my sarcastic sense of humor. This is because unlike some folks, I do not announce by billboard my affiliation. I also do not make my mailman, neighbor, or cashier at the grocery store my weekly missionary moment for RS. I believe faith to be a private matter and treat it as such.

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  3. Justin on November 20, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    I make my everyday clothing [the ones that I wear on the outside] into priesthood garments by cutting and sewing the marks of the priesthood into them [I explain it here]. I’ve only been asked about the marks on my clothes by a couple of non-members. Most either don’t notice or don’t care.

    But — whether a person wears their garment as the LDS-approved “underwear”-style garments under your normal clothing — or chooses to make their own garment as I just described — the best way I’ve found to explain the “Mormon underwear” thing to people is to say that, as an LDS we take a covenant obligation to wear priesthood clothing for the remainder of our lives. I say, most wear it under their everyday clothing for convenience and I choose to make my own out of my everyday clothing I usually wear.

    When people think we go around wearing “magical underwear”, they tend to be more put-off — than when we explain that we wear clothing that has authorized marks to remind us about Jesus:

    * to square our life by Jesus’ gospel
    * to keep our appetites and desires in the bounds Jesus has set
    * to be constantly nourished by Jesus
    * to remember to always bow our knee to Jesus, our Lord.

    The actual garment is not as strange as the “garments-as-underwear” doctrine currently practiced.

    I think many members will be surprised how open most people are to the restored gospel when it is shared in an open, up-front, and honest manner. I know many former converts report feeling cheated once they got “further into” Mormonism — like things were hid from them with the whole “milk before meat” meme.

    It’s become this cultural burden LDS have put on themselves to feel “weird” about their religion — and so we treat pretty normal things about our religious practices with a “pearls before swine” mentality that I think turns people off and turns them away.

    Non-members joke about them being “secret, magic underwear” because that’s how many members treat them when around mixed company.

    I’ve found that I’m more successful when I don’t hide the plain meaning and experience behind something like the the priesthood garment. People tend to respond openly with a: “Oh, OK I find that to be an interesting thing there that I could find value in…” kinda response.

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  4. Angie on November 20, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    Just the other day, I had a great conversation with my non-LDS friends about my garments. I moved my shirt aside a little to show them the garment at the shoulder. I told them that the garments remind me of the promises I made in the temple to devote my life to God. I also told them about the latest “modesty” weirdness at church, including the changes to the LDS website pictures, like adding sleeves to primary children’s dresses.

    Basically, I told them what I really believe, think about, struggle with. The only thing they reacted to was the fact that I’m always wearing layers. It’s really hot here in Las Vegas in the summer!!

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  5. Angie on November 20, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Oh, I also told them to google “Mormon underwear” if they want to see what they look like.

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  6. The Only True and Living Nathan on November 20, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    I always say, “Does your husband/wife know you’re so desperately interested in my undies?”

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  7. Douglas on November 20, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    If this sort of prying and inappropriate inquiry is made by a male, I usually answer, ala Bugs Bunny’s style, “Gee, fella, I didn’t know ya cared!” (Did the writers of the Looney Tunes cartoon insinuate that Bugs was gay?).
    If a woman makes the same inquiry (it happened today by a lady co-worker who herself is newly “on the market” who leared to her surprise that I’m LDS) I just say, “well, well, my dear, you have but one way to find out, but would RELIGION be your motive? (Unless, of course, she belonged to some wacky fertility cult).
    If rumor won’t suffice to deflect this question, then stonewalling should. We ought not to tolerate rudeness; those that are sincere would find a way to be tactful.

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  8. KT on November 20, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Pretty comfortable, other than that we can’t really talk specifically about the symbolism. So, of course that piques curiosity. I try to generalize.

    Of course, doesn’t everybody know someone who thinks they literally have magic powers or has an anectodal story about how they have “saved” someone….? I’ve heard several. I feel like this is where the curiosity from non-believers really comes in. It’s kind of a disservice to members and garments. I’ve had non-mos ask me about them and then tell me a story they heard from another member about the literal magical power of the garment.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with someone picking and choosing. However, I think that if the average member went in for a temple recommend interview and told their Bishop that they were picking and choosing as to when they were wearing them, they would not get the recommend. Any Bishop I’ve ever talked to has said – at all times, including at night while sleeping, other than swimming and sex. I think there’s even a push for while working out now. I also think Church leadership would say, if they could be inadvertantly seen, then you should be wearing something more modest………

    I’ve been trying to figure this out too. The best I can come up with is either mocking, or for people who are inactive or have left the Church and know they will get felt up or looked up and down for garments when they visit LDS family members who don’t know they are inactive or have left.

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  9. KT on November 20, 2012 at 10:03 PM


    I read your post on garments. That was very interesting. I am curious…..Do you attend Church, wearing clothes with the symbols in them and if so, how do other members react? Does this allow you a temple recommend from the Bishop?

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  10. JR on November 21, 2012 at 2:53 AM

    This just goes to show how rude and crude and disrespectful people have become. To ask someone about their underwear is tacky, especially if it is of a religious nature.
    The only people I have shown a piece of my garments are my non-member relatives. Now with internet they can look it up.
    I never tell them about the marks just what wearing them represents.
    I counter the question with some people who I know are mocking with what they and their spouse like to wear and do in their private, intimate moments in the bedroom. Shuts them up.
    It is sad that people mock others because of beliefs and can’t accept it and can’t accept and respect how private this subject is.

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  11. Justin on November 21, 2012 at 9:36 AM


    Do you attend Church, wearing clothes with the symbols in them and if so, how do other members react?

    My own-made garments usually don’t get worn to church because I’ll cut the marks only into garments that I typically wear as a single layer. So, with dress shirts, I’ve always worn undershirts even before I was LDS — so I wear a white crew neck priesthood garment under my dress shirt. I haven’t cut my nicer dress slacks, but I do have some more casual cotton khakis that have the knee mark cut into them. Either no one’s noticed it or they haven’t wanted to ask.

    I’ve only had members ask me about my own-made garments when it’s been those I see outside of church [when they see me in jeans/shorts and regular shirts]; friends of my wife, and hometeachers/teachees mainly. I tell them basically what’s written in the post I linked to above.

    Does this allow you a temple recommend from the Bishop?

    We just recently changed bishops in our ward — so I don’t know if the new one will have an opinion on the matter — but the bishop we’d had up until now knew I made my everyday garments into priesthood garments and I hold a current temple recommend.

    I’m sure having a level-headed bishop helps [in terms of not getting witch-hunted over a disagreement about wearing garments] — but I told him that I don’t think it’s wrong for anyone to wear the LDS-produced garments and that everyone should only make their own. It’s just that sometimes wearing two sets of clothing is impractical and on those occasions, I’d rather continue wearing my priesthood garment [by using my own-made ones as a single layer] than to stop wearing them at all [and only wear everyday clothing].

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  12. Mormoncowboy on November 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    For me the garments were a big let down. There is absolutely nothing exciting about the Garment’s, and that is precisely the problem. I see it the same way as the “cult” fascination. If only the Church were a cult, I might still be active.

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  13. MH on November 21, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    How comfortable are you discussing garments with non-LDS?

    I remember on my mission bringing a pentecostal preacher to church. For some reason, the ward mission leader decided to introduce the topic of garments during Gospel Essentials class. Since the WML was hispanic, he didn’t fully convey what he was talking about, and I remember being relieved that the pentecostal friend just thought he meant clothing. I was quite uncomfortable.

    I think I’m more mature now, and would handle it differently. My wife has worked with some people who have asked mockingly about garments. I’d probably be pretty ticked off if that happened to me. But if the questions were sincere curiosity, I’d probably discuss the Willard Richards story and relate it to Jewish clothing.

    I haven’t really had anyone ask me about garments. I’m surprised that Brian had missionaries tell him the Willard Richards story. In my experience, few Mormons know that Richards was the only one wearing his garments, while Joseph, Hyrum, and John Taylor weren’t wearing them and were all shot up. That’s really where the myth of “magical” protection came from, though I haven’t encountered very many active Mormons that are familiar with the story. When I bring up the fact that Joseph and Hyrum weren’t wearing garments, most active Mormons are shocked to learn that fact. I think that’s why it isn’t brought up much.

    Do you know members who do in fact believe they are magical?

    Sure, lots of members believe they protect from physical harm.

    Do you believe they are?

    No, my brother died in a car accident. His head was crushed, so garments had no effect. I know that one of the Marriotts on “60 Minutes” discussed his miraculous experience with Mike Wallace, but it was all Mike could do not to smirk. There are lots of people who have been burned up in their garments, shot, or suffered serious injuries. I’m not one that believes the miraculous stories.

    Do you think most wearers believe garments have supernatural protective powers or do they perceive the protection to be spiritual or symbolic in nature?

    It’s hard to define “most.” I suspect most chapel Mormons believe they have supernatural powers, but both inactive and internet Mormons probably do not. Since inactives outnumber temple mormons, “most” probably don’t believe. But “most” active mormons probably do believe garments have supernatural protective powers.

    Is it justifiable not to wear garments when you appear on television so that they won’t be inadvertently seen and mocked?

    If the garments are properly covered as instructed, then it should be a big deal to be inadvertently seen.

    If you normally wear them, do you avoid wearing them in other situations where they will be seen by non-believers (e.g. doctor’s office, gym locker room, etc.)?

    If I’m in a locker room, I try to put them on as discreetly as possible.

    What kind of person would voluntarily wear garments without having attended the temple? Is this kinky role play stuff? Mardi Gras mockery? Something for the person who has everything?

    I don’t know who would voluntarily want them. I remember wanting to go to the temple right when I was 18, but my parents discouraged me, saying I would have to wear them the rest of my life and should enjoy not wearing them until I went on my mission. I think that was good advice. I wear them as I am supposed to, but I’m not a fan of them. They’re hot, and it would be nice not to wear them all the time. I don’t wear garments when I go jogging, and I have been known to mow the lawn afterwards in my shorts. I don’t see that as a problem, though I am sure some people do.

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  14. MH on November 21, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    Justin always has interesting perspectives. When I was on my mission, I served by several army bases. Members of the Church were issue miltary garment tops that they would wear. Very few asked about the marks in their garments, and I remember one member just said his wife had sewn the marks in without offering the real explanation. It is interesting to hear that Justin only wants to wear one shirt. It makes sense, but I don’t know anyone outside of the military who does such a thing. And I’ve only heard of people on the internet that actually make their own garments.

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  15. NewlyHousewife on November 21, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Most friends my age were instructed not to make our own. Perhaps it’s a generational thing?

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  16. Hedgehog on November 22, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    There are those who have had a ‘near miss’ and attributed their protection to their garments (and I can understand why they might feel that). There are also many others, members or not who have had experience of a ‘near miss’ of some sort and weren’t wearing garments. And then there are those in both groups who have not avoided accident or injury.
    Statistically? I don’t think it is practical to perform some kind of random controlled trial of garment-wearers and others and monitor their lives for narrow escapes or near misses.

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  17. Moss on November 22, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    KT: In what form do you see this push for wearing garments while working out? I hope this isn’t a trend! Does anyone else think we are going through a period of retrenchment?

    I usually change in the gym, in front of everyone, out and in of my garments. I act like it is no big deal. I feel like If we act like it is weird and secret, that is what people will think. I also wear them to the Dr. Again, no big deal.

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  18. mh on November 23, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    I can’t speak for kt, but there seems to be a real push in Utah county. we have had letters read over the pulpit and special Ph/Rs lessons reminding us to wear garments at all times and not look for ways to take them off. “working out”is a gray area, but it seems to be a coded message that you should wear garments working out if possible. Your mileage may vary, but Utah county seems too go overboard on these things.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on November 24, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    I agree with MH, but I think there is an overall period of retrenchment right now. Reading statements in the recommend interviews is the strategy, and those statements get increasingly proscriptive.

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  20. Douglas on November 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    With regards to the percentage of time that I’m “in uniform” (with the fictional Douglas Niedermeyer berating me about the pledge pin), I refuse to go into detail. Suffice it that the garments are the “Uniform of the Day”, but if I’m not wearing them, I have a good reason, and it’s between the “Lawd” and myself. And, quoth Erin Brokovitch, as long as I have one arse instead of two, I’ll wear what I like.

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  21. Jeff Spector on November 25, 2012 at 7:26 PM

    Always an interesting topic where some seem to feel compelled to reveal things. sort of like a Sacrament meeting talk.

    I’d answer any question short of “will you pull down your pants to show me.”

    Most religious cultures have an undergarment and even a outer garment that signifies their commitment to their beliefs.

    So the focus on our garments is kind of weird, but then again, some of us say their are magic. I look at mine solely as a spiritual reminder. But they are bulky to pack on longer trips.

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  22. MD on November 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    If garments have magical powers then why doesn’t my body look like Gisele Bundchen when I put them on?

    My very conservative MIL does not wear garments while working out; she doesn’t even wear a shirt! (in the privacy of her home).

    There are lots of women in my ward who work out in skimpy clothing then proceed to run around for the day without changing out of the workout clothing. There’s also a lot of short skirt wearing with leggins going on underneath.

    Personally my underwear habits are no one’s business.

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