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?