Temple Garments

What are temple garments?

Temple garments are underclothes[1] that act as a reminder of covenants made in the temple.[2] They are white,[3] are made from a variety of fabrics,[4] and have markings with spiritual significance.[5]

When were they “invented”?

According to Biblical tradition, the Lord made "garments of skins" for Adam and Eve after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden.[6]

Joseph Smith probably introduced them in 1842 around the same time he revealed the endowment.[7] However, the first record clearly referring to them from that time is from 1845.[8]

Who came up with the initial design?

It's unclear. There are no firsthand accounts of how Joseph Smith arrived at the design of garments. However, there are some thirdhand accounts that indicate that Jesus wore the garments in the First Vision.[9]

Is there some connection between garments and Freemasonry?

Yes. There are similarities between symbols on temple garments and important Masonic symbols, including representations of the compass and square.[10]

What is the purpose of garments?

The Church Handbook states that the "garment is a reminder of covenants made in the temple. When worn properly throughout life, it will serve as a protection against temptation and evil."[11]

Prophets and apostles have taught that the garment is to remind members of the temple covenants[12] and to protect them from temptation.[13]

Aren't garments somehow supposed to protect people from physical harm?

Maybe? Some Church leaders and members believe this,[14] although the Church has never made an official statement related to this idea.

The idea that they may offer physical protection is a traditional belief that may originate from secondhand reports about Willard Richards being protected in Carthage jail because he was wearing temple garments—whereas John Taylor, Joseph, and Hyrum were not wearing their garments and were injured and killed.[15]

But aren’t there stories about people being saved from danger from their garments?

Yes, there are stories about people being protected from physical harm,[16] but there are also instances of Church members and leaders who were injured or killed while wearing their garments.[17]

Did everyone use temple garments in the early Church?

No, not at first. During Joseph Smith's time, only a relatively small number of people received temple ordinances and wore garments.[18] After Joseph Smith was killed in June 1844 and the Saints were preparing to leave Nauvoo, more Latter-day Saints had received their endowment at the Nauvoo Temple and wore garments.[19]

How were they made?

Women in the Relief Society made them by hand and instructed sisters how to cut and make the garments and temple robes.[20]

Don't garments just control sexuality and modesty?

Yes, in some ways. Their primary purpose is to act as a reminder of the covenants made in the temple,[21] including a covenant related to the law of chastity.[22] Garments aren't designed to be particularly attractive,[23] so it's possible they discourage sexual activity.

The garments also align with modesty standards for dress in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.[24]

Did the Church ever teach that you had to wear your garments when you had sex with your spouse?

No. The Church teaches that garments should be worn day and night but that "purposes requiring the baring of body" are legitimate reasons for removing the garments.[25]

However, this idea is sometimes found in the media or in material critical toward the Church.[26]

Do other religions have anything like temple garments?

Yes. It's not uncommon for religions to have clothing that reflects their religious tenets.[27] Sikhs[28] and Zoroastrians both wear sacred underclothing.[29] Many Orthodox Jewish men wear yarmulkes[30] and a tallit katan[31] and Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs.[32] Some Buddhist monks wear robes.[33] Some Catholic nuns wear habits,[34] and some monks wear cassocks.[35]

Is it true that you could buy temple garments at JCPenny in Utah back in the day?

Yes. Members of the Church could buy garments at many retail stores in Utah up until the 1970s.[36] By 1977, the Relief Society had acquired the exclusive rights to distributing the garments.[37]

A vintage advertisement for both temple garments and other types of underwear.

Have the garments been changed? Could they change again?

Yes and possibly. The garment cut and style have changed many times over the last century.

Year

Changes Made

1923

The Church authorized the change of the garment from body-length to knee-length and from wrist-length to short sleeves.[38] Members were also told they could remove the collars and replace string-up attire with buttons.[39]

1979

Garments changed from a one-piece to a two-piece.[40]

2018

The Church discontinued certain fabrics and certain styles while also announcing stretch cotton garments.[41]

2019

Women's stretch cotton garment line was extended.[42]

Were the changes because of modern fashion changes?

Yes, probably. The garments have changed over time along with general fashion trends.[43] However, the symbols in the garments have remained the same.[44]

Aren’t garments really uncomfortable, especially for women?

Probably. Some women find them uncomfortable,[45] others do not.[46]

Are you allowed to wear “regular” underwear under your garments?

Yes. In 2019, the Church clarified that it's acceptable to wear garments over regular underwear.[47] For example, women may choose to wear garment tops over bras.

Are members allowed to talk about garments with non-Latter-day Saint people?

Yes. When Mitt Romney[BIO] ran for U.S. president in 2008 and 2012, many people became curious about garments.[48] In 2014, the Church released an informational video explaining the purpose of the garments.[49]

Some People Say . . .

"Temple garments are sacred, and we probably shouldn't be talking about them outside the temple."

— overheard in Sunday School

The Facts

  • Temple garments were developed by Joseph Smith in 1842.

  • They share symbols with Freemasonry.

  • Church leaders have taught that they offer spiritual and physical protection.

  • Official Church statements state that they are intended to be reminders of temple covenants.

  • The design of garments has changed over time.

  • The Church does not have a prohibition against talking about temple garments with non-members but considers it a sacred topic.

Our Take

The Church having specific underwear can seem uncomfortable or controlling. In media and conversation, garments can stick out as something unique (and weird) to our faith, which might suggest that it's something to be embarrassed about. Garments seem closely tied to modesty and therefore sexuality—which is something that is deeply personal. And it seems like there’s a ban on talking about them or showing them because they're sacred.

To understand garments, it's useful to understand their symbolism. Many religions throughout the world have sacred, symbolic clothing. There is also Biblical precedent from the “garments of skins” God provided for Adam and Eve, though Joseph Smith probably made the modern garments in 1842 along with the endowment ceremony. Temple garments reflect covenants made with God and wearing garments symbolizes a commitment to these covenants.

For Latter-day Saints, there isn’t a prohibition against talking about temple garments with non-members, but garments are considered a sacred topic and aren't meant to be shown off.

It’s okay to have mixed feelings about garments; it’s okay to find them uncomfortable or weird. Wearing garments is meant to be a personal commitment to God, and even if the symbol of "special underwear" might seem strange, we can feel comforted that God wants us to always have a reminder of His love for us and His covenant with us.

What's Your Take?

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These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Happy G
    They are not uncomfortable to me and never have been. As they have changed the fabrics over time that gives choices to be comfortable in any season.
  • Helene Z
    Garments feel like a warm hug , to me.
Footnotes