Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Romney's Religion: Magical Mormon Underwear
In my continuing series on Romney's religion, I wanted to address one issue that seems to have captured the imagination of the press: magical Mormon underwear. Mormons resent the term, not because it is a distortion--Mormon garments are underwear and they are believed to be "magical" (more on this later). The real reason is that Mormons know their unique undergarments make them seem like a cult, and they have almost pathological desire to avoid that designation. However, as long as they wear their magic long johns, they know that this is an impossibility.
All "temple-worthy" Mormons wear garments. They are supposed to wear them night and day, and have to certify to their bishop that they do so ever few years in order to renew their temple recommends. Without a temple recommend, a Mormon cannot enter a temple, barring them from attending weddings and other important events.
The injunction to wear garments "night and day" has been interpreted by some Mormons to include wearing them during intercourse, although this is probably not the norm (some church leaders, however, have boasted about fathering all of their children through the "portal of the priesthood," a euphemism for wearing garments during sex). Most Mormons remove their garments during sex, as well as in activities in which the garments would be visible to the public, i.e., sports. However, Mormons are told to replace the garments as soon as possible after the activity (i.e., no sleeping naked after sex).
It is fortunate that Mormons hide their garments. They are the ugliest underclothing imaginable, even the current, two-piece variety that became available in 1979. I'm sorry for Mormons before 1979, like my parents, who had to wear the one-piecers (which still exist). Even worse, I can't imagine the horrible wrist-to-ankle version that all worthy Mormons wore before 1923 and continued to wear in the temples until 1975 (you had to change out of your two-piecers and don the traditional garb).
Garments actually started as a way to identify people who Joseph Smith had brought into practice of polygamy. They allowed you to identify a "brother" who was part of the conspiracy. The original garment was designed only for men, after the pattern of mid-nineteenth century long johns. It was originally a one-piece garment made of plain, unbleached cotton cloth that covered the body from ankles to wrists. No buttons were used on the garment. Four to five tie-strings took their place to hold the front closed. The garment had little collars which were not visible from the outside of the shirt worn over it. In the crotch area was a large flap, which ran from the back below the waist all the way under the body and met the front tie closing.
Mormon garments are covered with Masonic symbols (the square, the compass, etc.) that denote various covenants Mormons make in the temple. The LDS temple ritual is Masonic in origin, including signs and phrases taken directly out of Freemasonry. At one time, Mormons had to strip naked in the temple, be ritually washed, and then put on the garments, after which the symbols were cut into the cloth.
The reference to "magic" underwear probably originates from a number of sources. For example, when the underclothing becomes worn out, the owner of the garment must take a pair of scissors and cut out the embroidered symbols on the breast, navel, and knees. These symbols must then be burned. After that, it can be thrown into the trash. I can attest that this is still done by devout Mormons.
More significant, however, is the fact that Mormons are told in the temple that the garment will be a "shield and a protection to you against the power of the destroyer until you have finished your work here on earth." In general, Mormons take this to mean that the garment as a symbolic and spiritual shield against the powers of Satan. Some LDS people believe that the garment provides them with supernatural powers of physical protection. Bill Marriott, prominent Mormon and owner of Marriott Hotels International, stated in an interview with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes that he believed his garments protected him from being burned during a boating accident. There are numerous anecdotal stories about Mormons being burned (or cut) up to the garment line, after which they were "miraculously" protected.
In this sense, the Mormon garment functions as a type of "talisman," i.e., an object considered to possess supernatural or magical powers. According to Mormon prophets, the protection of the Mormon garment appears depends on the worthiness of the wearer and can be lost if the garment is defiled (Mormons are warned to not let the garment touch the ground).
Deceased Mormons will be buried in their temple garments, presumably to protect the corpse until the "resurrection." Dressing the corpse is done by the ward's Relief Society President if the mortician is not a temple-worthy member.
Mormons are commanded to not modify the garment in any way in order to wear popular (or even seasonal) clothing. For this reason, Mormons emphasize a particular brand of modesty, e.g., no sleeveless tops, shorts must go to the knee, etc. Even children are told that they need to start dressing modestly so that they will be able to adapt to the requirements of the temple garments. In most families, two-piece swimsuits are banned, even for toddlers!
There are significant consequences for not wearing garments. One might ask, "how do people know when you are not wearing them (aside from wearing immodest clothing)?" Garments go down to the knee, and the Church has conveniently added a hem along the leg that is typically visible through one's pants. Also, Mormons can look for the circular outline of the garment top under your shirt. Mormons often call it the "eternal smile."
If you are caught not wearing your garments, there will be a lot of talk and speculation, most frequently along the lines of "did he/she commit adultery." When Mormons are disciplined (excommunicated) for sexual sins, they are told to not wear their garments. Also, when Mormons become disaffected, they stop wearing garments. In other words, if you are caught not wearing your garments outside of one of the few exceptional situations, you are branded an adulterer or an apostate.
I don't think that any Mormon really enjoys wearing garments, but they tend to become a security blanket after many years of use. Mormons especially don't like it when other Mormons cheat. This is why they often fall into the role of the "Garment Police," trying to spot other people who are not wearing garments and reporting this information to the Bishop.
From public statements, as well as confirmation from people I know who know Romney, he is a "temple-worthy" Mormon. Accordingly, he almost certainly wears garments. The only question is whether he wears one-piece or two-piece garments. I'm voting for one-piece. Romney, like my father, first went through the temple before 1979. Old habits die hard.
Why is any of this relevant to the upcoming election? Because people have a right to know that a presidential candidate wears a magic talisman covered with arcane symbols. Personally, I don't want to turn over the nuclear arsenal of this country to a person who exhibits magical thinking, who listens to voices in his head telling him to do things, and who has sworn oaths of obedience to God as interpreted by Church leaders.