I am a convert and the only member in my family. I just received my mission call and a month ago I received my endowments. My question is in regards to non-members and garments. Can they see them? Can they wash them? Can they touch them? I come from a large family that is really against me being a member, but while I am in town I stay with them and I have to share a room. Is it okay that I get dressed and undressed while wearing my garments in front of my family?
Thank you for your questions. Before we begin, I would like to congratulate you on serving a mission and for setting an example for your family.
While your questions deal primarily with LDS temple garments (worn under our normal clothes), I would also like to incorporate a couple of parallel thoughts about temple robes (worn during temple worship over our clothes).
Because of the deep sacred nature of what temple garments mean to most Latter-day Saints, it is not uncommon for members in your similar situation to have similar concerns. I hope that I can share a couple of thoughts to help you and others realize that though these articles of clothing are indeed very sacred, their appearance is not a secret.
What guidance has the Church given us when it comes to non-members: seeing, touching or washing temple garments or temple robes?
Temple robes are worn during two occasions. The first occasion, and primary purpose of these robes, is to be worn inside the temple during worship services held there. The secondary function is to dress deceased endowed members of the church in the robes of the holy priesthood, prior to a public casket viewing and eventual burial or cremation. With open casket viewings, non-members are able/welcome to view the temple robes at that time. In addition, in some areas of the world, only funeral directors are allowed to handle the body of a deceased. In these cases, the director is the one handling and dressing the deceased in their garments. Further information regarding this subject is available via your Bishop in the LDS publication: Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments.
While temple robes are worn on the outside of clothing, temple garments that are worn on the inside of normal clothing make them obviously less visible to non-members. The church has released a wonderful video regarding temple robes and temple garments. In the video, they beautifully explain the importance and sacred nature of both. In addition, the church shares pictures of the temple robes and temple garments for all interested parties to view. I would suggest viewing and discussing this video with your family.
Why release a video? Alex Baugh, a BYU professor of Church history and doctrine states:
“The release of such statements and explanations, such as the one released just last week (Oct 2014) on temple garments, demonstrates that the Church is being very transparent, and that it is willing to discuss some of the Church’s most sacred teachings openly and in a forthright way,” Baugh said. “By issuing these statements it is clear that the Church wants to take the lead in explaining our history, religious views, beliefs and practices, not our critics.”
In the video the church states,
“Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as magical or “magic underwear.” These words are not only inaccurate but also offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and Church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of goodwill.”
While the church has released images/video of the temple garments, they also remind us that we should remember their sacred nature and treat them with respect. There is a difference between a non-member who is respectful of things we hold sacred and those who are not. We have been given the gift of discernment via the Holy Ghost to know if those around us are more inclined to support or ridicule us for our beliefs. Use your best judgment when it comes to others viewing or handling your garments.
The Church has also said in Handbook 2 – 21.1.42
“The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect at all times. Garments should be kept off the floor. They should also be kept clean and mended. After garments are washed, they should not be hung in public areas to dry. Nor should they be displayed or exposed to the view of people who do not understand their significance“
After watching the linked church video with your family, it should become clear to you if your family is going to “understand their significance” or not. If they cannot understand/accept/support this point then perhaps while you are visiting your family you may decide to change your clothes in a private area and do your own wash.
And by the way, here are some fun facts in relation to non-members and garments:
1. Across the world thousands of missionaries do not wash their own clothes while on their missions, but rather they hire local members of the church to wash their clothes for them. Said members might be from single member households where clearly other non-members would see missionary garments on a weekly basis.
2. During an interview with the TV show “60 minutes”, then NFL quarter back and LDS member, Steve Young had the following conversation with reporter Mike Wallace:
Mike Wallace: And do you think that the sacred undergarments have kept you from harm on the football field?
Steve Young: I actually take them off to play football. The sacred nature of them, I find that the nature of football, and the sweating and so forth, I actually take them off, and I think that’s probably prevalent with athletics in the church.
Mike Wallace: Really?
Steve Young: “But my teammates have enjoyed when, you know, you’re getting dressed and you’re putting your garments on. They, they think they’re pretty cool, a lot of them. And they’re, uh, “Hey, where’d you get those?” And I always tell them,“They’re way too expensive. [Both laugh.]
Best wishes to you on your mission Meagen!