“Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into [God’s] presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.” – LDS President Boyd K. Packer
I better just get the underwear thing out of the way. I am not sure that the necessity of special underwear in order to find eternal salvation is something I can just zip on past. It’s a topic that needs addressing. Not just because people in general are fascinated with the idea that mormons wear secret underwear, (they do) but also because it was certainly a huge part of my overwhelming unhappiness as a mormon woman, and a painful hurdle to overcome.
I dread it….writing about this part. Because it’s absolutely sacred to the mormon population. And while I will poke fun, be irreverent, and unafraid to talk about the church’s darker, more damaging side… it is not my intention to hurt or disrespect LDS people.
I don’t believe in the church anymore. And the secrecy surrounding many of the beliefs and teachings were damaging and hurtful to me, and many others. There is so much secrecy, and so much fear in talking honestly and openly about real experience. There is no safe forum for mormon people to express their feelings of doubt or fear or disagreement. I have been filled with much hesitation to share some of these more sacred elements out of respect for the LDS people, out of my desire to not feel hated and condemned by them, my own family members especially. I squirm in my seat as I write this. It has taken me a long time to arrive here, to this moment when I believe that I deserve to share it, to own it, to call it out, just as they will spread their message and try to find people to blindly follow their faith.
I will share the sacred parts… the temple, the underwear, with intention…not to desecrate something holy, but to own my story and shed the shame and propensity to hide behind propriety at the cost of my soul, my spirit. It is all I can do.
l love mormons.
I was one. I am married to someone who was molded and shaped into an incredible father and husband by the LDS faith. I was a fifth generation mormon, and almost all of my ancestors and living relatives are still faithful LDS people. Mormons are some of the most generous, caring, loving, and thoughtful people you will meet. They are resourceful and energetic and loving and they will bring you a casserole and a pan of brownies, help you move, jump your dead battery on the side of the road, or visit you when you are sick without pause or reciprocation.
So. Deep breath.
To start with the basics, yes, mormons do in fact wear special underwear. Mitt Romney? He wears the undies. So does his wife. Any faithful, active adult member of the LDS community with a church resume like the Romney’s must wear the garments, or they would be deemed unworthy of holding those important church positions. Children do not wear garments…you must be 18, found worthy, and go through sacred and very secret rituals and ceremonies in an LDS temple in order to purchase and wear garments.
-Denver, Colorado Temple. The temple I first received my garments.
Mormons believe the underwear is absolutely sacred and is not supposed to be shown to others or spoken about to outsiders. The underwear is worn to keep one modest, serve as a reminder of the promises made to God, and when worn faithfully and correctly can be protective. There are hundreds of stories floating in mormonland and even shared over the pulpit about people who were physically protected in accidents or fire by wearing the garments. These are the stories that confirm the notion to outsiders that mormons wear “magical underwear.”
Mormon underwear is all white, a symbol of purity. The men wear a basic white shirt, and the bottoms look like white boxer briefs but the legs are lengthened to a few inches above the knee. There are secret symbolic markings embroidered into various places on the bottoms and tops. The markings are small, white and not very noticeable. The women wear tops that look like tank tops with capped sleeves. They come in a variety of neck lines, but they all come up high enough to modestly cover indecent cleavage exposure. For women with bigger breasts, the tops are sewn with boob pouches, of sorts, so that the top will fit smoothly over all the skin. The catch is, women must wear the sacred garment under the bra. Ladies will understand the supreme discomfort that this may cause the well endowed LDS. I don’t care how smooth you try to make those boob pouches, they are simply not good enough to prevent bunching, puckering, and movement of the bra in all the wrong places. The bottoms look like white spandex, that go down to a few inches above the knee, to prevent scandalous immodest flashing of the upper thigh. The female garments have the same markings as the men… a strange phenomenon of equality within the faith, not often replicated.
Thankfully, the design has changed over time, as they used to be one-piece numbers, with long sleeves, long pants…and a crotch flap. These beauties may still be available for worthy purchasers. Awesome. The one-piecers were a piece of history my mother loved to remind me of as we commiserated about the hot misery of those boob pouches. And despite our shared discomfort, the sacred power of those garments held tremendous control over our lives. The influence the underwear has in daily LDS life is hard to articulate, and the guilt and perceived wickedness over letting them go was immense. The decision to slip on a pair of good ol’fashioned bikini briefs caused almost paralyzing anxiety at times, paralleled only in my emotions now, as I let go to the fears associated with writing about the underwear.
Releasing that fear was a challenge, when I am going to burn in hell for writing about this. Actually, I don’t think most mormons believe in “burning in hell.” Hell is called outer darkness, and is rarely spoken of.
I have come far enough to have let go of that belief, the idea that the kind of skivvies I wear is important to God, or a measure of my worthiness as a human being. Can there be a heavier weight, a more taxing exercise, than a continual critical measuring of self worth? The memory of that measurement still makes it hard for me to breathe, it presses in on my throat, my voice disappears.
Floating out here in the “outer darkness,” I feel so much lighter. And I marinate in this idea:
We are all worthy.
The worthiness is brilliant and it’s still flowering within me.
The projection of strength, faith, and sacrifice is paramount in the mormon community, and even within the family circle there can be a thick communication barrier. It’s a barrier that still snakes it’s way through me, coiling around my darkest places, the most raw fears. I know that LDS people will feel disrespected and offended by the things I write here, about my own personal experience as a mormon woman. I see the fear in my mother and father’s eyes when I tell them about the things I will write here, for the world to read. For their family members to read. But their discomfort it is unavoidable,…inevitable, if I am to accomplish what I have set out to do…to find my voice and be unafraid to use it. That voice has been bound and gagged for too long by the remaining vestiges of mormon unmentionables. I have set out to peel away the layers of my self, to discover what is underneath, and scrape that away too.
When all the layers are gone, the only thing remaining will be what is at the core of us all.
My hope is that my willingness to be raw, naked and condemned by people I love will help someone else find the God within themselves too.
I will send this small nugget of release into the blog-iverse with the promise of more details to come. The next layer must come off. I’m just going to catch my breath first.
To be continued.