Guest Post: Re-defining My Relationship with the Temple Garment
Annoying. Frustrating. Un-sexy. Unprofessional. In the way. Old-fashioned. Heat Rash. Awkward. Forced.
These are the words I would use to describe my garments. I was endowed at the age of 21, right before my wedding. My sister told me exactly which fabric to buy and what size, warning me that the ladies at Distribution would try to get me to buy larger sizes, but that I would just regret it. She knows I’m 5’8”, but told me to buy petites. I felt guilty buying a different size just so it would be shorter, so I bought regular length. I regretted it. My mom gave me a couple rolls of double-stick tape, because “garments never stay where you want them to.” My grandma saw me pulling out a pair of bottoms where one leg was obviously longer than the other and said, “I used to alter my garments all the time before they announced you’re not supposed to. Better send that pair back.”
Such is life as an endowed Latter-day Saint. You sacrifice your comfort and the autonomy of choosing undergarments that best fit and flatter your body in order to receive blessings that only come from constantly wearing an undergarment which you are told to purchase from a specific vendor without seeing, without trying on and for which sizes do not match any convention or norm. I was told to never let my garments touch the floor. I was told not to take them off for anything except the three S’s: “shower, swimming, sex.” I was told never to alter my garments. But I was never told WHY.
I’ve heard others talk about what a blessing garments are and how honored they felt to wear them. How they felt closer to the Spirit when they wore them. How they felt spiritually protected against temptation. How they considered this a privilege. In the six years following my endowment, I never felt this way. I felt forced. I felt burdened. I felt controlled.
One day, I was folding laundry and noticed that one of the screen-printed marks on my fairly new cotton stretch garments was gone. For some reason, this simple observation sent my brain spinning. What did this mean? What should I do? Were they still “holy”? Should I keep wearing them without the mark? Throw away a barely-worn garment? Use a fabric marker to draw a new one? Could I do that? Do they do some kind of special blessing on garments when they make them? I’m not supposed to alter my garments. But a garment isn’t a garment without the mark. …Right?
I realized how little I knew about the temple garment – so I started researching. I learned:
• That garment styles and functions have changed considerably over time.
• That members were previously allowed to sew their own garments.
• That there is no special blessing or consecration on the garments before they are sold. The only thing that distinguishes the piece of clothing is the marks.
• That military and other police and emergency personnel are both able to purchase tan garments with marks or purchase their own undergarments, of whatever color or brand is needed for their unit, and pay to ship them to Church HQ to have marks sewn or printed on.
I felt angry. There was no doctrinal instruction to base most of what I had been taught about temple garments, except:
1) God desires to bless us with spiritual protection
2) The marks serve as a reminder of sacred covenants
I was driving to work one morning, stewing on what I had learned, and had an idea. What if I make my own garments? It had been done before. There was no doctrinal reason I shouldn’t. Surely, as a Daughter of God endowed with power from on high, I had enough authority to make my own garments. I was tickled by the idea, but also nervous. Was I taking a dangerous step? Was I just doing this to “stick it to the man”? No. I’ve never been the type to be rebellious just to see how something feels. I’ve always been overly cautious and rule-abiding. This was about my personal covenants with God. Nothing else.
That weekend, I went to a department store and browsed. I bought a couple long, white, seamless camisoles and some white seamless shaper-shorts and white boy-short styles. I went to a craft store and bought a white fabric marker.
Before I added the marks, I tried them for two days, just to see how they felt. Wonderful. They felt wonderful. I kept turning to my husband: “Feel these! Aren’t they so soft?” “Oh my word, these are so comfortable.” “Look! No muffin top!” “No extra layers and no lines!!” “See, no big deal if a camisole pops out the top! I’ll just put the marks on the inside!”
It was decided. I went into our bedroom and pulled out all my new garments. I set beside me one of my old garments and carefully used a fabric marker to add matching marks to my new garments. I gently used an iron to heat-set each mark, and then folded it neatly into a basket. When I finished, I brought my basket into my closet and knelt down to pray. I wanted to make sure that what I had done was acceptable to God. I felt warmth. I felt light and goodness and love and joy.
Now, when I put on my garments, I look at each mark that I have carefully added and remember what they mean to me. I’m reminded of the love and acceptance I felt during my prayer. I handle them reverently and with joy. I feel confident and loved and empowered as a Daughter of God. I feel blessed to wear the garments of the Holy Temple of God.
Anonymous describes herself as “a typical, American, female, Latter-day Saint.”