The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new video showing and explaining the undergarments and temple clothing endowed members of the Church wear.
The video came in the wake of the Church’s first feature film, “Meet the Mormons,” and seems to be another effort by the Church to challenge “the stereotypes that surround the Mormon faith.”
“We live in a different day and age where information is just a mouse click away,” said Alex Baugh, a BYU professor of Church history and doctrine. “The Internet has changed the way people access information, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet about the Church, and even more unfortunate is the fact that there is a lot of information that is antagonistic and disrespectful toward the Church. Nowhere is that more true than in connection with the sacred aspects of LDS temple worship and temple clothing.”
Baugh mentioned several papers the LDS Church has released this year explaining difficult topics, including race and the priesthood, translation of the Book of Abraham and whether Mormons are Christians. Just this week two new papers were released; “Plural Marriage in Kirkland and Nauvoo” and “The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage.”
“The release of such statements and explanations, such as the one released just last week 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.”
Many Latter-day Saints expressed surprise that the video was so outright in showing the garments.
“I definitely was surprised,” said Zak Kirkpatrick, a BYU student from Juneau, Alaska, studying public relations. “In fact, seeing the still frame of garments lying on a table, at first I thought it might be some anti-Mormon sentiment on my Facebook page. And then I was surprised to see that it was actually from the Church, official Church stuff.”
The video, which was posted on Mormon Newsroom under the “Temple Garments” topic, dated temple clothes back to the Old Testament and compared sacred LDS clothing with the religious clothing worn by members of other religions around the world.
“I like how they related it to other religions to show that we’re not all that strange in what we do,” said Liesl Hansen, a BYU student studying communications. “I appreciated what the Church did to be totally open about our garments. I’m also amazed that they showed the robes and other things.”
A few Latter-day Saints conveyed excitement about using the video as a new missionary tool.
Brielle Stevens, a member from Washington, said she comes from a small town with a small population of Latter-day Saints, and she often receives questions about her faith.
“I get a lot of questions asked, and now I have a video that I can refer people to,” she said. “I really like the way they detail it without giving (away) too much information, without making it uncomfortable.”
Although the video will make a good missionary tool and gives specific direction to nonmembers and media on how to refer to the garments, Baugh said it will also make a great tool for families teaching their children about the temple. He mentioned that he considered showing it in his classes.
“I think a lot of young people, they go to the temple baptistry, and that’s about all they know about the temple prior to their going through,” he said. “But for members or nonmembers, I think this could be very instructive and informative.”
For Whitney, Bailey and Kylee Keele, three teenaged sisters and Latter-day Saints from Monroe, Utah, the video did just that.
“I like how the video pointed out exactly what the clothing is for and not just a reason why we wore it,” said Kylee Keele, the oldest of the three. “(Before), I knew my mom wore them, and my dad, but that’s all.”
The LDS General Conference Facebook Page shared the video a few days after it came out, asking for reactions. While most of the comments were positive, a few members expressed uncomfortable feelings with the outrightness of the video.
“I have mixed feelings,” commented Helen Shirley Bess from Alma, Michigan. “My whole life I never knew about these sacred robes. I just took out my endowment and got married less than two months ago, and in that session my impression was that they are too sacred to just be shared, and that’s why I had never known about them before. If the prophet released this message I support it, but I find myself sensitive toward the subject. My first impression of the video is that the video explained what they are, and I don’t understand why there is a need to explain them to the non-LDS world.”
Another commenter, Diane Rasmussen Sellers, said she was taken aback when she saw the video posted on the wall of a non-member friend.
“But I read her explanation of gratefulness to have the video, watched it, then promptly shared it on my wall,” Sellers wrote. “It was an unexpected step by the First Presidency in my opinion, but I think it will take away some of the shroud of secrecy in a most respectful manner.”
While the release of the video wasn’t linked to any Church announcement or current event, Baugh said there might be an element of timeliness as more and more LDS temples dot the globe.
“Maybe there is a timing factor, with all the temples going up,” he said. “People automatically will begin to say, ‘Well what do Mormons do in temples?'”
Even for Latter-day Saints who have been endowed and already wear temple clothing and garments, the video provided an opportunity for them to reflect on the reasons they wear garments.
“I value them a lot,” Hansen said. “I love the symbols on them and the meaning behind them.
She said she doesn’t wear them because they’re attractive, but because of her love and devotion to God.
“I like the thought that every day I wear two reminders of my promises to have a special kind of relationship with the most important people in my life: my garments and my wedding ring,” said Jason Crandall, a Latter-day Saint from Texas.