Author: Marshall, Evelyn T.
The word "garment" has distinctive meanings to Latter-day Saints. The white undergarment worn by those members who have received the ordinance of the temple Endowment is a ceremonial one. All adults who enter the temple are required to wear it. In LDS temples, men and women who receive priesthood ordinances wear this undergarment and other priestly robes. The garment is worn at all times, but the robes are worn only in the temple. Having made covenants of righteousness, the members wear the garment under their regular clothing for the rest of their lives, day and night, partially to remind them of the sacred covenants they have made with God.
The white garment symbolizes purity and helps assure modesty, respect for the attributes of God, and, to the degree it is honored, a token of what Paul regarded as taking upon one the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:13; cf. D&C 27:15). It is an outward expression of an inward covenant, and symbolizes Christlike attributes in one's mission in life. Garments bear several simple marks of orientation toward the gospel principles of obedience, truth, life, and discipleship in Christ.
An agency of the Church manufactures these garments in contemporary, comfortable, and lightweight fabrics. They are available for purchase through Church distribution centers.
Scripture, as well as legends from many lands and cultures, points toward the significance of sacral clothing. A biblical tradition teaches that Adam and Eve, prior to their expulsion from Eden, wore sacred clothing. "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). These were given in a context of repentance and forgiveness, and of offering sacrifice and making covenants.
In antiquity, priestly vestments were part of widespread tradition. The Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament) teach that these garments were "precious garments" or "glorious garments" or "garments of honor." Rabbi Eleazer called them "coats of glory." A rabbinic source asks: "And what were those garments?" The answer is, "The vestments of the High Priesthood, with which the Almighty clothed them because Adam was the world's first-born" (Kasher, Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation, Vol. 1, p. 137). In Moses' time those who officiated in the Tabernacle wore a certain kind of garment: "And [Moses] put upon [Aaron] the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith" (Lev. 8:7; see Testament of Levi 8). Latter-day Saints similarly wear temple garments in connection with their priesthood functions.
The clergy and many of the committed in almost all major faiths wear special clothing. For Latter-day Saints, among whom there is no professional ministry, men and women from all walks of life share in the callings, responsibilities, and blessings of the priesthood. Their sacred clothing, representing covenants with God, is worn under rather than outside their street clothes.
In a Messianic passage Isaiah declared: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). In the current dispensation, the principle has been reaffirmed in prophetic idiom: "Zion must increase in beauty, and put on her beautiful garments" (D&C 82:14). Latter-day Saints believe that all such clothing is symbolic of the submission, sanctification, and spotless purity of those who desire to serve God and Christ and ultimately regain their eternal presence (D&C 61:34;135:5).
Nibley, Hugh W. Sacred Vestments, 38 pages. Provo, Utah, 1984.
Packer, Boyd K. The Holy Temple. Salt Lake City, 1980.
EVELYN T. MARSHALL