Mormon temple "garments" have been maligned, mocked and misunderstood by outsiders and former members of the LDS Church for so long that the Utah-based faith decided last week to simply post photos and a video explaining them.
The pictures were added to an essay about temple clothing that has been on the church's website for more than three years.
"Because there is little or no accurate information on this subject on the Internet the church feels it important to provide this resource," LDS Church spokesman Dale Jones said in statement Monday. "The wearing of religious clothing reflects commitment and devotion to God. Latter-day Saints seek the same respect and sensitivity regarding our sacred clothing as shown to those of other faiths who wear religious vestments."
The video and essays compare clothing members wear during Mormon temple rituals and under their clothes every day to holy attire worn by those in many faiths.
"The nun's habit. The priest's cassock. The Jewish prayer shawl. The Muslim's skullcap. The saffron robes of the Buddhist monk," the narrator intones. "All are part of a rich tapestry of human devotion to God."
The video shows images of the "robes of the holy priesthood" — including a white robe, green apron and white cap — worn by men and women inside temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It also provides photos of two-peice "temple garments," which faithful Mormons wear under their clothing. They are described "similar in design to ordinary modest underclothing."
There is "nothing magical or mystical about temple garments," the website says, and asks reporters and observers to treat the clothing with respect.
Mormon blogger Jana Riess celebrates the fact that sacred LDS clothing is worn by all devout Mormons, not just clergy, and that it is, well, under rather than outerwear.
"I can understand why it seems strange to non-Mormons that our holy garment is underwear. (Seriously? Underwear?)," Riess writes at Flunking Sainthood for Religion News Service. "But to me that is exactly the most beautiful thing about it. What article of clothing could we choose that would be more profane, at the end of the day? What could be more tied to the messiness of being human?"
Such clothing reminds Riess that "I belong, body and soul, to Jesus. There is no part of me that he has not redeemed. To use Paul's metaphor, I regard the weakest parts of myself with the greatest honor."
She applauds the church's "refreshing transparency about garments and temple dress" and hopes that this will help "persuade gawkers that there's nothing to see here, folks. Let's move along."
Peggy Fletcher Stack