Garments worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are in the news — again. I am, of course, referring to the temple-issued underclothing many members wear to remind us of covenants made there.
For those looking to have a little cheap sport with the church, garments are an easy go-to jab. Comedian David Cross recently tweeted a doctored photo of him in garments as, I suppose, a way of promoting his show Wednesday at the University of Utah.
The picture outraged members of the aforesaid religious institution and even a few nonmembers of aforesaid … whatever.
Being a Mormon — yeah, I said “Mormon,” and I’m not going to stop saying it — I’m more than a little familiar with temple garments. We’re not supposed to talk about them publicly, but that seems a bit silly in an age when nothing is sacred anymore.
From experience, I can tell you that garments are a lot of things, but they are not magic. Neither are they bulletproof. They won’t stop knives, shrapnel, arrows, heartbreak, darts or even rock ’n’ roll.
Garments can’t even stop impure thoughts, a problem I blame on the fact that we are expressly told not to pull them over our heads regardless of the perceived threat.
The sacred apparel has gone through a number of changes in nearly 200 years. The earliest version was akin to a set of old-fashioned one-piece, wrist-to-ankle long johns. It’s one among a hundred reasons why I’m happy to have missed that part of church history.
I got my first set of garments in 1973. They were issued to me after I went through the temple preparatory to serving a Mormon mission. My parents wore them, too. So it wasn’t anything new, but it still was a little strange.
At that time, garments had changed in design. They were still one piece (with a trap door for conducting decidedly nonsacred business) but they were now short-sleeved and covered the leg only to the knee.
They came with lots of religious instruction, most of which was lost on me at the time because I was still in a daze from all the ritual there was in a church that proudly professed to have very little.
One of the more memorable bits of advice I received on garments came shortly after I arrived in South America. I was walking around the apartment in just my “G’s” while I unpacked.
A veteran elder, grizzled and anemic-looking, pointed at my butt and told me I might want to cut off the button there.
Me • “Why?”
Him • “You’re in a poor country, elder. Split seconds matter.”
He was right, as I later learned while on a dead run for a toilet after eating at a fly-bothered roadside cafe. It was a race I lost by a full minute.
As I mentioned before, garments are a cheap go-to when trying to be funny about Mormons. But in today’s let-it-all-out society, we’ve lost the ability to tell the difference between laughing at and laughing with other people.
When it comes to laughing or mockery, check your agenda. I’ve seen pictures of Nazi soldiers laughing while forcing Jewish women and children to strip before machine-gunning them into a pit. Was that with or at? It’s a hard call — if you’re an idiot.
It’s one thing to tell other people to get used to having their sacred cows roasted and quite another when it’s yours on the spit. Don’t kid yourself about that. We all have something we cherish.
If everything is indeed fair game, then should we have more sport with fat people, thin people, women, LGBTQ people, ethnic groups, patriotism and even you?
No. As the late prophetess Aretha once said, we all want a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”