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The Secrets of Mormon Underwear Revealed

Over at Ben Smith’s new BuzzFeed Politics Bureau, McKay Coppins offers a straightforward and enlightening primer on the special Mormon undergarments that have elicited harsh, unthinking mockery from the likes of Bill Maher and Maureen Dowd. Writes Coppins:

It’s true that Mormons are taught not to flaunt “garments” (as they’re called) for public view, which can feed the impression that Romney’s hiding some dark, cultish secret beneath his well-starched shirts and neatly-creased slacks. But the principle behind Mormon garments would be familiar to any Baptist who’s worn a “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet, or any Jew who’s worn a yarmulke or tzitzit (woven threads Orthodox Jews wear on shawls under their shirts). As the website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints puts it, garments are worn as “an outward expression of an inward commitment.”

…Mormons are taught that by putting on “the whole armor of God”–a Biblical metaphor regularly employed in LDS discussions of the subject–they are afforded protection from temptation, in that they have a physical reminder not to sin. But there’s no magical guarantee involved. Just as cheating spouses ignore the vows symbolized by their wedding ring, plenty of garment-wearing Mormons sin. The power is in the symbolism of the garments, not any kind of miracles that result from wearing them.

Read the whole thing and learn what the garments look like, their theological significance and even where they can be purchased. As the Republican presidential primary progresses and Romney’s little-understood faith continues to receive greater scrutiny, let’s hope the press follows BuzzFeed’s example of factual, straightforward reporting and not cheap sarcasm and mockery from folks like Dowd (or her colleagues at the NY Times).

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  • Anthony

    WRM, sarcasm and mockery tools used by the haughty and its cousin, the supercilious; the above is often masquerading as social/political commentary/critique.

  • Walter Sobchak

    “not cheap sarcasm and mockery from folks like Dowd (or her colleagues at the NY Times).”

    It is all the NYTimes is good for these days. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen”

  • Eurydice

    It’s good to have hope. But Maureen isn’t a journalist, she’s an entertainer playing to her audience.

  • Luke Lea

    Thanks for the info. It should be pointed out that Mormons DO NOT wear this underwear when they bathe, as I’ve often heard. From Google Images I see it looks very much like a 19th century outdoor bathing apparel. Christian “modesty” may be an element here. Mightn’t it also be an intra-family signalling device?

    The origins of Mormonism are certainly bizarre. But as a present day religious practice it seems more than benign. Romney is highly articulate and should have no difficulty conveying this fact. It’ll be good advertising.

  • Richard F. Miller

    WRM, with respect, it’s not “cheap sarcasm and mockery.” It’s a hatred with fairly deep roots in American history, as anyone familiar with the sometimes lethal tensions between mainstream Protestantism (as that was understood in the nineteenth century) and Mormonism well attests.

    It’s interesting, because, as was noted during the South Carolina primaries, some of that “tension” (a euphemism here–it’s bigotry, pure and simple) lives on.

    I’ll bet that the Dowd and Maher had no idea how much bigotry they share with another crowd that they also enjoy mocking.

  • WigWag

    Maher and particularly Dowd may be reprehensible, but Mead misses the forest for the trees. What the Romney nomination signals is the complete collapse of influence of devout Protestants in the Republican Party. Only a few short years ago Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and to a lesser extent Jerry Falwell were important Republican power brokers; their voices have been silenced. How many years ago did the preacher, Mike Huckabee come reasonably close to winning his parties nomination?

    Now the choice confronting these devout voters is to support Obama (who many believe is a secret Muslim), the thrice married Gingrich who asked his wife for an “open marriage” or Romney, the LDS bishop.

    Forget secret underwear, Mormons reject the Trinity, they believe that God the Father and Jesus his Son are separate corporeal beings (not spirit), the believe in baptism after death, they conceive of a female deity who reigns with the Father and they believe that in the afterlife humans can become demiurges. Suffice it to say that Reverend Falwell must be turning over in his grave.

    It’s not that Mormon beliefs are any more bizarre than the beliefs of any other religious group; measured against standards of rationality all religious practice looks silly. The Mormon idea that God is a corporeal creature is no more strange than the idea that Moses (with God’s help) parted the Red Sea, Jesus was born of a virgin or The Prophet ascended to heaven from Jerusalem on a flying horse.

    But the fact that a leader in the LDS church is about to receive the Republican nomination for President proves just how powerless Conservative Christian Republicans have become.

    Of course it’s not just Christians who are powerless in the Republican Party, the same thing is true of the formerly relevant Tea Party. At the same time Christian conservatives are facing the prospect of voting for the candidate donning the ritual undergarments, Tea Party acolytes are confronting the reality of voting for a candidate who founded a leveraged buy out firm, is preternaturally close to Wall Street and has the support of almost all the Wall Street tycoons you can name. Romney has been in bed with Goldman Sachs almost as many times as Newt Gingrich has climbed into bed with a new girl friend.

    What this signals is that in the Republican Party it is the same as it ever was; it’s the power brokers in the energy and financial sectors calling the shots. These masters of the universe consider the evangelicals and Tea Party types to be little more than useful idiots.

    Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

    It’s hard to stop laughing.

  • Myrtle Schultz

    Religion, or at least religious inquiry, is something that virtually all humans have in common. In all corners of the world and in all eras of history, people have wondered about the meaning of life, how to make the best of it, what happens afterwards, and if there is anyone or anything “out there.”

    Whether Mormons should be considered “Christians” is a controversial and rather complicated issue. Many Catholics and Protestants do not consider Mormons to be Christians because they believe the differences in doctrines are larger and more fundamental than those between Christian denominations.

    On other hand, religious studies books tend to group Mormons in with Christians because: Mormons regard themselves as Christians; Mormonism emerged in a Christian context; and Mormonism shares much in common with other forms of Christianity.

    And to Mitt Romney… Here is his beliefs:

    He believes that Jesus Christ is Satan’s brother.
    He believes that God lives near a planet called “Kolob.”
    He believes in baptizing dead people.
    He believes that Jesus is married to a goddess wife.
    He believes that The Garden of Eden was in Missouri.
    He believes that it was impossible for Negroes to go to Heaven before 1978.
    He believes that Jesus has children from his wife or wives.
    He believes that he is going to become a god.
    He believes he will own his own personal planet after he dies.
    He believes the real Christian God is not eternal but rather that He was once a man on some other planet besides Earth.
    He believes he needs to wear magical uMormon Underwear created by Mormons and he is never to take it off unless he is bathing.
    He believes it is a sin to drink anything containing caffeine. And that even includes True American™ drinks like Coca-Cola!
    He believes children between the ages of 18-21 should wear name badges, ride bicycles and always smile.

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