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).