Maybe Don’t Make Fun of Mormon ‘Magic Underwear’

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Seemingly out of the blue, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints this week published a video and post about the history and meaning behind Mormon temple garments, sometimes flippantly called “magic underwear.” The main point: It’s offensive to call the garments “magic underwear,” so everybody stop now, please. 

More from the church’s website:

Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as magical or “magic underwear.” These words are not only inaccurate but also offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and Church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of goodwill. … Ridiculing or making light of sacred clothing is highly offensive to Latter-day Saints.

The concept of the temple garments stems from a passage in the Book of Mormon:

Biblical scripture contains many references to the wearing of special garments. In the Old Testament the Israelites are specifically instructed to turn their garments into personal reminders of their covenants with God (see Numbers 15:37-41). Indeed, for some, religious clothing has always been an important part of integrating worship with daily living. Such practices resonate with Latter-day Saints today.

The basic argument goes that the garments are not so different from the nun’s habit, the Jewish prayer shawl, or the robes of a Buddhist monk. And all of these tie into a much more earthbound concept — something psychologists call embodiment, or embodied cognition, which we are often going on and on about here on Science of Us. It’s the idea that the physical feel of your body can influence your thoughts and behavior. Walking like a happy person makes you feel happier; receiving a warm drink from someone makes you feel more warmly toward that person. And there’s also some research suggesting that this concept applies to the clothes you wear, too. So whatever you think of Mormon beliefs, there isn’t much “magical” going on here.