Garments: Does He or Doesn’t He?

I spent all last week in bed with a rather nasty infection. I was too miserable to sleep and too tired to get up and do anything, so I mostly just lay in bed reading (right now I’m reading Shelby Foote’s excellent history of the American Civil War) and then watched both BBC The Office series plus the Christmas special. But I still would have preferred to be well and back at work.

I was well enough to go to church with my family yesterday. It was entirely uneventful, although after the meetings, a woman in the ward gave me the “garment feel-up.” This has happened to me on several occasions before, but it never ceases to shock me that someone would do this. Allow me to explain.

As anyone familiar with Mormonism knows, there is a special ceremony in the temple called the endowment which is supposed to prepare people for the higher ordinance of celestial marriage. Part of the endowment involves being “clothed in the garment of the holy priesthood,” which is really a two-piece set of undergarments, essentially a scoop-neck t-shirt and boxers that extend nearly to the knee.

The garments leave tell-tale lines under your clothing, and usually the scoop neck is visible through a Mormon male’s uniform of white shirt and tie. So, the wearing of the garment is a cultural marker reassuring others that you are in good standing, at least you appear to be, with the church. Not wearing garments probably indicates that you have strayed from the fold, and you might even be drinking coffee.

Needless to say, it’s been some time since I retired my garments. But I do wear an undershirt under my dress shirts because the white shirts tend to be nearly see-through. So I must present a confusing picture to church members who wonder if I’m still wearing garments. Apparently, there’s only one way to make sure, and that is the “garment feel-up,” which involves the curious church member rubbing their hand over my upper arm, where the sleeve of the garment should be.

As I said, this has happened to me on several occasions. Yesterday it was a little unnerving, as this woman, whom I don’t know at all, addressed me by my first name and then subtly did the garment check.

It’s tempting to be offended by this little ritual, but I see it more as a mechanism of comfort for the people who have done it to me. These people are probably genuinely worried about the state of my soul, but confirming that I’m wearing at least what appears to be garments reassures them that my damnation isn’t complete, at least not yet.

8 Responses to Garments: Does He or Doesn’t He?

  1. jill says:

    Good Heavens! And your wife was OK with other women being “handsie” on you?

    There are going to be a lot of lonely guys who are now going to re-consider Mormonism just for this little bit of action.

  2. aerin says:

    Runtu, I find it offensive. I respect that you don’t find it offensive. But I think it’s crossing physical boundaries. I suppose boundaries are cultural, and for this culture, looking for garment lines isn’t crossing those boundaries.

    I would think whether or not you were wearing the sacred garments was between you and God – not anyone else’s business.

  3. runtu says:

    I keep trying to think of something witty to say when they do this, but so far, all I’ve come up with is “No, I’m not wearing garments.”

    I don’t know, it’s not so much offensive as it is pathetic and just slightly hilarious. I’m long past the point where these things bother me. I just find them funny and sad at the same time.

    And yes, my wife was mortified by a rotund, middle-aged woman rubbing my arm.

  4. Urban Koda says:

    Hmmm… I wonder if I am going to be subject to this as well – mine got retired a little over a month ago. It was weird for a day, and then this amazing feeling of freedom washed over me!

    With all due respect to Aerin, Mormonism and your standing before God really should be a personal matter, but that’s not how it’s observed. From my experience it’s all about your standing relative to other people, and so if Bro. Runtu isn’t wearing his garments, and I am, that means, I’m doing better than him – at least that seems to be the thinking.

    The wife and I got invited to the temple on Saturday, and we’ve been trying to think of a snappy comeback for that one too (Fortunately I had a triathlon which made the answer easy). I’m urging her to use “I don’t think they want people like Bro. Koda in the temple, but perhaps we could check with the Bishop….”

  5. Odell Campbell says:

    Could you imagine a church where you could feel up a woman’s butt to see if she was wearing thongs or briefs?

    If you can, I am ready for lessons and baptism.

  6. My family used to regularly ask whenever I wore something they disapproved of, “are you wearing garments?” Horrors of living too close to them. When I finally took them off for good, I handed them to my mum and said, “I don’t think I need these anymore.” I moved immediately after, so nobody’s been checking out the state of my undies.

  7. Once I had a family member look me up and down. I soon realized she was looking for my “Celestial Smile.” I was active at the time and regularly wore my G’s. But I had just come in from hiking and wasn’t wearing them (as it is not required for exercise). I was amazed that she could be so judgmental — but I guess that’s par for Mormondom: Judge your neighbor, and especially your family members.

  8. Seven says:

    When I first began asking troubling questions about Mormon history and doctrines, the first thing TBMs wanted to know was if I was still wearing my garments. Some were more overt than others in their methods. With girls it’s much easier to see the garment bottoms above our jeans when we bend over, and the tops often peek out of our shirts so a feel up wouldn’t be necessary like it is for the guys. The lines show through our shirt fabrics VERY easily as well.

    Had I not been wearing them, I know they would have concluded that I WANTED to leave the church or must have committed some terrible sin and was only looking for a way out.

    One person came right out and asked how I could be wearing the top I was with garments on. It was a cap sleeve and my garments fit fine under it (there is one type of garment top where you can wear cap sleeves) This was a shirt I had worn for years, but the first time my relative had asked this question.

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