On the Church’s webpage about temples, a paragraph explains the effect religious rituals and clothing can have on Church members: “They can stir the deepest feelings of the soul, motivate them to do good, and even shape the course of a whole life of service.” The temple garment worn by Latter-day Saints holds great significance, and the way we care for them does, too.
Caring for and wearing the temple garment is a very personal commitment. Here are three ways the Church has specifically said we should treat the temple garment.
1) The garment is never to be left on the floor.
The missionary handbook is very clear on this point: “The garment should never be left on the floor. When garments need to be washed, they should be placed in a laundry basket or bag until they can be properly washed and dried.”
Linda S. Reeves taught that the temple garment is a “great sign of our love and devotion” to Heavenly Father—keeping them off the ground can be a way to show that devotion.
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2) Worn-out garments should be disposed of properly.
The Church’s Handbook 2: Administering the Church gives these directions:
“To dispose of worn-out temple garments, members should cut out and destroy the marks. Members then cut up the remaining fabric so it cannot be identified as a garment.”
In regards to other ceremonial temple clothing, the handbook states:
“To dispose of worn-out temple ceremonial clothing, members should destroy the clothing by cutting it up so the original use cannot be recognized.”
The handbook also notes that it is acceptable for members to give other worthy, endowed members garments that are in good condition. Under no circumstances, however, are members to donate their garments to any sort of charity.
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3) The garment should be covered and worn day and night.
Handbook 2 teaches, “The garment is worn beneath the clothing, and out of respect for its sacred significance, it is kept covered. Members normally care for their garments personally. Members should avoid displaying the garment publicly.”
In the October 2010 general conference, then-Elder Nelson quoted a letter from the First Presidency about wearing the temple garment:
"Church members who have been clothed with the garment in the temple have made a covenant to wear it throughout their lives. This has been interpreted to mean that it is worn as underclothing both day and night. . . . The promise of protection and blessings is conditioned upon worthiness and faithfulness in keeping the covenant.
"The fundamental principle ought to be to wear the garment and not to find occasions to remove it. Thus, members should not remove either all or part of the garment to work in the yard or to lounge around the home in swimwear or immodest clothing. Nor should they remove it to participate in recreational activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly beneath regular clothing. When the garment must be removed, such as for swimming, it should be restored as soon as possible."
What sits within the bounds of what can “reasonably be done” while wearing the garment leaves room for the exercise of personal agency. Elder Carlos E. Asay, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and former president of the Salt Lake Temple once taught:
"There are some who would welcome a detailed dress code answering every conceivable question about the wearing of the temple garment. They would have priesthood leaders legislate lengths, specify conditions of when and how it should and should not be worn, and impose penalties upon those who missed the mark by a fraction of an inch. Such individuals would have Church members strain at a thread and omit the weightier matters of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Matt. 23:23–26).
"Most Latter-day Saints, however, rejoice over the moral agency extended them by a loving Father in Heaven. They prize highly the trust placed in them by the Lord and Church leaders—a trust implied in this statement made by the Prophet Joseph Smith: 'I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.'"
To read more about the purposes of the temple and the temple garment, see the Church’s website ChurchofJesusChrist.org/temples.