Editor's note: This article is part of a series on what the Church has actually taught about various topics. To read more about the Church’s teachings on cremation, garments, beards, and more, click here.
Caring for and wearing the temple garment is a very personal commitment, which means that garments can become a source of questions and differences of opinion among Church members. Although it will differ from person to person, the Church has given some general guidelines to help all members understand how to approach wearing the garment.
There are many unofficial opinions and practices on the topic, but the General Handbook is the official source for Church policy, and it contains just six short paragraphs in section 38.5.5, “Wearing and Caring for the Garment.” Here’s a closer look into the statements in each of those paragraphs.
Members who receive the endowment make a covenant to wear the temple garment throughout their lives.
The temple garment is received when a member is endowed in the temple. Although the modern temple garment was introduced in the Church in the 1840s, the principle behind sacred clothing is ancient.
An article on Newsroom and a companion video state, “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.”
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It is a sacred privilege to wear the temple garment. Doing so is an outward expression of an inner commitment to follow the Savior Jesus Christ.
Language like this regarding the temple garment has been used since at least 1988, when a First Presidency letter stated, “How [the garment] is worn is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior.”
Sister Linda S. Reeves has taught, “There are … great blessings and protecting promises associated with the proper wearing of our temple garment. I have come to feel that I am symbolically putting on royal robes given me by my Heavenly Father. I testify … that when we strive to wear the garment properly, our Father recognizes it as a great sign of our love and devotion to Him. It is a sign of the covenants we have made with Him.”
The garment is a reminder of covenants made in the temple. When worn properly throughout life, it will serve as a protection.
The handbook contains no details about exactly how the garment can “serve as a protection” to wearers. An article on Newsroom states that “there is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments”; instead, they “represent the sacred and personal aspect of [members’] relationship with God and their commitment to live good, honorable lives.”
A First Presidency letter dated October 6, 2019, gives some additional detail about the type of protection the garment affords: “The temple garment is a reminder of covenants made in the temple and, when worn properly throughout life, will serve as a protection against temptation and evil” (emphasis added).
The garment should be worn beneath the outer clothing. It is a matter of personal preference whether other undergarments are worn over or under the temple garment.
The handbook does not give many details about how the garment should be worn in relation to other clothing. The Church’s Gospel Topics article on garments says, “In our day the garment encourages modesty, but its significance is much deeper. For Church members who have received the endowment, the garment reminds them of their connection to God, their commitment to follow His will, and the blessings and protection God has promised the faithful.”
The garment should not be removed for activities that can reasonably be done while wearing the garment. It should not be modified to accommodate different styles of clothing.
What sits within the bounds of what can “reasonably be done” while wearing the garment leaves room for the exercise of personal agency.
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In the October 2010 general conference, President Nelson quoted the 1988 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.”
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The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect. Endowed members should seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to answer personal questions about wearing the garment.
A letter from the First Presidency dated July 3, 1974, stated: “The sacredness of the garment should be ever present and uppermost in the wearer’s mind; … the blessings which flow from the observance of our covenants are sufficiently great to recompense for any mere inconvenience. To break our covenants is to forfeit the protection and blessings promised for obedience to them.”
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.’”