The Danger of Cheap Shots

I was chatting with some Catholic friends, and (as happens more and more frequently as the election approaches) the subject of Mormons came up.  Which means you can pretty much set an egg-timer until someone says, “Not to mention magic underwear!”

(I think in this case the elapsed time was about a minute thirty.  There’s never an egg timer around when you need one.)

The ‘magic underwear’ crack is pretty common (it’s the featured visual on the billboards American Atheists are putting up for the party conventions).  But I’m pretty sure it’s not anyone’s true rejection, especially for Christians.  So here’s what you should keep in mind before ‘magic underwear’ comes out of your mouth between now and November.

Priests wear vestments (alb-beit sometimes bad ones) to celebrate Mass, without triggering the kind of ridicule Mormons attract for their temple garments.  So where’s the difference that justifies the hilarity?

Are vestments only sensible when worn on top of normal clothes; it’s wearing them under clothes that’s funny?  (cough, cough, scapulars, cough).  Or is it that it makes sense for priests to do it, but not everyone else?  (Then you might want to remember that Mormons have a more expansive notion of the priestly vocation than other Christians).

And an incarnational faith probably wants to be careful about throwing stones at traditions that use physical practices to help people deal with the abstract-feeling transcendent.

You could make the argument that all ritual and tradition is a warning sign, and it’s just that Christianity has enough other kind of evidence on its side to overcome these red flags, but I think that’s not a case any Christian can make with a straight face.

But that’s the claim you’re supporting when you attack Mormonism for its aesthetic/ritual components instead of attacking the truth-claims it makes.  You’re legitimizing any similar attacks on your own faith (“I mean, what’s with all that chanting?”).  And you’re being unfair to your opponent (whether or not they are present).

Most people treat arguments like armies, so you’ve just given yourself points on the scoreboard you didn’t earn, and you’ve committed yourself to defending an objection you don’t think has merit.  You’ve confused the people you’re trying to convince, and you’ve weakened your greatest skill as a rationalist: being more confused by fiction than reality.  You’re training yourself not to notice bad arguments.

So knock it off.  Unless you really think there is something off about vestments and ritual.  Then you should notice you are confuse, try to track your confusion back to it’s source, and see what you might need to change your mind about.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Ken

    I wonder how many got the alb joke.
    A very nice point about the arguments like armies, guilty as charged here. I also think this might fall under the general name of cheap shots.

    • KL

      I groaned.

    • http://delphipsmih.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

      I did :)

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      More, please!

      • Peggy Hagen

        We do not need a surplice of such jokes.

        • Rebecca Balmes

          We need a “like” button for comments like these.

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          I had a good one too, but someone stole it.

          • Peggy Hagen

            Why didn’t you stop him? Too fast to be chasuble?

          • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

            It happened so quickly, I was surpliced and just couldn’t cope quickly enough. I stood watch for a while in case she mire turn, but I think she took the way through the pedestrian zone.

          • Cous

            Something’s amice here…

  • deiseach

    Catholics (some of us, at least) wear scapulars (and you can have the common brown variety or white, black, red, blue and green ones). Combine that with wearing the Miraculous Medal (and consider the promises attached to that) and you get many’s the person whose first action upon awakening in the morning was to disentangle one from the other before strangulation could eventuate.

    So we have no room to mock people for superstitions re: garments, and of all the reasons I might take a swipe at Mormon theology, this is not one of them.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      I have to say that until recently, I was sadly quite hypocritical in that regard. I mocked the wearing of “magical underpants” (though not for their being ritualistic, but rather because they portrayed a theology that the state of one’s clothing could effect the state of one’s soul), but I had not considered how the scapular is strikingly similar in some respects. While I have not had opportunity to speak of them since coming to that realization, I have resolved to avoid future references to that point of theology.

  • http://metabooleans.blogspot.com/ Nick

    You’re right; focusing on pseudo-arguments like “but magic underwear!” weakens the arguer’s ability to debate (not to mention destroys his or her credibility, or at least ought to seriously threaten it). It makes me laugh that the Mr. Silverman that Hemant Mehta quoted as saying “Allowing our judgment to be clouded by sheer silliness is unacceptable.” is himself advocating we cloud our mind with silliness–those ads. Nice post!
    Oh, and one other question while I’m way up here on the comment list: I started a blog recently and have already had to reference your blog more than once. I went with “Libresco” to be clear all I do is follow your blog, but it sounds really redundant and “detached,” sort of, so do you prefer “Leah” for these situations?

    • leahlibresco

      Ooh, I like the name of your url. Either ‘Leah’ or ‘Libresco’ is fine, whichever matches your blogging style better. (I actually quite like ‘Libresco’ when used in the more colloquial “Yo, Libresco!” kind of way).

      I guess I mean I find surnames pleasantly informal when used in the vocative case?

      • http://metabooleans.blogspot.com/ Nick

        Yeah, Libresco, like most last names, sounds all right that way, but the last time I heard you called that on another blog I distinctly remember it didn’t sound colloquial, just kind of unfriendly, which was why I was hesitant to do it. Also, vocative case, nice! I’m learning Latin at the moment. Dowling method for the win: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~wcd/Latin.htm

        • leahlibresco

          Bonum iter, discipule!

          • http://metabooleans.blogspot.com/ Nick

            Careful, I’m but four weeks in! I’m supplementing the Dowling curriculum with some Anki vocabulary, but I’ve got a long, dark road ahead of me, drudging through declension and conjugation alike, before I can read or write. Wouldn’t want to damage my delicate eyes just yet.

        • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith
  • anodognosic

    I tend to think “magic underwear” remarks are at least consistent for atheists, since a critique of magical thinking actually is at least part of (most of) our true rejection of religion. But I’d like to put it out there–is there a plank in our own eye that we’re missing?

    (And please, I don’t mean this to be a general thread for arguments against atheism, or about the merits of pointing out the ridiculous in beliefs you think are false. I’d like to know specifically whether atheists are guilty of this same, specific hypocrisy that Leah pointed out.)

    • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

      Agreed that it’s consistent for an atheist to critique any and all religious practices: but it’s at least rhetorically important to show A) that you’re using it consistently; and B) that you understand its place within the religion you’re critiquing (e.g., if I understand it correctly, the undergarments are a relatively minor aspect of LDS religious practice, certainly not obligatory at all times or in all circumstances, and so a critique of the undergarment is not really a critique of anything essential to the LDS church).

    • Iota

      anodognosic,
      > is there a plank in our own eye that we’re missing?

      Full disclosure: I’m a sort-of-active Roman Catholic]
      One thing I can think of is mixing up ‘magic’ and ‘ritual’. Close second is the idea that ritual is in itself sort of silly and that indulging in it is already a bad thing we don’t need. And, consequently, that it’s a mark of intellectual ground to just laugh at the silly people who need these.

      I probably don’t need to explain why I think there’s a difference between magical thinking and ritual as such. But just in case: even if someone would want to simplify religion into magical thinking (I don’t actually think that’s entirely fair to believers), there are secular rituals that societies, groups and nations uphold. Holding a parade to commemorate a national holiday is a sort of ritual. As are individual birthdays or anniversaries. I’d say judge’s robes and at least some uniforms go in the same category, for example.

      In theory you could argue that there’s a difference between ritual that is observable to outsiders (e.g. formal clothes) and ones that only I am aware of (among them Mormon garments). But that’s only half the truth, since people wear formal clothes not just for the other person, but also for themselves – some people perceptibly change in behaviour depending on what they are wearing, as if a piece of clothes was the equivalent of putting on a ‘mask’ of one of the many ‘personas’ we have.

      Some atheists (of the ‘rationality-liking’ kind, I guess) could argue that ritual as such is unnecessary, because it’s emotive and letting your emotions guide you is a bad thing. Ritual is a crutch you shouldn’t need. The problem with this is that even if someone is capable of divorcing themselves entirely from their emotions and symbolic communication, not all people will be equally capable of that (I’d assume it’s a temperamental difference). So building a mainstream society that has no rituals whatsoever might be tricky.

      This would seem to imply that there are atheists (i.e. people who do not believe in God/gods) who might have their own rituals (whether dressing up for occasions that don’t strictly demand that or celebrating some anniversary, like a birthday). And that they are not going to disappear, unless you can postulate with a straight face that atheist = perfection in certain brand of ‘rationality’.

      That seems to imply attacking religious rituals (to the extent we agree ‘ritual’ does not equal ‘magic thinking’) is potentially very often a cheap shot, because most people have rituals – it’s just that their emotive and symbolic content is different. So I wear a suit when I go to present my paper at a conference, because I feel (and consequently act) more confident that way (a purely secular ritual I have), while a Mormon wears the garment, apparently, to remind them that they are Mormon and should behave in a properly Mormon manner – I really fail to see an important difference here, in terms of the ritual’s mechanics. If the Mormon garment is silly then so is my conference suit.

      Also, this whole discussion reminds me of that post by then-atheist Leah: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2011/10/high-octane-ritual.html

  • Ben

    I agree, it’s a cheap shot. I can’t even argue as an atheist that they’re particularly delusional – it just seems to make the wearer feel better.

  • Ben

    Anodognosic: The “magic” part of “magic underwear” is an aspersion cast by non-mormons. While everything I know about this topic comes from wikipedia, as far as I know nothing actually “magic,” is attributed to them.

    • anodognosic

      So it seems. In fact, it’s rather unlike the scapular in that way, because the scapular issupposed to have magical powers. Huh. Learn something new every day.

      • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

        Actually, a scapular does not have magical (or even miraculous) powers; like all sacramentals, it’s power is symbolic, a physical reminder or expression of prayer.

        • Iota

          Robert,

          I think anodognosic is referencing promises related to the most known brown scapular, i.e. that “Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire” (see: The Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) and the sabbatine privilege.

          Granted that it’s just a promise in a private revelation that no Catholic is obliged to believe in (therefore: it is not part of standard sacramental theology – see links) but at best hope for as a possible outcome, and granted that the shorthand good-faith explanation is (AFAIR) that if anyone actually practices the scapular devotion they will simply become more holy eventually (and, hence, receive eternal salvation), whereas anyone wearing it as a kind of ‘magic’ talisman is already committing a serious sin, so the promise doesn’t apply… I can (I think) understand how the shorthand version of promises associated with various sacramentals and devotions can look a LOT like ‘magic’ to people who don’t care for the finer details or don’t know them.

          • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

            This is my biggest issue with sacramentals (and a continuing stumbling block for this convert from Protestantism). They look, from the outside, like the sort of un-Biblical superstition that Protestants accuse Catholics of all the time. Hence I don’t (yet) wear the scapular but I do say the occasional rosary.

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    Thank you!

    There is nothing “magical” about them doctrinally; however, the stupid rumors of “magic” come from unsubstantiated folklore that the garments have stopped flames, bullets, and whatnot.

    In fact, the idea is that they are a reminder of covenants that Mormons have made, and as such serve as *spiritual* protection.

    • kenneth

      If they really are as good as Frodo’s mithril shirt, I’ll convert to LDS on that basis alone!

  • math_geek

    I think the main difference is that Mormons tend to be very reluctant to talk about their temple garments (and lots of other things about their religion) while Catholics are usually pretty willing to talk about any and all of it, including the weird stuff.

    “Magic underwear” is an aspersion, and Leah makes a good case for avoiding it, but the the real flaw indicated by the temple garments (and the private ceremonies and secret rituals) is that Mormons make a specific point of hiding much of their religious beliefs and practices, despite being an evangelical religion. I don’t think people wearing scapulars or miraculous medals have any problems talking about why they wear them.

    • http://njwv.wordpress.com njwv

      Bingo. It’s the secrecy which invites the jokes and skepticism.

      • deiseach

        Be fair: how do you casually introduce the topic of your underwear into a conversation? When you’re already having to tack on the disclaimer “No, I’m not weird, honest!” Can you blame the Mormons for wondering why the heck the rest of us are so obsessed with their longjohns and can’t we give it a rest?

        • http://njwv.wordpress.com njwv

          There’s a lot of secrecy about their religion just in general. Special underwear is just the obvious target.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Ironically.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      You must not have run into the right Mormons. The only thing we are not supposed to discuss in great detail are the ordinances (rituals) performed in our temples, which are only open to a subset of the Mormon population that meet certain standards of belief and practice (which are very general and pretty low bars to set). Understandably, many Mormons are “reluctant” to discuss any aspects thereof -including the garments of the holy priesthood- for fear that they tread improperly on sacred ground. However, Mormons can say a lot more than they typically do, judging from materials that have been released openly by the LDS Church.

      Some records, however, are pretty much open to the public. Baptisms for the dead are performed as baptisms for the living, save with proxies and appropriately altered wording, and the family history databases that show for whom the ordinances have been performed are open to be edited every Mormon who has not had that privilege taken away (as have those who against direct orders use Holocaust records or baptize deceased celebrities in the present day).

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        The only thing we are not supposed to discuss in great detail are the ordinances (rituals) performed in our temples, which are only open to a subset of the Mormon population that meet certain standards of belief and practice (which are very general and pretty low bars to set).

        Given that the ordinances are the bread and butter of Mormon worship, and that you are excluding fellow Mormons publicaly and strictly from discussing it, how can there be much sympathy? Critics — and I am one, for better or worse — can only describe the Mormon phenomenon as completely and utterly what Scientology would have been if it had come out a century earlier.

        On historical grounds, if nothing else, Mormonism doesn’t deserve a hearing; but if it did, the more Mormons talk about their faith — and not how happy they are since joining, like all their ads do — the less this faith has any credibility whatsoever.

        Please note: My negative impression of Mormonism does not come from apologetics but from Mormons.

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          There are three ordinances the details of which we should not discuss: the initiatories, the endowment, and the sealing. That’s hardly like Scientology! Also, my argument is that Mormons can share a LOT more than they often think they can about those ordinances – for example, publicly available lesson manuals have in the past described what covenants are undertaken during the endowment. One can glean a pretty good idea of what the rest of the ordinance consists of through other information (for example, interior pictures of temples published by the church). Really, there are only a handful -pun intended- of things in the ordinance that we are specifically under covenant not to speak about, and those particular things are far, far, from the “bread and butter of Mormon worship.”

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Why wouldn’t it be the bread and butter of Mormon worship, if each is something each individual Mormon must aspire to? (See comment below.)

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            I interpreted “bread and butter” as “having an influence on everyday life, making up the foundation of the majority of one’s experience with one’s religion.” In that sense, the covenants made in the Endowment ritual (sacrifice, obedience, following Christ’s gospel, chastity, and consecration – see? I can list them) have enormous bearing on everyday Mormon life. However, these are essentially the same covenants made by Mormons at baptism, and are not “secret.”

            On the other hand, specific symbols used in the Endowment ritual, which we are under covenant not to discuss, have nearly no relevance to everyday religious life, which is mainly consumed with administrational meetings and pastoral care (as we have a lay ministry). They’re maybe the parsley sometimes served alongside a big dinner, not the “bread and butter.”

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Trivial things kept secret? Very curious. I’m not sure this makes your case any more impressive.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            I don’t try to impress; impressiveness is about as useful (read: useless) a heuristic as ridiculousness. I’m just trying to accurately represent LDS belief and practice.

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          The Ubiquitous, I’m not a fan of Mormonism either, but in this thread you’re getting carried away so now I feel like I must defend them! So I’ll just note some easy retorts.

          In the early days of the Church we first-hour saints restricted access to mass. Of course public warship wasn’t an option for a persecuted Church anyway, but Catechumens too had to leave after what is now called the Liturgy of the Word. (We did away with that long ago, but it’s still symbolically visible in the names of the parts in the extraordinary form, where the “Liturgy of the Word” is the “Mass of the Catechumens” and the “Liturgy of the Eucharist” is the “Mass of the Faithful”.) That was done pretty much on the same “no observers, only participants” justification Mormons have been providing elsewhere in this thread.

          And while no part of the script ever was secret in the swear-not-to-tell sense, I do have a 19th century German prayer book that translates the Ordinary of the Mass except for the words of consecration, which are replaced by a note that these words only make real sense in the mouth of a priest and an explanation of their theological significance. Add to that, that in the form then in use (what is now the extraordinary form) even the Latin form of the Canon is prayed too quiet to be heard from the pews and I think it’s plausible to assume most faithful didn’t know them. So there clearly was a sense that the mystery should feel mysterious and that making everything visible to everybody conflicted with that.

          I think that is about as close as you can come to the bread (except not) and butter part of Catholic ritual. So while I prefer the way we do it now, I think the Mormons have pretty good pot/kettle case on hidden ritual too.

    • KL

      Another difference is that the wearing of scapulars and medals is a personal, devotional choice, whereas Mormon undergarments are a requirement of all endowed LDS. And even priests’ vestments, to address of Leah’s points, are only worn on special occasions in which the priest is performing a particular role, as opposed to constant wear as with LDS garments.

      • leahlibresco

        Which makes them more similar to a tallit katan worn by Jews.

        • KL

          Agreed. I think that’s a much better comparison.

  • Ted Seeber

    I pretty much think of scapulars as magic underwear too, I don’t wear one. But I do carry my rosary, so I guess it’s kind of the same thing.

    However, that’s not what is so hilarious about the Mormon Temple Garments. Long underwear has been a joke since it was invented in the 1700s- they even did a whole episode on MASH about a pair of long underwear making the rounds in the harsh Korean Winter (someday I’m going to have to look up that trope- Korea is pretty far south- do the winters REALLY get that harsh there?) .

    In other words, it isn’t the magic part that is funny.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      It hasn’t looked like long underwear in a long time; most people who make fun of it don’t even know what it looks like.

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Which means y’all aren’t showing it off. Which, if it really is underwear, is something which can only deserve gratitude.

      • pagansister

        The special underwear can be purchased on line, and has pictures etc. if anyone is interested. Women can also purchase it for their use, female version. My niece is a Mormon, like her father.(she is a adult). He wears the special undergarments, but she doesn’t. I think there is a choice. Her mother (my sister) and her sister (an adult also) are Methodists, so my LDS niece has a different outlook on things I suspect since all 4 of them are not members of the LDS church. My nieces are still living at home for the moment.

        • JohnH

          Not everyone wears the garment, in large part because a relatively small portion of LDS have been through the temple. Generally one first goes through when getting married or going on a mission, so the minimum age is very nearly 19 for men and whatever the local minimum age for marriage is for women (or 21 if they are going on a mission). To go through the temple requires that one actually follow such things as giving 10% to the church (tithing), not drinking tea, coffee, or alcohol, no sexual relations outside of marriage, so forth. Given that your nieces are living at home at the moment I would suspect that she has never been through the temple and for this reason doesn’t wear the garment, regardless of her living worthy to wear the garment.

    • leahlibresco

      My basement room had no heat all of last winter, so I am a big, big fan of long underwear.

    • http://www.usmc.mil S. Murphy

      Latitude’s not the only factor , I guess. (I think Naples is actually about as far north as Chicago)
      But as for Korea, ask a vet
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chosin_Reservoir

    • WhiteBirch

      My grandfather, a veteran of Korea, said that MASH had it just right, the summers were miserably hot and the winters were miserably cold. And he should know a thing or two about cold winters, as he’s from Maine. :)

  • TheresaL

    I bet modern Mormons are glad their garments no longer look like baby rompers!

    My Mormon friend has made fun of priests wearing vestments, along the lines of “men in dresses! How ridiculous!” So it goes both ways.

    Also, we should keep in mind that some pious Catholic people still wear hairshirts, even if it is rare nowadays.

    • Rachel K

      I’ve also run into the “men in dresses” thing, particularly when anything involving homosexuality is involved (“Gee, for someone who opposes gay marriage, the pope sure does love wearing a dress! Har-de-har-har!”).

      • kenneth

        I wouldn’t call papal/cardinal gear effeminate. Old School hip-hop, perhaps. Seriously, in full regalia, they are only a couple pounds of dookie rope away from D.M.C.

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        Sigh. As a Mormon, I feel holy envy for publicly-used church attire besides business suits. But Mormons too often fall into Protestant critiques of Catholicism that could, in some circumstances, be turned back on Mormonism (this is one, I believe!). If only they could be a little more open-minded!

  • Darren

    The great thing about Mormonism, at least when discussing religious matters in the good ole’ USA, is that the rituals and accoutrements are so outside of most people’s experience that their inherent silliness is apparent. Cheap shot or no, they seem strange because they are strange.
    Most people fail to see the oddness when they have been raised with it, or even if not raised with it, having grown up in a society permeated by it. For example, I was raised Assembly of God, speaking in tongues and falling down in the isles is not a strange thing, to me. However, neither is the idea of confessing my sins to a priest, or saying prayers to a little rope made of beads, despite not being raised Catholic, as mainstream American society includes such practices.
    Joseph Smith was taken by an angel to a cave with golden tablets and translated them by gazing upon seeing stones placed into his hat. Weird. How crazy do you have to be to believe that?
    Moses walked up a mountain and a magical, talking bush, which also happened to be on fire, dictated God’s own laws for him to carve onto some handily placed stone tablets. Oh, well that just makes sense.

    • leahlibresco

      Yup, this is why if you’re making these jokes, you shouldn’t just give the other team a pass, but pause and double check whether you deserve yours.

    • http://smoochagator.wordpress.com Smoochagator

      On the Moses point: you’re confusing two separate stories. The burning bush and the giving of the law happened in different places at different times. That doesn’t change the fact that (as you pointed out) they’re two very WEIRD stories.

      Having grown up in AOG-style non-denominational churches, I had a LOT of anti-Catholic prejudice to overcome as an adult. All the “they pray to saints/worship Mary/worship the Pope/keep idols/etc etc” tropes that are trotted out by every armchair theologian. It took just a little bit of googling and a couple of library books for me to understand Catholic theology better than many Catholics AND the people that regularly attack them – which is a sad commentary on how often we dismiss a person’s whole beliefe system based on misinformation and prejudice.

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    And even when approaching Mormon *theology* -and not just taking cheap shots- people tend to hit a lot of pitfalls, even when arguing in good faith.

    Here’s a nice primer to anyone interested in looking into LDS doctrine: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

    I agree that mormons tend to get some unfair treatment in general, certainly on this subject. Probably moreso this year because we have a mormon running for president. So if you don’t like Romney’s politics or party, well hey, suddenly the mormon mockery is that much funnier/that much more important.

    • leahlibresco

      Suddenly you should flag the topic as one where you may be more likely to cultivate bad reasoning because you’re distracted by the pleasure of scoring points off the opposition/necessity to have your guy’s back.

  • deiseach

    Off-topic (well, maybe tangentially related, since it involves something put out by the Globe Bible Publishing Company) but drop whatever you are doing and hie thee hence immediately to Dr. Boli’s blog to get a taste of days of yore, when it was perfectly permissible to put not one, not two, but three exclamation marks in the title of a work 0f (presumably) non-fiction, and that was only getting warmed up; I speak, of course, of “The Johnstown Horror!!! or Valley of Death”.

    I am very hesitant about clicking on the Project Gutenberg link, because am I in strong enough physical and mental health to withstand a harrowing true-life tale of “A complete and thrilling account of the awful floods and their appalling ruin” that is, moreover, “fully illustrated with scenes of the great calamity”?

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    People always mock what they don’t understand and as someone said, some Mormons haven’t helped with their stories of underwear stopping bullets (although Catholics have lots of um, extreme stories, too. You gotta love St. Denis carrying his severed head…) and I think the idea of sacred underwear falls under that category. And of course, some ppl are perpetual 14 year olds and just can’t help but snicker b/c it’s “underwear” Har har. You’ve done a good job in bringing up the sacred outerwear — I’d include hijab and huns habits and veils, in that, too — and the scapulars as well. As someone who undertook wearing a Brown scapular a few years, as a penance and a discipline (it itches me so!), I tend to be respectful of folks wearing religious garments under their clothes — especially under their clothes — be he an Orthodox Jew wearing a prayer vest (or his wife in a wig) or a Mormon. It’s no fun thing to wear something under your clothes (in secret, between you and God, where you get no social gratification from it) and submit to wearing it in all weather, with all attending discomforts. When people do, particularly when they know there is a risk of being targeted for it — it speaks better of them, not worse, imho. It’s easier to not do it. But what is great about ‘easy’?

    • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

      “It’s no fun thing to wear something under your clothes (in secret, between you and God…)”

      This is a really good example of what I was saying below in response to Brandon: according to the believer, there’s something special going on here that warrants phrases like “between you and God.” As I understand it, there’s a trivial sense in which everything is “between you and God,” but I rather doubt that that’s the sense that’s being used here. There must, therefore, be some additional, God-related thing that’s supposed to happen or develop as the result of wearing a holy garment. For all intents and purposes, it therefore seems to make quite a lot of sense to refer to them as “magical.”

      If wearing Fruit of the Loom won’t do what wearing special Mormon underwear will do; if the alleged religious properties of Mormon underwear are explainable only by divine fiat; if just wearing special Mormon underwear is what’s supposed to have the special effect…I’d say that’s magic.

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        Unless you assign to “God” an arbitrary “magic” category unto himself, what you’re arguing here is that all clothes beyond the most basic utility thereof consists of “magic.” As brought up below, under this critique, wearing a sports jersey or a logo-marked tee would count as “magic” because it is conceived as having a purpose beyond what a plain white version of the same would have.

        • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

          “As brought up below, under this critique, wearing a sports jersey or a logo-marked tee would count as “magic” because it is conceived as having a purpose beyond what a plain white version of the same would have.”

          Sorry, this is just wrong. There are many different non-magical purposes for wearing clothing, some of which are actually quite subtle and complicated. The popularity thing is a really good example: wearing a certain brand in order to become popular is far from “the most basic utility” that clothes provide, but it is the sort of effect that one could expect clothing to have without appealing to magic. Society may be weird and nonsensical from a Vulcan-rationalist point of view, but supernatural it ain’t. Another good example is costuming. Whatever “the most basic utility” of clothing is, it presumably does not include the utility of dressing up like you’re an animal or a cartoon character or someone from the future who lives on the moon. But does that make dress-up a magical activity? As I’ve already said, not necessarily – one can costume oneself simply for the sake of entertainment, which is hardly a magical end.

          Now, if you want to ask about “lucky” jerseys and whatnot, then I totally agree with you there: those purposes are absolutely, 100% magical. But it’s really quite simpleminded to think that I’m attempting to reduce clothing to a way of trapping heat and protecting ourselves from abrasions. I mean, c’mon – have a little more imagination, would you?

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Okay, poor examples. I apologize. Here’s a better one:

            Wedding rings. Worn as a symbol of covenants one makes with a spouse – and save in extenuating circumstances, neglecting to wear it can be interpreted as diminution of those vows.

            This is similar to the garment, save that the covenants connected to the garment are a series of instructions attributed to deity, and in one case regard obligations the covenant-maker have toward others in their broader community (the church) – those that have made similar covenants.

            Is the mention of God the thing that makes the garment magical and the wedding ring not?

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            It depends on how hardcore you’re being about the wedding ring, but assuming that the extenuating circumstances are defined in a reasonable way, then yes: it’s the appeal to the supernatural that makes the one case magical where the other is not. There’s no mystery about the way in which a wedding ring symbolizes a covenant that one makes with one’s spouse, nor is there any need to explain that by way of something mystical; once you identify it as a symbol in such-and-such a cultural context, you know everything you need to know. God telling you to wear a skullcap or a special collar or a giant black sheet, on the other hand, is quite mysterious, because you can no longer just rely on things like cultural contexts or mutual peer agreement – i.e., the things that make up and support symbolic covenants between humans. You need to bring some entirely different sort of thing into the discussion, and it’s that point at which things start to get hazy.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Thanks for the clarification!

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    Btw, that’s NUNS habits, not huns. Although I am sure they also suffered for their clothing choices. :-)

  • KL

    My theological objection to a lot of Mormon practices (I’m pretty neutral on the underwear) has to do with the secrecy surrounding them, whether through explicit instruction or simple reticence to discuss them, as well as the barriers that are deliberately erected around full participation in the (secrecy-shrouded) rituals. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of requiring a temple recommend, and its accompanying guarantee of orthopraxy and financial cooperation, in order to enter the grounds even as a spectator. Catholicism may be kooky, but anyone is allowed to come and observe.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      One issue is that in the endowment ritual there are no “spectators,” only participants. Do you argue that spectators’ galleries should be installed in LDS temples? (Especially when everything you’d see in the temple is readily available online, haha.) Is there no value in having consecrated spaces?

      And should TV cameras be allowed in a papal conclave?

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Would you like a list of reasons papal conclaves are dissimilar from initiation rituals which of necessity involve the general body of the faithful and, in fact, the person you would be talking to?

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          No, I know they’re different. I just wanted to point out that there are things that each faith keeps from the public.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Which is not the accusation at hand.

            I’m uncomfortable with the idea of requiring a temple recommend, and its accompanying guarantee of orthopraxy and financial cooperation, in order to enter the grounds …

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          Unless religious practices are only acceptable insofar as they map onto Catholic ones ;)

    • KL

      The specific circumstance I had in mind was weddings, at which all of the bride and groom’s family members/guests must hold current recommends. Endowments are, I agree, a different matter as far as “spectating” goes. Nevertheless, I still have strong misgivings about the practice of worthiness interviews prior to issuing recommends. A consecrated space need not be exclusive. It can be holy and regarded with reverence and still admit non-adherents within its walls, so long as they are informed of behavioral expectations, etc.

      Papal conclaves are a completely different category from everyday worship. I wouldn’t begrudge any institution, religious or secular, the right to deliberate privately regarding the choice of its next leader.

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        You are right; sealing do allow spectators. However, the sealing ordinance is very closely tied to the Endowment to the point that the same ritual clothing used in the Endowment is required at a sealing. Besides the closed nature of the temple overall, this is another reason the sealing would be kept private.

        In fact, temple ordinances fall under “a completely different category from everyday worship.” Mormon everyday worship is open to all.

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          But they are a higher level of ordinances to which EVERY Mormon MUST aspire. Therefore, it should be fair game for EVERYONE looking to join Mormonism to know the detail about it.

          • JohnH

            Everyone that joins Mormonism is taught to know that families can be together forever and that we do work for our dead ancestors,, which are the major focuses of temple worship. They might not know all the details of washing and anointing or the endowment (unless they check Google) but they would know that such things exist. Besides washing and anointing and clothing is laid out fairly explicitly in places like Exodus, the garment is found throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon, and if I were comfortable in sharing everything in the endowment (which I am not) I could also demonstrate that everything in it is found in scripture, primarily in the Bible.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Considering that the Mormon faith would forbid promulgation of the rituals, it would not be considered “fair game” by a Mormon for a prospective Mormon to Google what these rituals entailed.

            The criticism of secrecy is not that certain things are knowable, but that the use of secrecy lends a sense of mystique and community of itself without regard to the meaningfulness of the ritual. As a second point, secrecy is routinely used by liars and con men to cover up their loose ends. For these reasons and probably others, the use of secrecy, without good cause, is reasonably suspect.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            … certain things are *unknowable* ….

          • JohnH

            And who is to judge that the ordinances of Heaven with which God rules with His arm and strong hand, and with which He ” measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance” (Isaiah 40:12) are things that are secret without good cause or not?

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Is not the creation of “mystique and community” an essential element of ritual, period? (In ritual theory it’s called communitas.)

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Yes. But in religious ritual these qualities should not depend on the secrecy of a thing. Public ritual is a great deal more powerful — but it only works if it involves the truth.

            It’s very hard to hide smoke and mirrors in public. Secrecy, when regarding something to which all the faithful should aspire, is a very bad sign.

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        Also, it is important to realize that the phenomenon you describe -non-Mormon relatives being unable to attend Mormon weddings because they cannot attend the sealing ordinance- is a particularly American problem that arises from the ability of American religious leaders to perform legal marriages. In countries where this is not the case, Mormons get married civilly and have a distinctly separate sealing ceremony afterwards.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      Visitors are allowed on to the grounds at any time, and are allowed to tour the temple themselves before they are dedicated (consecrated, in Mormonsprach).

      The temple rite is essentially a heavenly ascent ritual and is exclusive for the same reason that heaven is exclusive.

      The other reason is we think its extremely sacred and should not be mocked, for the sake of the mocker’s soul if nothing else. And based on the reactions here and elsewhere, our suspicion that mockery would be a primary response are not unfounded. You may argue that we would reduce mockery by making them more open, but I for one disagree.

      There are many things that are done differently when played for an audience.

  • Steve

    While mockery isn’t really productive in terms of a dialogue, it’s nearly impossible to address people assigning real supernatural qualities to clothing or accessories they wear (or anything else for that matter) without addressing the high possibility that there isn’t anything special about those garments. What makes us categorize mormon undergarments or rosaries in one light and someone wearing an aluminum foil hat to protect their brain from aliens or the CIA in another? Does replacing the word ‘magical’ with ‘supernatural’ (or something of the sort) change anything in the sentiment that those views might be silly (and not ‘silly’ as in different, but silly as in departing from reality)? How should we regard someone who puts on a red suit and a beard because he thought it made him Santa Claus? Am I my foregoing my position as a rationalist by suggesting that person is suffering from a delusion?

    • leahlibresco

      It looks like most of the religions don’t these clothes are magical or supernatural in the first place, so there’s not that much to debunk. The bit you want to contest (“I wear these because they’re an appropriate way to show devotion to God”) you really want to contest at the “there’s a god” or “there’s a god that humans should be devoted to in some way” not at the level of “this is an appropriate way of expressing said devotion.”

      • Brandon

        Why could someone not contest both bits separately? I think someone who is an atheist (or any religion that doesn’t hold garments to be a good way of showing devotion) can reasonably grant the existence of the God in question for a moment and still contest whether said God cares one way or the other for a set of garments.

        • leahlibresco

          Sure, go for it. I like that kind of argument, but it only works if you understand the other side well enough to make sure your representation of their god is reasonably accurate.

          • Brandon

            I’m not convinced that I’m nearly well informed enough to make that argument, just pointing out that it can reasonably be done.

        • deiseach

          So atheists don’t wear t-shirts with slogans on them? Or the replica jerseys of their favourite sports team? Or aprons with “funny” slogans? Or – but you get my drift.

          • Brandon

            I personally don’t. I suppose most people do. I never really thought about why I don’t do that. It’s not out of some faux individualism or something, they just don’t really appeal to me for some reason.

            I’d think that there’s a bit more meaning tied up in temple garments and other religious items than a simple expression of support for a sports team though, so I’m not sure the comparison is apt anyway.

          • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

            Or the Boy Scouts a uniform? Or the military? Or police?

            Or sailors tattoos of their momma and hipsters tattoos that best represent the authentic inner self to which they have pledged their troth?

      • Steve

        Are you suggesting the wearing of religious clothing has the supernatural significance of someone wearing a baseball cap of their favorite team? What about transubstantiation? Is the Eucharist simply a wafer & wine or is it the body & blood of Christ in some sort of real sense?

        • leahlibresco

          Yes, I think the Eucharist is in a different category from sacramentals like scapulars or non-sacramental devotional clothes (like a habit or a chapel veil).

          • Steve

            ehhh differentiating between the two here is deflecting from the point that assigning supernatural properties to otherwise regular items is irrational, even if that supernatural assignment is indirect via the explanation that it’s a devotional garment to or for a supernatural being. True however that much of the irrationality noted stems ultimately from the belief or disbelief in God and that the clothing or wine & wafers are simply an extension of that view, which in all fairness to you isn’t the focus of this particular blog entry.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            The Eucharist is in substance different. The sacredness of sacramentals and religious objects is different in quality and kind to the sacredness of, say, relics of saints, not to mention the sacredness of the Eucharist, who is God Himself from which all sacredness comes.

            There’s such a big difference that I’m not sure how any comparison could possibly be apt.

        • deiseach

          No, what I’m saying is that if it is fundamentally irrational to wear clothing for some purpose higher or other than mere functionality, then it is an irrational practice shared by much of our species, even including members who make a point of being rational beings.

          Wearing special clothing that indicates like-mindedness with others who share a common interest, and expressing what can be termed devotion (in one of its senses) to an entity, organisation or even prinicple is not something alien even to atheists. You could not pay me to wear a t-shirt with my favourite band or something like it on the front, but people routinely hand over large sums of money for the privilege of being walking billboards for a sports team, band or expensive clothing shop.

          If you’re going to be consistent, you should go right out and picket The Gap (0r whatever is the current in the mode trendy clothing shop, I have no idea what it might be) and chastise all the customers for indulging in magical thinking that wearing these garments with the label will magically make them cool, hip, attractive or stylish.

          :-)

          • Steve

            I’m not dismissing the wearing of clothing (or whatever) as a symbolic means to signify some sort community or like-mindedness, whether it’s a religious binding or a sports team jersey or a dopey Gap outfit or gang colors, nor would I consider that practice in and of itself as something irrational. I’d wear a batman tee-shirt to go see the new batman movie, though if I did so with the belief that I was doing so to remind myself and others that I thought Bruce Wayne was a real person that’d be a different story. I do think that there is a deeper significance implied with religious garments that dives into the irrational territory, though again, in fairness perhaps that’s a broader topic for another blog entry.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            Perhaps logo T-shirts are a little flippant, but what about wedding rings, or friendship bracelets or whatever kids wear these days, or those two-part heart necklaces I sometimes see – in other words, decorations that express and remind both the wearer and others of a relationship that exists? Is that irrational?

            I could see an argument that it is unnecessary in a strict sense; but I have a hard time seeing how it is contrary to reason. Gratuitous, perhaps, but not irrational.

            If so, then the atheist objection to Mormon garments or other religious accessories is that they express a relationship or connection that an atheist believes to be false.

          • Steve

            Wedding rings signify a partnership with a real spouse, as friendship bracelets signify friendships with a real person. Other symbolic ornaments might suggest membership in a larger group, or at least a sympathizer with a group or intangible cause. To an athiest, the belief in god is similar to the belief in the easter bunny and equally irrational and the subsequent dressings that go beyond simply announcing membership are only different from someone wearring an aluminum hat in that the quantity of people who engage in the practice is higher. I don’t think athiests object to mormon garments (or any other religious wear for that matter). I certainly don’t have a problem with the practice.

        • http://njwv.wordpress.com njwv

          If you talk to die-hard sports fans, their choice of clothing for games has extreme supernatural significance. Almost every fan I know has a lucky shirt or a game-hat or some ritual they have to do before/during the game.

          • Steve

            There is nothing supernatural about wearing a jersey to show your support a team. If someone thinks their shirt is their ‘lucky shirt’ or that their socks actually help the team win, those items still do no possess any supernatural significance and that person is suffering from a delusion.

        • Alan

          Ubiquitous – Of course that sacredness is only to those who believe in the magic fairy tale behind it. To those who don’t they are all equally silly.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Well, no. The sacredness is not dependent on what I believe but on if the thing is itself connected with divine grace, and on if divine grace exists. If I die an apostate and Catholicism is true, the Eucharist does not suddenly become holy at the point of my death.

          • Alan

            Yes, yes. And if you die a Catholic and it is all a silly fairy tale it was a silly fairy tale the whole time. So when you assert “the sacredness of the Eucharist, who is God Himself from which all sacredness comes” it is premised on your understanding of truth – not necessarily on truth as it actually is. For one whose premise is sacredness comes from within human minds than there is no difference in the supposed sacredness between the wafer and the underwear.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            That’s exactly what I said?

      • Darren

        The appellation “magic underwear” is very accurately labeled as a ‘cheap shot’. From my limited knowledge of LDS thinking, sacred or ritual is much closer in flavor, and the accumulation of spiritual benefits falls well short of the tangible Harry-Potter cause=effect that we mean by “magic”.
        Now, in my own upbringing, there are plenty of examples of actual magical thinking that are (unfairly) being given a pass.
        Anyone remember Pat Robertson claiming personal responsibility for the tendency of hurricanes moving up the Eastern seaboard to swing Eastward, back into the ocean, just south of Virginia Beach (his home)? I do. Cause and effect: Pat prays, the hurricanes move away from his house.
        How about prayer cloths / healing cloths? Send a small donation, get a piece of fabric in the mail infused with the power of God, apply cloth to affected body part, receive miracle healing!
        On the negative side, how about 9/11 hijackers being ‘permitted’ to evade all of the countries’ security measures, and even having cloudless flying weather to better pick their targets, because God was punishing America for tolerating pagans and homosexuals? Again, cause and effect.
        While these might be a little out there, Prosperity Theology is highly visible, and can in no way be considered ‘fringe’, yet it is very clearly ritual magic at work…

  • Brandon

    I can see why this makes sense for religious folks to go ahead and not make light of ritual garb or practice, as they’re inviting it on themselves, but I’m not clear how the same applies to atheists. I actually rather hope someone points it out to me if I’m doing something as apparently silly as wearing temple garments or priestly vestments, as I’d like to make with the not doing things that make me look silly.

    I agree that mocking ritual practices isn’t particularly fruitful if the goal is actual dialogue or discussion though. There’s just not really much to be gained other than a cheap laugh.

    • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

      “I can see why this makes sense for religious folks to go ahead and not make light of ritual garb or practice, as they’re inviting it on themselves, but I’m not clear how the same applies to atheists.”

      Quite. In particular, at one point Leah said that “you should be able to spot what the adherents [of a given system] love about their system in order to take it out, since you actually want to attack at the strongest point.” Whether or not the garments are really meant to be magical or supernatural, believers certainly do seem to rely quite heavily on “us[ing] physical practices to help people deal with the abstract-feeling transcendent.” In particular, religious people rely on those practices to deal with their feelings by placing them into a very specific metaphysical framework, i.e., that of the religion in question. Wouldn’t that, therefore, make “magical underpants” part of the thing that Mormons love about their religion? And, if so, wouldn’t that actually compel atheists to “attack” it (at least, by Leah’s logic)?

      Granted, mockery isn’t the only means of attack. But, as you yourself just said, Brandon, it’s REALLY hard to come up with a straight-faced way of discussing magical undergarments. Furthermore, there may be some “strongest points” that are only (or only effectively) open to attack by something like mockery. A feeling of social belonging and acceptance, for instance, can only realistically be countered by a feeling of being socially outcast or disrespected. So if the magic underpants are about belonging, then mockery (a demonstration of not-belonging) could well be appropriate. (About which, additionally: to say that such-and-such a garment is appropriate for religious devotion is in essence to say that it’s magical. I see no meaningful distinction between the two assertions.) I really still don’t see why mockery is off the table.

      • leahlibresco

        I think if you start attacking “us[ing] physical practices to help people deal with the abstract-feeling transcendent” you’re going to lose too many useful things. Just like I thought it was a bad idea when PZ Myers attacked atheist groups that put an emphasis on ritual and authority.

        • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

          Right, hence the follow up: “In particular, religious people rely on those practices to deal with their feelings by placing them into a very specific metaphysical framework, i.e., that of the religion in question.” Again, this is a problem that nonbelievers don’t (or, anyway, shouldn’t) have: our rituals don’t have to connect to anything at all. They can just be for fun, like going to the movies or playing tennis. That’s a very different thing than having fun according to a doctrinal system of rules that also claims to have special insight and authority with respect to the nature of reality.

          This, incidentally, is one of the major troubles with categorical-imperative-based reasoning: I can always just pick the category that works for me. The insistence that I not do X on the basis of A means nothing at all if I can just do X on the basis of some safer reason (i.e., one less likely to come back and bite me). And there is *always* a safer reason.

      • Skittle

        “to say that such-and-such a garment is appropriate for religious devotion is in essence to say that it’s magical. I see no meaningful distinction between the two assertions.”

        What about “being appropriate for religious devotion” necessarily means “magical”? Are you meaning, “appropriate for use in religious devotion” or “appropriate to be the subject of religious devotion”?

        When people talk about appropriate images to include on religious clothing, are you imagining that they necessarily believe these images to have some power beyond the thoughts and emotions they evoke?

        • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

          I guess this could just be a language issue. When you’re looking for just regular clothes, do you think to yourself (or have the accompanying feelings of thinking to yourself): “Ah, that one is appropriate for me” or “No, that one is inappropriate”? Surely not as a general rule. You might go out specifically with the intention of finding something that’s appropriate for a social function, say – but you’ll note that even THAT means referring to “some power beyond the thoughts and emotions they evoke” in you. Not supernatural powers, obviously, but still the point is the same: when I think of appropriateness, I think of judging by some external (i.e., relatively objective) standard. So if it’s a specifically religious-ritualistic sort of appropriateness, you’ve got an external standard in play and (by hypothesis) that standard is one that relates back to the supernatural. So…yeah, magic.

          Maybe you disagree, but then I’d just chalk this up to a difference in language. My point would still remain.

          • Skittle

            I’d disagree. If you were attending a formal occasion and chose respectful clothing, you would not necessarily be saying the garment was magical, although you would have chosen it based on ritualistic appropriateness. Even if you were attending a religious formal occasion, whether or not you believed in the religion, you would have chosen based on ritualistic appropriateness (being respectful) rather than necessarily because you thought the garment was magical.

            I do not see what meaning of the phrase “it’s magical” you can be using which would make this work.

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            “I’d disagree. If you were attending a formal occasion and chose respectful clothing, you would not necessarily be saying the garment was magical”

            ??

            Here’s what I said was involved in formal occasions: “Not supernatural powers, obviously.” So I’m confused. Where do you get me saying that magic is involved, when I explicitly and firmly say that the supernatural had nothing to do with it?

            The difference in the case of religious devotion is that religious devotion uses “(by hypothesis) [a] standard [that] is one that relates back to the supernatural.” If the supernatural is involved, that’s the magic part; if the supernatural isn’t involved, there’s obviously no magic there. Which, again, is what I said the first time.

          • Skittle

            I was referring to:
            “So if it’s a specifically religious-ritualistic sort of appropriateness, you’ve got an external standard in play and (by hypothesis) that standard is one that relates back to the supernatural. So…yeah, magic.”

            I was trying to understand why you would think applying an external standard for what is appropriate clothing for a religious ritual necessarily involves saying the clothing is magical, and why you would think the two phrases given earlier in the conversation were equivalent.

            If you wear clean, modest, smart clothing to your cousin’s religious wedding, even though you do not believe in God, you have chosen your clothes based on their appropriateness for religious devotion according to your approximation of your cousin’s beliefs, an external standard with origins in supernatural belief, but neither you nor your cousin considers your clothes ‘magic’ in any way. You are simply being respectful.

            A priest’s vestments are chosen to be appropriate for religious devotion, but they are not considered to have any magical properties, or indeed any supernatural properties (there is a difference in Catholic theology which I wouldn’t expect you to agree with, but which is useful to know).

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            “If you wear clean, modest, smart clothing to your cousin’s religious wedding, even though you do not believe in God, you have chosen your clothes based on their appropriateness for religious devotion according to your approximation of your cousin’s beliefs…”

            There’s your answer right there: in this case, you have chosen your clothing based on your cousin’s beliefs. Conceding to someone else’s desires is not the same as attempting to do what’s appropriate for religious devotion, any more than wearing a Lakers jersey for your boyfriend (say, because you’re going to a game together) makes you a Lakers fan. The thing that you’re getting dressed up for isn’t the religious devotion in this case; indeed, in the scenario above, you don’t even have to *participate* in the religious devotion, and so it makes no sense to think that you’re hoping to participate in it *well* or *appropriately.* All you’re getting dressed up for is a social event. The fact that other people are engaging in religious devotion as a part of that event makes no difference at all.

            “A priest’s vestments are chosen to be appropriate for religious devotion, but they are not considered to have any magical properties, or indeed any supernatural properties (there is a difference in Catholic theology which I wouldn’t expect you to agree with, but which is useful to know).”

            Could you spell this out? All the theology of clothing that I’ve heard of is either purely social in the end (e.g. it symbolizes some thing, which the flock can be relied upon to understand and appreciate) and so not *for* devotion, or else is expected to have some supernatural devotional effect (pleasing God, say). And, again, it helps to remember that “appropriate for religious devotion according to X’s beliefs” is really just a longer way of saying “appropriate for matching X’s beliefs”; so if that’s the form of your explanation, you might as well not bother. But maybe you do have some middle path, in which case you should please be explicit about what that is.

  • Skittle

    I make a deliberate decision not to bring up things like the Mormon underwear in a mocking manner, because I’m aware of my own emotional bias. I do find it particularly weird, though, as when I see it discussed, it seems to be viewed like the (superstitious) way some Catholics view the scapular, and I also think that more superstitious view of the scapular reduces it to magic rather than faith. If the superstitious view of the scapular had been taught and required for all Catholics in good standing, then I would seriously question the validity of the Church.

    The scapular parallel is otherwise good. I don’t think you can parallel it to habits and vestments, as those are not considered to add any particular Grace by being worn, but are simply a sign of respect. They can take many forms, and it isn’t disastrous if Mass must be said and no vestments are available. How I have heard the Mormon belief on the undergarments explained (and I find you have to be careful, as it can be difficult to get a bead on what has actually been official Mormon teaching and belief at any given time, particularly since there is a stated intention to withhold more difficult beliefs and practices until someone is more committed, and younger and newer Mormons may simply never have encountered the older practices and beliefs, plus the inherent tendency of people to sensationalise in the telling), it is viewed as more than a simple discipline or sign of respect. Wearing the garments is supposed to convey some Grace and protection, in its own right, and not wearing them is a terrible thing for a Mormon to do.

    I suppose a test I’d have to understand it would be:
    St Maximilian Kolbe didn’t have to worry about a lack of vestments when he said the Mass in a concentration camp, because he was still as respectful and reverent as possible in the situation. Would a Mormon in a concentration camp be concerned over not being able to wear his temple garments, and that this would count against him when he died?

    Essentially, are the Temple Garments viewed as sacramentals, or as Sacraments (sources of divine Grace, rather than ways to manifest respect and direct ourselves to God)?

    • Ted Seeber

      Endowment would be the Sacrament, the garments a Sacramental thereof.

      What I learned from this thread (well, from the wikipedia article when I looked it up): Joseph Smith became a freemason just a few weeks before introducing this ceremony, thus the square and compass in the Temple Garments.

      As a Catholic Knight of Columbus, I can respect that.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      In answer to the first question, while a Mormon would desire to continue wearing the garment, if it is impossible to do so (especially in a circumstance like a concentration camp!), the attitude would be that God would see and honor the unfulfillable intention.

      As to the second question, I’m unfamiliar with the Catholic language that contrasts Sacraments and Sacramentals, as Mormons do not use the terms (Sacrament is used, but in a less rigorous sense). While I suspect Ted Seeber’s analysis is roughly correct, would you mind clarifying the meanings?

    • JohnH

      See Exodus 28:1-3, 41-43 and Exodus 29:4-9 to explain the garment (note: the Urim and Thummim described in Exodus 28 was neither worn by normal priests that ministered in the temple nor is it worn by normal temple goers today).

      The Mormon in the concentration camp would not in any way be hindered in performing any of the priestly duties that he could possibly be called upon to perform in the concentration camp but would not be able to perform ordinances in a temple without be clothed in the proper manner, as Christ points out in Matthew 22:11-12. Having been once washed and anointed and clothed to serve in the presence of God then being forced to die without the garment would be of no consequence assuming he (or she) was otherwise living worthy of being in the presence of God.

      The garments are hallowed (Exodus 29:21) as are we supposed to be as well so that we can enter the presence of God as found in the Most Holy Place of the temple (the Holy of Holies, Sanctum sanctorum, which are our Celestial and sealing rooms). Now if one looked at the referenced scriptures in Matthew 22 or Exodus 28 then one would have seen that not having the garment on while in say a sealing room for a marriage would be considered a bad thing and, according to Jewish tradition and scripture, potentially fatal (God’s presence slew Jewish priests that bore iniquity, I am not aware of any such thing happening in LDS temples).

      Putting on the garment is part of putting on the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) or the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:13) so that we can “withstand in the evil day”. see http://www.lds.org/ensign/1997/08/the-temple-garment-an-outward-expression-of-an-inward-commitment

      “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
      “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:4–5).

  • kenneth

    As a pagan, I’m in no position at all to mock anyone’s sacramental vestments! As for the underwear issue, clearly our community hasn’t had enough buy-in of the underwear phenomenon as a whole to render any judgment on one style or another…..

    I will assert that we do have the best ritual blades of any religious or quasi-religious group, outside of the Gurkha Kukri and, of course, the katana…. I would also put up some of our chalices against the RCC’s best.

    • pagansister

      Kenneth, I’m just glad that they are wearing underwear. If it happens to be magical, so be it. Like your 2nd paragraph!

      • leahlibresco

        As opposed to magical people not wearing underwear? Like that wizard at the Quidditch World Cup in book 4?

        One of them was a very old wizard who was wearing a long flowery nightgown. The other was clearly a Ministry wizard; he was holding out a pair of pinstriped trousers and almost crying with exasperation.
        “Just put them on, Archie, there’s a good chap. You can’t walk around like that, the Muggle at the gate’s already getting suspicious-”
        “I bought this in a Muggle shop,” said the old wizard stubbornly. “Muggles wear them.”
        “Muggle women wear them, Archie, not the men, they wear these,” said the Ministry wizard, and he brandished the pinstriped trousers.
        “I’m not putting them on,” said old Archie in indignation. “I like a healthy breeze ’round my privates, thanks.”

  • Tanner

    As a garment wearing, temple worthy Latter-Day Saint I thank you for this well written article. It really gets annoying to see people continually throwing up the “They have magic underwear” phrase any time Mormons get mentioned. First of all we never claim they are “magic” and seriously they are just underwear that remind us of the covenants that we make. Most people wouldn’t even notice anything weird about them if they saw me in them except maybe that I’m wearing white boxers instead of some designer patterned brand. I would only say that I wish you had not used the picture of the garments in your article. I understand why you did it, and I recognize that you needed to provide a visual reference to the majority of your readers who are not familiar with the garments. I only think that having the image there will make many LDS hesitant to share your excellent article with their friends simply because it contains the image. Nevertheless I understand why you did it and if I was in your position I probably would have done the same.

    • EButler

      Leah, I want to thank you for standing up against the mocking of other religions. You make some great points. However, I agree with Tanner regarding the image you used in your article. You may have not been aware of this, but for many LDS members who consider the garments sacred, even displaying pictures of them publicly is considered a form of mockery. Unfortunately, including the image is actually negating the important (and appreciated!) message of your blog post.

  • http://broda2.blogspot.com/ Brother Dan

    Well Leah, welcome to the Christian family. We’re a family that is filled with insecurities about the other members of our family. If they’re not on our side of the clan, then we must treat them with this childlike mentality of ‘you’re either for us or against us’. Many other Christians put down Catholics for being too liturgical, too focussed on statues and images, and will even go as far as to claim that we’re not ‘real Christians’, and many of ours fight back with this kind of nonsense. I think it’s insecurity and ignorance on both sides. Some members of smaller Christian communities find it easier to hate the big bad Catholic Church that is obviously way bigger than they will ever be, and many Catholics find it easier to dismiss them with these kinds of jibes (“how dare you take yourself seriously with your magic underwear”).

    I think the only answer is dialogue. Interestingly enough, I am about to give up on internet dialogue with people of other Christian denominations, because I find that the internet brings out the idiot in people, and it becomes impossible to ‘discuss rationally’. Especially on sites like Youtube. Your page would be one of the only sites where I will bother responding these days…so keep up the good work with your efforts to dialogue! It’s a bumpy road, and people will give you trouble for such views -especially in this Church- so stand strong behind them!

    • http://broda2.blogspot.com/ Brother Dan

      Point of clarification:
      When I say “we must treat them with this childlike mentality of ‘you’re either for us or against us” I really am making this as an observation on how things are, not on how they should be.
      And obviously, I haven’t lost faith in my Christian brothers and sisters..I know there are people who are bigger than the labels we use, who transcend the use of these labels we have. Thank God for them. Otherwise, our Church really would be in deep doodoo.

  • Jeff

    I never heard anything about “magical”.

    But are you REALLY making the argument that no one could find sacred underwear a bit SILLY unless they also found sacred vestments silly?

    I don’t agree. And I don’t think I would have agreed in my non-religious or atheist days either.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      Well, you’ll have to explain why clothing worn under other clothing is somehow essentially different (“sillier”) from clothing worn outside other clothing. (Mormon garments are not intended as underwear, per se, but are not to be worn on top of clothing. If Mormons wanted to, they could wear things under the garments.)

      • Jeff

        Why do I have to “explain” that? To whose satisfaction?

        Suppose a religion mandates the wearing of big false noses during worship? Or the saving of sacred feces? Or the imitation of parrots? Or uses “On Top of Old Smoky” as a sacred hymn on the grounds that it was actually revealed by alien space guides and is a coded revelation of the fate of mankind?

        Would giggling be okay? A snigger or two? A little eye rolling?

        I can argue that sacred underwear is sillier than sacred outer vestments….making sure that one’s appearance is fitting and dignified is important; traditional notions of beauty; the preservation of the ancient; underwear is clothing of necessity, a shield against dirt and sweat, etc….but those arguments can’t be definitive, of course.

        But my main argument is simply that it’s not hypocritical to think sacred underwear is silly and sacredvestments aren’t. There needs to be room in these discussions for people to be allowed to find stuff silly. And I’ve given some reasons why.

        And turnabout is fair play: if you find Catholicism silly, no sweat!

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          I don’t find Catholicism silly.

          And it must be recognized that “that seems silly” is no argument at all, and often simply seems to mark a person or practice as an object of derision, unworthy of meaningful engagement.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Well, assuming the truth of the reasons stated below — this may be the flaw of the observer, of course, and these objections may in fact be false — Mormonism is absolutely unworthy of meaningful engagement. Maybe the whole Mormon “underwear” objection is a kind of synecdoche, shorthand for the overall absurdity observed in Mormonism.

            This said, Mormon persons, being made in the image of God, are always worthy of meaningful engagement.

        • deiseach

          Think of it as a pratical matter; if the wearing of vestments or special clothing was mandated for Mormons as an everyday matter (rather than being put on for a ritual and then taken off again), then what is easier: wearing undergarments or some form of clothing under your everyday apparel, or wearing special garb that you dress up in? If we remember that this religion was established in the 19th century, surely you can see why it was easier for farmers and manual workers and businessmen and the lay people going about their daily affairs to wear garments hidden from public view, rather than wearing distinctive garb that would have invited even more perception of them as odd, foreign and unusual?

          That was an argument back in the heady days of Vatican II for clergy and religious giving up the habit and priestly dress; that it made too much of a division between laity and clergy, and seemed to set the clergy and religious aside from the life of the world. Indeed, there are several photographs from the late 60s/early 70s of a certain priest and professor of theology named Joseph Ratzinger wearing a suit instead of clerical dress.

          So no, I’m not going to say that a pragmatic decision taken in the 19th century that Mormons would wear their special garb under their outer clothing, rather than going about attired in a tunic or or sash or whatever, means that this makes their special garb sillier.

  • Jeff

    I guess it’s part of a wider objection.

    Some people find Catholicism silly. That’s okay with me.

    I find Scientology SILLY. Little fake machines to help you be spiritually “clear”? GOOFY.

    I find Mormonism SILLY. Golden tablets written in reformed Egyptian? Magic spectacles for the prophet to read them? Elephants and horses and the Twelve Tribes of Israel in pre Columbian America? NUTTY.

    I don’t think there should be a rule against finding aspects of religious belief or even whole belief systems silly.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      You have proved Leah’s point that objections to “magic underwear” are often distractions from the “real objections” at work.

      Also, try to engage Mormon belief more than “Thank goodness my religion began before the Enlightenment and my scripture has no factual inaccuracies” ;)

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Mormon belief is pretty nutty. None of the spectacle seems to tie into any deeper truth. It’s all so ephemeral, all based on shallow ordinances, and bizarre ahistorical nonsense claims.

        Secondly, it doesn’t even work as a case of a silent witness. As a proper case contra Mormonism, its origins are pretty well explained by the following phenomena:

        These movements in 19th century America:
        1. Restorationism, including an unbalanced adulation of the King James translation;
        2. Free Love communes, though this element has been deserted for about a century;
        3. Manifest Destiny, and the attitudes this entails.

        These sort of people:
        1. Young, male con men influenced by folk paganism of whites in North America.
        2. Dissatisfied Pietists influenced deeply by the biases and approaches of Protestantism.

        On top of all of this, the behavior of the Mormon faith has been to advertise happiness, not truth. At every turn when talking to a Mormon, there is never the occasion of truth — unless the interlocutor brings it up. Then it’s explained that the first hermeneutic for truth so far is to take the Book of Mormon and pray about it, which essentially begs the question of how we should approach God. It also creates an echo chamber of our own biases.

        Lastly, there’s the philosophically absurd position on abortion that the Mormon faith holds, promulgated at a politically convenient time and aimed at political center, or maybe just slightly to the right.

        Given the above observations, any of which are serious enough to condemn it the accusation is true, there is no conclusion but that Mormonism is a fraud unknowingly perpetrated by nice, even decent people motivated more by an untrained gut instinct than mind. (Just watch for 1 Corinthians. Three … two … one …)

        So yes, compared to all these good reasons, the Mormon garments are hardly nutty.

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          … condemn it *if* the accusation …

        • JohnH

          I highly doubt that MichaelH is going to be quoting 1 Corinthians at you, nor do you seem to realize that I used it because you had quoted 1 Corinthians first at me.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            I was thinking of John C. Wright’s place. (My blog is not the beginning or end of the Internet.)

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Reference, wherein Mr. Hutchins leans very heavily on the foolishness of God being wiser than the wisdom of men. Also. And again. And … again.

            There’s was a precedent. Note that the last one comes in response to a commenter saying that the Book of Mormon is “a fraud and an obvious fraud,” continuing in that vein for some time.

          • JohnH

            Oh, certainly there is tons of precedence for me quoting scriptures on the subject of the wisdom of God vs. that of man and by no means are they all found in 1 Corinthians. However, MichaelH appears to not be in the habit of references tons of scriptures in his responses so right there he would be less likely to bring in 1 Corinthians, second he appears to be less interested in nearly pointless debates or defenses with people that have no actual interest in a discussion, which probably makes him a much better person then I am.

        • kenneth

          You’re just cheesed that the Mormon hierarchy has enough cash to hire Catholic bishops as drivers and pool boys and that they’re the senior partner in the “save marriage” culture wars!

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          Your dismissals show that you, like most people, have not taken the time to study the complicated history and theological development of Mormonism, but have reduced it to a straw man. Your willingness to do so is disheartening. (And I sincerely wish my co-religionists would not, as they frequently do, promulgate similar arguments against Catholicism.)

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Disprove a single point, then, and I will be encouraged to study.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Your points are so general and unspecific as to be untrue; the truth is necessarily more complex.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Let me be clearer: so long as you are asking me to “disprove” visions of history that are so general as to be matters as much of personal opinion as of fact, I am not inclined to engage.

      • Jeff

        Why does that “prove a point”?

        I think the sacred underwear question underlines the cobbled together, amateurish, imitative, implausible, SILLY character of Mormonism itself. It’s not a distraction–it’s part of a larger question. So what?

        On some level, we have to make judgments about what is worth taking seriously.

        I don’t think Scientology passes the threshold tests. I don’t think Mormonism does either.

        Isn’t it healthier if an honest Protestant or atheist tells me he finds transubstantiation silly than if he pretends otherwise? If someone wants to ARGUE that after ALL, sacred underwear ISN’T silly, I’m game! But I don’t think it’s fair to complain that I DO find it silly and accuse me of hypocrisy. ;)

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          Every religion is “cobbled together, amateurish, imitative, implausible” – and Paul would even add how Christianity, in particular, seems “foolish” to non-Christians. It’s all about where we draw our lines between “pure” and “imitative,” “amateurish” and “professional.”

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            No. It’s about truth.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Truth can appear cobbled, derivative, amateurish, and implausible.

        • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

          It proves the point that in your case, larger objections were at work.

        • deiseach

          See, Jeff, I find the sneers about Catholic teaching usually delivered as “oh, here’s an anti-gay speech – given by a man in a dress” to be silly, annoying and completely missing the point.

          A cassock or soutane is not a dress. Two different garments. If an atheist/Protestant/Pastararian’s argument on a point of theology or doctrine consists of pointing and jeering, that is not an argument. So it’s a case of pot and kettle; if it drives me spare when someone thinks he has made such a witty and killing remark by making a joke about men in dresses, then I’m certainly not going to engage Mormons (for one) about why I think the foundations of their beliefs are incorrect by starting off jeering about “magic underwear”.

          And Scientology is an even bigger bugbear, and they don’t (to the best of my knowledge, little as it is) mandate any particular clothing or distinctives!

          • kenneth

            Actually, I’m pretty sure Scientology’s “Sea Org”, which is sort of the Opus Dei of the outfit, has some sort of uniform. I think it looks something like a regular navy outfit. Still, a religion’s dress code is the least of its merits or problems…

  • D

    “You could make the argument that all ritual and tradition is a warning sign…”
    Indeed, it’s all silliness. It’s just that some of the silliness is “our” silliness, because that’s the tradition I grew up in.
    “… it’s just that Christianity has enough other kind of evidence on its side to overcome these red flags”
    Not seeing it, Leah. I don’t know what caused you to give up reason for superstition, but a life-time of genuflecting has taught me it’s all hogwash.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      What are your real objections?

  • D

    Oh, and a wafer turning into the flesh of a 2,000 year-dead man isn’t silly?
    Transubstantiate THIS.
    COME ON!!!

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      It is hard to believe. But there is a deepness and significance which goes on for ages and ages and volumes and volumes …

      “Silly” implies a shallowness not present in any part of Eucharistic theology.

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        So unless a religion has a centuries-old history of rigorous theology, it’s silly? That clarifies our definitions ;)

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          There is no direction in Mormonism towards having rigor, or theology. One Mormon at John C. Wright’s place went so far as to say that Mormons were like common law, just muddling through.

          Your faith so far as any Mormon has shared it is all rejoinders and comebacks, billboards and smiles. Thin, small, shallow, and with historical claims which were never known or believed before and completely unsubstantiated even today.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            Check out the work of Joe Spencer, Jim Faulconer, Adam Miller, and others – the Feast Upon the Word blog is a nice starting point- and tell me that there’s no depth to Mormonism.

            Also, it’s a lot easier to develop bodies of rigorous theology when clergy are trained and paid professionals. If rigorous theology is the point, that is.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            If truth is the point, rigorous theology is the means.

            … and Catholics don’t have a professional clergy. We have a vocational clergy.

          • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

            The common law is neither thin, nor small, nor shallow. Muddling through is an entirely appropriate response for men and women in the face of God. A false certainty would be far more dangerous.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            When I say “professional,” I mean “it’s the job for which they receive academic training and whereby they earn their sustenance.” Mormons have 1. no academically trained ecclesiastical leaders and 2. very few leaders whose sustenance comes from their ecclesiastical work. If there are Mormon theologians, then, they must be theologians by hobby, since they have jobs (and families!) that come first in their allocations of time and effort.

      • Alan

        Great, so in how many hundreds of years doesn’t Mormon underwear cease to be silly? now that we have established that longevity is the determinant of truth shouldn’t you give up on your silly wafer and become Hindu?

        • JohnH

          He tends to call Hinduism “ossified old” so apparently there is some optimal level of oldness that just so happens to line up with the age of Catholicism such that anything younger is silly and anything older is ossified.

          • Alan

            Ah yes, it is like the old Jewish saying “anyone more religious than me is a fanatic and anyone less religious is a hypocrite” – it is amazing how I always seem to strike the right balance in everything and everyone else gets it wrong.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            For reference, “ossified old.”

            Ossified as in caste-bound and, compared to the flowering of the West, unmethodical in the natural sciences, without an appreciation for the idea that the universe is ruled by physical laws. (This last bit, to be far, was something pioneered pretty much only in the West, and principally in Christendom. )

            Until shown otherwise, this is, looking with the briefest glance at history, prima facie true.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      However, this is an excellent example of staying on topic, showing as it does the danger of cheap shots.

    • deiseach

      According to Christian belief, Christ is not dead. And we’ve just celebrated the Feast of the Assumption on the 15th of this month, so his mother isn’t dead either :-)

      If you start off from the premise that “This is about a man who died 2,000 years ago”, then naturally you won’t believe that the bread becomes flesh, and frankly I don’t see any reason why you should. But the belief is not that this is the flesh of an ordinary mortal man who died two millenia ago, it is the sharing in His Body by God made Man who came to dwell among us as one of us, died, and is now risen and ascended, His human body glorified and living. If you get over the Incarnation, then Transubstantiation isn’t that much more difficult to accept.

  • leahlibresco

    Ubiquitious, I notice that you are a very high percentage of recent comments. I think it might be a good idea to ease up a little, so the threads feel a little more like a conversation with the whole group.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Very good, ma’am.

  • Noel

    I was recently reading a paper by Mormon historian Michael Quinn in response to a paper by a Dr Hales, on the subject of polygamy and polyandry. Smith according to William Clayton’s diary used his home when he needed to meet with one of his other wives. Obviously sex must have taken place. They would I imagine remove these sacred Temple garments in order to make love. Here was Smith with his legal wife, Emma not knowing where he was, making love to another woman, she may not have known he was sealed to, being clothed in this underwear which is something of covenant between God and him. I cannot for the life of me understand this system.

    • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

      There’s a lot written about Joseph Smith, the temple ordinances, and polygamy, and its a question to which there will never be satisfactory resolution.

      However, I would like to clarify that Quinn, the historian mentioned, is no longer Mormon.

    • JohnH

      Emma knew of the revelation on Polygamy, she in fact burned a copy that William Clayton had made. She was also aware that Joseph Smith was practicing polygamy and it appears that she was not the least bit happy about it. It isn’t like Joseph Smith didn’t have a house to take his wives to, Emma just wouldn’t allow it. If she did not know who else Joseph Smith was marrying that was either because she refused the entire practice of polygamy, thus exempting Joseph from the law of Sarah (D&C 132:61-65), or Joseph was doing something wrong (D&C 132:60), or both I suppose.

      I fail to see why having sex with a women that one is married to is a bad thing, nor do I see why removing the garment to have sex is a bad thing (though I understand that the FLDS would disagree on that point) .

      If you are of an Abrahamic faith then at one time your faith did practice polygamy and the fathers of your faith certainly did. If you could direct me to where God revealed that your faith should forbid the practice of polygamy then I would be grateful. If you are not of an Abrahamic faith then if you could lay out your arguments on the subject that would be helpful.

  • Noel

    Quinn is still a historian, whose specialty is magic in early Mormon history. He is gay. I am not sure it that was the reason he was excommunicated or if it was his published works. He publish a paper in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought where he showed from documents that plural marriages were performed after 1890 in Mexico and elsewhere outside the United States.
    The temple garments have been changed over the years in line with changing fashions in clothes. Some scholars have studied the connection between masonry and Mormon Temple ritual and see similarities. The square and the compass are on the Temple garment, two symbols which appear on Masonic lodge edifices. Earlier but later dropped were oaths taken regarding the penalties for revealing the secrets of the Temple. When Smith was killed in a jail in Carthage Ill., he called out the Masonic call the help “Is there no help for Widow’s Son?”

    • JohnH

      “I am not sure it that was the reason he was excommunicated or if it was his published works”

      Quinn is part of the September Six, I don’t know the details of why he was excommunicated as they are not made public but I imagine it has something to do with the way he treats the church and church leadership in his research.

      “. Some scholars have studied the connection between masonry and Mormon Temple ritual and see similarities”

      I am not aware of any scholar that has looked at both and not seen similarities, and if there were one that didn’t see similarities then I would lose all respect of their value as a scholar. I don’t see how the similarities and outright connections have anything to do with the truth of the temple, respect for the garment, or anything else. You will have to explain why having similarities and connections is supposed to be a bad thing.

  • Noel

    I hope you get to read his paper on polygamy. It will blow your mind. I do not think a lot of LDS know much about the origins of the practice. Bushman attempts to gloss over much of it in RSR

  • temuchinkhakhan@yahoo.com

    Good article, Leah! You’ve done a good job of condemning one example of what I like to call “suicide apologetics” — being so focused on refuting the enemies of the faith, that you use any argument you can think of, even if it undermines the arguments in favor of the faith. I find that Christian critics of Islam, for example, fall into this error all the time. While there are definite differences, we have enough in common with Islam that we can’t reject certain aspects of it without also condemning ourselves. It makes me want to say, “With friends like these, does Jesus need enemies?”

  • http://penguinmusing.blogspot.com Sarah

    Once again, thanks for the excellent post, Leah. The trouble I see with the “magic underwear” ploy is that it’s part of a larger error: the belief that if I can make your beliefs seem ridiculous, then they are false. The problem is that a sufficiently creative opponent can make almost anything seem ridiculous. “You love your children? Really? You keep that fantasy about your deep, precious relationship with your special, breathing, pooping progeny?” That’s a serious mischaracterization, but it does make the whole thing seem a little silly. Almost everything is funny if you look at it the right way. I don’t know; maybe that’s just me.

    I also see a major problem with this approach in the simple fact that ridiculous-seeming ideas are quite often correct. Diseases are caused by teeny-tiny squiggly things only you can see with your special microscope? Really? We don’t know what the square root of a negative number is, so we’ll just call it “i” and go home? The universe dutifully obeys the cosmic, existential, all-powerful speed limit in the sky? The sun is made of matter that gets *so hot* that it magically turns into super-hot space dough? Evolution? Really?
    Of course these representations are mistaken and riddled with error; that’s the point. The universe is a beautiful and strange place that sometimes seems ridiculous to the human brain. That’s the danger of “implied ridiculosity” as a truth metric.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      This was the most informed and informative reply in the whole thread. Thanks.

  • Peggy m

    Catholic vestments are based on the everyday garments of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Look at statues and paintings from the earliest centuries Anno Domini and see what I mean…the chasuble was simply an outer cloak, for example. Historians and art historians recognize this. There have certainly been developments over time, and symbolic meaning has been given to each garment, but they are essentially examples of sartorial persistence! I have always thought that was cool.

  • gerry

    The only important thing about underwear is that it is clean.

  • mapman

    I think it is funny that most of the distinctive things that Mormons get mocked for come from the Bible, including temple garments (of course we often ignore parts like everyone else).

    Also, dismissing things because you think they are weird or silly or whatever is entirely irrational. I think that anteaters are silly and quantum physics are weird. So what? If you choose to engage with Mormonism you actually have to engage with it.

    Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it.

  • Scott Maddox, CPA
  • pagansister

    Every religion has it’s little quirks. Some think that when they drink blessed wine and eat a blessed wafer, they are actually ingesting Jesus. Some feel that their leader dug up special golden tablets, with rules on them, and that the Bible isn’t the only book for guidance in their faith—and that it isn’t infallible. That church has 3 ( I think) other books that give them guidance, none of which are totally flawless. Some religions do not worship the son of their god, others do. Some faiths have more than 2000 years of history, other are much newer. So in the long scheme of things, it boils down to whatever makes a person happy in their faith( or lack of it). If a person believes what a certain religion tells them and it helps them live on this earth, then it isn’t up to anyone to try and change their minds. If indeed their underwear or medal, or ring or shirt etc. makes them feel closer to their deity, fine for them. Just my thoughts.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      It boils down to what makes you happy? “I always knew a bottle of port would make me happy … &c.”


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