What’s the deal with “Magic Underwear?”
By: Jason Woodward //
Have you ever wished you had clothing that gave you special powers? Like a cloak of invisibility, or shoes that made you run at incredible speeds, or a pair of gloves that turned everything you touched into donuts? Me too.
Luckily for us Mormons, that wish can become a reality — with Magic Underwear!
But if you’re like a lot of people, you might be under that impression: that Mormons wear crazy underwear they believe has special powers. And with people throwing the term “magic underwear” around so much, we don’t blame you. (Un)fortunately, that’s not entirely accurate. So in the spirit of fact-checking, here’s an attempt to straighten things out for the curious.
What are they actually called?
Temple garments, or just garments.
So…do you wear them over your boxers or what?
Instead of boxers. For guys, they’re not much different in appearance than white boxer briefs and a white undershirt. You can get them in different sizes, materials, styles, etc.
And everybody wears these?
Just people who have chosen to go through the temple, which doesn’t happen until you’re at least 18. Before that you just wear whatever.
Why do you wear them?
Basically, when you decide to go through the temple, you make promises with God and he makes promises to you in return. Think of it like being knighted in medieval times: you kneel before the king, pledging to uphold the ideals of chivalry (including its code of conduct) and stand for what’s right. In return, he expects you to serve and defend the citizens of his kingdom. I mean it’s not exactly the same, but you get the idea.
The garments act as a reminder of the promises you’ve made to God: they’re a symbol. They represent things like truth, piety and honor. And since you put them on every day of your life, you’ll (hopefully) always remember the commitments you’ve made about how you’re going to conduct yourself. Think of them like a Yarmulke: something worn as a constant reminder of the covenants into which you have willingly and solemnly entered.
Can’t you just remember the promises you made to God without having to wear special clothing?
Yeah, I’m sure we could. But symbolism carries a meaningful power that God has always favored in His historical dealings with man — a reinforcing, affirming reminder that seems to uniquely resonate with the human mind. Even during Old Testament times, “holy” or “sacred” garments were an important part of temple and religious life, helping people weave worship and daily life in a purposeful, practical way. Ceremonial clothing has played a role in almost every faith tradition, and ours is no different.
Do you seriously keep them on all the time?
Well, within reason…yeah. We don’t wear them when we go to the beach, or play sports, or exercise. But for the rest of the time when we’re wearing both a shirt and pants of some kind, we’re wearing the garments underneath. We promised God we would, and we take that seriously.
So…you don’t believe that they have magic powers?
Like almost everything in religion, a number of folk beliefs pervade Mormon culture when it comes to garments. Most people have heard stories about Grandpa Joe who was trapped in a fire and suffered burns everywhere on his body except for the skin covered by his garments, which was miraculously unharmed. My uncle experienced something similar when he survived a bomb blast during the Vietnam War.
I can’t confirm or discount these stories, since I’ve never personally experienced them. But the underlying purpose of wearing garments isn’t anything magical or supernatural: it’s to serve as a symbol of the promises you’ve made yourself and to God.
Is the term “magic underwear” offensive?
I wouldn’t say offensive, but disrespectful and somewhat misleading. Do we call Jewish yarmulkes “magic beanies?” Nah — it’s part of their culture, a bit strange to outsiders, but something they do because of what it represents to them. Those unfamiliar with the church may see our garments are strange because we keep them “secret.” But they’re not so much secret as they are sacred. Since the promises we make to God in the temple act as a very sacred, foundational part of our theology, we try not to speak about them or the temple garments too flippantly. I don’t know, maybe you talk to people about your underwear?
Now we’ve returned the favor by talking about ours.
Still have questions? Send them to email@example.com and we’ll see what we can do.