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!

Well…not really.

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?” No —  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 as 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 personal, 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?

Still have questions? Send them to normonquestions@gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do.


Add yours
  1. 2

    so i just found this blog and loved the recent conference article; i’ve been poking around and found this little gem. i think it’s great that you explained garments in such a clear and respectful way. it’s much needed.

    ten points for being norman!

  2. 3

    As additional clarification, it should be noted, unless you’re old and/or really weird, you’re not wearing garments when you’re having sex either. Thank goodness!

  3. 4

    OK…thats really , really good to know. The misleading information I had made me think Mormons bathed in them, and kept them clean that way, along with their body, which made me think that the whole thing was extremely obsessive. It may sound shallow, but I just can’t feel congenial towards people who shower in their undergarments until they fall apart. Its actually a big relief to know this is not so.

  4. 5

    Yeah, there’s a lot of misleading information out there. A lot of it is completely false, but some of it has the tiniest bit of truth mixed in- and that’s where it can really get confusing. Honestly, the best way to get accurate information about Mormons is to ask us directly.

  5. 6

    I had a friend who flat out told me I didn’t know my religion because I tried to tell her that we do not bath in garment. I am glad to see a source for sanity. She told me I must not be a “true” Mormon because I told her the information was wrong.

  6. 8

    I dated a Mormon once (not the proper little church girl she portrayed, once out of sight of them), and she said they absolutely are taught that the undies are magic. That’s not the word they use, but they claim that they protect the wearer from injury, harm, and evil. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is. It would seem just a silly side note if you guys weren’t trying to take over the whole damn world… Kinda like the moose-limbs, but with less violence.

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