The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has recently published an article and accompanying video explaining the mystery behind its temple garments. Commonly (and pejoratively) referred to as "secret magic Mormon underwear," the LDS Church has pealed back a layer of secrecy that has long perplexed outsiders and has acted as a lightening rod of ridicule and criticism to Latter-day Saints throughout the history of Mormonism.
The term "secret magic Mormon underwear" is quite a misrepresentation of what Latter-day Saints believe about their temple garments, though they are uniquely Mormon. Temple garments are neither "secret and magic" as notorious Mormon critic Ed Decker describes them in his infamous The God Makers (Harvest House Publishers, 190), nor are the garments underwear in the sense that we think of underwear.
Rather, they are unique articles of clothing worn during the LDS Temple Endowment Ceremony, a private occasion in which, among other things, Latter-day Saints make covenants with their God and receive special information concerning salvation.
Throughout history, the garments have been the focus of intense criticism against Mormonism, which may be the motivation behind the LDS Church's recent article. The common misunderstanding of the garment's purpose – their being secret and magical – is, I believe, an unpaid bill of the LDS Church for simply ignoring culture's curiosity of their design and purpose.
For the most part, the LDS Church brought such speculation upon themselves. Unlike the religions pointed out in the video, no Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, or Jew is secretive about their religious clothing. Robes, kippahs, and prayer shawls are commonly worn in public. Mormon temple garments, however, are not publicly worn due to the very nature of their purpose – a private, secret ceremony.
Yet, it seems that the LDS Church has finally seen fit to pay that bill in order to do away with the rumors and speculations surrounding this unique aspect of their religion.
The LDS Church has decided to introduce the world to this typically private aspect of Mormonism in an on-going attempt to become more transparent as an organization. However, like their earlier admission of racism in Mormonism's history, there is more to the story than the Church has chosen to reveal.
Unfortunately, the video does not explain the whole purpose of the garments. From its historical roots in Freemasonry to their modern use in reenacting an alternative view of the fall of humanity, these garments play a large role in separating Mormonism from traditional Christianity.
MORMONISM AND MASONRY
It may come as a surprise to some, but the temple garments worn by modern Latter-day Saints are deeply rooted in Masonic tradition.
As John L. Brooke points out in his seminal work The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology: 1644–1844, early temple garments were "very similar to Masonic ceremonial garb" and "included an apron with the Masonic compass and square, which was also among the emblems on the temple veil." Essentially, early Mormon temple garments began as close cousins to garments worn in Masonic ceremonies at the time.
This is, by no means, a hidden fact. Over a century ago, the LDS Church, like the Church today, sought to ease suspicions and speculations surrounding their temple garments. So, in 1879, The Daily Tribune, known today as The Salt Lake Tribune, released an article giving illustrations of temple garments along with descriptions of the Endowment Ceremony for which the garments were designed.
In the article, one can clearly see the old Masonic connection Brooke mentions. Below is an illustration of early temple garments for males. Take note of the backwards L and large V over each breast.
When placed over one another (see the altered illustration below) it is easy to see the Masonic connection that Brookes, among many others, have noted. For readers unfamiliar with Masonic symbolism, the icon above the left breast below, a compass and square, is an extremely common icon of the organization.
The garment's Masonic roots cannot be denied. After all, the founder of the religion, Joseph Smith, was himself involved with Freemasonry as recorded in his History of the Church. On Wednesday, March 16, 1842, Smith wrote, "I was with the Masonic Lodge and rose to the sublime degree."
As interesting as the Masonic connection to LDS temple garments may be, today it is simply historical information. No Latter-day Saint wears garments with Masonic symbolism during the Endowment Ceremony, neither do they intend to do so.
However, there is an aspect of the modern temple garments that points to an incompatibility between Mormonism and traditional Christianity – a point that is completely missing from the video and accompanying article.
One Masonic aspect of modern LDS temple garments remains – the apron. This feature has not been altered since its introduction in the early days of Mormonism.
It cannot be denied that early Mormonism is related to Freemasonry. What can be denied, however, is that Freemasonry has influenced modern Mormon practices.
Such denial is the case – the LDS Church finds no similarities between the purposes and goals of Freemasonry and the Endowment Ceremony. As noted by FairMormon, an organization specializing in Mormon apologetics, "It should also be emphasized that the goals of Masonry and the LDS endowment are not the same."
Yet, while the purposes of Masonic and Mormon rituals may not align, the means by which their respective ceremonies occur most certainly do. One such mean, the use of an apron, is a prominent feature in both organizations. Both Masons and Mormons utilize aprons in their ceremonies.
It should be stated that the use of the apron is not really newsworthy. At the end of the day, what does it matter that Freemasons and Mormons share the use of an apron in their respective ceremonies?
However, a problem arises, from a biblical perspective, when one learns of the symbolism behind the LDS use of the apron. In the Endowment Ceremony, the apron represents the fig leaves given to Adam and Eve during the Fall.
During the ceremony, Latter-day Saint participants are instructed to don the representation of the fig leaves given to Adam and Eve.
This feature of the temple garment is seen in the video, but not discussed (see below).
In the Endowment Ceremony, participants are shown a video that covers the Mormon version of creation. Aprons appear in the video as a representation of power and priesthood, so far as it concerns Lucifer. (When asked about his apron from Adam, Lucifer replies that "it is an emblem of my power and priesthoods.")
Later on, in conjunction with the biblical narrative, God draws near Adam. In response, Lucifer instructs Adam and Eve to construct an apron of fig leaves in order to hide their nakedness.
At this point in the ceremony, the video is paused and participants are instructed to don their aprons (see above). The video resumes to show Elohim discovering that Adam and Eve had fallen.
Elohim summons Lucifer to account for his actions, to which he claims he has been doing, "that which has been done in other worlds . . . giving some of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil to them." After dismissing Lucifer, Adam and Eve are promised "eternal life and exaltation" should they choose to covenant with Elohim.
If this sounds unfamiliar to you, then you are probably more familiar with the biblical narrative than the alternate version edited by Joseph Smith.
This begs the question – why have an alternate version? Why don a fig leaf apron in a temple ceremony to learn about a different account of the fall?
THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE JOY
The reason for this alternate account of the fall (and the accompanying fig leaf apron) is found in the Book of Mormon. In a pithy, succinct verse, the Book of Mormon teaches that, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy (2 Nephi 2:25).”
Herein lies a major disagreement between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, which drives a wedge between traditional Christianity and Mormonism.
The Book of Mormon teaches that the fall of humanity caused by Adam gave us the ability to exist and have joy. The Bible teaches just the opposite – that the fall of humanity caused by Adam brought forth death and stripped us of joy.
Consequently, in Mormon thought the fall of humanity was necessarily good. For his role, Lucifer allowed humanity to learn of apotheosis, or becoming gods. He also allowed the conditions for humanity to come forth through Adam and Eve.
Therefore, without Lucifer and the fall, humanity would have never existed and would have never experienced the joy of existence. This thought, however, is biblically incompatible.
The fall is not the reason for humanity’s life – it is the reason for humanity’s death. The Apostle Paul makes this point very clear. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1Co 15:22).”
The Bible further teaches that the byproduct of the fall was the introduction of sin to humanity. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Rm 5:12).”
The fig leaf does not represent illumination and life, it represents death. The very fact that a self-professing Christian would don a symbol of death as an act of worship absolutely warrants confusion and concern from outside observers familiar with the biblical account of the fall.
Mormonism teaches the fall was a necessary evil; Christianity teaches the fall was simply evil. It is the very reason we are separated from God. The fall is why Jesus needed to come rescue us, why we need redemption, and why we all start our lives saturated in rebellion from God.
The result of Adam’s sin was not beneficial for our existence in any way, shape, or form. To the contrary, it destroyed and wholly corrupted what existence we did have.
Additionally, the Mormon thought that the fall was necessary for humanity's procreation is also incompatible with biblical thought. A simple reading of Gn 3:15 reveals that humanity would have existed in the garden without the fall.
Take careful note that God claimed Eve’s pain in childbirth would greatly increase, suggesting that childbirth was somehow painless, be it physically or spiritually, prior to the fall. For something to increase, it must first exist.
From one simple fig leave apron we begin to see the dividing lines that Joseph Smith drew between his followers and Christianity. According to Smith, the fall was bad, but not that bad. According to Paul, the fall was bad. Period.
While it is admirable and helpful for the LDS Church to dissuade the tiresome accusation that Latter-day Saints wear "secret magic underwear," their recently published article and accompanying video keeps a very important theological point concealed.
In my opinion, if the LDS Church is seeking a new era of transparency, it is not enough to simply show the public temple garments without explaining their purpose beyond a surface level.
The LDS Church actually does a disservice to both the general public and faithful Latter-day Saints by pealing the curtain back on this mysterious aspect of the Mormon faith only enough to maintain vagueness around the ceremony to outsiders and to betray the sacredness of these garments to Latter-day Saints.
Watch the video below. The original article may be read here.
 John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 249.
 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1950), 552. LINK
 The Endowment Ceremony is a closed event to the public; however, in recent years details have emerged on the internet through a video recording of the ceremony.