--The Mormon Underwear: A Story That is More Than Skin Deep
In a previous post, RfM contributor "anagrammy" wrote:
"Some years ago I did extensive research about the garments, just having a hunch that there must be more to the symbols than I knew. This is what I learned:
"The original stolen ceremony from the Masons included actual cutting of the symbols with a knife through the garment and the flesh. The marks were the scars.
"Joseph Smith insisted that female members go through this ceremony because he felt the oaths and threats would keep them quiet about polygamy . . . . When Emma learned that her breast would be cut, she said absolutely not. She said she would do it symbolically and showed Joseph how she had created the symbols using red thread on the appropriate spots where the cuts would have been. If you wear this and never take it off, she suggested, you would have accomplished the same thing.
"Joseph agreed, liking the idea that he could have everyone 'in uniform' in his army of saints.
"The red thread was replaced by white as the garment began to evolve so that it wasn't visible under white blouses, and it began to change and evolve to keep up with fashion."
"If you want sources, the academics among us might post them for you here."
("Re: References about Eliza Snow/garmie slits and garments having been created for polygamy oaths?," posted by "anagrammy," on "Recovery from Mormonism" bulletin board, 31 May 2011, 6:47 p.m.)
While I have not come across verification of some of the more lurid claims mentioned above--such as Emma allegedly not wanting to be physically cut and scarred in her breast area during her secret endowment as a warning to bend to polygamy--mention has been found (through assistance from other RfM posters, thank you) of actual physical cutting of the primitive LDS garment during the secret Mormon endowment ceremony, as well as of deliberate physical scarring of early Mormon temple goers involved in these barbaric rituals.
--Prelude to Cutting the Secret Mormon Underwear: Cutting a Hole in the Secret Mormon Endowment "Shirt," Then Faithfully Hiding It Away
In the earliest reference to the secret ritual of garment slitting, George W. Robinson (the first secretary to the First Presidency and a member of the Danites) wrote that in the beginning version of the Mormon endowment ceremony (a ritual heavily purloined from Masonic temple rites and personally administered by Joseph Smith to a small, select circle of male followers), there were not only washings and anointings--but also the literal cutting of the special underwear worn by those participating--underwear that was supposed to keep those adorned with it from ever dying at the hands of evil forces.
The garment slitting was so secret, in fact, that only dutiful Mormon wives of devout Mormon husbands who wore these "shirts" could handle them once they had been cut.
In his letter, Robinson wrote:
"After they were initiated into the lodge, they have oil poured on them, and then a mark or hole cut in the breast of their shirts, which shirts must not be worn anymore, but laid up to keep the Destroying Angel from them and their families, and they should never die. . . . No one must have charge of their shirts but their wives."
What, exactly, were these "shirts"?
They were, in fact, an undergarment.
Excommunicated Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn notes that "[f]rom the eighteenth century to the 1840s, 'shirt' referred to an undergarment which was often worn with a separate, tight-fitting underpant reaching to the knees."
(George W. Robinson, letter of 8 August 1842, quoted in John C. Bennett, "The History of the Saints; or an Expose' of Joseph Smith and Mormonism" (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842], p. 247, reprinted in David John Buerger: "The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship," Chapter 3, "Joseph Smith's Ritual" [San Francisco, California: Smith Research Associates, 1994], p. 38; and D. Michael Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power," Appendix 7 [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1994], p. 635)
--The Cutting of the Mormon Garment With a Knife Reportedly Draws Blood, Cries of Foul and an Eventual Discontinuation of That Part of the Ritual
Author and former Mormon Martin Wishnatsky writes:
"In the nineteenth century the knee mark was cut into the garment with a knife during the [Mormon] endowment. The cut occasionally slashed the flesh of the endowee, prompting an eventual outcry from the scarred participants that halted the procedure."
(Martin Wishnatsky, "Mormonism: A Latter Day Deception," Chapter Two, "The Princeton Stacks," at: http://www.goodmorals.org/mormons/index.asp?poetlist=ChapterTwo.htm
Another RfM poster, "Fetal Deity," offers further evidence that garment slashing did, in fact, occur in early Mormon temple rituals and that in the process not only were marks cut into the garments, the skin of the temple goers was purposely cut in order to leave an identifying scar--and it was all done at the veil:
" . . . [T]o satisfy my 'morbid' curiosity I decided to try to find the earliest published references to the former, flesh-cutting practice carried out in the original Mormon endowment. I found a source . . . that dates to 1858. It is a book that contains the recollections of a woman who went through the temple then left the church after discovering some of the many despicable acts carried out by Brigham Young, et al.
"The relevant quote is as follows:
"'A man behind the veil examined us, as to the passwords and grips Brigham had given us, and to whom we gave our "new name," received at the first anointing. Holes through the veil enabled him to see us when we could not see him, and also, to cut with a small pair of scissors, certain marks, beside others, the Masonic square and compass, upon the right and left breast of our 'garments,' and upon the right knee, a gash, deep enough to make a scar, by which we were to be recognized as Mormons. This gash upon the right knee is now often omitted, because many of the women object to it.'
"(Green, Kelson Winch, 'Fifteen Years Among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith,...,' Chapter IV, 'Endowments,' pp. 48-49, at: http://books.google.com/books?id=FT4qAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA48&dq=%2Bcut+%2Bscar+%2Bmormon+%2Bgarments&hl=en&ei=3djlTdn_M5KWsgOl2d3tBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CFQQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false
"The above passage basically confirms the Wishnatsky quote, but makes the slashing of the knee an INTENTIONAL part of the endowment (which was purposefully discontinued), and not an occasional 'accident' by an overzealous veil worker."
("Thanks, Steve, for that nice summary of the early history of the Mormon temple garment," posted by "Fetal Deity," on "Recovery from Mormonism" bulletin board, 1 June 2011, 7:17 p.m., original emphasis by poster)
Significantly, Masons do have a reported history of physically cutting candidates petitioning for admission into the Lodge.
This cutting ritual is said to be done within the Mason tradition (like the Mormon tradition which derives directly from the Masons') of warning of bodily mutilation, should initiates reveal the secrets of their rituals:
"Masonry swears its members to secrecy with grisly, anatomically explicit oaths. A Master Freemason must 'promise and swear, that I will not write, print, stamp, stain, hew, cut, carve, indent, paint, or engrave' the mysteries of his order "under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea,' according to one version of the oath. Tenth- degree Masons 'consent to have my body opened perpendicularly, and to be exposed for eight hours in the open air, that the venomous flies may eat my entrails' if they talk. Even the Shriners, a 'fun' order, may incur 'the fearful penalty of having my eyeballs pierced to the center with a three- edged blade.' . . .
"Successful candidates are invited to the lodge for initiation. There are three basic degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.
"Each has its own ritual.
"Entered Apprentice candidates begin by taking off their clothes to prove their gender (women may not become Masons). In practice, this means taking off the pants and any jacket. Underwear and shirt are kept on, but the shirt is unbuttoned and pulled down to bare the left arm, shoulder, and breast.
"The candidate is hoodwinked (blindfolded). A cabletow (rope) is placed around the neck. (The Lauterer catalog's hoodwink is simply a standard, black satin half-face mask--without eyeholes -- secured with an elastic string. The cabletow is a heavy blue rayon cord with tassels at both ends.) Ideally, the cabletow is supposed to have four strands to symbolize the four senses (they don't count touch). The candidate is escorted to a room where three candles are burning. One of the lodge members takes a mason's compass or other sharp instrument and pricks the candidate's bared skin. The candidate is instructed to recite a formula to the effect that what he desires most is light. The other lodge members remove his hoodwink and cabletow. Before the candidate are three candles. He is told that the candles represent the sun, the moon, and the master of the lodge."
("How to Crash the Freemasons," by "Klark of the Kent Team," at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/11500001/how-to-crash-the-freemasons
--Starting Up the Practice of Slitting the Mormon Garment During the Endowment Ceremony
The so-called "marking" or cutting of the primitive Mormon temple garment was carried out in early Mormon temples, as award-winning Mormon historian David Buerger notes:
"Shortly after the Salt Lake temple's dedication in 17 October 1893, [Mormon Church president Wilford] Woodruff met with the Council of the Twelve and the church's four temple presidents, spending 'three hours in harmonizing the different m[odes] of ceremonies in giving Endowments.' The following year the First Presidency sent a letter to all temple presidents, portions of which read:
"'It has been the practice to mark the shirt [i.e., undergarment], but we think this unnecessary as it is not strictly part of the Temple clothing. The marking of the garment should be done in the washing room and not at the veil; and the greatest care should be taken to see that no person is permitted to leave that room wearing an unmarked garment."
That's right, as the First Presidency subtlely admitted here: Mormon temple workers used to slit the garment at the veil (the same place where, as indicated by the testimony above, "upon the right knee, a gash [was made with a pair of scissors], deep enough to make a scar, by which we were to be recognized as Mormons."
(Buerger, "Mysteries of Godliness," Chapter Five, "Developments in Nineteenth Century Utah," pp. 128-29)
--The Physical Appearance of Early Mormon Garments in Those Bygone Garment-Slitting Days
According to a description by Elizabeth Warren Allred (spouse of one of Smith's bodyguards), the original, secret Mormon undergarments were made of "sufficient quantity to produce an outfit that met Smith's directive that it contain "as few seams as possible," which would allow for the "whole cloth [to be] cut without piecing. The first garments were made of unbleached muslin and bound with turkey red and were without collars. Later on the prophet decided he would rather have them bound with white. . . . Emma Smith . . . made . . . little collars [to give the garments a more finished look] . . . . The garment was to reach to the ankle and the sleeves to the wrists were always the same."
The initial production model of the Mormon temple garment was male-only, even though females were required to not only produce but to wear it, too, as described below:
"'When Joseph Smith received the endowments and revelation from the Lord to be given to his people by authority, he also received instructions as to how to make this garment. None had ever seen anything like it and the sisters who made it were under his direction and when it was submitted to him, he said that it was right and the way it had looked to him and he accepted it.
"'This garment had a collar and it had strings to tie it and sleeves that came to the wrist, not to the hand, but about an inch above, and the leg came down to the ankle joint. This was the pattern given and it is right for Aunt Eliza Snow was the governess and seamstress in his house at the time the first garments were made and heard the instructions to the sisters.' (Zina Y. Card, 'Garments,' in 'Temple Instructions')"
This original garment was designed expressly for the male body, which eventually led Mormon women who were required to wear it to refashion it according to their own feminine tastes--a move that was stymied by the Mormon patriarchs in charge of what women were allowed to wear:
"Because women were not originally intended to be a part of the endowment ceremony; when they were finally admitted, women received the same garment as the men. Women and men in the church wore the very same garments until 1965. Thus, all Mormon pioneer women wore the men's garment, which were 100% cotton long-johns.
"As early as the 1890s, LDS women tried getting their own garment pattern, but to no avail:
"'Sister Zina D. H. Young submitted a knitted garment something like our garments which is made in the East and asked if such may be marked & have a collar put on it and used as our temple garment. It was decided by the First Presidency that such garments should not be used in lieu of the pattern given.' ("L. John Nuttall Journal," Vol. 3, p. 227; 8 December 1890)
"Church priesthood leaders made it very clear that there was only one pattern for making and wearing garments and they must never be altered:
"'Each individual should be provided with the endowment clothing they need. The garments must be clean and white, and of the approved pattern; they must not be altered or mutilated [i.e., changed by the women], and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles, and around the neck. These requirements are imperative; admission to the Temple will be refused to those who do not comply therewith. (President Joseph F. Smith, 'Instructions Concerning Temple Ordinance Work,' President of the Salt Lake Temple 1898-1911)"
As if the early Mormon garments weren't bad enough for women's tastes, Buerger goes on to describe its early versions as being made of "old style, coarse, unbleached, irritating material . . . ."
Eventually, some style changes were made to the garments, but they were still being marked up, so to speak (i.e., slit) in the temple:
George F. Richards, president of the Salt Lake temple from 1921 to 1927, describes in his personal diary the physical description of the garment, as it was discussed and modified in a meeting with the First Presidency:
"The subject of the garment was again brought up and considered and certain changes thought favorably of. The permissibility of dispensing with the collar, using buttons instead of strings, using the closed crotch and flop, and for the women, wearing elbow[-]length instead of wrist-length] sleeves and leg length legs just below the knee."
Buerger provides a further breakdown of the above First Presidency directive to stake and temple presidents which dictated, in list form, that "certain modification" be done, to "the temple garment, . . . namely:
"'(1) Sleeve to elbow.
"'(2) Leg just below the knee.
"'(3) Buttons instead of strings.
"'(4) Collar eliminated
"'(5) Crotch closed. . . .
"'It is the [unanimous] mind of the First Presidency and the Council of Twelve that this modified garment . . . should be carefully preserved from mutilation and unnecessary exposure, and be properly marked.'"
Buerger provides further description of the uni-sex garment as originally conceived by Smith and faithfully produced and worn by faithful LDS men and women for years thereafter:
". . . [Former editor of the Mormon periodical the 'Times and Seasons'] Ebenezer Robinson recalled what he heard in Nauvoo before Smith's death:
"'We here state a few facts which came under our personal observation. As early as 1843 a secret order was established in Nauvoo, called the Holy Order, the members of which were of both sexes, in which we were credibly informed, scenes were enacted representing the Garden of Eden, and that the members of that order were provided with a peculiar undergarment called a robe. "It was made in one piece. One the right breast is a square, on the left a compass, in the center a small hole, and on the knee a large hole." That was the description of that garment as given to the writer in Nauvoo, in Joseph Smith's lifetime.'"
(Elizabeth Warren Allred, recollection published in history of Eliza Monson (whose great-grandmother was Elizabeth Warren Allred], LDS archives; George. F. Richards, personal diary, 14 April 1923, and Ebenezer Robinson, published in "Return," 2, April 1890, p. 252, all quoted in Buerger, "Mysteries of Godliness," in Buerger, "Mysteries of Godliness," Chapter Six, "The Twentieth-Century Temple:" pp. 142-43, 137-38, 149, 152); see also, "Mormon Underwear Garments," at: http://www.i4m.com/think/temples/mormon-garments.htm
, the latter which includes artist renderings of the early Mormon temple underwear)
--Slicing the Garment Was Part of the Early Mormon Endowment Ritual That Supposedly Made It a Shield Against Harm for Its Wearer
"The topic of the garment's protecting and healing powers became the subject of discussion during the winter months of 1845-46 when ordinances were performed in the Nauvoo temple. William Clayton recorded remarks about the garment made during the 21 December 1845 meeting of the Quorum of the Anointed. First, George A. Smith spoke of the importance of wearing a properly made garmetn night and day:
"'[George A. Smith speaking]: . . . Our garments should be properly marked and we should understand those marks and we should wear those garments continiually, by night and by day, in prison or free and if the devils in hell cut us up, let them cut the garments to pieces also, if we have the garments upon us at all times we can at any time offer up the signs.'"
(quoted in Buerger, "Mysteries of Godliness," pp. 146-47)
--In Addition to the Square and Compass Markings, Physically Slitting the Mormon Temple Garment Was Secretly Taught by Early Mormon Leaders as Representing the Crucifixion Wounds in the Body of Jesus
In the December 1845 meeting dealing with Nauvoo temple ordinaces, Mormon leader George Miller declared that "the apostle] Paul said he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was as plainly as he dare allude to thdse things in writing. But the marks Paul alluded to were just such as we now have on our garments."
(quoted in Buerger, "Mysteries of Godliness," pp. 147-48)
--The Early Temple Garments (Complete with Slits and Other Marks Alike) Were Part of the Officially-Required Identification for Recognizing Faithful Mormon Polygamists
"[The] creation and wearing of secret garments . . . were a result of Smith's polygamous affairs. It started with the secret circle of men that accepted and practiced his plural wife doctrine. It was his way of setting them apart from monogamous men.
"It was originally the 'uniform' required for men to perform spiritual wifery. ('Emma Hale Smith Biography,' p. 140: 'After being involved in the construction and design of the garments, the building of the temple, and hearing about their place in the endowment in the Relief Society (by Smith), why had women not been admitted to the Endowment? Joseph taught that a man must obey God to be worthy of the endowment and that a wife must obey a righteous husband to merit the same reward. Until Emma could be obedient to Joseph (see D&C Sec. 132) and give him plural wives, she could not participate in the endowment ceremonies, yet Smith taught her that the endowment was essential for exaltation.'
("Mormon Underwear Garments," under, "The Mormon Temple as a Lasting Relic of Polygamy: Creation and Wearing of Secret Garments," at:http://www.i4m.com/think/temples/mormon-garments.htm
--Those Irksome "Points" of History
Exposing the slitting of Mormon temple garments and the deliberate physical scarring of endowment participants might be considered, well, a knife in the back to true believers, but what it really was was a knife in their knee.
No wonder Mormons have changed their secret underwear fashion statements over the years.
After all, what Mormons would want to 'fess up that:
(1) temple Mormons, behind their temple walls, used to slice their sacred temple underwear in order to guarantee themselves divine protection; and
(2) did the cutting of both cloth garment and human flesh in order to secretly identify faithful Mormon men to fellow temple LDSers as devout multi-wifers, as well as to identify faithfully-scarred Mormon women?
Lordy, the truth cuts deeply, don't it? :)
For a related thread, see: "Great (and Not So Great) Moments in Temple Garment Design," posted by "cludgie," on "Recovery from Mormonism" bulletin board, 1 January 2012, 1;12 p.m., at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,381427,381427#msg-381427
Edited 8 time(s). Last edit at 01/02/2012 02:35PM by steve benson.