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Jana Riess: It’s not just women who have a problem with LDS temple garments. It’s men, too.

Autor: The Salt Lake Tribune

Younger Latter-day Saints don’t wear this symbolic underclothing as often as older members.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Underclothing, known as garments, worn by faithful men and women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are shown in these church-authorized photos.

By Jana Riess | Religion News Service

  | April 18, 2024, 6:25 p.m.

| Updated: 7:14 p.m.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revised its temple recommend questions late last week to remove ambiguity about when and how endowed members are supposed to wear their temple garments.

The change took effect Wednesday.

In sum, the language about wearing the garment “day and night” is back. From 1976 until 2019, the temple recommend interview asked members if they were wearing their garments “night and day as instructed in the endowment.” But from 2019 until this week, the language was changed to, “Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple, including wearing the temple garment as instructed in the endowment?”

Now, the language has been changed once again, this time to, “Do you honor your sacred privilege to wear the garment as instructed in the initiatory ordinances?” That will be followed by an explanation that the garment should be worn “day and night throughout your life.”

So we’re largely back where we were in early 2019, with a stated requirement that the garment is supposed to be worn basically 24/7 except for a few unspecified activities that “cannot reasonably be done while wearing the garment.”

Our first inkling that this was coming was in March, when The Salt Lake Tribune reported that general authority Seventy Kevin Hamilton had warned of the coming change at a stake conference in California:

“Hamilton, who is on a committee studying possible redesign of garments, told the assembled lay leaders that too many younger women wear them mostly on Sundays and when attending the temple, recalled conferencegoer Colleen Speer, rather than every day.”

Hamilton apparently singled out young women who avoid wearing garments in favor of “yoga pants.” Darn those wanton women and their yoga pants. It seems they are the reason the rest of us can’t have nice things. We gave them an inch, and they streeeeeetched it by a spandex mile. Oh, yes, we’ve got trouble, right here in Provo City.

Or so goes the theory: Young women are the culprits.

What happens if the theory doesn’t turn out to be true?

In the Next Mormons Survey project, we are now analyzing the results of our 2022 and 2023 U.S. data collections. One of the graduate assistants associated with the project was curious about how gender might correlate with garment wearing, so he began analyzing the data accordingly, zeroing in on one question in particular. We asked those people who had been through the temple and were therefore supposed to wear temple garments whether they were wearing them at the time of the survey — and if not, when they had last done so.

“Thinking about church temple garments, when was the last time that you wore them?

• I am wearing them currently.

• Yesterday, but not today.

• Within the last week.

• Within the last month.

• Within the last six months, but not the last month.

• Between six months and a year ago.

• Between one and five years ago.

• More than five years ago.”

Three general takeaways become clear as we explore the responses to this question.

The first is that a majority of people who are supposed to be wearing their garments said they were wearing them on the day they took the survey. In all, 54.5% said they were sporting temple garments at that moment.

The second point was that women were slightly more compliant than men in terms of who was wearing garments at the time of the survey, at 56% and 53%, respectively. That’s a small difference, but it points to the idea that gender is not the main driving factor in terms of who is wearing garments 24/7 and who is not. The gendered “yoga pants” theory does not hold up under scrutiny.

What does hold up is the criticism that younger members — both women and men — aren’t as tractable and obedient about garment wearing as Latter-day Saint leaders would like them to be. And by “younger members” we mean anyone born after the mid-1960s, basically. The third takeaway is that generation is far more important a factor than gender in who is wearing garments on the daily.

More than 8 in 10 baby boomers and older (born before 1965) said they were wearing their garments on the day of the survey (84%). That compares with — wait for it — just 42% of Generation X, 36% of millennials and 41% of Generation Z. As a reminder, these percentages don’t include people of any generation who hadn’t been anointed and endowed in the first place — only those who had participated in temple rituals and were therefore expected to wear garments. They also don’t include any former Latter-day Saints, or people who no longer self-identify as Mormon. These respondents all say they still affiliate with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Garment compliance among younger members appears to be very low, especially for millennials. It’s likely understandable, if the church’s own research is producing similar figures, that it wants those members to fall in line and is using the temple recommend interview as a vehicle to encourage that.

But in the Next Mormons data, at least, there’s no reason to single out women as the main instigators. I know we, as Latter-day Saints, have a long history of projecting our cultural anxieties onto women’s bodies. I mean, I don’t want to brag, but we’ve gotten good at such scapegoating through the years and have largely perfected the strategy. When in doubt, our instinct is to blame young jezebels.

In this case, though, policing women’s bodies isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem. No amount of yoga-pant-shaming will change the fact that a majority of middle-aged and young adult members seem unenthusiastic about garments — men as well as women.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess.

(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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