Question: Is the wearing of the temple garment not supported by the Bible?


Question: Is the wearing of the temple garment not supported by the Bible?

This claim of 'no biblical support' has no foundation in fact

The authors of Mormonism 101 also attack the LDS temple garment by claiming that the Mormon ideology associated with it is not supported by the Bible. They write:

"There is also no biblical support for this unusual practice. In the Old Testament, only priests from the line of Levi and not the common Jew wore the linen undergarments. Still we find no biblical support for the notion that the priestly garments offered any special protection as described by various LDS authorities." [1]

This claim of 'no biblical support' has no foundation in fact, as shown by the following evidence.

Elder Theodore M. Burton -- as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles -- stated publicly (at Brigham Young University) that the LDS temple garment has a distinct connection with the garments that were made by God for the progenitors of the human race (see Genesis 3:21). [2]

In Exodus 28: the Lord commanded that the priests who served in His temple were to wear white garments next to their skin that were considered to be of a "holy" nature. And like the garments that God made for Adam and Eve, the Israelite temple garments were designed to "cover [the priest's] nakedness."

As plainly stated in verses 42 and 43 of Exodus 28, the ancient temple garments of Israel needed to be worn if the priest wanted to be protected from a lethal degree of harm.

It is clear from biblical texts that only those persons who served in God's temple in an official priesthood capacity were allowed to wear the "holy" garments associated with it. By comparison, it is openly acknowledged that the innermost LDS temple clothing is designated as "the garment of the holy priesthood." (Ensign, August 1997, 19-; New Era, June 2000, 20-; Ensign, February 2007, 12-17).

While it is true that in Old Testament times only members of the tribe of Levi could wear the temple vestiture it is equally true that in New Testament times Jesus Christ granted priesthood privileges to His entire "nation" of authorized disciples (see 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:5-6).

Sacred clothing is described by early Christian literature

LDS scholar Hugh Nibley detailed the sacred clothing described by early Christian literature:

[In] the Pistis Sophia, a very early Christian writing, written in the third century but sounding as if it belongs to the forty-day literature [we learn more]. When the Lord spoke to the disciples after the resurrection, he formed a prayer circle: his disciples, men and women, stood around behind Jesus, who himself stood at the altar, thus facing, as it were, the four corners of the world, with his disciples who were all clothed in garments of linen (quoting the disciples). Jesus proceeded to give the prayer. The Pistis Sophia claims to be derived from 2 Jeu, a book allegedly written by Enoch and then hidden up in the cleft of a rock. Second Jeu says: "All the apostles were clothed in linen garments, . . . their feet were placed together and they turned themselves to the four corners of the world." And Jesus, taking the place of Adam, proceeded to instruct them in all the necessary ordinances. The point is that when they formed a prayer circle, they always mentioned "clothed in their garments" or "clothed in white linen."

Next comes the passage I cited from Cyril of Jerusalem; it is the fullest description we have, the only definite mention of particular garments. We see why it was not well known and was not followed through: "Yesterday, . . . immediately upon entering you removed your street clothes. And that was the image of putting off the old man and his works. . . . And may that garment, once put off, never be put on again!" "As Christ after his baptism . . . went forth to confront the Adversary, so you after your holy baptism and mystic anointing [the washing and anointing] were clothed in the armor of the Holy Ghost [a protective garment], to stand against the opposing . . . power." "Having put off the old man's garment of sorrow, you now celebrate as you put on the garment of the Lord Jesus Christ." "Having been baptized in Christ and having put on Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27) [notice the imagery that follows: you put on Christ, you put on the new man, you put on the new body; this is very closely connected with the putting on of clothes], like a garment, you come to resemble (symmorphoi gegonate) the Son of God."

The next day Cyril continues, "After you have put off the old garments and put on those of spiritual white, you should keep them always thus spotless white. This is not to say you must always go around in white clothes [these clothes were real; furthermore, we know of the baptismal garments, for we have references to them], but rather that you should always [be] clothed in what is really white and glorious." Then he cites Isaiah 61:10: "Let my soul exult in the Lord, for he hath clothed me in a robe of salvation and clothing of rejoicing."

This is the fullest of early Christian references to the vestments. But these are not vestments in the modern sense at all. They are worn by all Christians — but not all the time, not as a sign of clerical vocation within the church, and not as a public sign.

The combination of the items that make up the full clothing comes from the description of the high priestly garments at the beginning of Exodus 28. [3]

It is ironic that the early Christians used sacred clothing based upon Exodus 28, and it is exactly this which modern conservative Protestant critics attack in the Latter-day Saints (see above).

Notes

  1. McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 212.
  2. Genesis 3:7,10,21
  3. Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present (Vol. 12 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Don E. Norton, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992), 95–97.. Nibley cites Pistis Sophia II, 99; III 134; IV, 136, lines 16-22, in Carl Schmidt, ed., Pistis Sophia, tr. Violet MacDermot (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 353; 2 Jeu 42, 114 in Carl Schmidt, ed., The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex, tr. Violet MacDermot (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 99. He also cites Cyril, Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses (Instructions) XX [II], 2; XXI [III], 4; XIX [I], 10. Other references silently removed.