Kirby: Hey, Mormons, garments aren't secret anymore
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

During a particularly horrible July a long time ago, I attended some specialized military training in Georgia.

One morning, as the maniacal first sergeant prowled our exhausted ranks, he suddenly stopped in front of the only other Mormon in the platoon.

"Smith!" he bellowed. "Why the #%@! are you wearing two T-shirts!"

I don't recall the exact explanation, but thereafter Smith was known in the platoon as "Two T-Shirt" even though he finally quit wearing one of them.

It was my first exposure to the non-Mormon struggle with the concept of LDS temple garments — an attitude I came to understand ranged from complete ignorance to open contempt.

Garments are a sacred subject among Mormons, or at least they're supposed to be. We're counseled to take the matter so seriously that we shouldn't even mention them in public. Some of us do a better job of that than others.

During the 2002 Winter Olympics, I was interviewed by a French news crew interested in finding out more about "les Mormons." The woman conducting the interview point blank asked me about "ze garments."

No one had been willing to show her a pair of Mormon garments. Would I, a fellow journalist, be so kind?

I told her on camera (and partly in jest) that I would be happy to show her my underwear if she showed me hers first.

This is not the kind of dare you want to make with a woman from France. The interviewer shrugged, put down her microphone and began unbuttoning her blouse.

My wife, who was waiting just off camera, mercifully put a stop to it.

Mormons need be realistic about garments and the world. Most people who know us, know about us or think they know us are well aware of our two-T-shirt thing. Garments are not a secret anymore. They never really were.

Today, you can look them up on the Internet, see them peeking out from under regular clothing, find them left behind in Laundromats and even spot them hanging on clotheslines.

Here's another secret — they aren't sacred, either. Not to 99 percent of the rest of the world, they aren't. Furthermore, you can't make them sacred by pitching a snit whenever people don't treat them the way you think they should.

Garments are receiving even more exposure now that a serious contender for president is wearing them. You'll see temple garments on TV, billboards, talk shows and even waved about by the maturely challenged at General Conference.

Get used to it. There's a price you have to pay if you want to play with the big kids. That price is that not everyone will take you as seriously as you would like. In fact, the more seriously you want to be taken, the less it will happen.

We used to be able to control the sacred stuff about us that other people might find strange or even crazy. That control was a main reason for coming to Utah.

The isolation lasted until the mining boom, when thousands of non-Mormons showed up and didn't care that we thought we were extra-special. Then came the Internet, and now there isn't a skirt in the world that hasn't been peeked up.

Every major religion will tell you that along with world renown comes insensitive attention. And nobody cares if you get all whiny about it. In fact, a lot of them like that part even better. It's going to get worse before it gets better.

Actually, it won't ever get better. Ask Catholics, Jews, Wiccans and American Indians, who have the sacred elements of their faiths routinely spoofed on comedy shows.

"Saturday Night Live" and other programs have yet to feature sketches with actors dressed in Mormon temple clothes.

Get ready.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.