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Sanctuary Vesture: A Brief Overview and Comparison via Temple Study

Link to the article on TempleStudy

The link to the article is above, but I would like to interject a little commentary on the topic as well.

It is common knowledge that Latter-day Saints wear white clothing in the temple as a symbol of purity and many other things in relation to their relationship with God.

Matthew Brown begins his article by stating:

“It is publicly acknowledged that Latter-day Saints who participate in the central temple rites of their faith dress in several layers of ceremonial clothing, consisting of a “white undergarment” (which is worn as part of everyday life) and “other priestly robes” (which are only worn during times of temple service).” Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:534

Many people are familiar with the “white undergarment” that LDS members who have gone through the Endowment ordinance wear on a daily basis under their normal clothes. Others might not be as aware of the other ceremonial clothing mentioned in the above quote.

That ceremonial clothing has similarities to the priestly robes worn during ancient temple service. You can read about that particular clothing in the Old Testament in Exodus 28 among other places:

28:2 – And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.

28:4 – And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

28:39 – And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework.

28:40 – And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty.

One of the most fascinating things about the temple and the way of temple teaching is the numerous parallels; one of my favorites has to do with the temple clothing. Just as a temple is a piece of earth that is clothed with architecture that gives the space sacred meaning, Latter-day Saints and many other religions consider our own bodies respectively “temples” of our spirits.

1 Corinthians 3:16, immediately comes to mind: ” Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” So it has always been interesting to me that as we enter a building that in many ways represents ourselves and our own internal journey back to God through the ‘inner mountain’ so to speak, that we also adorn our own earthly temples as well with symbolic clothing that assists in the teaching process.

By entering sacred space we mark a transition of our bodies from the profane to the holy, a process that is underscored with the addition of sacred clothing.

It has been mentioned in previous articles that the idea of ‘clothing’ oneself is tied to the resurrection of Christ and the receiving of certain blessings from God.

The phrase “put on” is from the Greek word “Enduw” (pronounced “en-doo’-o”) which means: “(in the sense of sinking into a garment); to invest with clothing (literally or figuratively):-array, clothe (with), endue, have (put) on.” This might be a link to understanding the connections that the Temple “Endow”ment has to the resurrection.

We will literally ‘put on’ Jesus Christ in the resurrection by receiving a new body formed by his ‘template’ that never had evil or imperfection recorded into it. This is how Jesus was able to atone for the ‘sins of the world’ and how there is no sin that cannot be cleansed by the atonement. It covers everything because he literally replaces corruption with incorruption. This is the miracle of the resurrection and why “when He shall appear we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3:2) (From a oneClimbs article: Understanding the atonement by understanding the body)

While from the outside, the idea of sacred clothing in the context of modern temple practices is something viewed as unusual, unnecessary or even strange to other professions of Christianity in our Westernized cultures of worship, the concept of sacred vestments goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

The clothing marked a transition for Adam and Eve. The garden of Eden was a temple, it was a place where God manifested his presence to Adam and Eve and made covenants with them. Before leaving this ‘temple’ the received therein a special covering that they wore before entering the fallen world.

In like manner, Latter-day Saints go to the temple to be endowed with similar ‘garments’ that we wear with us to remember our covenants and promises to the Lord, the temple being a type and shadow of both the Eden of old and the future glorified state the world will return to.

Read through the Bible and you will find volumes of information tied to the idea of sacred clothing and the important part it has played with God’s dealings with his people. The knowledge of sacred clothing has been lost to modern Christianity, but it has been returned to it’s proper order through the restoration of the Gospel.

Temple worship is something very foreign to contemporary Christianity, but has always been part of the connection between God and his people. A ‘temple’ is defined as a “house of God” and is set apart from the rest of the world as a place where God can come and commune with man. The first ‘temple’ was the Garden of Eden, we see Jacob in Genesis 28 anointing a pillar of stone with oil and naming the place “Beth-El” or “House of God”. We have the various mountains such as Sinai which acted as temples or sacred space where God could communicate with man.

Joseph of Egypt’s “coat of many colors” may have not been “colored” at all but a “coat of many marks” a priesthood garment that dated back to Eden (Sorry Donny Osmond, no ‘technicolor’ here).

With Moses’ tabernacle and the permanent temples that were erected after, we see the ordinances, artifacts and special clothing that goes along with participating in the things of the house of God.

Many are not even aware of certain practices and rituals of early Christians that are not know in modern “Christianity” today. We read of early Christian prayer circles, and other rites that would be foreign and strange to modern churches. A BYU professor Hugh Nibley has done amazing research and written countless books on these topics. TempleStudy.com is dedicated to Hugh Nibley’s research and provides some great information along these lines.

TempleStudy.com referenced the excavation of a cemetery in the Fayum region of Egypt where some early Christian remains turned up clothed in garments with unusual features that the deceased were buried in.

Garment with woven rosettes and hemmed cut this early christian garment was made of wool and was placed next to the body the garment has a woven rosette over each breast a hemmed cut on the abdomen and a rosette above the right knee

Ten of the robes on this burial are plain linen garments but the many strands of linen ribbon wrapped around the upper half of the body are gathered together into a complex knot. This knot is found on the left shoulder on two of the robes and on the right shoulder of the remaining eight robes. The sym

bol of the sacred knot or bow is common in Egypt and elsewhere and may indicate sacerdotal or priestly authority.

The piece of clothing closest to the body is not usually well preserved due to the destructive influence of fluids and chemicals remaining in the body. In this burial, as well as a few others, however, the woolen garment next to the skin is sufficiently well preserved for us to observe that small rosettes have been woven into the material in particular locations. There is one rosette over each breast and one on the right leg near the knee, but there is no corresponding rosette on the left leg. Across the lower abdomen, the material also has a hemmed slit about six inches long.

We still see sacred clothing used in various faiths today, where the pastor or preacher will wear special robes or other clothing to mark his separation as a minister or holder of priestly authority.

Most people in these faiths see nothing strange about this; note in the images provided above how many of these priestly robes have markings on them, symbols that set the sacred vestments apart from regular clothing. In the Latter-day Saint faith, every worthy male can be a priesthood holder, and man and woman together in marriage are both made partakers of the blessings of the priesthood via the marriage covenant. In this manner, each person and not just the ‘leader’ of the particular denomination participates in the wearing of sacred clothing as symbols of covenants entered in to.

To Latter-day Saints, these vestments are not ‘magical’ but symbolic, an “An Outward Expression of an Inward Commitment” as Elder Carlos E. Asay put it. Symbols have special meanings to all who use them and as the outward expressions of inner commitments are precious to everyone of all faiths, we should be reverent and respectful of each other in our sacred expressions.

As Latter-day Saints, a proper understanding of our own sacred clothing is an important key to understanding what the God is trying to teach us and what he is trying to prepare us for.

In the Book of Mormon we read:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. (3 Nephi 27:19)

And again:

I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins. (Alma 5:21)

In Revelation 7:9,13,14 we see white robes referenced:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;…And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

And in verse 15 we see temple service referenced again, even though some believe that the place of temples is obsolete in God’s dealings with man nowadays and in the future:

Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

This ‘white robe’ and these ‘white garments’ are symbolic of our purity before God and the ‘white robe’ of resurrection that we will receive through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

The practice of adorning oneself in white clothing and the sacred robes of the temple are directly related to these promises of the Lord in dealing with our future destiny and also serve to teach us about many other things as we progress in our journey.

I for one am very grateful that we are able to participate in the ordinances of the temple and feel the connection to some of the ancient practices of our ancestors all the way back to the beginning. At the same time, I love the deeply solemn atmosphere of the temple which is something that is very hard to find in this world. I love the sense of awe and wonder that goes along with temple service. It’s something completely foreign to anything else you can find in this world, because a temple is not meant to be a place of this world; it is something in between.

It’s a bridge between this world and the next. A place where the seriousness and gravity of our covenant relationship with God can be sensed and felt within a proper context.

The more I attend the temple, the more I realize how important it is to not view things only at face value. Like the parables of Jesus, we are meant to look deeper, to seek for the understanding and eternal truths that lie beyond the physical symbols and themes. Like Jesus said: “…seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (Matthew 7:7).

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Updated: March 6, 2011

  • Richard J. Nobbe III

    Do you want to build a snowman?

    Just kidding of course. Actually, I wanted to ask you if you or anyone you know has seen the Disney movie, “Frozen?”

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I recognized a lot of ancient temple symbolism in this movie – from ceremonial clothing to ceremonial objects that have deep symbolic meanings, etc…

    It’s not like I don’t see remnants of this stuff all the time, I do quite frequently. But what impressed me about this particular movie was the amount of symbolism and the “direct way” it is presented.

    What say you?