By CARLY STERN
A growing number of Mormon women are pleading with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to redesign the official sacred underwear that all practicing Mormons wear under their clothes, arguing that the garments are itchy, uncomfortable, and detrimental to vaginal health.
Since the 1840s, male and female Mormons alike have worn special sacred temple garments, a set of boxer brief-style shorts and a matching T-shirt that are kept on under the clothes day and night — while working, exercising, and even sleeping.
But while the undergarments have undergone a few design changes over the years, some Mormon women say that they haven’t changed enough to accommodate evolving lifestyles and the health needs of female anatomy.
Speaking to the New York Times this week, Mormon women point to itchy synthetic fabric, uncomfortably pinching waistbands, and fabric that doesn’t breathe — which can lead to yeast infections — as problems that need to be rectified, but admit that some are too embarrassed to discuss the issue with male leaders.
‘People are scared to be brutally honest, to say: “This isn’t working for me. It isn’t bringing me closer to Christ, it’s giving me UTIs,”‘ said Lindsay Perez, 24.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear special sacred temple garments under their clothes. The T-shirt and boxer-brief-like shorts function as underwear and are meant to be worn at all times, including while sleeping
The undergarments look like a simple white T-shirt and long fitted shorts with subtle religious markings, and symbolize Mormons’ commitment to the church and its teachings.
‘To church members, the modest temple garment, worn under normal clothing, along with the symbolic vestments worn during temple worship, represent the sacred and personal aspect of their relationship with God and their commitment to live good, honorable lives,’ the church explained in an informational video released in 2014.
Because they are meant to be worn all the time in place of traditional underwear, church members own several pairs.
But several women are now speaking out about the need to update the design, with some plucking up the courage to contact church officials about the problem.
They have several complaints, including that the undergarments are itchy, especially along the hems and seams. Others point to fabric bunching up.
But one of the biggest problems appears to be that the synesthetic fabric that most of the undergarments are made of does not breathe, which leads to yeast infections and UTIs.
Though there is a more breathable cotton version, some complain that it’s made of much thicker fabric and is too tight.
But a few are taking the issue up the ladder — and using social media to garner more support.
‘Vaginas need to breathe. It’s a thing,’ church member Sasha Piton of Idaho Falls, Idaho wrote on Instagram.
‘If you are unaware, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have an opportunity to go through the temple and make further promises to God. As part of that ceremony we begin to wear the sacred garment, which becomes our underwear. We wear it under our clothing and it symbolizes our willingness to follow Christ,’ she explained.
‘But my LANTA some of us are struggling with skin infections, eczema flares, UTI’s, yeast infections, and so many other things… And many are afraid to prioritize physical health over the symbol of what the garments represent,’ she continued.
‘You are not alone. There are many people struggling with the garment and ultimately it’s about finding the balance and being connected to Christ and letting our vaginas breathe,’ she told her followers.
A major complaint is that the synesthetic fabric isn’t breathable, which contributes to rashes, UTIs, and yeast infections, among other health issues
Her entreaty was met with waves of support, including comments from women who shared their own struggles
‘Me personally? I don’t stress about it, since it’s personal and I’ve come to a place where I feel confident making choices between me and God,’ she said, later explaining to the Times that she decided to stop wearing the garments while exercising and sometimes at night.
She concluded with a plea for ‘buttery soft garments’ that are ‘seamless’ and have a ‘thick waistband that doesn’t cut into my spleen.’
Her entreaty was met with waves of support, including comments from women who shared their own struggles.
‘Garments are what I struggle with the most in the church. They are so uncomfortable especially in the summer,’ wrote one.
‘We NEED gentler waistbands!!!’ commented another.
‘Seriously, though. What man thought it would be a good idea having a seam right down the middle on women’s underwear? Clearly someone unfamiliar with female anatomy,’ argued a third.
There were plenty of ‘amens’ and ‘hallelujahs,’ with some women suggesting options in a bamboo material
The garments symbolize Mormons’ commitment to the church and its teachings
‘FREAK YES on all of this, but particularly the waistband!!!!!’ another supporter chimed in.
One said that while she was pregnant, she suffered so much with vaginal health and UTIs that she needed to go to the hospital — and she realizes now it was because of the temple garments.
‘I wish women had talked about it then so I could’ve had some relief!’ she said. ‘I will no longer guilt myself and feel the horrible shame that I know my Savior wouldn’t want me to feel.’
Another admitted she is taking a break from wearing the garments following years of recurrent UTIs.
Complaints also abound in private Facebook groups for Mormon women, according to the Times, with some sharing specific complaints about wearing the garments on religious missions to hot, humid climates — and suffering from rashes and infections.
Changes are certainly possible, and the church has actually tweaked the design of the garments before.
They made headlines in 2012 when Mitt Romney ran for president and photos showed a hint of the garments under his shirts
Men and women originally wore the same exact design, which featured longer sleeves and pant legs. Those have shortened, with slightly different designs for women and more fabric options.
The most recent improvements were made in 2018. According to Religion News, they included silk-screened markings that don’t show through clothes, stretch cotton fabric, the absence of tags, less constrictive underarms, and a different fit over all.
But the church still hasn’t faced the issue of vaginal infections, even though the topic has been raised.
One woman, Afton Southam Parker, said that when she made her case to a church designer, it was suggested to her that ‘talking about pads and gore’ was inappropriate.
But many are still holding out hope. Piton, the Instagrammer, has encouraged her followers to email the church, and her followers have expressed relief that the issue is being talked about so publicly.