I have no beef with the Mormons. But I am intrigued by their underwear. Other bloggers are too.
In late 2006, Wonkette wrote that Mitt Romney “refus[es] to say whether or not he wears the magic Mormon underwear.”
Wonkette was probably referring to an Atlantic Monthly article, in which Sridhar Pappu asked Mitt flat out: “Do you wear the temple garments?” Gov. Romney replied: “I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private.”
Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan posted a photo of the sacred drawers, prompting this response from Daniel Pulliam, a religion blogger:
“[T]his underwear issue should be dropped. ... I wonder why Sullivan has never asked whether the next Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, wears Mormon undergarments? Or Sen. Orrin Hatch? ...
“If a reporter had 10 questions to ask Romney, one should not be asking about what he is wearing underneath his suit. ... Leave the undergarment questions for ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report.’”
Well... how did Mitt Romney’s father handle this underwear issue 40 years ago, when Mormonism no doubt was considered even more weird than it is today?
Let’s consult a 1967 biography, “Romney’s Way – A Man and An Idea,” written by magazine journalist T. George Harris. The following comes from a chapter titled “A Missionary’s Long Underwear”:
T. GEORGE HARRIS: The Governor of Michigan wears peculiar drawers. They are the kind of long johns that Mormons call “temple garments.” He earned the right to them when he was 19, and put them on at a ceremony in Salt Lake’s home temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. He does not buy any other kind of underwear.
Should he smoke, drink or give less than ten percent of his gross income to his church, he would by his lights forfeit the privilege. They are sort of holy BVD’s, a cynic would say, for they have stitched marks across the front copied from symbols used in LDS temple oaths.
These signs on fresh-laundered underclothes remind him that his muscular body is a tabernacle of God and that his actions and motives will one day be judged by a court that has all the evidence. The real significance of those garments, however, takes a second thought: His personal religion, worn next to the skin, is as plain and serviceable as cotton knit. ...
[N]ot yet well educated on [George] Romney, I imagined that he would hunt a theological excuse for a less distinctive fashion, say boxer shorts. Visual symbols have always been dangerous in Presidential campaigns, especially if they somehow sum up the man.
Among the disparaging symbols recently hung on campaigners – from Tom Dewey’s “little man on top of a wedding cake” to Richard Nixon’s dog Checkers, Adlai Stevenson’s old shoe and Lyndon Johnson’s wheeler-dealer Stetson – none has invited ridicule like a pair of saintly long johns.
Romney knew this. Democrats were already tagging him Batman to deride his earnest manner. They sure would wave the drawers. But when I happened to learn that he had not given up the garments, he simply tried to make me understand why.
“You saw me receive an honorary doctorate the other day, another degree [he had 17] that I did not earn,” he said. “But people are proud to wear the robes for degrees they earn. Though not visible, the garments are something I earned by living up to certain standards.”