Coats of Skins

The story goes that after Adam and Eve discovered their nakedness, but before they were thrust out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord made clothing for them: "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21).  Elder Carlos Asay has commented that "They received this clothing in a context of instruction on the Atonement, sacrifice, repentance, and forgiveness (see Moses 5:5-8). The temple garment given to Latter-day Saints is provided in a similar context."

Our temple ceremonies give us a particular view, as laid out by Elder Asay, on the importance of the clothing given to Adam and Eve in the Garden as an instructional tool, a reminder of covenants.  But I also like to think about these coats of skins in the sense of how God prepares us for the world.

There is very little in the Bible about Adam and Eve — not enough, when you consider their iconic importance to latter-day saints.  But the sequence of events is clear: they are tempted, they partake of the fruit, they hide themselves because they were naked, and God covenants with them before sending them out of the Garden. 

I can picture Jehovah making these coats of skins for the naked, humiliated Adam and Eve; they realize now that their time in Eden is over, and that their relationship with their Father will never be the same.  I imagine that those first garments were made for them lovingly, made of sturdy stuff to face that lone, dreary world.  Sure, there must have been an instruction to them about what these clothes meant, and I picture them listening, and wondering what it all meant (like my first, awkward time in the temple!)

And then the world changed for them, into a hostile, angry place.  Their prayers aren’t answered by talking with God face to face anymore.  Did Jehovah give them advice and expressions of love while clothing them?  What were their last moments like together?

When I put on my garments sometimes I think about that moment.  Before I go to work in the morning, sometimes I think about leaving my Upper West Side Eden with regret, and remind myself of how God has given me a shield and protection.  It’s not the ‘magic underwear’ described by Stern or Maher; it’s the constant reminder that I have a relationship with God, closer to me than anything else.  As our Father, God probably worries about us as we leave to go into the world, and does all he can to watch over us.  We’re apart from Him now, but we’ve been prepared by Him to face what’s ahead.  It’s comforting sometimes.

Comments

  1. Steve, very nice post. I love the idea that our garments will “protect” us from the barbs and weariness that we face in our daily lives, not just sensational dramatic events like fire, car accidents, etc. (as alluded to by Willard Mariott in the 60 Minutes special several years ago.)

  2. I must admit Kris that I don’t know what to do with miraculous garment stories. Of course I won’t try to debate their veracity, but on the other hand is the shield of the garment a physical one? Is that where the priority should be? I don’t think so. Instead, I think about Heavenly Father outfitting us for the world.

  3. I agree. While I’m sure that such miracles are possible, I think focusing on the daily protection of the garment is more beneficial for all of us.

  4. I love this post, Steve. I, as well, have always felt uncomfortable with the idea that they offered physical protection or were magical in some way.

    I once learned an incredibly profound insight about the garment: We understand that the word “Atonement” means to cover (covering our sins). Lucifer gave Adam and Eve fig leaves to cover themselves (a false atonement). Christ made coats of skin which required the shedding of blood, a first for the Garden of Eden (a true, lasting Atonement). The garment (the Atonement) protects us from the elements (sin). It’s a constant reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.

  5. Wow, Rusty. Great Comment. You beat me to the punch. I just put up a post on that very topic, inspired by Steve’s post, over at the M*.

  6. Thanks Rusty — I like that symbolism as well. A part of me wonders about how those first clothes were made, and what they really mean. Sometimes I think about them the way a parent would put their child in a raincoat before sending them off to school.

  7. Miranda PJ says:

    The full name of our “temple garment” is “The Garment of the Holy Priesthood.” Why do women receive them in a ceremony which includes no visible display of priesthood authority? And I’m not asking about the practical reasons for excluding men from the women’s locker room.

  8. Miranda, I sense that you’re trying to draw some important gender lines here, but that’s a bit of a threadjack, don’t you think?

  9. danithew says:

    Rusty, you must have heard the highcouncilman talk we had a month or two ago. It was incredible. It was also unusual because he had the word “naked” written on a large piece of paper and held it up for everyone to see. That’s the kind of thing that keeps everyone in sacrament meeting awake. He also spoke of the atonement as a real authentic covering.

    It had never occurred to me previous to that, that Satan was being mean-spirited in telling them to make clothes out of fig leaves. What kind of instruction is that to give someone? Clearly he was setting them up to fail and to embarass themselves.

  10. Miranda PJ says:

    Steve, You can’t very well start a conversation about underwear and then pretend to be surprised when gender issues come up. And besides, you’re being condescending.

  11. Mardell says:

    I often wonder about the fig leaf choice. (When I was a kid my great aunt had a fig tree that we would climb once a year to pick figs. We quickly learned to wear long sleeves because the leaves would make you very itchy.) Shouldn’t they use a leaf that is not itchy?

  12. If the garment has so much protection both spritiual and physical…why do we wait until our children are in their 20s to go through the temple to get them? OR…are they just a reminder of things we have learned and committed to and the protection thing is just folk legend we keep propagating?

Trackbacks

  1. Wearing the Atonement

    Steve has an interesting post concerning the coats of skins given to Adam and Eve after they had transgressed the commandment by partaking of the fruit but before they had been thrust out of the garden.

    Steve says I can picture Jehovah making these …

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