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.