During each temple recommend interview the person conducting the interview has been asked to read a short statement on wearing the temple garment. Recently the text of that statement has been altered slightly.
Part of the earlier version reads: ‘The garment should not be removed for activities which might reasonably be done with the garment worn beneath the clothing. As members carefully follow these principles, they will be guided by the Holy Spirit in considering their personal commitment to wear the garment’.
The revised version reads: ‘The garment should not be removed, either entirely or partially to work in the yard or for other activities that can be reasonably be done with the garment worn beneath the clothing. Members who have made covenants in the temple should be guided by the Holy Spirit to answer for themselves personal questions about wearing the garment.’
These changes are unusual in two ways. First they are minor and second they are strange.
First, the change around yard work. Parenthetically, it clearly betrays the cultural imperialism of some of the materials produced by the Church. Yards, for Europeans at least, are usually open spaces outside of factories or other areas of manual labour. Yet, how can this change be explained? Perhaps a series of nosy neighbours have been concerned about the rising level of shirtless yard work being done in the Salt lake valley. Although this sounds somewhat facetious I am actually being serious. Aside from this I cannot think of a good explanation for this addendum. This then raises the question of what, if anything, is the root of the concern. I would be surprised if there are women who are partially wearing the garment while doing ‘yard work’ and so this seems to be aimed at men. Perhaps we are seeing the first indications of what I call the ‘Don Draper effect’. In an early episode of Mad Men, while Don plays with the kids in the garden wearing a (tight) white T-shirt, a friend of Betty Draper remarks ‘You are a lucky women!’ Could the sexual insecurity of some be the first intimations that men, too, are walking pornography?
The second shift is more interesting, but unfortunately has less to do with Don Draper. This second change alters the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to keeping covenants associated with the temple garment. In the first statement the Holy Spirit guides members in relation to their commitment while in the second statement the Holy Spirit provides answers for the individual members regarding how they should wear the garment. The irony here, of course, is that as the statement has become more proscriptive it has also emphasized personal revelation and choice when making decisions regarding how to wear the garment.
In short, I find these changes somewhat confused and unnecessary.