Bill Maher’s Issues with Mormon Underwear

This week, on David Letterman, Bill Maher got ugly about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his Mormonism.

“Don’t get me started on Mitt Romney,” Maher sneered to Letterman. ”Because Mitt Romney will teach America what’s really in Mormonism.”

“Mitt likes to gloss over… ‘well, we’re just different types of Christians.’ No. No, I was raised Catholic,” Maher leaned in and raised an eyebrow, setting up for his big punchline: ”And there was no magic underwear.”

Big laughs from the crowd at CBS studios. Right on cue.

Magic underwear?

It’s no secret that highly observant LDS people wear sacred undergarments as an expression of religious commitment.

But magic underwear? Please.

There is a historic Mormon folk belief that garments offer a kind of protection to their wearers. But for the vast majority of Mormons, garments first and foremost represent the daily wearing of a covenant to lives of modesty, chastity, and faith.

The same way an orthodox Jew would wear a kippah (for men) or modest clothing (for women), or a Muslim woman would wear a headscarf, highly observant Mormons wear garments.

And, really, let’s be candid: there is a lot of strange underwear in this world. Fluorescent. Anatomy-binding. Bejeweled. Bezippered. Wired. I’ve seen women’s underwear so tiny it barely deserves the name, and men’s underwear shaped like an elephant with the trunk… well… you get what I’m saying.

Given the state of underwear in America, I find absolutely nothing strange or embarrassing about the white cotton or nylon shoulder-covering and knee-grazing undergarments observant Mormons wear. They’ve been a normal part of my family life for generations.

I do, however, find it strange, juvenile, threatening, and repulsive when grown men bully other people about their underwear on national television.

Maher has a long track record of aggressively anti-religious pedantry. He likes to ridicule people of faith. And it’s not the first time he has mocked and dehumanized the 7 million Mormons who live in the U.S.

Maher, Lawrence O’Donnell, and their ilk are the reason why so many Mormons are bracing for the ugly side of the Big Mo-Publican Primary 2012.

Just don’t expect me to sit quietly while people take pleasure in mocking the private lives and religious commitments of the people I love.

askmormongirl@gmail.com'

Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.