Ya'll I am so so so excited about these posts. Thanks for all the emails and the support. I decided I am going to answer one question a post and also highlight some of my favorite Mormon bloggers as well!
Let's get going, shall we?
Firstly, yes they are called garments :) It's okay to have a lot of questions about them, I know a lot of people do.
It's not so crazy, there is the nun's habit, the priest's cassock, the Jewish prayer shawl, the muslim skullcap, etc!(1) We aren't the first to have articles of clothing that show were our devotion lies.
No, not all Mormons wear garments, but all Mormons have the opportunity to. To wear the garments you have to be worthy of entering the temple. To be worthy of entering the temple you have to follow the gospel; follow the laws of chastity & words of wisdom, be full tithe players, attend church, and some other sacred things ;). Most members get them when we go through the temple to be sealed, married or when preparing to go on a mission.
"This garment, worn day and night, serves three important purposes: it is a reminder of the sacred covenants made with the Lord in His holy house, a protective covering for the body, and a symbol of the modesty of dress and living that should characterize the lives of all the humble followers of Christ."(2)
In other words, they are an outward expression of an inward commitment to our Heavenly Father.
Yes, you are definitely allowed to take them off. (Though I am not sure I like the word "allowed" as if it is being forced upon us.) We choose to wear them, and for me I feel grateful that I am deemed worthy enough to wear them. We don't generally wear the garments during activities that could soil or ruin the garments. So, for example, if you are running a 5k you can choose to wear them or not. Obviously you can take them off when you are swimming or showering. I mean, you gotta get clean! ;) It's really a matter of just using your best judgment on whether or not it's appropriate to be wearing them. More times than not though, they should be on your body and worn properly :)
I would say that they are fairly comfortable actually. But I didn't think so at first, they definitely take some getting used to. Especially in the summer heat.
However, I always think the blessings of wearing the garments far outweigh any inconveniences they may cause.
** I like wearing garments, truthfully. I like to be reminded of the day my husband and I were sealed as a family with our daughter. I like to be reminded of the promises we made in the temple and it's hard not to be reminded of the temple when you are constantly wearing a physical reminder of it. I think they keep me in a pretty consistent state of mind of the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person Heavenly Father has asked me to be. **