EBay permits sale of LDS garments

Firm says it was wrong to yank auctions of LDS clothes

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 18 2004 6:27 a.m. MST

It's OK to sell sacred religious undergarments on eBay.

Officials at eBay on Tuesday inappropriately halted the sale of the undergarments worn by LDS faithful, said a spokesman for the company.

Three separate auctions on the Internet auction site were yanked early Tuesday morning amid public pressure.

"We appeared to have pulled those listings in error," said Henry Gomez, vice president of corporate communications. "In this case the service representative became confused."

Gomez said the customer service representative feared offending members of the LDS community and pulled the listings from the site.

In a letter obtained by the Deseret Morning News to a seller of one of the auctions, eBay said the garments cannot be sold on its site without express written permission from the LDS Church.

The letter states, "Listing items such as the temple garments that are generally not publicly available and where the sale of such items could be highly offensive to members of the LDS religious community is not consistent with eBay's core values or our business needs."

Gomez said the listings did not contain any hate language and can be posted back on the Internet.

Dallas native Andrew Moody said he was upset eBay yanked two of his listings for the undergarments. When his auctions were pulled, both notched a high bid of $14,999, Moody said. Three weeks ago he sold a pair of the undergarments for $71 and eBay officials never said a thing.

"Either I'd like to be told I'm allowed to sell them, or I'm not," Moody said. "I don't want them to switch horses midstream because of public opinion."

Moody said he buys the undergarments from an "official distributor" but refused to name names. Garment distribution is a matter of trust, said LDS spokesman Coke Newell. LDS Church members must show a temple recommend to purchase temple clothing, not garments, he said.

Moody said he is pursuing other avenues of selling the garments.

The high bidder in a Sunday auction for a pair of the undergarments never coughed up the $1,000.01. Craig Greenwood, an eBay employee privately running the auction, said he is in the process of going through eBay seller actions to collect that payment. But a Florida woman said Greenwood offered the undergarments at a discounted price — only $55 — after the sale fell through.

"I have no bad intentions," said Melissa Allen, a member of the LDS Church. "I don't intend to wave the garments at a rally against the faith. I just wanted to see what they looked like."

During the church's October general conference, two conference attendees were incited to violence after street preachers donned the undergarments, deemed sacred religious clothing by members of the LDS Church. The two men were cited for assault and theft after ripping the clothing off the preachers.

Some members of the LDS Church are placing "empty bids" to keep the undergarments in what they call the right hands. Trent Hill of Torrance, Calif., said he recently bid $12,000 in one of the auctions but was outbid by another user.

"The bids are from members that will not pay the amount that are trying to prevent these items from being ridiculed by non-Mormons," Hill said.

Eagle Mountain resident Harry Bakken is one of these "empty" bidders. Bakken said he got involved in undergarment auctions in an attempt to make eBay aware of the fact that the auction items were in violation of eBay rules.

High bids with significant jumps in prices get the attention of eBay management, Bakken said.

"There are plenty of other ways devious individuals can get a hold of temple garments, and it is to their detriment," Bakken said. "They spend so much time tearing down what is sacred to some instead of promoting their own good."

LDS Church officials declined to comment about the auctions. This isn't the first controversial sale of an item LDS members hold sacred. In July 1999, eBay yanked an auction touting an LDS temple recommend. And a UVSC student briefly listed the sacred clothing used in LDS temples as well as LDS temple recommends before pulling both auctions Tuesday afternoon.

Chris Waldron said he closed the auctions after receiving multiple malicious threats and hate mail.

"I personally don't see a problem with the auctions," Waldron said. "I am a returned missionary and an active LDS member and believe in free agency."

The temple recommends — item #2226446301 — were listed with the description, "Ever wanted to go in a Mormon temple but never had the ticket needed to enter? I have authentic MORMON Temple recommends and these are a must have for anyone who has (a) family member getting married in a Mormon temple."

Waldron told the Deseret Morning News the recommends are expired. "I have told all (who inquire) that they are expired and are more for collectors, but that the old men who check them (at the temple) are usually asleep or too blind to read the fine print."


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com

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