This Sunday is the fourth annual Pants to Church Day and my third time participating. The first year Stephanie Lauritzen organized the event with the purpose was to highlight gender inequity in the Church (I didn’t participate the first year, back then I never would have even said the f-word). Since then other women have been the organizers and their purpose is to “stand for inclusivity and equity for those who are marginalized.”
Lately I’ve been reflecting on my official leap into Mormon Feminism that occurred on that freezing Rexburg Sunday in December 2013. Without the organized pants day I never would have had the courage to wear pants on my own, and knowing like-minded sisters around the world were acting with me helped me take the leap. After wearing pants to church and blogging about it, I inadvertently landed myself on the front page of the Rexburg newspaper. The response to the article was not entirely friendly, nor was it entirely hostile. I received quite a bit of local (esp ward/family) blowback, but I was also humbled and strengthened by the friendship and understanding I found from places I had least expected. That’s Rexburg for you, though: meeting my lowest expectations and pleasantly surprising me at the same time.
Recently I requested the editor of the Rexburg paper send me the most popular “letters to the editor” written in response to me and my pants. Below are the two responses he sent me:
I wear a skirt to church
In our culture, the strongest meaning associated with a skirt is femininity. It is not weakness or inequality. Especially not these days.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” It may not be a very popular view these days, but that doesn’t keep it from being true.
Out of practicality and comfort, I generally wear pants throughout the week, but when I want to highlight my femininity, I wear a skirt. That is why I wear a skirt to church. I believe wearing a skirt helps me pay reverence to my divine femininity and the Creator who made me. This reverence is part of my worship. The way I dress not only shows reverence, but that I embrace the revealed truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not believe there will ever be a revelation declaring that women will be priesthood bearers. Women already have the opportunity to participate in the priesthood and in priesthood ordinances as much as men have the opportunity to participate in child bearing and child rearing. It is equal.
While the roles are different, that’s the way it should be. God intended for certain roles of men and women to be different because each is a vital role. He wanted us to realize that we can’t do it alone, that we need each other. If one or the other gender had the ability to perform all vital roles in life, it would make it so we felt that one gender didn’t need the other.
The divine feminine and the divine masculine are inseparable. I glory in the creation and wisdom of God. That is why I put a skirt on when I go to church to worship Him.
Make the best offering possible
Regarding the thoughtful and thought-provoking Dec. 19 article regarding Ms. Anderson’s wearing of pants to church meetings, it’s always healthy to live the examined life, isn’t it?
Here are some thoughts also to be considered: as vital as love and inclusion are, scripture and prophets give at least as much weight to submission and deference to God and approaching Him His way.
There are great lessons about making our best offering to God, which specifically includes our dress. I, too, have had the opportunity to travel, and am so impressed with the love for God I see among the poor and, in humble circumstances, their wanting to make their best offering to God, expressed in their dress as they come to worship.
There is the point, making the best offering possible. People initially “come as they are” and are welcomed, then progress to come as God wants them to be. A cardinal principle I’ve found in worshiping and approaching God is that we always do so His way, as He asks.
I can only speak for myself, but if I were to approach God making anything but my best offering, reflected in my dress, that would interfere with my worship. It’s never about me.
Someone who hasn’t given the same amount of thought to issues as Ms. Anderson might make that mistake. And since Paul was invoked, he also spoke strongly to the strong in the faith to not introduce behaviors into the church that might be a stumbling block to the weaker in the faith, for the faithful who are confident in their relationship with God to cause a distraction for others approaching Him. That would be contrary to inclusive discipleship.
He also spoke specifically of customs of the day and warned, though obviously transitory, that not living inside those customs could be a distraction for our brothers and sisters.
The responses could be summarized into (1) gender roles are separate but equal, priesthood=motherhood; and (2) by not conforming you can end up being a stumbling block to those weak in the faith.
Since these letters were published, Sheri Dew has written a book that was basically an expansion of the thesis (priesthood=motherhood) of the first letter, which has been subsequently debunked both by Elder Oaks and our own LDS.org essay on women and the priesthood. Surprise! The relationship between gender and priesthood is more complex than we ever thought it was.
As for being a stumbling block: ever since I began having questions about the church and the gospel, the things I see people mostly leaving the church for are (1) the church history mess left by our past leaders and (2) the way marginalized people are treated because they aren’t conforming with orthodoxy. Whether this second group are people of color, LGBTQ+, feminists, or just people with questions; the unchristian, unwelcoming, unloving treatment these people receive have often led them to judge the Church by it’s fruits (how it’s members treat them).
I never once have seen a person’s faith shaken by someone wearing pants or by an LGBT person participating in a congregation. Yet our inability to create and maintain an inclusive faith community, despite Elder Uchtdorf’s best efforts, cause nonmembers not to join and cause current members to leave the flock. Isn’t it about time to admit the biggest stumbling block to people’s participation in our faith is our lack of inclusivity (ahem, #lgbtpolicy)?
Since that fateful day in December 2013 I’ve worn pants dozens of times, usually when I’m cold. I don’t want wearing pants to church to be a statement, I want it to just be a reasonable option when I’m choosing a “Sunday Best” outfit to wear on Sabbath morning. In fact I often feel more dressy, comfortable, and modest in my pants. I also feel like I’m helping others know there’s not just one way to be a Mormon woman. So, Rexburg, I’m afraid you’ll just have to deal.