What is the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

Mormon feminists, women and men, wore dress pants and the color purple to their local LDS Church services on December 16, 2012. People wore pants for many different reasons, but many of those who participated were concerned about gender equality in the LDS Church.

This year, Mormon feminists will be wearing dress pants and/or the color purple to LDS Church services on December 15. We are wearing pants to celebrate inclusiveness in the LDS Church. We believe that everyone is welcome at church.

and he inviteth them all to come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile (2 Nephi 26:33)

What is the goal of the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

We are active and faithful Mormon feminists who want to show that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman. We believe that everyone is welcome at church.

Relief Society and the gospel should embrace every woman. Every one of you is welcome and needed whether you are eighteen or eighty, married or single, speak English or Portuguese, live on an island or in the mountains, have children or simply love children but have none of your own, have an advanced degree or little formal education, have a husband who is not active or are married to a stake president, have a testimony or are struggling to receive one. You belong here! You and your talents, strengths, and contributions are needed urgently in the Church. (M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,” November 1993)

Is this a protest?

No. This event is not about being critical of the LDS Church or changing Church policy. We want to emphasize that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman and encourage changes in Mormon culture to support that idea.

Wearing pants to church on December 15th is an act of solidarity. We want to show our commitment to Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We want to show our belief that God speaks to us through a living prophet.  And ultimately, we want to show that we believe that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Wherever you are, whatever you are wearing, whatever language you are hearing, you [women] are part of a powerful force of joy, peace, and goodness. We are here to rejoice together. . . . Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood! It is the diversity of colors in a spectrum that makes a rainbow. It is the diversity in our circumstances that gives us compassionate hearts. (Chieko Okazaki, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, 1993)

Are women going against LDS Church policy by wearing pants to Sunday services?

No. Scott Trotter, an LDS spokesman, responded to last year’s event by saying “Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. Generally church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that” (Dec. 11, 2012).

Who is organizing the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

Jerilyn Hassell Pool is a wife of one and a mother of five. She lives in Oregon where she has served as a Primary chorister, a Gospel Doctrine teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a member of Primary and Young Women presidencies and currently serves as the accompanist for the local Spanish branch and the sacrament meeting chorister in her home ward.

Nancy Ross lives with her husband and two children in Utah. She has served as a counselor in the Primary presidency, a Young Women’s secretary, an Early Morning Seminary teacher, an Activity Days leader, a Primary teacher, and a Relief Society pianist. She currently serves as a Sunbeam teacher in her ward.

When will this event be happening?

Sunday, December 15

Who can participate?

Everyone can participate in this event.

How do I participate?

You can participate by wearing dress pants and/or the color purple to your local LDS Church services on Sunday, December 15.

A Summary of the Wear Pants to Church Day Survey

I recently surveyed the participants of the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day to find out who they are and why they participated. In four days I received 573 responses. I’m not going to comment on the data or responses, as I think they speak for themselves.

Who participated in the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

  • Members of the church, who make up 96% of respondents
  • People who attend church regularly, with 74% of respondents attending every week or almost every week and a further 13% attending 2-3 times per month – just 5% of respondents do not attend church
  • Mostly young people, with 76% of respondents being 18-40 years old
  • Mostly women, who make up 86% of respondents
  • Lots of people from all over the US, representing 41 out of 50 states, but many individuals from other countries too, including Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, England, Germany, Japan, and Spain

How did these people participate?

  • 72% of female respondents wore pants to church
  • 46% of all respondents wore purple
  • 55% participated in online discussions about the event
  • 56% participated in real life conversations about the event
  • 32% followed online conversations about the event, but did not participate in them
  • 8% did not attend church but wore pants or purple anyway
  • 11% participated in some other way

What made these people want to participate?

“I believe church should be a safe space for all and I work to make it that way.”

“I did last year, and I loved feeling part of a community that welcomes everyone.”

“Observing last year’s hostile push back from “faithful” LDS members.”

“Joining in solidarity with my fellow sisters as well as my personal convictions about the need for more female inclusion in the LDS institutional church.”

“My daughter only wears pants and YW leaders always publicly make a point of announcing that dresses show respect for God. I wear pants about 1/2 the time regardless of pants day.”

“Because my church needs to have a visual reminder that there is diversity in its midst, and because I am a Mormon Feminist, and because I want people in my area who might feel marginalized to see someone else embracing Sunday attendance on her own terms.”

“I knew it was important for me to be more honest in my ward about how I feel about these issues. I want to belong to a church that practices inclusion and love.”

“Gender issues within the LDS church community and LDS doctrine that I disagree with, and have seen work to make people feel unwelcome and excluded.”

“I love feminism and feminist thinkers.”

“A desire to claim the Mormon Feminist community as an important part of my life; a desire to challenge cultural assumptions; a desire to show other members that I’m a little kooky and would therefore be more accepting of them; a desire to take small risks in my life to become more courageous and less worried about what people think of me. I’ll also say that I spent time in prayer and contemplation trying to know if God was on board with my decision to wear pants, and I got the clear spiritual prompting that it was a good thing to do.”

“I fear that we, as a culture, have become far too focused on how people look rather than who they are, namely children of God.”

“Because I want people to know everyone is accepted and too many times people confuse social convention with doctrine.”

“Everyone should feel welcome regardless of gender, sexual preference, financial standing, or arbitrary cultural clothing standards.”

“I want people to talk and reveal OPENLY the sexist nature of the church.”

“I wanted to make a stand for equality and inclusiveness and diversity and acceptance. Also I am inspired by the Church’s official statement -Sunday best. they don’t define it for me, therefore it is my choice.”

“The continued absence of women’s voices in my church.”

“To show my belief that my wife and daughters – and other women in the church – are as valuable and capable as the men.”

“I resigned over inequities with females in the church.”

“I participated last year because of all the negative comments and even death threats made to Stephanie Lauritzen. I wanted to participate again this year. And actually have been wearing pants occasionally ever since last year.”

“I care deeply about making Mormonism a welcoming place for people with diverse views, and this is a way to show my commitment to being the change I want to see in the church.”

“I have seen members treated poorly by other members because of their clothes.”

“There are many sexist cultural practices that need to change in the church.”

“I have nice pants for work and always wished that I could wear them to church, but my husband forbade it and I was too shy about what ward members would think. Last year Pants Day helped me break out of those restrictions. This year I wanted to wear pants more for others–so others would see me and not feel alone even if they were keeping their worries hidden.”

“It’s a ridiculous cultural norm that is distracting from learning the gospel. As a new convert in 2000, I took several weird looks when I wore slacks to church meetings on Sunday and was told ‘women don’t wear pants to church.’ To me, this just doesn’t make sense. What I wear has absolutely no connection to my relationship with the Saviour or my ability to worship. It matters not to the Savior how I dress when I approach Him in prayer.”

“To support women who struggle in the LDS church.”

How did the participants feel about their participation?

87% of respondents reported having a “Positive” or “Very Positive” experience with Wear Pants to Church Day. Just 1% reported having a “Negative” experience and no respondents reported a “Very Negative” experience.

“I felt like I would be judged because I was the only one who would have in my ward, so I only wore purple.”

“I felt a little apprehensive because I teach primary. I was a little worried of any of the kids would ask why I’m wearing pants. I felt like if I gave an honest answer about how I feel, they might tell their parents and then parents might think I was teaching my disagreeable opinions to their kids. Turns out that I worried in vain. None of the kids even seemed to notice. People were friendly to me at church. I noticed 2 up-and-down glances at me from adults. I’m glad I participated. It was nice to feel warm in church in the winter.”

“I love it! I participated last year and have worn pants all but one Sunday since. And in the last year, 3 other sisters in my ward have started wearing pants too!”

“I was very nervous last year, feeling like I was doing something bad, even though I wasn’t. That made me realize how ingrained some ‘rules’ that aren’t even rules are.”

“Great….I think it helps change the cultural expectations that have nothing to do with the gospel.”

“Empowered. Much less afraid than last year.”

“Much more comfortable in them, and I felt the Spirit.”

“Great. I’ve been wearing pants since last years event.”

“I wish I had been brave enough to wear pants, instead of purple. But I think it was good.”

Wearing pants to church feels like carrying a giant, ‘Please come talk to me – I want to be friends!’ sign. Makes me feel a little brave and empowered, but also friendly and more open.”

“Strong and bold.”

“Nervous, but also excited. Now that it’s over, I feel great!”

“I participated last year and was scared to death. This year I was not scared at all.”

“Overall, happy – but somewhat fearful of hateful comments.”

“It was a nonevent for me. Last year it was a big deal to me, but I’ve since worn pants to church many times and didn’t have the same fear as I did last year. I felt like this year was much better organized (now that we’ve got a year of Mormon feminist activism under out belts) and I really appreciated all the work that the organizers did to keep it positive.”

“I had to watch myself to ensure that I didn’t say anything that would get me in trouble with the BYU Honor Code Office. I don’t have any purple to wear, so nobody really knew I was participating.”

“I felt liberating, free, peaceful, proud, confident, and I felt love for everyone. I was so happy I did it!”

no community or society is prepared to fry the bigger fish until it can learn to embrace all of its members

On Sunday, December 15th, I wore pants to church for the first time in my life for the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day sponsored by Mormon feminist activists.  A year ago, when I heard about the first ‘Wear Pants to Church Day’ intended to promote gender equality in the Mormon Church, I was not inspired to participate.  As a feminist scholar, I have bigger fish to fry: human trafficking, violence against women, child pornography, lack of education and medical care for women and girls, sexual harassment, the wage gap, homophobia, racism, poverty, and the list goes on.   Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church, has many guidelines regarding personal behavior, there are no explicit laws regulating what women can wear to church.  Wearing pants to church did not sound revolutionary to me, or even productive.

That is why I was so stunned by the backlash within the Mormon community toward women who chose to wear pants, instead of skirts or dresses, to church.  I heard the whispers of disapproval within my social circle and read the vitriolic reactions on social media.   The organizers of the event received death threats.  Many women who participated reported being harassed by other congregants and interrogated by church leaders.  For wearing pants.  To church.

I am a feminist in a religious community in which many members fear the F-word.  I know, because I have heard the anti-feminist rhetoric spouted from the pulpit.  Feminists like me easily blend in to Mormon congregations.  We are camouflaged by our handsome husbands, broods of energetic children, pregnant bellies, and long skirts. We come to church to worship God, not to debate politics.

It may seem unusual to hear about feminists in the Mormon Church, but I am probably more of an oddity as a Mormon in sociology and feminist studies.  I see the expressions of surprise spread across my academic colleagues’ faces when they discover that I graduated from Brigham Young University or used to be a Mormon missionary.  Their eyes widen, they tilt their heads to one side conveying confusion, censure, apology and betrayal all at once, and say, “I didn’t know.”

I straddle two worlds: one reliably conventional and charmingly traditional, the other beautifully and imaginatively progressive.   Treating humankind with dignity is a fundamental tenet of both Mormonism and feminism.  The doctrines of Mormonism instilled in me the passion and compassion to care about feminist issues.  Feminist theory, principles, and values have shaped and strengthened my Mormon faith.  I am blessed with a truly unique vantage point, and believe the Mormon Church could use more feminists, and academia would benefit from greater Mormon representation.

Some of my friends have made the tough choice to leave Mormonism, because they felt that in an organization of 15 million members, they did not fit in.  I can empathize.  The purpose of wearing pants to church, as explained by the event organizers, is to generate a spirit of inclusion and unity, to let everyone know that they each have a place in this worldwide family.

The backlash in 2012 to women wearing pants to church clarified an important point for me: no community or society is prepared to fry the bigger fish until it can learn to embrace all of its members, regardless of their skirts or pants, gender expression, family make-up or background, race, age, abilities, politics or faith.  Wearing pants to church is a small way to show love and support for all of God’s children.

- Liberty

I talked with friends about the silliness of it all

Last year, I was shallow enough to think that the “Wear Pants to Church” movement was based on merely that, women being able to wear pants. “Wear pants to Church?,” I said,  “Why would women want to do that when they know the most respectful outfit towards God is, for a women, a skirt or dress?”  I talked with friends about the silliness of it all and didn’t go to church that day, probably because I was struggling with my own faith and a strong lack of desire to be in another crazy conservative church meeting. And life went on.

Fast forward to this year, and I completely understand why women are wearing pants to church. It’s not because they value casualty in worshiping Deity; it’s because they value the investigator who feels out of place, the life-long pioneer stock member who is experiencing a customized challenge (to quote Elder Maxwell) and the women who fight against this movement that is specifically aimed at supporting them.

Tomorrow, I will wear the pants, and I will not look back.

- Megan

It’s funny how much you notice when you feel like you don’t fit.

I am wearing pants to church tomorrow with a beautiful purple scarf.

To anyone that cares, here’s why:

(Disclaimer: I know that how I felt and what I believed does not in any way represent all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I know that while the Gospel is perfect, the people who try to live it sure ain’t (bad grammar intended). I believe Elder Holland (The Chuck Norris of Apostles) when he says that “what we know will always trump what we do not know.” (The Gospel ROCKS, it really does!).

NO, not every member of the Church believes or acts like I did. But here’s my point: a lot of them did, and still do.)

Moving on….

I was opposed to the “pants”movement and all it stood for at first. I really thought that Sunday Best meant modest dresses for women. ALL women. No argument. I was very vocal about it. Stupid feminists, I thought. Always making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Sacrament meeting is not the place to wear pants, make any kind of statement or show fake inclusion. Mormons are inclusive already! What does it matter what a person wears? Why do people have to make such a big deal about it? My ward is very accepting, that’s what Mormons do, accept and love people. People are making a big deal about nothing.

Here are some other things I thought:

I supported the letters read in our ward sacrament meetings about the horrors of women not wearing hosiery to church, and (gasp) sometimes even flip flops.

I taught, listened to, and believed numerous lessons taught to young women about modesty being the women’s sole responsibility, especially so as to keep our young men stripling warriors (as if they weren’t responsible for their own thoughts and actions).

I felt uncomfortable if anyone asked about Heavenly Mother in Sunday School. I thought it was dern near doctrine that the reason no one EVER mentioned her was because her name was too sacred, and/or there was more than one.

I believed that men should be the ONLY ones ordained to the priesthood, because God said so, and I saw no evidence of gender inequality in the Church. I believed that the equivalent to men holding the priesthood was women and motherhood (why I didn’t think fatherhood back then still haunts me).

I believed that homosexuality was a “heinous sin,” and that the only union EVER that should ever be recognized in the universe was the union between one man and one woman (ya, I didn’t really think about the polygamy in our own Church History).

Even though I had (with a tongue clucking “obviously” statement) denounced it in my young adult life, I believed that black people had been given their skin color because they were cursed as Cain’s people.

And you know what? If folks didn’t like it, they didn’t have to come. This is how I felt (albeit semi-unconsciously) when I lived in my conservative, mostly Mormon hometown. The people in my home ward were (& still are) my family. They are great people.

And I fit.

I didn’t really care (although I sure gave good lip service) if someone felt out of place, and if I did, I figured it was their fault (even quoting “Bednar’s “And Nothing Shall Offend Them” to back up my subtle judgmental piety). Life was good. If I ever saw anyone wearing or doing or thinking something other than “Conservative Mormon Small Town Dress Code, Conduct, or Opinion Rules,” I admit…I judged..with a “Bless their heart, they don’t know any better” attitude.

I just didn’t care to notice.

I didn’t really notice that no women ever spoke in conference. (yay, that has since changed).

I didn’t realize that some women may be uncomfortable being judged and called to repentance by men only.

I didn’t notice that my gay best friend was suffocating every single day with anxiety and fear.

I didn’t make the effort to know any of my neighbors that weren’t members of my faith (especially the weird hoarder that lived kitty-corner from our house).

I didn’t realize that words like “inactive” or “non-member,” could be hurtful.

It’s really easy to drink the KoolAid when you fit. REALLY. EASY.

Then, everything changed. It’s funny how much you notice when you feel like you don’t fit.

I moved to another conservative town about a half hour from where I grew up. That may not seem like a big deal, but to me it was everything. I cried every day for over a year. I still do sometimes. I went from being an extroverted introvert (yep they exist) to a full blown, almost hermit-like introvert. When I went to Church, NOBODY really talked to me. (I found out later that it was because the entire ward boundaries had changed, lots of people didn’t know each other). I didn’t talk to people at Church either. It became a horrible habit. I missed home so much. I missed my friends, my home, my life.

After a year living in this new place (were the people here really that weird?), my husband and I got into a horrible motorcycle accident. We both almost died. We both had excruciatingly severe damage over a large portion of our bodies, and we endured months of painful therapy and healing. We were (& still are) both diagnosed with severe PTSD and other anxiety disorders for which we are still in therapy for. We have crippling medical bills. I don’t know why, but I tend to have huge anxiety attacks in church, movie theaters, and department stores.

It’s funny how much you change when things like this happen.

I started remembering and noticing things. Things that were different. Things that were not equal. Things that were not only not quite right, they were horribly damaging and…wrong,

And I was responsible for perpetuating them.

Even though I KNEW that the Gospel and the Plan of Happiness included everyone, I remembered numerous times growing up and throughout my time at a church school when people were turned away from church for not dressing “appropriately.” I remember being sent home from my church-owned college testing center once because I had pants on.

I reflected on the meeting with a college bishop where I was instructed on the proper repentance steps I needed to take because I was raped after FHE one evening by one of my FHE brothers. I remember not being able to take the sacrament for a year after that incident.

I remembered being told by our bishopric second counselor that I was taking the Spirit away when I wore a below-knee length skort (shorts that look like a skirt) to my ward Christmas party.

Although one of my best friends had “come out” to me years ago, I started having long conversations with him, where I DIDNT get preachy about “the gay lifestyle.” I just listened. I discovered that he loves the Gospel, and he loves his spouse too, even though he has been asked to leave LDS congregations for showing up with him and “acting inappropriately” (he put his arm around him in sacrament meeting, something I love when my husband does).

I accidentally found out that my weird hoarder neighbor had been the unknown guy who pruned my lilacs every year (I still have no idea how to prune those darn things), and did it because he knew that lilacs were my favorite flower (I had told him once in casual conversation during the 24th of July parade that went by our houses).

I reflected on a time when, as an instructor at a church-owned school, I tried to console a distraught young woman that came to me after class one day, apologizing for missing class the day before because some stranger came up to her on campus and told her that her skirt didn’t follow Church dress code (Horrified after being shamed like that, she went right home and was too impacted to go to the rest of her classes that day. I asked her to bring in the skirt. It absolutely fit the dress code). I remembered, experienced and heard and continue to hear many stories similar to this.

I met a faithful Mormon transsexual woman who had been so ashamed of who she thought she was that she sequestered herself in the basement of her own home for years.

I tried to reach out via Facebook to one of my former students who constantly posted suicidal thoughts on her Facebook wall because her sexuality and her faith didn’t seem to match up.

I happened to read research one day that the highest number of youth suicides in our nation come from gay Mormon youth.

I saw a dean’s list student get expelled from a church-owned school for “making other students uncomfortable” at Tuesday devotional for putting his arm around a fellow student while sharing his scriptures. I heard him wonder why that got noticed before all the other couples that make out in the commons. I remember feeling sick when he explained that it was suggested by the school that he tell friends and family he got sick if they asked why he wasn’t attending.

One day, I heard someone call me “inactive.” It hurt. A LOT.

So YES, Virginia, I will be wearing pants to church tomorrow. Because I know that I am an agent of action. Because I know that God doesn’t make a habit out of telling folks what to do unless they ask and ACT, and how are truly good people gonna ask and act if they don’t know? I will go to Church not because I have to, but because I want to, and I OWE my Heavenly Parents a lot more than just Sunday attendance. I will continue to work for positive change in Church and in the world. I don’t know why we don’t know more about Heavenly Mother, or why women can’t currently hold the Priesthood (although, wait…there is the temple…), but I will be patient. It’s ok to wonder…to ask…to question. After all, a whole bunch of stuff was restored when someone ASKED. I will know that “what we know will always trump what we do not know,” so I will try to be patient.

I will be wearing pants with a purple scarf and a nice blazer. In my pocket, I will carry the names of the people who have helped me become just a tiny bit more Christlike and understanding in loving and accepting one another. I will know that God has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and I will know that He probably won’t do it unless we do our part too. I will hope that the bad things will change, and the good things will continue. I will try to truly be grateful of the sacrifice that Christ made for me, for all of us.

Pants are way warmer anyway.

- Lori

in some ways this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done

Tomorrow morning, for the first time in my life, on a Sunday morning from 9:00-12:00, I am going to wear pants.

To my friends on the outside of Mormon culture this will probably seem laughably trite. To you I would say, think of walking into a party in a tee shirt and everyone else is in cocktail dresses. Now add to that a time when people you love have drastically misunderstood something you’ve said and you feel alone and maligned. My friends on the inside of Mormon culture will know that in some ways this is similar to a Muslim woman eschewing her hijab, and may provoke feelings across the spectrum from admiration to confusion to disappointment to anger – even violent anger. Knowing that this public act will illicit strong emotional responses over which I have no control makes me want to throw up. I am not a timid person – I have delivered sermons to huge groups of people, dodged burning tires and flying stones in a Palestinian street protest, navigated foreign countries on my own and given birth without epidurals. I’ve even taught Middle School! But the thought of wearing fabric sewn around each individual leg instead of around the outside of both for three hours on a Sunday morning… in some ways this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

To pre-empt possible misunderstandings, the following are not reasons I’ve chosen to wear pants to church:

1. It’s December! It’s cold! (Nope. I am in Southern California. Sunny and and 75 degrees forecasted for Sunday. Though what if I lived in Salt Lake City? Or Minneapolis? Or Helsinki?)

2. I like pants better than dresses. (Nope. I like them the same.)

3. Because I think all women should wear pants to Church. (Nope. I think all women should wear exactly what they feel is best to church, without criticism or judgment from others, no matter what that is.)

4. I think pants, overall, fit the requirement of “Sunday best” better than dresses. (Nope. Nor do I think that dresses, overall, fit that requirement.)

5. I want to be a man. (Nope. I have had actual nightmares about having to sword-fight for honor, being shoved onto a football field as a linebacker and having hair grow out of my face.)

6. I think there are no differences between men and women. (Nope. Last I checked, all species of males and females are different from each other! I personally believe in a big, beautiful yin and yang of Male and Female in the Universe.)

7. I want the Priesthood. (Nope. While there may be some women wearing pants on Sunday who are campaigning to ordain LDS women to the Priesthood, there are some who are not. This is a meaty topic for another day, so for now, just know that these are separate issues.)

8. I work in the Nursery at church, crouching and sitting on the floor with 18-month-olds for two hours at Church. Have you ever tried to sit on the floor modestly while wearing a skirt? (Nope. But I have friends who do. It is not comfortable.)

9. I am currently an LDS missionary who rides a bike for miles every day. Have you ever tried to ride a bike wearing a skirt??? Of any length??? (Nope. I am not a bike missionary. But my sister and many of my of my friends were. Oh, the funny stories of flashed underwear!! And the not-funny stories of bike crashes caused by fabric in completely impractical and dangerous places.)

10. I have a lot of liberal friends who are also wearing pants and we’re doing this together. (Nope. As far as I know I will be the only one in my chapel not wearing a dress, and in my Northern California ward I know of only one friend.)

Here is why I am wearing pants to church.

1. I question cultural norms that have their basis neither in Reason nor Scripture. Jesus Christ was constantly challenging social norms – think of all the times that He went out of his way to speak to women, Samaritans, publicans and prostitutes, and to heal on the Sabbath and eat bread without washing his hands, to name a few of many examples. He railed against the Pharisees for “building a hedge about the law,” adding to God’s laws and then clinging to those new rules to the point that they overshadowed the original ones. This created a culture of external behaviors “to be seen of men” rather than focus on personal relationship with deity; and of finger-pointing and judgment rather than love and acceptance of others.

There is no rational reason why a pair of nice slacks are not appropriate for women to wear to church. And not only is there no scriptural reason, there is in fact danger in “building a hedge” around the laws we already do have.

Here is the Church’s official statement:

“Generally church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that.” 

2. Wearing pants to church calls attention to the issue that women have individual and collective potential that is often not being realized in our current Church culture. Joseph Smith said to the first gathering of Relief Society sisters, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels can not be restrained from being your associates.” I believe that there are many privileges that we are not living up to – not claiming as ours – that do not require any doctrinal changes. They simply require us calmly and confidently making our voices heard. Wearing pants is a way to peacefully draw attention to the fact that there are many rights women already have that we are not speaking up for – to hold the callings of Sunday School President or Ward Clerk or to hold our babies during their Priesthood blessings if we wish. The “Let Women Pray” campaign was a great example of this – there was no rational or doctrinal reason why a woman had never offered a prayer in General Conference, and women finally took it into their own hands to live up to that privilege.

3. In general I really dislike gender essentialism. The view that all men and all women are inherently a certain way, and thus they should have certain prescribed duties and feelings and life experiences feels limiting and emotionally unhealthy to me. I believe that each individual and each married couple is capable of listening to their own hearts and to the Spirit of the God in deciding how to live their lives, including who earns money, who washes dishes, and yes, what is worn to church.

4. In solidarity with the many people who feel marginalized and unwanted in our current church culture because they are different from the majority. Being uncomfortable walking into the church house in pants – feeling eyes staring at me and possibly judging me unfairly – gives me empathy for members or visitors to our church who may feel that they don’t fit in. I love learning from people who are different from me. I believe with my whole heart that the Book of Mormon got it right in the verse “All are alike unto God.” My heart sings when I read in the Bible that we are all part of the body of Christ – not only do we not all need to be alike, we are not even supposed to be alike. A body made of all ears would miss seeing and smelling and feeling and walking.

5. In respect for my heroes who challenged cultural norms in the past, winning women the right to vote, to own land, to claim inheritances, to win legal protection from abusers, to go to college, to practice the profession of their choosing, to receive equal pay for equal work, to play sports, to pray in Sacrament Meeting and to pray in General Conference, and yes, to wear pants, in public places and at school.

6. Because when I told my seven-year-old daughter, “some women are wearing pants to Church on Sunday,” she said “I’m doing that,” before she even asked if I was going to. When I told my twelve-year-old daughter, she looked up from her homework (a project on the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention – a topic she chose) she was matter of fact, “of course you have to do that, Mom.” And my ten-year-old daughter, who HATES when I dance on the subway or speak in an accent or in any way draw attention to us in public, thoughtfully said, “There’s no rule against it, right? Then all women should just be wearing whatever they feel is their Sunday best. It’s just between each person and God, right?”

7. To be as brave as my sister, who wore pants last year and a few times since, and whose text informed me that it was Wear Pants to Church Day this Sunday.

8. I have been surprised by the amount of nervousness I feel to dress differently from the crowd. Women are judged so harshly based on what they wear! This alone is reason enough to push back. Wearing our best clothing is a legitimate way to show respect, but when I think of the Jesus of the New Testament and how much he condemned the Pharisees’ obsession with outward appearance, I can’t help but feel uneasy in my expensive clothes, high-heeled shoes making me appear taller than I really am, mascara to make my eyelashes blacker than they really are, lip gloss to make my lips shinier than they really are, curlers and straighteners to make my hair different from how it naturally is… even sometimes (yes, I’m going to admit this) Spanx to make myself look skinnier than I really am. This is out of control. Why are women buying into this culture telling us our natural selves aren’t good enough? And in Heaven’s name, why are we letting it into Church?? (And I can’t help noticing that men do not do this to themselves. Generally speaking, if they go bald, they go bald. If they gain weight, they gain weight. They don’t tweeze their eyebrows and they wear practical clothing without asking permission and without making apologies.) I’m not brave enough to go to church naturally-frizzy-haired and makeup-free yet, though I think Jesus, who loves the real me, would feel happy for me if I did.

I’ll take photos on Sunday and post any questions or comments I get during Church. If you feel inclined to wear pants (or purple, the color of the Women’s Suffrage Movement), imagine me holding your hand. And if you don’t wear pants or purple but you see someone who is doing so, give her a smile. She might be doing the scariest thing of her life.

- Amy

because I fell outside the norm

My biggest problem with the Church when I was having a crisis of faith was not about having different views on homosexuality and Mormonism, being Black and Mormon, or even being a feminist and Mormon. My crisis of faith dealt with being me and Mormon.

I wanted to be true to myself at my core and still feel like I could worship without feeling that cognitive dissonance, or worse, the judgment or contempt of others because I fell outside the norm.

Mary writes about what it’s like to be different in the Mormon church.

Pants Quilt Open House

SundayMorning2_sm2

Over the last year, the clothing of women, men, and children who wore pants or purple shirts or ties in support of the first Wear Pants to Church day, were collected and turned into a quilt by artist Nikki Hunter. The quilt depicts a grove of trees with a horizon of purples hues in the background. It’s titled Sunday Morning.

The quilt will be on display in Draper, Utah this Saturday evening. If you would like to attend, you can get more information here. 

What happens if the church doesn’t want me?

From Amber Whiteley

I wore pants to church last year. It felt terrifying. I remember walking in with my husband and daughter (who both wore purple to support me) and shaking during all of sacrament meeting. Afterwards, a family friend walked up to us and said “Pants, huh? so I guess you’re one of THOSE women.”

I walked as quickly as I could to my car, my heart pounding, as I choked back tears. I said to my husband, “I want to be a part of this church, but what happens if the church doesn’t want me?”

I have always been a feminist. I joined the church when I was 16 in a small, somewhat liberal ward who loved and accepted me for the person I was. As I grew up and moved away, I found myself no longer feeling like I fit in at church any more. I was scared that no one would accept me once they got to know the real me.

During the last hour of church, a woman passed me a note. It said “I like your pants! You are welcome and appreciated.” It was just the affirmation I needed.

The hatred spewed from other Mormons – our own brothers and sisters – on the Pants Facebook page made me realize that there was a lot of misinformation out there about what Mormon feminists are truly like. Out of that hatred, I felt inspired to create mormonfeminist.org, a website that normalizes Mormon feminists.

Last year I wore pants in fear. I was scared of admitting who I was, and scared I would lose my identity. Wearing pants to church last year inspired me to fully accept who I know I was meant to be. This year I am wearing pants with confidence, to send a message to all my sisters who may have felt the way I have felt in the past. There is a place for you, you are welcome and appreciated