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.)
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.