Focusing on Pants. Really?

By | November 21, 2013

A couple of days ago I read an article that appeared in a blog for the Salt Lake Tribune. About a year ago you may remember that there was a “Wear Pants to Church Day” that was organized in an effort to “celebrate inclusiveness in the LDS Church.” The article on the Trib’s blog highlighted a recent decision by last year’s organizers to sponsor the second annual version of the event for December 15, 2013.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m a bit peeved by this. I shouldn’t be, I guess. I really don’t care if people wear pants to church. Male, female, child, hedgehog—doesn’t matter to me what they wear. (The hedgehog might make a good post someday. We’ll see.) When I was a bishop, I didn’t care how people came to church; I just wanted them there to worship with the Saints.

pants1According to the organizers’ website, the purpose of the day is to foster inclusiveness and (apparently) signify solidarity in that effort. In their words, “we believe that everyone is welcome at Church.”

In fact, they make it a point on the website to quote words of apostles and other general authorities toward that end. M. Russell Ballard’s words stress how everyone is needed at Church. Chieko Okazaki states we need to rejoice in our diversity. These are all great thoughts, and therefore worthy of our support.

And that’s when it hit me. Why I was a bit peeved. I don’t mind leaders stating the obvious about how we are all needed and how diversity is good. After all, I experienced that first-hand as a bishop as I tried to get a huge diversity of people into the pews.

What I do mind is those sentiments being co-opted and tokenized by people who aren’t my leaders. Elder Ballard says “your talents, strengths, and contributions are needed urgently in the Church,” and some organizers say “let’s use our talents, show our strength, and contribute to the conversation by wearing pants to Church on a specific Sunday.” Somehow that seems disingenuous.

Further, why would the announcement of the second annual Wear Pants to Church Day (to “show there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman” because “we believe that everyone is welcome at church”) be newsworthy, but the Church leaders’ exhortations about that need that were used by the organizers was not considered newsworthy when first uttered? It seems a bit odd that Chieko Okazaki saying that everyone is needed at Church receives absolutely no notice in the news, but setting up a day to wear pants to show that everyone is needed at Church is newsworthy.

(As Arsenio Hall used to say, “Things that make you go ‘hmmmm.’”)

I strongly suspect—although it is not overtly stated on the website—that the Wear Pants to Church Day is a form of nonviolent resistance, defined as “the practice of achieving goals through symbolic protests…and other methods, without using violence.” The organizers want to change something they feel needs changing, and it is as if they believe that the preaching of inclusiveness from the pulpit is not enough. Instead, members need to do something out of the ordinary—something noticeable—to make a real difference.

Wearing pants is a symbolic gesture that does nothing, ultimately, to further inclusiveness. If the organizers wanted to make a real statement about celebrating inclusiveness, why not organize a “bring your neighbor to church (no matter what they are wearing) day?” Wouldn’t bringing others be inherent in the definition of “inclusive?”

A post on the organizers’ website (from Noelle) rightfully praised Sister Virginia Perry for enveloping a sister in love, even though the sister didn’t dress the same as others at church. Rather than the organizers asking people already attending to dress differently, why not invite others to come so they (and members) have the opportunity to experience the love that Sister Perry exemplified? Why promote symbol over real substance?

I’m reminded of a passage from a book by C.S. Lewis where he talks about introducing novelty into religious expression at church meetings. (I believe that calling for the wearing of out-of-the-ordinary clothing on a particular day counts as novelty, no?) He states:

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s decision waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.” (Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer, pg. 5.)

If the organizers of Wear Pants to Church Day want to focus attention on the celebrant rather than on Him who should be the real focus of our worship service, then they seem to be achieving their goal. If they want, instead, to help people be more inclusive, there are better ways to do it—including following the advice of Church leaders who have been preaching inclusiveness for generations.

On December 15 I won’t be engaging in a symbolic gesture proposed by a news-grabbing website. Instead, I’ll be doing what I do every other Sunday—serving the Lord and doing my best to make everyone feel welcome and included at church.

22 thoughts on “Focusing on Pants. Really?

    1. Allen Post author

      Of course I didn’t mean to come across as self-righteous, Amanda; I’m sorry if you perceived my comments in that vein. I was simply sharing my reaction to the Wear Pants to Church Day.

  1. Jo

    Thank you (and I don’t think you were self-righteous at all)! I am often frustrated with the lack of focus on truly IMPORTANT issues and focus on such ridiculousness. We have several women in our ward who are investigating the church and wear pants and not one of them has been turned away. I don’t care what others wear to church, the Lord doesn’t care what you wear to church, and I think it is idiotic that this is an issue (yes I said it, and yes I stand by it). When we go, we go to worship the Lord and that means wearing your best…a dress, slacks, uniform, whatever you have. Just be THERE and add your spirit to the others that are there to worship. As a women, I find these overly feministic movements embarrassing, and I wish the true spirit of the gospel was found within the hearts of those that refuse to understand.

    1. Heidi

      You have no right or authority to judge who is “refusing to understand,” or to call anyone an idiot. You plead the importance of focusing on the Lord, while in the same breath breaking some of his most basic laws. Rather than judging, try to understand the people you do not agree with. Christ suffered all that we suffer, so that he could comfort us and advocate for us. We are supposed to be as much like Christ as we can be. How can any one of us feel entitled to call people names and assume they are “refusing to understand”, when we are so badly in need of Christ’s mercy ourselves? I encourage you to look more closely at the Mormon Feminist movement you find so embarrassing. If you are willing to learn about the men and women behind it, and try to see them as God sees them, you will be able to find kinder, more just ways to express your disagreement.

      1. Amy

        Amen, Heidi. I think few people understand how many are *kept* in the church because of Mormon Feminism. I receive emails and messages frequently from friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers, thanking me for articulating what is in their hearts but that they cannot say for fear of rejection. That fear of rejection is so real. Days like Pants Day have done a tremendous good to those who feel alone and marginalized. I wish people who already feel their needs are being met would discontinue trampling on and further marginalizing those who feel unwelcome.

    2. Janice Gordon

      Jo…I’m always happy to read an anecdote in which female investigators have worn pants to church and have not been turned away or treated unkindly or thoughtlessly by members of the congregation. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. I have personally had many negative experiences with this issue throughout my 58 years of life. Beginning with how I was treated by a custodian and bishop when I was 13 and had been called to be ward organist. I was trusted with a key to the building so that I could walk to the chapel after school every day and practice for a few hours. I wore what I wore to school, and I favored slacks or jeans. The elderly custodian took issue with me wearing ‘grubbies’ in the chapel when he was wearing jeans and a dirty old work shirt. I pointed this out to him, and he replied that these were his work clothes. I responded that I was also wearing my ‘work clothes’ but at least mine were clean. He went to the bishop and griped about my pants in the chapel. The bishop called me and instructed me that I MUST bring a dress to change into, or go home first and change before entering the chapel to practice. I told him I would do this on two conditions. First…the custodian had to bring a suit to change into while he was cleaning in the chapel. Secondly…he MUST turn up the heat in the chapel every day a few hours before I arrived after school, so I wasn’t cold. The bishop responded that he wouldn’t ask the custodian to do this, and I pointed out the hypocrisy involved. He also said he couldn’t justify the additional expense of heating the chapel for me on a daily basis, so I told him he had two choices. Either release me from my calling as ward organist…or leave me alone on the issue of pants. He chose the second option as there wasn’t anyone else in the ward at that point who played. Remember…I was but 13 years old and I had a grasp of justice and an understanding of the hypocrisy involved in the way I had been treated. Years later, when I served as a nursery worker, I decided to bring pants to change into so that I didn’t have to sit on the dirty carpeted floor in a good dress, and to avoid those unpleasant wardrobe malfunctions due to static cling ride-up. I was able to fulfill my responsibilities with ease and comfort, and didn’t mind the wee ones using me for a jungle gym. A few members didn’t like that I was wearing pants, and took their complaints and concerns to the bishop. Once again I was asked not to do this. When I invited the bishop to visit the nursery and plop down on the dirty carpeted floor in his expensive suit, and subject his suit to the inevitable potty accident, or drool, or puking episodes…he politely declined and withdrew his objection to my pants. Fast forward about 15 years, and I observed the rudeness of a woman toward a beautiful young woman who had come to church with the sister missionaries. Being the organist gives one the opportunity to observe the congregation. This young investigator was wearing clean and pressed white jeans, a white sleeveless blouse and sandals. I did witness a lot of people staring at this young woman throughout the meeting, and no sooner did I begin to play the postlude and the congregation began to file out…one very self righteous and judgmental woman rushed forward and in a loud voice told the young investigator that she was dressed inappropriately for church, and in the future if she decided to return she would need to be wearing a dress or a skirt. Everyone could hear this diatribe, and everyone stopped and stared. The young woman was humiliated, burst into tears and ran from the building leaving two bewildered and astonished sister missionaries standing there. The young woman never returned. I can’t help wondering what wonderful gifts and talents she might have shared with the ward had that woman been able to school her feelings and shut her mouth. Or if someone, ANYONE within reach had interrupted her or took her by the arm and escorted her out into the foyer and told her to shut up. Or…if someone had stepped forward and told the young investigator not to mind the harpy, and invited her to come sit with them in Relief Society. Yes…people have been mistreated and shamed for dressing in clothing that a few self righteous morons didn’t deem to be appropriate. And no doubt they continue to be mistreated, if the remarks aimed at the participants of the Wear Pants to Church group are any indication.

  2. Amy

    When Pants Day came about last year, I couldn’t do it. At first, I was put off by the conversation. I didn’t mind if women wore pants to church or not, but I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. And then, it happened. I saw Facebook status after Facebook status, blog post after blog post, reaming these women—my sisters in the Relief Society, my sisters in the Gospel, my fellow sisters and daughters of God—all because they wanted to wear a pair of clothing with a seam between their legs. I couldn’t wrap my head around the hatred. What it had done was reveal a problem—we Mormons really like to tell people how to live their lives, and we really like to make others feel badly when their choices are not our own. This wasn’t the church I belonged to. And so, the morning of December 16, 2012, I pulled my legs through a nice pair of black slacks to show my sisters that I was there for them.

    And then I took them off and put on a skirt instead.

    You see, I was terrified. I was terrified of being different. I was terrified of someone in my ward thinking that I was a rebel. I was terrified that someone might say something mean to me, that they would see me as someone with ulterior motives, that they wouldn’t like me anymore. My fear prevailed. I slipped myself back into a skirt and headed out to negative temperatures, snow, and ice. It was as if the heavens were reminding me just how ridiculous I was. I could be warm. I could be appropriately dressed for the weather. I could show my sisters that I respected their choices. I could stand with them. But I didn’t dare. I cared too much for the praise of my fellow (wo)men.

    Fast-forward a number of months and it happened again. Someone in my ward, with the best of intentions, made a comment about how women who wear pants to church simply don’t understand. And that was it. I knew that we frequently had a number of investigators come in pants. I knew that we had some less-active women who quietly and sporadically attended in pants. I knew that I was someone who almost wore pants one December day, not because I didn’t understand, but because I understood just how marginalized some of my sisters felt. So, I did it. The next Sunday, instead of slipping into a skirt, I pulled on that pair of dress slacks. I looked myself over in the mirror and realized that I looked more dressed up than normal. My clothing fit me well, it was flattering, and I felt beautiful.

    That day at church made all the difference. As I was teaching a lesson about the Relief Society by President Lorenzo Snow, I felt my heart move toward my sisters in such a beautiful way. In my sacrament meeting, I felt true and authentic as I praised my God through song and prayer. I mark my very first Pants day among the most memorable and spiritual Sabbaths in my life. It was that day that I knew God loved me just for being me, and that I had a work to do—misfit and unconventional as I am.

    While I still believe that we are to show respect for our God in our Church meetings, what has changed is that I no longer believe this means our attire. It is our hearts that matter to God. That day of pants was life-altering. Ridiculous, I know, but it was part of a mighty change in my relationship with God. It was no longer a relationship where I was trying to impress other people by living by their standards. I cannot get back to God being someone that everyone else wants me to be. What I need to be is who God wants me to be. And God wants me to be Amy—quirky, passionate, and questing. God wants me to be authentic. God wants me to care more about my relationship with Deity than impressing others.

    And so, you’ll see this gal, who normally dons a skirt to church, in a respectful and appropriate pair of trousers on December 15. I need to remember that God cares more about how I reach out than how I assimilate. I need to remember that the Lord looketh upon the heart. I need the reminder that me and God are what matter on this journey. I need to bring my best self. However that looks for you, that’s fine. But for me, part of bringing my best self means reaching out to those who may need to know there are others like them–Mormon misfits–in the pews, worshiping right alongside them.

    1. Allen Post author

      Amy,

      Thank you for recounting your experience. Might I humbly suggest that it wasn’t the wearing of pants that “made all the difference” on December 23 of last year. It was that you were serving and putting yourself in a place that allowed the Spirit to work through you. That edification that you recount is one of the consequences of having the Spirit with you, and true edification fills us with gratitude and love for those around us. I sincerely doubt that it had much to do with what you were wearing, but much more with where your heart was. These are the “tender mercies” that the Lord pours out upon us from time to time, and they do need to be treasured (as you obviously treasure this memory).

      I applaud you for the lesson you learned from the experience (“I no longer believe this means our attire”). That is a valuable lesson that people need to learn. Some learn it as they sit among the poorest of the poor in third-world countries. Some learn it as they sit in the chapels of Appalachia with those of humble circumstance. Some learn it as they sit in a make-shift chapel in the Middle East with other soldiers in combat gear. Some learn it as they are taught by prophets sent from God (see Alma 32). I learned it sitting with farmers and ranchers in a branch in rural Wyoming.

      The important thing, of course, is that it is learned. I doubt that those who refuse to learn it in other venues or through the repeated teachings of the Lord’s anointed to “accept differences” will learn it from a call to “be different” by wearing pants on one day per year.

      My best to you in your spiritual journeys.

      -Allen

      1. Andy

        Allen,

        Thank you for your respectful replies. I’d like to suggest that the spirit of the event is exactly as these womens’ stories imply. Assuming any other spirit is disingenuous and simply not true. There are actual concrete benefits to these women and to those in their wards from actions such as this that foster inclusiveness, empathy, and service to those who feel like outcasts within our own wards. Reducing the whole idea to a “call to be different” makes me sad. It is so much more than that and much more deeply rooted in Christlike love and acceptance than your post and subsequent comments imply. I have looked at this from many different angles and there just isn’t any evil in it. In fact it has the potential to bless many peoples’ lives, even those who have no idea about the specific event but feel the love of their fellow brothers and sisters on that day (and hopefully in the weeks, months, and years after as well). If pants happen to be a catalyst for good at this time, more power to them.

        –Andy

        1. Allen Post author

          Andy,

          I’m not sure that I assumed any other spirit (or intent) in what they are trying. I did, however, indicate that I don’t think they are going about it the right way. As I state in the original post, their intent (from the website) is to foster inclusiveness and (apparently) signify solidarity in that effort. I don’t question that intent.

          Our leaders have been preaching inclusiveness for generations. Contrary to stated desires, if a sister wears pants to church (or a brother wears purple, which the website suggests), I don’t think that fosters inclusiveness. It, instead, focuses the attention of others on the differences manifest in the one choosing to be different.

          At that point of focus, of course, people have a choice–they can be inclusive of the one choosing to be different, they can be ambivalent, or they can be dismissive. It is unclear how any of these choices actually “fosters inclusiveness.”

          A better approach, which I try to point out, is that those organizing the effort do exactly what our leaders have done for generations–invite others who don’t fit in to come and worship with us. Look around and find those who don’t feel like they fit in and go out of your way to help them fit in. Show Christ-like empathy and love for those whom we haven’t treated in that way in the past.

          If organizers encouraged this, they would be supporting the teachings of leaders. If they simply co-opt the words of leaders to promote a day of choosing to be different to make a point, then they run the risk of heightening divisions instead of fostering inclusiveness.

          In other words, I’m all for the organizers’ efforts. I just don’t agree with their approach. It isn’t accomplishing what they think it will accomplish.

          -Allen

          1. Janice Gordon

            Actually Allen…I believe it IS accomplishing exactly what they hope to accomplish. These LDS feminist event groups bring awareness of issues we perceive to be problematic within the LDS organization. During the first Pants event last winter, and as others have already stated, the participants were reamed by judgmental comment after judgmental comment by active Mormons who were offended by the ideas presented in the group mission. The attacks became worse and worse, with the attackers resorting to ridicule, mockery, insults, name calling and even threats. The worst of the threats was from a young male BYU student, who proclaimed that any woman who participated in feminist activist groups should be shot point blank in the face. I understand he found himself in a bit of trouble over this implied threat. What was definitely accomplished by the despicable attitudes of so many detractors was to bring awareness of the maliciousness of so many. And many people who had started out disagreeing with the group mission had their eyes opened to what was going on. If these events only get through to a handful of people the necessity of abandoning antiquated cultural and societal traditions…then it is well worth the effort involved. And the angst of being referred to as ridiculous, idiotic, silly, foolish and wrongfully accused of being disrespectful to the Lord. Because Allen…the Lord doesn’t care how people are dressed when they come to church. In fact He apparently took a dim view of those who concerned themselves overly much with what they wore. You can also find examples of this in the Book of Mormon…where people became so concerned with the image they presented to others, that they wore increasingly costly apparel because this is what they thought the Lord wanted. That somehow if they were dressed in finery, the Lord would hear their prayers more clearly than from a beggar in rags. When I think of this attitude…it puts me in mind of the whited sepulcher. The repository for bones, which was whitewashed to present an image of cleanliness and purity…but inside was nothing but rot and corruption.

          2. Allen Post author

            Janice,

            I don’t think what the organizers of Pants Day want to do is be “reamed” or “attacked” or ‘invite threats.’ At least that’s not what they stated on their website. If it was, however, “exactly what they hoped to accomplish,” they you’ve made my point–they aren’t being inclusive (which is what they say they want) but divisive.

            -Allen

  3. Lauren Ard

    I’d like to share my story. I am a Mormon gal, married with three beautiful children. I love the Gospel and I love my family. But I’m one of the least feminine females you could meet. I have PCOS, which results in higher-than-normal levels of testosterone in my body. Also, I grew up with three brothers. I just hate makeup, dresses, skirts, shaving…the whole nine! Yet…being a faithful member of the church I have always felt like I “have to” wear a dress or skirt to church. This event helped me realize that it’s okay to wear pants to church. Yes, you already knew that and are berating people for making a big deal out of wearing pants. But…I did NOT know it was okay to wear pants. Who would have told me that? This event gave me permission to give it a try. I was so glad to discover that the pants-wearing was a nonissue! In fact, I loved feeling more like “myself” in church today. I loved that I could sit down on the floor to change my baby in the mother’s lounge (the changing table always being occupied), without having to be super careful. I loved that I didn’t have to worry about keeping my legs crossed or even shaving (remember how I said I’m not a very feminine person?). Most of all, I loved how I felt like, for the first time in years, it was ME who was attending church, and not some skirt-wearing facsimile of me. It was ME worshiping the Lord in my own skin, and my own clothing. I felt the Spirit today, more than I have in years, because I wasn’t mucking about in someone else’s costume.

    Yes, this pants thing is silly for some, especially those who are perfectly comfortable dressing feminine and feeling like they are coming to the Lord’s Church as their “best self.” For me, this was an important step towards feeling like I could dress as myself for the Lord. I’m so grateful for Wear Pants to Church Day last year and I feel that if it made a difference to me and just a few other people, it was well worth it.

    1. Allen Post author

      I didn’t “berate” anyone, Lauren. I don’t mind if you wear pants to church at all. And, I suspect, most people don’t. I certainly am glad that it appears you’ve discovered you don’t need a Pants Day to give you permission, and that you discovered that it wasn’t the Pants Day that gave you permission.

      1. Janice Gordon

        Lauren stated that she didn’t know she was allowed to wear pants. And that the Pants Day event provided information so that she realized that she WAS allowed. The fact remains, Allen…as the numbers of critics and detractors who come to the Wear Pants group to criticize and accuse the women of being disrespectful of the Lord increase…evidently quite a few people DO care if women wear pants to church. I understand that you don’t believe that this scheduled event is effective in bringing about awareness that the antiquated cultural and societal traditions are not compulsory…but many have come to an understanding through reading so many personal experiences from the participants of the group, that they have been enlightened and made aware of the issues.

  4. Heidi

    Allen, it looks like you need to do some more research to help you form a more complete picture of what happened during last year’s event. Women wearing pants were given notes of gratitude and whispered thank yous in the hallways from people who had always felt like social outliers at church because they were different in some way, who took great comfort and felt more welcomed because these women were making efforts to do something to stretch members’ acceptance of those who are different. It was symbolic on many levels, and there is nothing wrong with that. But it was also concrete, and has gone a longs ways towards helping a certain group “feel welcomed and included at church.” I have women and men thank me nearly every Sunday for things like wearing pants, for speaking up, for standing out in a way that I am entirely uncomfortable with. I say this to show you that simple things like wearing pants are exactly what is needed. I don’t expect to convince you, and I don’t plan on an extended discussion, but I do think you need to look into this more. It’s best to look at all the available information before making decisions.

  5. Rebekah

    ” it is as if they believe that the preaching of inclusiveness from the pulpit is not enough”. I’d like to focus on this particular statement. For the record, I’m not a pants-wearing feminazi who wants the priesthood. I was like you once. An oblivious member. Growing up my dad was the bishop. I won lots of awards in seminary. I memorized every one of the 100 scripture mastery and had 100% attendance in my early morning class 4 years in a row. At 6am. In short, I was a Molly. I thought that the preaching WAS enough. Then I got divorced. And I say that in the most passive sense of the verb possible. My ex cheated on me, first with porn then with seven, yes, SEVEN women. I still waited for him to get his act together and stayed with him. Forgave him. After his eighth affair, I told him he had to stop it and stop abusing our kids and taking his rage out on all of us our I’d leave. He didn’t think I’d have the guts so he ran to the courthouse to teach me a lesson and threatened me with divorce papers. I signed them happily. Then I went back to church. After all I’d been through, I assumed that I’d be supported. Loved. Accepted. Embraced in my time of sorrow, mourning and lonliness. Nope. I got shunned. I wondered if they’d all gone Amish on me. SHUNNED. OSTRACIZED. Because my ex couldn’t keep it in his pants and cheated on me with SEVEN women, *I* was treated like I had failed. Like somehow I was less because I no longer had a husband. Previous friends now looked the other way in the halls (let’s be honest, we all know the LDS chapels to be carpeted and sparsely decorated with pictures. They are impossibly boring) Yet somehow “friends” became fascinated with the walls when I passed. (And to anyone who says the phrase, “well at least you learned who your real friends were”… um, really? REALLY? No. ) This was plain and simple about the LDS culuture. It does not accept anyone outside of their cookie cutter perception of what is and what is not acceptable in that society and culture. This has nothing to do with the “Gospel”. It has everything to do with the LDS society. Preaching inclusiveness from the pulpit … IS. NOT. ENOUGH. The LDS society/culture is failing these women in ways you cannot begin to understand. Likely because you are happily oblivious to their pain. I’m sorry/glad for you that your life is such that you cannot fathom the pain that comes from being treated like a pariah by people you thought were your friends. I’m sorry/glad for you that your church experience hasn’t been one of being treated like an outcast or an outsider. It’s left you with a satisfied life wherein you are unable to truly empathize with what these ladies are going through. So before you condemn them and assume that it’s “enough” to preach it at people…maybe try listening to them. Listen to WHY they are essentially saying that its not enough. Because you are right. That is EXACTLY what they are saying. Listen to what the rest of it is that they are saying…. because if you actually think it is enough, you are blinded by naivete, and for that, I guess I congratulate you. Lucky you.

    1. Allen Post author

      Rebekah,

      There is obviously and understandably a lot of pain associated with the recounting of your experiences. I am not oblivious. I dealt with such pain daily and intimately for years. The pain you experienced originated with your husband and was magnified by your ward members. That is wrong. They were wrong. They were not living the gospel.

      I have counseled and dealt with sisters and, occasionally, brethren who have lived stories similar to yours. They were welcomed in our ward. I went out of my way and instructed others in our ward to go out of their way to make all–regardless of their experiences–feel welcome. I was happy to see them and embrace them, and not just on Sundays.

      That is what the gospel of Christ teaches us to do. It doesn’t teach us to wear pants, but it tells us that wearing pants should not be an obstacle to communing with the Saints. It isn’t about clothing. It is about following the repeated counsel of our leaders. Some are successful at that. Others, far from it. Wearing pants to Church with others who are far from it won’t bring them any closer to acceptance when they’ve repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of their leaders. I doubt if the ward members who shunned you would have stopped studying the walls if you were, at the time you walked down the hall, wearing pants.

      I wish you peace. I wish you happiness in doing righteousness. I wish you acceptance with a community of Saints who understand what it means to be disciples–true followers–of Christ.

      My best to you.

      -Allen

      1. Rebekah

        I’m a little confused. I didn’t say that wearing pants was going to fix anything. in fact I’m positive that it would’ve made it 10 times worse than it was already. What I *did* say was that you should listen. I’m not sure you really “heard” what I said. I think you may have misinterpreted some of my thoughts.

        I’m actually super curious though. Did you talk to those members you refer to? Did you ASK them if they felt left out? Did you ask them if they felt like they were included and loved and welcomed? If you did and the answer is yes, then that is great. But deep down, (and this is total judgement based on my perception of what I see as a completely condescending reply to my plea for you to LISTEN to these women) I’m guessing it’s still you being oblivious. Unless you actually followed up with them to see if they really “were welcome”… again, it’s naivete. Quite frankly, I think the fact that you yourself admit to actually needing/having to go “out of my way and instructed others in our ward to go out of their way to make all–regardless of their experiences–feel welcome” is kind of THE problem. You had to make a special effort? You felt like it was necessary to instruct others to do so? Is it because it wasn’t part of our LDS culture/society norm to naturally do so? Why would you feel the need to “instruct” if it WAS something that LDS people already did? Obvious answer: you wouldn’t have to teach them to be accepting/inclusive if they already were. When’s the last time you made friends with a divorced person in your ward? Not just a “charity case friendship”. When’s the last time you invited a 30′s+ single person over? When’s the last time you saw an actual woman wearing pants to church and stopped her and asked her, “Why do YOU wear pants to church?…. ” and then listened, really LISTENED for the answer?

        I will say again: It. Is. Not. Enough.

        “Wearing pants to Church with others who are far from it won’t bring them any closer to acceptance when they’ve repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of their leaders.” <—– Wait… when… WHO has repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of their leaders? What exactly are you accusing them of? And what admonitions have they ignored? I doubt that you know these women. I don't think this is a true or fair statement. Can you tell me the name of even one panstcapades participant? And if you can, did you ask her why? Or did you just make blanket (and erroneous) assumptions about her too? I think if you knew them or who is supporting this, you'd be shocked.
        You remind me a LOT of my dad – if you wrote a book in the 70's you are old enough to be my dad. I saw him just 2 weeks ago and he told me, (and I quote) "THAT WOMAN WHO STARTED THIS CRAP IS GOING TO BURN IN HELL. She's an IDIOT. This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of." Boy, he was really fired up over it. Ya. Turns out… my dad didn't really understand what was going on. He didn't understand what these women were trying to express.

        We talked. He LISTENED. Will you?

        Last thought here: I'm actually one of those women who hates mother's day at church. (I feel the mommy-worship is just a bit ridiculous and over-the-top) BTW, I have 6 kids and am happily remarried, so I'm not bitter or unhappy. I'm a kept woman with a great hubs and blended fam. I have zero complaints. So I'm not supporting this from a sense of "I'm" unhappy with the church or anything like that. I'm supportive of it from a place of empathy. Most of these women are faithful members of the church. Many of them have felt the way I've felt for different reasons. Very often the men in their lives have failed them. They look to: the church,ntheir ward "families", their priesthood leaders, the church culture, they look to you… for support. And when you fail to listen, you fail them too. I'm begging you here… do some research before you place a blanket condemnation over them all. Listen to them instead of judging them. (BTW: the statement "Wearing pants to Church with others who are far from it won’t bring them any closer to acceptance when they’ve repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of their leaders." is *incredibly judgemental* and only further serves to pour salt in wounds.) These women want to have a voice. They want to be heard. Listen.

        1. Allen Post author

          It’s interesting that you say I remind you of your Dad based on a few comments of mine. Your Dad said that the woman who started this was an idiot; I never did. In fact, if you read my other comments, you’ll see that I agree with the aims of the woman who started this–I just don’t think that her chosen approach will ultimately achieve the desires she stated.

          I’m sorry you feel the need to condemn and stereotype me. I know you speak from experience and it is obvious that experience has been painful. I’m not the cause of that pain, however, and it isn’t fair to lump me in with those who have caused you pain.

          I, also, speak from experience. I served as a bishop for just under seven years. I cannot share details of individual experiences without breaking confidences (which is something I won’t do). I can tell you, however, that during those years and, to a lesser degree in the year since I was released, I’ve talked openly and deeply with both women and men about their feelings and whether they felt included or not. I’ve seen the results of “clickish” behavior in wards before, and I didn’t want such behavior to occur under my watch, so to speak.

          Why did I feel the need to instruct leaders in my ward in how to be inclusive? Because I know that is what disciples of Christ should do and what leaders have instructed us to do for generations. It was my responsibility as bishop to teach my ward members correct principles, so I tried to do that. It wasn’t because I saw non-inclusiveness as a part of LDS culture–but I did (and still do) see it as a part of human nature. We live in a society where the individual’s needs and desires are paramount, and we have to fight against that part of the “natural man,” to coin a phrase.

          I’ve seen and experienced terrible behavior at church. I’ve also seen and experienced it in high school, at football games, at rock concerts, in community Boy Scout troops, at stores (think very bad Black Friday behavior), and at political rallies. These are just a few places that humans gather and humans sometimes behave badly toward one another.

          I can’t control behavior in all those places, much as I might want to. I could, however, teach people in my ward, during my service, about what it really means to be inclusive. As to whether I was successful or not, you’ll need to ask the people that I served. I like to think I was, but there could (unfortunately) be a certain amount of self-deception in that thinking. I will humbly submit to the Lord’s judgment in the matter.

          Let me answer a few of your other questions. You said “When’s the last time you made friends with a divorced person in your ward? Not just a ‘charity case friendship’.” I’m not sure that you want me to count the several (6+) in the ward whom I already count as friends. I’m not sure you want me to count the divorced-from-others-but-now-living-together couple that I home teach. Or the widows. So if I discount all them, then I would say there have been only two this year so far. I don’t know of others in my ward, but then I spend a lot of time in other wards in our stake with my current calling, so perhaps I might be excused from not knowing them all. Yet.

          You said “When’s the last time you invited a 30′s+ single person over?” Actually it was Thanksgiving day. We (my wife and I) went to the home of two single sisters in our ward, never married, both over 40. Had a great time. Then there was the week before that when we went to another single sister’s home to have pie and just talk. Had a great time. Since it hasn’t happened yet (it is slated for the 16th) I probably can’t count the open house/party to which we’ve invited five single sisters and two single brothers (six of them over 30) along with seven other couples.

          Finally, you asked “When’s the last time you saw an actual woman wearing pants to church and stopped her and asked her, ‘Why do YOU wear pants to church?….’ and then listened, really LISTENED for the answer?” Over the past month I’ve seen three different sisters who I’ve noticed wearing pants to church. (There may have been others; these were just the ones I noticed.) I didn’t ask any of them why because, to me, that would fly in the face of inclusivity. People don’t necessarily want to be singled out and asked why they are doing something that may be considered out of the ordinary. I was just happy to be at church with them, worshiping together. That’s what the body of Christ does–it worships together. It doesn’t (in my book) ask people “why are you here worshiping like THAT?”

          One other thing I should mention: In your final paragraph you said that my statement (“Wearing pants to church with others who are far from it won’t bring them any closer to acceptance when they’ve repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of their leaders”) was incredibly judgmental. I think there must have been some misunderstanding, so I will try it another way: Let’s say that a ward includes Brother or Sister Brown as members. These members (and others) look down their noses at Sister Smith because she is “different.” They make Sister Smith feel unwelcome, giving her the cold shoulder and excluding her all the time.

          Brother or Sister Brown have been repeatedly taught by their leaders–from the prophets on down–that they need to reach out to the one; they need to lift the arms that hang down; they need to share burdens with their fellow Saints. They’ve repeatedly heard the quotes (and dozens of others like the quotes) listed at the Pants Day website. And, yet, they still don’t behave inclusively. They still look down their noses at Sister Smith. They look past the needs sitting in the next pew.

          If Brother or Sister Brown haven’t been touched by the Spirit when listening to their leaders on the topic of inclusivity, why would one expect them to suddenly awaken from their spiritual stupor and become more inclusive because Sister Smith decided to wear pants on December 15? The chances are against it, I’m sorry to say.

          That isn’t being “incredibly judgmental.” It isn’t pouring salt in any wounds. It is speaking to reality, sadly. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it really is.

          Finally, you said that my earlier reply to you was “completely condescending.” I really, really, really apologize if it came across that way. I wasn’t being condescending. I was trying to empathize with the pain you’ve obviously borne. I really am sorry that you’ve had to. I pray that you’ll feel the peace that the Atonement offers. And I really do wish you the best.

          -Allen

          1. Rebekah

            I can’t respond to all of this, but again, you misinterpret. If you think I’m stereo-typing you in with my Pops, you should be feeling nothing but love because all I have is mad mad love and respect for my dad. And yes, while he’s a Texan (so he’s a hot head like Yosemite Sam) and did go off on these ladies, he took the time to reflect and listen. I meant it not as a slight to you, but as me trying to point out that this may just be a bit of a generational gap misunderstanding. I have indeed felt the love of the atonement and can sincerely say that I’m healed. Maybe not 100% but …is anyone? I never claimed that pantscapades would fix anything. I’m inclined to agree with you that it, by itself, won’t fix anything.

            I have to run and feed a fussy baby then go to the store, so I’ll be brief.

            You said it was speaking to reality that wearing pants won’t fix the Smiths. You talked about pantscapades. You got lots of people to comment about it. You blogged about it. Whether or not you meant it – you helped spread the message just a bit further, didn’t you? Whether or not you want to admit it, you’ve become more aware of what some of these women are going through and why they are wearing pants. I think that’s the point.
            And good for you. I don’t know you, but I know my parents are the same way. They try to be inclusive. (With the exception of the pants-wearers… but maybe they are warming up to them too :) . Sadly, that would make you the exception rather than the rule. So please, try to understand that these women – well… they probably aren’t in your ward. Or being home-taught by you. Because if they were, they wouldn’t feel the need to wear pants would they? Just remember what I said in my first post. Lucky you. Not all of them are so lucky.

    2. Janice Gordon

      True, Rebekah…the G.A.s can preach inclusiveness from the pulpit all they like. It doesn’t mean that the general membership are going to HEAR what they say, or practice what they’ve preached. I see it all the time. The G.A.s preached from the pulpit that every member is a missionary. They’ve preached from the pulpit that the general membership needed to remember to be kind. To be compassionate. To oft speak kind words to one another. To refrain from censuring, when feeling inclined to censure. I’ve read articles in the Ensign regarding the proper way to ‘defend one’s faith’ and beliefs…vs. the improper way. And no matter how many times these men preach these subjects, far too many in the general membership completely disregard what has been preached and engage in very mean spirited personal attacks against anyone they perceive to be ” anti-Mormon “. It’s always been my opinion that the best way to defend one’s religious beliefs is to actually LIVE those beliefs and set the example. All too often, I haven’t found this to be the case.

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