What You Think Wearing Pants to Church Means—and What it Actually Means

Although my overall experience interacting with men and women in the LDS Church has been positive, I wish—as do many LDS men and women I know—that some things were different in the way we treated each other in regard to our roles in the Church and as children of God and in His Gospel.

I have faith in Christ and faith in the restoration of the Gospel.  Although the Gospel is perfect, the people following it are not.  Many of the concerns brought up by the WAVE organization in this article (http://www.ldswave.org/?p=402) resonate with me, but the method of change they and other “LDS feminists” prescribe disturbs me and that’s why I feel obligated to express my feelings and the feelings of others with whom I have discussed these issues.

The following is a list of what well-meaning women think they are accomplishing via the pants demonstration and how this “protest” will actually do more harm than good:

You think you are uniting in solidarity with women

You are actually creating division—not just between men and women, but amongst women themselves. You are creating two parties within the church: the feminists, who are the “strong, enlightened” ones and the traditionalists, who are either ignorant and blind to their inequality or they lack the courage to stand up for their rights.

You think you are furthering the cause of equality by challenging gender roles and saying that it is okay for men and women to dress the same because “the Lord looketh on the heart,” not on outward appearance.

You are actually drawing attention to the outward appearance and distracting from the reason we attend the most sacred ordinance outside the temple—to worship Christ and renew our baptismal covenants.

You think you are changing the culture and making it normal to wear pants.

You are actually alienating the women who regularly or occasionally wear pants to church (either because they feel more comfortable in them or because it is their Sunday best) and making them feel less welcome.  Instead of being accepted and graciously welcomed, they will now be judged as being feminists trying to make a statement.  There will now and forever be a stigma attached to wearing pants (not unlike the political stigma of eating at Chick Fil-A—can’t I just eat a delicious sandwich without being judged?).

You think you are saying that women should be equal to men, despite our physiological differences.

You are actually saying that women should be the same as men to be their equals.

You think the shock effect will generate discussion that will lead to positive change.

You will actually create heartache as contentions, disputations, and feelings of animosity grow—drawing people away from Christ instead of toward Him.

How is creating a scene and drawing attention to the outward appearance going to encourage others to look on the heart and treat each other with more respect?  Is it worth it to draw attention to our cause in a way that will alienate some women and make them feel less welcome to worship Christ?

If I didn’t have an alternative solution to these issues, I would not be issuing such a passionate opposition to a movement that is meant to empower so many well-intentioned women.  I believe that most of the solutions to these issues can be solved on the local and ward levels.  These are issues that are ingrained in culture and tradition and are not endorse by Gospel doctrine.  If we are charitable and patient we can influence those in our own sphere and help them to be understanding and accommodating to victims of gender-discriminatory behavior.  I have been a part of many wards that treat these issues appropriately, so let’s work to make this the case in all wards.

For issues where church policy must be changed, we must also employ charity and patience.  The Church is organized to promote improvements from the bottom up.  The change in age of female missionaries is evidence that church leaders are aware of and seek out the desires of LDS women to serve in greater capacities.  But the Lord will allow changes to take place in His time, not ours.  We don’t have to be silent, but we must demonstrate faith and patience.

For issues where eternal doctrine is unclear or not fully revealed, we must exercise even more faith and patience because not everything will make sense to us in this life with our mortal understanding.  Most LDS women I know do not seek to hold the Priesthood in the capacity that men do in the church.  We do not know what role men and women will have in exercising the Priesthood in the next life and in the eternities.  We do know that all men and women, if we are faithful, will be exalted and inherit everything that the Father has.  We don’t need temporal or earthly recognition to reach out divine potential.

For those of us who feel the desire to take action and promote change, I suggest we follow the advice of one woman who posted the following on an online discussion board:

“It seems to almost cheapen the goals that we, as feminist, empowered, educated women, have for equality.  Equality isn’t wearing pants to church.  Equality is much, much more than a fashion statement, and it should be treated as such. Let’s write letters.  Let’s have lessons in Relief Society about this. Let’s bring it up in meetings at church. Let’s talk to our bishops, our relief society presidents, our visiting teachers, our husbands and fathers and sisters and friends about our concerns.  Let’s start a discussion, not a change of clothes.”