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Erin Ann McBride
Thursday, December 13 2012

Pants in Church: A Feminist Movement

By Erin Ann McBride Notify me when this author publishesComment on Article
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three generations

There is a movement growing across the U.S. this week calling for Mormon women to “wear pants to church on Sunday in solidarity with those who seek gender equality everywhere.” Their battle cry is that women are not equal in the Church, and that this is a stand to demand equality.

From organizer’s website, “This Sunday, December 16, 2012, Mormon Feminists the world over will be wearing pants to church. Not jeans, or sweats, or yoga pants, but dress pants. Tailored suits and flowing shalwars and holiday-appropriate black velvet. Pants that are modest, elegant, and feminine, and not at all out of place in a church house (not that we think you need to be any of those things to worship God!). The purpose of this event is to give voice to and express support for women who don’t conform to traditional gender roles and those who seek gender equality in the LDS church.”

The subject of gender equality is a difficult, divisive, and explosive one, and I choose to not further discuss it in this article, and instead to stick to “pants in Church.” Maybe some other day I will open that can of worms.

John 7:24- Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

I am disappointed in the instigators of this movement, and my feelings have nothing to do with whether or not I support their desires for further gender equality. I am disappointed that anyone would choose sacrament meeting to carry out a personal agenda (regardless of whether or not they believe it is for the common good).

The purpose of sacrament meeting is to renew our covenants with the Lord. We partake of the emblems of the sacrament, renew our covenants, and turn our hearts and minds to the Lord as we pray to feel His Spirit. It is not the time or place for rebellion or taking a stand. It is also not the time or place to be focused on your clothing, or the fashions on the people around you.

This call for action is an act of contention and has no place in Sacrament meeting. A woman has the right to wear what she feels honors her covenants with the Lord and she feels appropriately clothed in to renew those covenants. But to take a stand as a group with an agenda will be disruptive to everyone, and will not make a difference.

“Verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who … stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:29–30).

I hold no ill will against feminists or the pursuit of gender equality. But if you do not understand gospel essentials, do not fight it or preach against it. Instead, humbly bow your head before the Lord and ask for guidance. Do not take your battle where the war is not fought.

To those who intend to participate in this action, I ask, do you expect to feel the Spirit during your act of rebellion? I know you hope that you will be a beacon and inspire others to do the same. But are you prepared for the spirit of dissension that will follow your choices? And do you expect others around you, who know the intent of your choices, to feel it as well?

All women need to cease judging others for their attire on Sunday. The vanity and games that are played to “keep up with the Joneses” in what constitutes Sunday best are despicable at best. Too many women show up late to church because they were more concerned about their appearance than they were about showing respect for the Lord and being on time to renew their covenants.

To all members of the Church- do not judge another for what they choose to wear on Sunday. Each corner of the world has different standards for fashion or modesty that dictate respect for the event. Modesty is not only defined as the covering of skin, but also as simplicity, moderation, freedom from vanity and boastfulness. All members, whether male or female, should dress with modest intent.

It is our own individual choice to judge or not judge another for what they wear, whether it be at the store, in church services, or this upcoming Sunday. But it is no one’s right to sentence another to any particular category of righteousness. But it is our individual responsibilities to judge between actions of right or wrong, and choose for ourselves.

1 Corinthians 11:31- For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

In deciding what is appropriate to wear on the Sabbath Day, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in the October 2005, General Conference, “I make a special appeal regarding how young women might dress for Church services and Sabbath worship. We used to speak of “best dress” or “Sunday dress,” and maybe we should do so again. In any case, from ancient times to modern we have always been invited to present our best selves inside and out when entering the house of the Lord—and a dedicated LDS chapel is a “house of the Lord.” Our clothing or footwear need never be expensive, indeed should not be expensive, but neither should it appear that we are on our way to the beach. When we come to worship the God and Father of us all and to partake of the sacrament symbolizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we should be as comely and respectful, as dignified and appropriate as we can be. We should be recognizable in appearance as well as in behavior that we truly are disciples of Christ, that in a spirit of worship we are meek and lowly of heart, that we truly desire the Savior’s Spirit to be with us always.” (“To Young Women.”).

I remember well when I was twelve years old an experience that occurred while my family was visiting a small branch in another state while on vacation. The home of a member of the branch had burned to the ground the night before and the topic dominated sacrament meeting.


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