Mormon Women and Sunday Dress….Pants.


By: Rebbie Groesbeck //

You may have heard about a group of Mormon feminists who organized a mass “Wear Pants to Church Day” for Mormon Women this past Sunday, December 16th. Shock! Awe! Outrage! You may now be wondering what all the fuss was about, or why the skirt vs. pants discussion is even a discussion at all. I’d like to answer a few questions about the issue and simultaneously solve it with this five letter word: S-K-O-R-T.

Skort

Let’s take it one letter at a time.

“S” is for Sunday dress.

Does  wearing pants on Sunday break the rules? What are the “rules” of Sunday dress for a Mormon?

Wearing pants to church is not against any set of Mormon ‘rules’ or commandments. Nowhere in Mormon scripture does it say, “Thou shalt wear a skirt.” Rather, dressing in our Sunday best is meant as an indication of respect for God. Here’s the Church’s official statement on it:

“We have not . . . felt it wise or necessary to give instructions on this subject [of dress] relative to attendance at our Church meetings, although we do feel that on such occasions [members] should have in mind that they are in the house of the Lord and should conduct themselves accordingly.”

We dress in Sunday best as an outward indication of an inner respect for God.

“K” is for K.

K, so why did it cause such a fuss?

The goal of the movement was simply to promote gender equality among the church. I agree with what Joanna Brooks from the Huffington Post said on this one–while it’s not a violation of commandment, wearing pants to church definitely breaks a cultural norm within the Church. Here’s my 5-step explanation of why this might be:

1-Culturally in the US, “best dress” for women has traditionally dictated a skirt or dress.

2-Thus, most Mormon women wear skirts to church.

3-Wearing skirts to church has become the norm.

4-When a woman wears pants to church it breaks the norm.

5-Some women choose not to wear pants (even though they would like to) because sometimes norm-breakers become the subject of attention or unfortunately, judgment.

Some Mormon women have spoken out as being the subject of judgment when wearing pants to church meetings, which is not very cool. But the problem here is not with God, it’s with us. While God cares about our hearts, we as imperfect humans tend to make judgments based on outward appearance.

It’s been sad to me while following the movement to see some of the negative comments aimed at those who started the movement. Those participating in the movement  received some mocking and  meanness that to me seems like a misunderstanding of what it means to be Christian. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to throw rocks from behind a computer screen. Personally, I would rather throw confetti.

I fully believe that the negativity comes from a small (but loud) few, and would hope that moving forward we can simply be happy to see each other at church.

“O” is for zerO.

On a scale of one to ten, how much does God care about fashion?

Not that I can speak for God, but if I were a betting woman I’d guess it’s closer to the zero end. But it goes back to what we’ve already mentioned — it’s not about fashion, it’s about what’s in our hearts. If God cares about our hearts, then he definitely cares about every Woman feeling comfortable at church.

We try to show through our clothing that we respect and honor God. If your best Sunday attire is your fancy pants, by all means wear them fancy pants.

Perhaps after this Sunday we’ll see more pants at church, to which I hope we say, “cool.” Perhaps someday we won’t need to say anything at all.

R is for Relative.

The thing about defining “Sunday best” is that our culture’s definition may differ from another culture’s. In that way, it’s kind of all relative.  In some Polynesian countries, men wear the traditional lava lava to church because in their culture it’s the most formal or respectful piece of clothing. Technically speaking, isn’t that a skirt?

The point is, creating a solid definition for something as ever-shifting as fashion is tough. (Ask anyone who ever wore acid washed jeans.) At one point, the cultural norm was for Women to wear only skirts, all the time. I think what we’ve seen with “Wear Pants to Church Sunday” is an interesting discussion on how culture and doctrine coincide and sometimes conflict. It’s a tough line to walk and one which I do not presume to have the answer for.

T is for equali-T.

Are Men and Women seen as equals in Mormon Doctrine?

Equal, while different.

Men hold the Priesthood, women don’t.  Women bear children, men don’t. Not that those two are opposites or all-inclusive, but each is a specific role that we believe has been divinely chosen for its respective gender.

I love what this article says about LDS Doctrine on gender and equality:

“…LDS doctrine teaches that men and women are equals before the Lord and before each other. “Equal” does not mean “identical”—for example, there are no two men who are identical, and yet they stand as equals before each other and before the Lord. Can we imagine an understanding of equality that means that a man and woman, though different, can be equals before the Lord and before each other? That is the vision of equality that the Restored Gospel teaches…”

We believe men and women are created equal but intentionally different. As we’ve already mentioned, God is perfect, we are not. I dislike the fact that cultural norms may have developed which have made some women feel unequal. But from a doctrinal perspective, men and women are equals before the Lord. I think of us as complements. I believe any good we can do as individual sexes can be better when we combine our efforts.

Phew. We did it! We S-K-O-R-Ted the issue (thanks for going with that, btw). Let’s add a few more kind words to the one that made it all possible.

SkortIn case you missed it the first time.

The hermaphrodite of 90′s fashion! The solver of all our problems! I can’t get enough of this thing. It’s just so functional. I  find that its element of frumpy surprise can be rivaled only by the mullet. And never has the Skort seemed more poised for comeback than now. It’s the perfect solution for someone like me who likes the look of a skirt, but also supports those who want to wear pants. I will wait with bated breath for Shade‘s 2013 catalog.

As a single, working woman who advocates Girl Power and gets goosebumps every time I hear Beyonce’s hit ballad, “If I Were a Boy,” I consider myself a level one feminist. Maybe I’m only a nanofeminist, but it’s in there somewhere. I’m not making any predictions on the future of Sunday fashion for Mormon Women (unless the Skort really does come back, in which case I demand 20%!). But I do hope in the future we can try to be more accepting. Let’s throw more confetti, less rocks.

I believe in women. I believe we are intelligent, talented, and capable of doing every bit as much good in the world as men can do, even if we might do it a little differently.

I also believe that the song, “If I Were a Boy” would be equally powerful were Beyonce singing it wearing this:

Bey_Dress

this:

Bey_Pants

or this:

My_Worst_Nightmare

 Heaven forbid.

All credit for this post goes to @mayseeh, whose brilliance and wit continue to inspire me, one Instagram at a time.

10 Comments

Add yours
  1. 2
    Holli

    Everyone seemed to have a different take on what this whole “Pants Day” thing was really about. Some just wanted to wear pants together. For some it was about breaking social norms. For others it was a statement to the Church that “We (the Mormon Feminists) are HERE!” Others said it was to show their vulnerability–never understood how pants symbolized vulnerability, but whatev. For others, to join in solidarity and kinship as Mormon Feminists. According to the facebook event description, it was basically in the same category as the women’s suffrage movement. And for others, it was obviously about more complicated issues with women and the Church.

    I personally still have no idea what the whole event was supposed to accomplish, but have come to the conclusion that wearing pants on Sunday doesn’t say anything specific.

    Glad it’s over.

  2. 5
    Sharon

    Okay, I get it, the women in the church are trying to make a point– however my point is that if I expect guys to come dressed in their Sunday best and wearing white shirts and ties while passing and blessing the sacrament, I would hope they would expect us women to do the same. I wear Sunday best as a respect to Heavenly Father, and also because I grew up in the South, and you just don’t wear pants to church in the South.

    I also am sad that the women in the church don’t feel valued to the point of needing to “take a stand” like this. I fully believe that women are born with some sort of priesthood– not to the extent like the men have it– but more. Women don’t necessarily have to earn it to keep it, because it’s in our nature to be more in tune with the Lord, at least as far as I’m aware (no slap in the face to all you males, not my intent with my words here). Now the men, they have to work to keep their priesthood– staying worth, etc. Women, not so much.

    Thank you for sharing this post. I personally feel that the stance was a little ridiculous seeing as no one really cares, and those who do care if you wear pants to church don’t really matter.

  3. 6
    Rachel

    I love ths blog, I just found it today and can’t wait to share some of these posts on Facebook. You are clever and witty and I absolutely cackled out loud at that last pic of the mst intense skort I’ve ever seen.

  4. 7
    Chris

    It says in your article that “pants day” was held on December 16th. Now if you’ve ever lived in a state that has snow in it during winter season you’re begging to wear pants rather than a dress to church on Sunday. Think about it, it’s cold, there’s a wind blowing which will go right up your skirt. Now me personally I would love to see more dress appropriate pants on Sundays especially during winter times. Lets be practical about what we put on our bodies.

  5. 8
    adrian

    It was once considered respectable for a man to sport a beard.
    We are now asked to be clean shaven. What happened? Dunno, but as much as I hate shaving I do it because I was specifically asked to by my Bishop, a man I love and respect. I believe it communicates to the YM under my care: I am willing to do what is asked of me because of my faith. Much like garments, which sometimes feel awesome and like HF is hugging me all day long… but some days they just suck.

    As you said fashions change, but the love we receive from HF is constant. As a father of three young daughters I want for them to be able to decide for themselves how best to show gratitude for that love, and to be able to do so with inspired guidance from leaders that comes from a place of love and understanding (a Christ-like perspective one might say)… not judgement from haters.

    You seem to write from an open-minded and loving place. Wouldn’t mind if my children grew up to have someone like you as their Sunday School teacher. Just sayin. Thanks for your posts.

  6. 10
    paddy

    i was in a wonderful ward in orange county,ca. that totally accepted me in pants- some sundays i was able to wear my skirt- i have many health problems and my ward family loved us so very very much- i miss them and love them so much- 20 yrs since we were in this wonderful ward- Anaheim 6th ward-in my heart each day- they gave us love when my own family would not- truly blessed to have been in this ward- thank you for this website- i am 65 now and love the Mormans- Normans

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