Mormon women wearing pants love the Gospel

Jeff Blake FOR THE WASHINGTON POST The Book of Mormon sits on a coffee table as Mormon missionaries make home … Continued

Jeff Blake

FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

The Book of Mormon sits on a coffee table as Mormon missionaries make home visits in South Carolina in January 2012.

This week All Enlisted, a group of Mormon feminists, invited women to wear pants to church on Sunday in order to challenge cultural expectations and start a conversation about gender equality in the Mormon church. These active, faithful members of the church have strong testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a desire to serve God and His children by, among other things, attending church meetings and fulfilling callings. They recognize that church is primarily the place we go to worship God, covenant to follow Him, and minister to others. But it is also a place where differences between men and women are often exaggerated, boys and girls receive unequal access to resources, and adolescents are told to prepare for vastly different futures. Men dominate leadership positions, supervise women’s organizations and activities, and control church finances.

This event appeals to me because I am currently raising a daughter within the LDS church. My husband and I can show her that we are equal nurturers and providers, that her opportunities in life are not limited by her femaleness, and that she is entitled to be treated as a child of God. But she will also be influenced by her peers, the media, her school teachers, and what she hears and sees at church. She will receive cues about what she can do and be from all of these sources. I hope that this Pants Day can continue a conversation that may eventually transform our church into a place where my daughter consistently receives messages that she is an equal partner to her future spouse, capable and worthy of being a spiritual leader to men and women, and deserving of respect and resources (and not just praise).

Unfortunately, much of the focus on this event has shifted to the intense animosity shown in comments on social media sites, blogs, and news articles. These commenters, many of whom claim to be Mormon women, are calling event organizers unfaithful, stupid, disobedient, and crazy. They accuse Mormon feminists of attempting to disrupt worship services, ignoring differences between men and women, undermining the family unit, and dictating to God how things should be. Some suggest that those participating in the event should leave the Mormon church.

I know that women who choose to wear pants to church on Sunday in the spirit of supporting this event are women who love the gospel. These women want to reconcile what they know in their hearts about God’s love for all of His children with what they see in the policies and practices of the church they call home. They have probably arrived at their conclusions with faith and prayer, and they are likely trying their best to do what they think God would have them do.

This weekend, Mormons on both sides of the issue have an opportunity to practice what we preach and learn to love each other regardless of our different opinions. We should also recognize that we may be talking past each other. Some Mormon women point to their relationships with their husbands, their ability to participate in the church’s women’s organization, and the praise they receive from church leaders to illustrate their experiences with gender equality in the church. Other Mormon women point to a large, bureaucratic organization whose policies and practices are not always dictated by gospel doctrine and may unintentionally marginalize good, worthy, faithful, and believing men and women. Both are valid, authentic perceptions, and we should respect each other for expressing our ideas.

Perhaps this weekend can also be the beginning of a different conversation – one in which we realize that different isn’t always wrong, change isn’t always the enemy, and sometimes the hardest neighbor to love is the person sitting in the pew next to us.

Catherine Jeppsen, a college sociology instructor, lives in Provo, Utah, with her family.

  • J.V.

    What? Women equality? So you are saying women are not being treated equally? Whoever in the Church who endorses that kind of attiture needs to read the proclamation of the world. It is true no one should jugde the sisters if they come wearing pants or shorts, but I think people who who have respect for the Lord and have a testimony of the Doctrine and the living prophets don’t find a problem with the church policy. This is a sad article, especially coming from a member of the church. Sad! Sad!

  • faithlul

    I would say that church is NOT a place for politics, and that news articles are not the best place to express your lack of faith. I am an LDS man, and have a STRONG wife by my side. She just happens to be an attorney, and WE are the ones that teaches our 8yr old daughter that she can become whatever she wants to be, as long as she has a STRONG relationship with GOD. Either you believe in the Gospel or you dont. The leaders are inspired by revolation, not political pressure. Oh ya, did I happen to mention that I am also a Black Man. So let’s just get things straight, this event is about PRIDE, and I can bet that you haven’t even met with your Bishop to express your lack of Faith. PLEASE, Sisters, don’t let these stupid politics cause tension amongst the Saints. I love all my Sisters, I support strengthening our Sister’s, and We are Sons AND Daughters of our Father In Heaven!! AMEN

  • citizen625

    Out here in the states where the LDS are buying the fresh water supplies as fast as they can, they know water equals power. Women and girls are an after thought. Mormons love their guns and their sons.

  • AlsoFaithful

    I don’t get the “either you believe in the Gospel or you don’t argument against people who support this movement. If you look at church history, it is filled with faithful members and leaders who actively debated doctrines and policies. Many church policies are in place not because of revelation but because of tradition. As a Black man, I’m sure you’ve looked closely at the history there. There was never a “revelation” that Blacks should NOT have the priesthood. In fact, Joseph Smith ordained a Black man. It wasn’t until later leaders were negatively influenced by the world they live in that priesthood ban was established. And then, after years of pressure from leaders of the church and others, the ban was finally lifted. This is another example of faithful members advocating positive change in policy, not doctrine. Whether or not I agree with the means, I like that it has started a conversation that will hopefully be more productive as time goes on.

  • mormonmomof6girls

    I don’t understand what the big deal is about pants at church, I have been wearing them for a little over a year now, yes, some judge me but the Bishop is fine with it. Did you know that men in other countries wear skirts to church and the temple, it is a cultural thing not a commandment. Women in Canada wear pants during the winter to church. It is a simple seam, that is the diffference, and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else what anyone wears to church.

  • Delness

    I was surprised to hear about this today and find out that there was any member involved. I was startled to hear someone claim to be a good member of the Church to have the same beliefs yet deny that belief by claiming that the Church is “ours”, as mentioned above, to be governed by the people as a government, when it is to be governed by our Savior as it always has. I don’t see women demeaned in the church, but are treated as equals with different responsibilities, and I see plenty of responsibilities on both sides that solidifies the truth “that we are equals”. I hope we all will truly believe in the doctrine and recognize who is really leading this church.

  • psmithphd

    Jesus Christ, the God and Savior of this world, condemned contention. Any issue of importance can be treated gently and calmly without confrontation. I suggest that concerned women not only raise issues of concern in a civil matter in private but be willing to listen to explanation from Church leaders as to why matters are organized as they are. Faithful men in the church have mothers and sisters they honor. Listen to people like my wife who says that she has more than enough of importance to do in the Church without taking on all the men’s responsibilities.

    Jesus Christ taught us that the priesthood and leadership position are not about honor or worth validation but are about service to others. Those, whether women or men, who serve God are loved and blessed by him equally regardless of whether or not they have the priesthood.

    Phillip C. Smith.

  • As a LDS woman who currently resides in

    As a LDS woman who currently resides in SLC city and has also studied Middle Eastern cutlure and religion, I am fascinated that the response to this reminds of the vitrol women in other cultures recieve when they too wish to make small cultural changes in their society, such as drive a car, without changing fudamental religious doctrine. I love Mormanism, I have no problems with the doctrine. However,, I personally have experienced gender descrimination in LDS society to a point where I feel it has adversly affected my life, especially on a professional level. When I hear others say they have not experienced this, I am glad for them. But we do need a civil dialogue about gender inequality in the LDS Church. I am grateful to the women who have organized this.

  • ben45467

    In 1978 that was 100% driven by revelation, not by members trying to change doctrine. Were you in the room when the revelation was given? Even if we don’t know exactly why the Lord waited until 1978, for the priesthood to be given to all members of the church, DOES NOT MEAN WE SHOULD SPECULATE THAT IT WAS DUE TO WORLDLY INFLUENCES! Some of the best and faithful members I have met have been black, and I am guessing their mansion in heaven will be a lot bigger than my little shack if its even that big. Elder Haight was in room when the revelation was given, and talked about some of it in Gen Conf. And he was walking through the Chicago airport when he saw a newspaper headline”The Mormon Church CLAIMS to have received revelation” The word CLAIMS jumped out to him like it was in neon letters since he was in the room when the revelation was given. I know what I have just said may be mocked on every hand, but I truly believe it is true. Watch how the church is now, and will forever stand up for traditional marriage even though the states are gradually changing on this doctrine. When has it ever been popular to not drink alcohol, smoke, coffee. Think about it all of these should have been gone long ago if its not popular and have received”pressure from the church” I understand many or all these things may be almost impossible for some to believe, but I sure do! And I am proud to be a part of the LDS church, and have been blessed in so many ways.

  • bzabrisk

    It’s important to keep in mind that your wife does not represent the women of the church. Thanks for your input.

  • bzabrisk

    I just have to say that this is a hideous comment. That is all.

  • bvicente

    J.V.: The church has NO policy when it comes to women wearing pants. The church DOES have a policy that you keep the commandments, and treat others as you would the Savior. What policy, exactly, are you talking about? Women can wear pants to church and be 100% in conformity with church policy, hold a temple recommend, serve in leadership positions, etc.

  • WayneDequer

    I am saddened by the termoil over “Ware Pants to Church Day.” The threats and anger against the “Ware Pants to Church Day,” are so misguided, wrong, and out of harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I don’t know about all wards, but at least in our ward (I was recently released as Bishop after 5+ years) all women who expressed a desire to me for more responsibility or a “higher calling” (there were a few who had such concerns) in due course received one. Most callings and assignments in a ward only last for a couple of years. There is plenty of responsibilities to fulfill and service to give in most wards to fulfill the aspirations of most everyone. Most members (male and female) feel somewhat inadequate in their calling. With humor and truth we say that when you get comfortable in your calling its time for a release and a new calling.

    Every week we met in Ward Council (with 3 women Presidents) or Priesthood Executive Committee (to which the Relief Society President was always invited), discussed the needs of the ward and the families and individuals therein, and made decisions together. The women always spoke-up, usually gave the best counsel, and decisions were made by consensus because we all sought the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

    I just returned from Church and the “Ware Pants to Church Day” was a non event in our ward. The same beloved sisters who always ware pants did so and the same beloved brethren who never ware ties were still tieless. As we walked in I asked my wife why she didn’t ware her purple pants today and she gently elbowed me in the ribs. It shouldn’t be about how we dress or about our gender, it should be about becoming more Christ-like.

    The gospel teaches that: “Neither is the man without the woman, or the woman without the man in the Lord.” In our own family my wife and I always make decisions together after discussion and prayer. I do not have the final word: We have the final word in consultation with God.

  • jsmith4

    100% driven by revelation eh? Do you also believe in the tooth fairy?

  • jsmith4

    Agree w/ bzabrisk. This is a hideous comment. Just the right usage of the word “hideous.”

  • Vanka

    The word is “wear”, nor “ware”.

    Do they teach literacy among the Mormons?

  • Tornogal

    Wayne Dequer said: “Every week we met in Ward Council (with 3 women Presidents) or Priesthood Executive Committee (to which the Relief Society President was always invited), discussed the needs of the ward and the families and individuals therein, and made decisions together. The women always spoke-up, usually gave the best counsel, and decisions were made by consensus because we all sought the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”

    Wow. Just wow.

    Isn’t it swell that “the women always spoke up”? I am sure you not see how condescending that comment is.

    And more, how nice of you to “invite” the Relief Society president to attend Priesthood Executive Committee. Of course your handbook of instructions makes clear she isn’t actually allowed to be a member of that body, right? And that’s because EVERY member of that committee is male, right?

    A 12 year-old boy in the LDS church has more authority that the most senior female. Why is that?

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