Thursday, December 13, 2012

Of Action Groups and Sunday Pants

When I first read through the Facebook event description of the Wear Pants to Church Day event sponsored by the action group All Enlisted, I wasn’t particularly alarmed. imageReally, I agreed with most of their intentions. In fact, just last night I was talking with my husband about how most members of the Church frequently mistake Church culture for Church doctrine.

I have said before (simply echoing Church leaders) that the doctrine of the Church is actually very limited. Anything beyond the true doctrine is policy, policy we believe is based on an understanding of doctrine and revelation. Policy we sustain in General Conference twice a year as we sustain the leaders who we trust to make the policies Heavenly Father feels are best for our time (which means they – the policies – do change).

The Fight Against Cultural Myths: A War Worth Fighting

Back to my first impressions of the Wear Pants to Church Day event. I loved much of what the sisters said on the Facebook page. I think what tempered the whole description for me was their first paragraph, the reading of which almost caused me to shout “Amen! Hallelujah!”

Did you know that church leaders have not discouraged women from wearing pants since 1971? … After many reports of overt or silent judgment, a group of LDS women decided it was time to stop the perpetuation of the cultural myth that there is something wrong with women wearing pants. (emphasis added)

I felt that they were actually acknowledging that the problem in the Church (judgment over women wearing pants/people wearing jeans/tennis shoes/colored shirts/etc to Church) is a cultural myth, rather than some Church policy. And before you start tossing out quotes from General Authorities counseling us to wear this or wear that, let me remind you of Elder Christofferson’s most excellent and timely talk in April 2012 General Conference during which he appropriately reminded us,

…it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.

So you can erase your comment with a quote from some apostle or prophet that said you should wear a white shirt while passing the sacrament. That’s great, if you have a white shirt. If you want to wear a white shirt. Owning a white shirt or having a desire to wear a white shirt is not a prerequisite to being ordained to any priesthood office, or performing any priesthood duty. If you feel like you should wear a white shirt to perform your priesthood duties, great for you. If you don’t think it matters, good for you. What matters is that you are worthy to perform those duties – which has more to do with the heart than the outward appearance.

The sisters describing their demonstration kept getting more and more points with me as the description went on –

“The Church has not attempted to indicate just how long women’s or girls’ dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing.”--LDS Church Presidency (1971)

“Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. Generally, church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the savior, but we don't counsel people beyond that.” –official church statement December 12, 2012

Why, this is most excellent! Someone is helping educate the masses about how dumb we all are for thinking that cultural norms (even Church culture ones) are somehow what the doctrine of the Church mandates. Or even Church policy. Obviously, women wearing skirts is not Church policy, and I thought these great women did an excellent job explaining that.

The Bait-and-Switch

I must have skimmed through the rest of the description because no red flags went off until I read the post a second time.

This event is the first act of All Enlisted, a direct action group for Mormon women to advocate for equality within our faith. … we do want the LDS Church and its members to acknowledge the similarities [between men and women]. We believe that much of the cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS church today stems from the church's reliance on – and enforcement of – rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality.

Wait a minute! You just told me that your goal was to correct a cultural myth, but you’ve just pulled a bait-and-switch on me! Now you’re telling me that you want “equality within our faith” and you see “doctrinal inequalit[ies]” in the Church, perpetuated by “the church’s … enforcement of … rigid gender roles.”

I had so much hope – this was almost a group I could stand behind. I was excited that someone was trying to address the cultural myths that seems to be endlessly perpetuated in the Church. These cultural myths are not perpetuated by the General Authorities, or by Church policy. On the contrary, I have heard the prophets and apostles constantly hounding us in General Conference, urging us to give up the culture and live the doctrine. It’s the members of the Church falling short of the counsel of the prophets that perpetuates cultural myths.

Stoning People for Their Sins

My thoughts went immediately to the new Church website, Love One Another. Nothing found on that website is news. There are some great personal stories, which I think are very effective in breaking down culture – when people can see what happens in cultures outside their little bubbles, they are more appropriately armed to take down the culture in their own bubbles. None of the doctrine on the Church’s new website is different from anything that has been preached previously. Since Christ walked the earth we have been counseled to love one another regardless of our differences, regardless of the sins of others. It was Christ himself who said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, the adulterer.

It is not our place to stone people to death, literally or figuratively, for their sins.

A Misguided Discussion

The purpose of the Wear Pants to Church Day demonstration was not the only thing that bothered me about the entire situation. The comments that have been elicited have been equally as disturbing. Comments such as,

“What if these women have received revelation that this change needed to be enacted?”

“I'm offended you would ask me to wear a colored shirt, one that I shouldn't be wearing while performing priesthood ordinances.”

“maybe … the ones that have left will come back knowing that the church is finally putting action towards attitudes”

“the Lord has told us that dresses are a sign of reverence and he has asked us to wear them..its not a commandment … but we are to listen to the Lord and to our prophets”

“I feel sadness for the sisters that feel hurt and confused enough to feel they need to participate in this, because it means that they have not yet gained a true testimony of the divinity of womanhood in the Lord's plan of happiness, and how ESSENTIAL we are to that plan”

“To me, their reasons are that they don't understand the basics of the gospel. They don't understand the priesthood and womanhood. And that this is the Lord's church. They don't understand the symbolism of the temple.”

I have problems with all of these comments. People are either continuing to perpetuate the cultural myths by spouting their misguided understandings of Church policy (the colored shirt comment) or they are confusing culture with doctrine.

People who are helping to perpetuate cultural myths need to stop it, and people who are confusing culture with doctrine need to stop it.

And all of us need to stop judging each other. I said to my husband that it seems like the people who think you should only wear dresses are judging the women who would like to wear pants, and the women who would like to wear pants without being judged are judging the very women they accuse of judging them.

Let us please apply Uchdorf’s Hammer: STOP IT!

An Action Group For Cultural Change

Where does this leave me?

Wanting to form an action group for women who want to promote charity and the doctrine of the Church. Women who want to break down the cultural myths and replace them with kindness, love unfeigned, boundless compassion, and non-judgmental attitudes.

So I thought to myself “Why not form one?” An action group – dedicated to these very things.

Our motto would be “Charity never faileth.”

And then I remembered – there is already an action group for that.

It’s called Relief Society.

The Savior Himself has organized the women of the Church into an action group. One that should be at the forefront of breaking down cultural myths. A group that should be at the forefront of compassionate outreach to women who feel marginalized and pushed aside.

It is a worldwide sisterhood, but at the same time, it is a grassroots movement. Each ward has a Relief Society specifically and specially equipped to deal with the issues in that particular ward. Why? In my ward, the women in my Relief Society, the women who need my help, are my neighbors. I live, work, and play in the same places as them. I see them on a regular basis. If I am doing my job as a disciple of Christ, I am listening to the pain in their hearts. I can see if they are being ostracized by judgmental skirt-wearers. I should be observant and recognize when they feel left out because their husband is blessing their baby and no one gives them the accolades they deserve for gestating, laboring, and delivering that beautiful baby. If I am doing my duty as a real Christian, I will be reaching out to include the broken hearted, those who are different in whatever way – whether it be homosexuality, divorce, single motherhood, whatever makes them different, I can be the one who reaches out and helps them feel unity and love under the umbrella of compassion and charity.

So I have no need to start an action group. The Savior did that already. But I am renewing my membership. I am gearing up to be the best member of this action group I can be.

Who’s with me?


  1. I Really Like This.

    Thanks for articulating it so well and so kindly!!

  2. This is the best thing I've read about this topic! I grew up in the church and have truly never felt any gender inequality, personally, and it makes me sad that there are apparently so many that have.

    1. Ditto - on both counts. I have never felt the inequality, but I personally know people who have been called out for wearing pants to Church, and it's a sad thing that it happens, and I acknowledge their pain, and I urge people who have pain to take it to the Savior - not to protests in Sacrament meeting.

      Thanks for the compliment :) I was getting a little uncomfortable with a lot of what I was reading in response to this issue - even (or especially) from "faithful" (non-"feminist") LDS women. I just think there is too much judging. Too much on both sides, and it's tearing us apart as sisters.

      The Relief Society is about taking care of each other, listening to each other's deepest pains, and helping to heal those pains. It's not about judging. It's not about adhering to (nor protesting) some cultural norms we think are what "the Church" wants us to do. It's about compassion. It's about charity. It's about having a "come as you are" mentality.

      Thanks again for your comment (and everyone else!)

  3. Replies
    1. I'm in! This is really great. I agree, I was really saddened by a lot of the comments I read too. Way too much anger on both side if you ask me.

  4. Becca, I have two words that I want to say right now, that I want to shout out right now, well make that three words...RIGHT ON SISTER! I think that this is probably my favorite post that I have ever read that you have written. I couldn't agree with you more and everything that you just said reflects my own personal feelings so closely, it is astonishing for me to be honest. I knew someone when I was young and she actually stopped going to church over the "dress-code" issue, or rather the imaginary dress code. She was poor, she was alone, and she developed a medical condition where her weight drastically changed in a short period of time. She had a job and she wore pants to work, they were nice pants and she looked nice but it wasn't a dress. It was all that she had. She wore them to church and was "counseled" by people who decided they were the authority figures on what to wear to church. She also was had people offer to buy her a dress. Both of these things embarrassed and hurt her to the point that she stopped going. I remember my Mom being upset about it because she felt that it didn't matter, she wore the best thing that she had and who really cares? I don't even know if she ever returned to the church, I hope that she did. I've always remembered that in the back of my mind, your post made me think about her again. I've never heard of this All Enlisted group or initiative before, and in a sense I get what they are saying, somewhat. The cultural myth part, but at the same time they are missing the point and behaving just like the people that they are not agreeing with, ironic isn't it?
    Do you think that if people traveled more, or made more of an effort to learn about other cultures, or just other countries, our Brothers and Sisters in the gospel outside of the microcosms in which we live that some of this would dissipate? I mean I've been to church in France and women wore pants there and it wasn't a big deal at all...something to think about. Thanks for posting this, this made my night! I hope that you are feeling better!

    1. "at the same time they are missing the point and behaving just like the people that they are not agreeing with"

      Too true :(

      "Do you think that if people ... made more of an effort to learn about other cultures ... that some of this would dissipate" Absolutely

      I think getting people out of their "bubble" is important, and the more we can learn to do that, the better. But honestly, it doesn't even have to be learning about other cultures - it's really as simple as people making more of an effort to learn about other people - meaning, the other people in their wards. Which is where Relief Society comes in. If we're doing our duty as Relief Society sisters, then we are learning about the lives of the sisters in our ward. We should put ourselves in a position to get to know them intimately, so that we know their fears, their perspectives, their pain - we know it and we care about it, and we work hard to help them feel accepted and loved. Not rejected or judged.

      It's something I don't think I have been very good at, which is why I have made a renewed pledge to be a good Relief Society sister and start caring and working harder to really know the sisters in my ward. To know them and to love them!

    2. I lived in France for a year, and alas, they are not judgement-free: I got to hear the American sisters quietly criticizing the French sisters for wearing pants, but I also got to hear the French sisters criticizing the American sisters for wearing denim - dresses, mind you, but denim, a fabric that the French felt had no business in a place of worship. A real eye-opener to the sources and effects of being judgmental.

    3. Could you provide a reference for the church official statement on 12-12-12? I looked everywhere, but it's not on's newsroom. It sounds right, but I'd like to see the source.

    4. Lindsey, you sound like me :) I was skeptical of the statement (especially when I couldn't find it on the LDS Newsroom - which is where I usually go for official statements). It looks like this statement is more like a "prepared" media statement for when the media contacts the Church about the issue. Several news outlets cited this as the response when they contact the Church. Here are a few sources:

      KTVB (Boise, ID)
      KSL (Utah - and a Church-owned station)

      The Idaho station said they received their response from Media Manager Dale Jones. The KSL says they received the statement from Church Spokesman Scott Trotter. (which is why I say it sounds like a prepared statement for media inquiries)

      Hope that helps :)

  5. Me! Me! Me! I'm with you. :) I have identified more with your words than any other post or commentary I've read on this topic. Thanks for articulating it so well and in such a level headed way.

  6. I really enjoyed this post so much I shared it. :) Very well written.

  7. I like this. And I agree with it. I have a concern though. Let me see if I can adequately express it. (it all makes sense in my head, until it comes out my fingers!)

    That concern would be people who would take advantage of this attitude - possibly all of us if given enough time. Which apostle was it that said, at General Conference, "just because you can doesn't mean you should." That is how I feel about the whole issue. We have been "encouraged" (that's as strong language as any leader will use, because they do not command us - so when we hear that word, we'd be wise to heed it) to wear white shirts while passing the Sacrament, dresses/skirts for Sunday worship, and it is correct that if we choose not to, then we should not be judged for it. Neither should we judge others who do it.

    But let's dig a little deeper. What about those who are 100% capable of wearing white shirts/dresses, but choose not to because our standards have lowered so much (over time) to the "who cares" level? I've seen that happen in all other churches, and frankly have been waiting for the day I'd hear it in our Church - and here it is upon us. And then, as human nature dictates, our attitudes lower as well. It reminds me of the studies done on diets that found when a person dresses up to eat, even at home, they will eat slower, smaller portions, with better manners, and thereby it helps them lose weight. Yet when they lay around in sweat and eat, they eat worse food, they eat larger amounts, and they have worse manners and gain weight.

    I guess for me what it boils down to is this: it's not about the policy, it's not about following the letter or spirit of the "law". It's about our individual love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Our LEVEL of clothing will show our LEVEL of respect for them. Notice I said "LEVEL of clothing", not "TYPE of clothing". Meaning: "wear your best". Is your best a pair of torn up jeans? Then that's what you wear, and it'll show your heart toward God and His Son,so long as your attitude is one of humble love and reverence. If your best a fancy Easter dress? Then that's what you wear, and it'll show your heart toward God and His Son, so long as your attitude is one of humble love and reverence. The converse is usually true though: If you have the better clothing, and you choose to not wear it, you attitude does eventually lessens to the point where it no longer matters how much you show reverence to the Lord. So long as you are wearing your best, it helps buoy up your attitude. Make sense?

    1. But even with what you have to say about wearing your best...there is and should be a limit, a personal judgment call, and sensitivity. It still needs to be appropriate. (Maybe my prom dress, when I was in my youth, was my "best," but is it appropriate for church? My wedding dress may have been my "best" once upon a time, but is it appropriate for church? Extremes, yes, but there has to be a cut-off point somewhere.) Maybe one's best is not necessarily only her collection of nice dresses, but perhaps it includes a collection of nice slacks and blouses as well, and perhaps she feels just as reverent in each. And perhaps I would scale down my selection of church attire depending on where I was attending church. If I had the privilege of wealth, for example, it might seem like I was looking down my nose at others if I were visiting another ward with a strong contingent of poverty-level-income families while wearing my $800 suede. And there is the part of "fine twined linen" to consider.

  8. My brother has attended church with us and being an alcoholic and all sorts of other "olics", all he had was an old pair of jeans and and an old faded, torn shirt. That's what he wore. His attitude/heart? Humility. Reverence. Shame to recognize what he'd done with his life. but REVERENCE. It was the best he had, and that instigated the best attitude he had too.Believe it or not, our clothes do influence our attitudes and behaviors. (those of others towards us too!)

    Just throwing out there the words "it doesn't matter" ends up attracting those who SHOULD and CAN show better reverence, but who won't just because they see the "modern culture" as one that says "who cares, it's just about love and live and let live." That attitude is one that ultimately leads to corruption of some sort. It's another "bate-and-switch". I don't think that's what you're saying in your post - but I think that's what some will read into posts like these. Maybe.

    Our church leaders have been telling the members these things for decades. Each generation needs to be retaught - evidently the parents aren't passing down the info. If it is spoken from the pulpit at General Conference it is taken as official, unless the speaker states otherwise. When they say it anywhere else, it is taken as not-official, unless the speaker states otherwise.

    The church has ENCOURAGED us to wear our best. If I own a dress, that IS better (dressier) than pants. So then that's what I wear. Yes, I can choose otherwise. But that's a teeny-tiny slip away from "doing my best". And as we all know, when human nature is involved, a teeny-tiny slip, can many times, unknowingly, lead to a huge slippery slope. We just need to be careful on all sides. Each of us must do what is our best within our hearts. God will judge our hearts and intentions. Not each other. <3

    1. I understand (and appreciate) your comments. And I agree with your sentiment - that we should wear our best. I am curious to know where we have been counseled to wear dresses and skirts (rather than a nice pant suit). I assume you have lots of references. I haven't heard any from General Authorities, and I've been doing quite a bit of research in the last few days. The closest thing I could find was a reference from President Kimball who said, "If we dress like the opposite sex, we tend to lose our sexual identity or some of the characteristics that distinguish the eternal mission of our sex." But that only implies that women should wear dresses - and only back in the 80's (when the talk was given). Today, a woman wearing a pants suit it not at all looked upon as trying to be a man. I don't think cultural changes are all bad, and certainly, women wearing pants suits or dress pants is not women trying to be like men. A dress is not always dressier than pants. I think it depends a lot on the dress, and a lot on the pants. A pants suit is much dressier than a jean skirt, in my opinion.

      "What about those who are 100% capable of wearing white shirts/dresses, but choose not to because our standards have lowered so much (over time) to the "who cares" level?"

      I'll repeat what I said in my post: It is not our responsibility to figuratively stone people for their sins.

      If someone does not wear their Sunday best out of rebellion, or for a protest, or for any other reason, it is not our place to "stone" them, so-to-speak. That is what I see happening when women I know (whose Sunday best IS a pants suit, or dress pants) are "called out" by women in the ward for wearing pants rather than a skirt. A figurative "stoning" is what I see when people say hateful things about the women who organized the Wear Pants to Church Day. Isn't it the Savior who said "First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye."?

      We have no right, no place, and cannot begin to judge women who wish to wear pants to Church.

      But that's where the Relief Society comes in.

      If you know intimately the sisters in your ward - if you have taken the time to really listen to and understand the sister who is wearing pants, maybe you will know whether or not they are wearing pants for the right reasons. And maybe as their friend and sister in the gospel, you will be inspired to touch their life in a way that will help them change their motives, change their attitudes.

      Calling them out - whether in person, or online in a public forum - does nothing to help them feel the love of Christ. Christ would not corner them and tell them why it is "wrong" for them to be wearing pants rather than a skirt/dress. Christ would get to know them, and if He knew they were being rebellious, He might bear His testimony to them about the sacred nature of sacrament meetings, and He might teach them about reverence, and respect, and He would definitely teach them about abandoning our will to God's. But He also might know that this sister works in a professional line of work where she wears pants suits every day of the week, and to this sister, wearing a pants suit is dressier, and more respectful. There is nothing wrong with that.

      You cannot possibly know the attitude of every sister who wears pants to Church.

      "We just need to be careful on all sides. Each of us must do what is our best within our hearts. God will judge our hearts and intentions. Not each other."

      I completely agree :)

      And this comment has practically become it's own post.

  9. Thanks for the post.

    I would add one thing to then come as you are thought.... I think that it's essential to help others remember to come unto Christ. One concern I have about all of this is the notion that somehow people are so dependent on what others think or do that they will leave and never come back. I get that there is pain, I really do. But ultimately, the key to true cultural change will only be when people are individually converted.

    1. "it's essential to help others remember to come unto Christ"

      Again, this is where the Relief Society comes into play - this is exactly our job as visiting teachers - the job our RS presidencies have been begging us to do a better job at. But how can you help someone come unto Christ if you do not know them?

      "the key to true cultural change will only be when people are individually converted."

      I love this statement - individual conversion does seem to be the key. I think it is hard for people to become individually converted when what they are supposed to be converted to is obscured by the culture of those who think they know what people are supposed to be converted to. For example, this situation with the pants vs dresses. How can I be truly converted to the principle of reverence in dress when so many people are telling me that I am not reverent when I wear dress pants, but I feel more reverent in pants? (obviously wearing pants in protest isn't going to help you feel reverent, so I am not talking about the protest, I am talking specifically about many of the women I have spoken to who do feel more reverent in dress pants, and have been called out by women who don't think they are being reverent).

      When we put the emphasis in the wrong place (on wearing pants vs a dress - especially when there is no doctrine that says one is better than the other) we can obscure the principle for people who may not know to dig beyond the culture. We should be helping people see the principle not the culture.

      It was President Packer who said, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." Such a true statement, and one I think applies here.

      Let us teach each other the doctrine of reverence, and help each other really understand that. But our teaching will not be effective if the student does not feel our love first, and it is hard to feel someone's love when they are criticizing your choices of dress.

  10. Thanks Becca
    When I was growing up,the motto of the day was to "Question Authority", and most did in an anarchist kind of way. Usually people got hurt. So I guess my question concerning the "Wear Pants to Church day" is "To what End?". Will there be some sort of declaration of Equality if we all partake? I thought about the record in 1&2 Samuel, the "children" wanted a king, just like all the other nations. The prophet Samuel was grieved and prayed about it, and God told him; Why are you upset, it's not you they are rejecting, it is me.". So give them a king, but make sure they know what they are getting them selves into.
    See for me, this is where our agency flashes "On" and we are able to discern "what is really going on here". Will wearing pants to sacrament constitute as my duty to God? Nothing wavering is my motto.

  11. Thank-you, Malina, for your lovely invitation to renew our commitment to the purposes of Relief Society membership - I'm most definitely with you. And how appropriate to the season - Merry Christmas!

  12. I have never even heard of this blog before, but a friend posted a link to here on Facebook, and I have to say that I absolutely loved this post. Thank you so much. I, unfortunately, ignited a firestorm on my Facebook page by posting that I would be participating in this event and wearing pants to church this Sunday. I had no idea it would be such a charged topic. I posted on my own blog my reasons for participating, which are remarkably similar to your statements about the Relief Society.

    The only part of your post I might disagree with (and that is only if I clearly understood what you were saying, and it's late and I'm tired, so it's possible I didn't) is the "bait-and-switch" section. I wish I had the original Facebook page to refer to, but it's disappeared. However, I would argue that the inequalities many women in the Church feel are based on cultural myths, so while the paragraph you quote does refer specifically to the cultural myth that women must wear dresses, there are many others which are also being addressed.

    Thank you again for such a well-reasoned, well thought out post. It's like a breath of fresh air after all the drama.

    1. I don't disagree with anything you said here: "I would argue that the inequalities many women in the Church feel are based on cultural myths, so while the paragraph you quote does refer specifically to the cultural myth that women must wear dresses, there are many others which are also being addressed." so maybe you did misunderstand the part about the bait-and-switch ;)

      The bait and switch part was because at first glance, the event looked like it was trying to break down the cultural myth, which is something I could completely get behind. In fact, when I thought it was just about the cultural myth part, I was thinking "I wish I had some nice dress pants I could wear to church on Sunday!"

      The switch was when they went from talking about cultural myths to Church policy and "doctrinal inequality" - I just don't believe there is any doctrinal inequality in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I would never protest Church policy, and I don't want to appear as if I am. I raise my hand several times a year to sustain men and women who make Church policy, and I think publicly protesting Church policy is a dangerous thing, and violates the promise you make when you raise your hand to sustain your leaders. I think questions, I think writing letters, etc are all appropriate. That was the bait and switch, which turned me off to the event. The move from talking about debunking a cultural myth to talking about showing "the Church" (which I take to mean the administration/leadership/etc) how wrong it is.

      But I believe in asking questions, especially hard questions. I believe in confronting cultural issues and standing up for truth. I believe that there is a lot of pain and hurt and ignorance and unnecessary judgment, and I am all for taking that down - which I believe is a grassroots movement (a lot like wearing pants to church, which I think is a really clever way to debunk a rotten myth that only perpetuates judgment - if only we were doing it to debunk the myth and not to prove a point... proving a point = judgment, in my opinion). I think a much more effective grassroots movement can be found in actually doing what we are supposed to do (and honestly, what many of us, including myself, fail miserably at doing) as Relief Society sisters.

  13. The Sisterhood of the Relief Society!! :D

  14. That was great. Thanks for the post. It articulated so well what I have thought surrounding this issue.

  15. thank you so much for expressing, both in your original post and in your replies to comments, what i have been thinking and feeling for the past several days.

    i live in abu dhabi (the united arab emirates) and we have many members of our ward who are african and filipino workers. now, when i visit my husband's home ward in uganda, the men are wearing suits and the women are dressed in lovely dresses--despite their lack of monetary wealth. but here in abu dhabi, these african and filipino workers are here with very few of their belongings--meaning many of them don't have their nice suits or lovely dresses. and shopping in abu dhabi is EXPENSIVE, so the idea of going shopping for something nice to wear to church on friday (that's the sabbath in this country) is just out. so we have many women who come to church wearing pants and we have many men who come to church in jeans and the best shirt they can find. and they are loved and welcomed regardless. it's not about what they are wearing to church--it's just the fact that they actually CAME to church, and we're all just so happy to see each other at church every week.

    i do believe that how i dress for church every week shows my reverence and respect for my Savior. but i also believe that ATTENDING church shows my reverence and respect for my Savior. if i didn't have a closet-full of dresses, if all i had was a pair of pants, i know that Jesus is more concerned about me coming to church, regardless of what i am wearing. He just wants us there.

    president hinckley always told us to "do your best." i heard him in one conference talk ammend that statement to "do your VERY best." and as the story of the widow's mite tells us, our "very best" is different for each and every person. and there are only 2 people who know if i am doing my very best--me and my Savior.

    i don't think leading a protest against the Church--regardless of how benign it may seem--is ever doing one's "very best". i know that i am incredibly far from perfect. i know that i have been hurt by the judgments of others at church, and i also know that i am guilty of hurting others by my own judgmental comments, for which i am deeply sorry.

    if i am truly doing my "very best", i will work harder to be a better visiting teacher. if i am doing my "very best", i will really get to know the others in my ward. if i am truly doing my "very best", i will be like my dear friend in my ward who totally out of the blue brought me homemade chicken soup because she knew i was having difficulty with my first pregnancy. i am truly doing my "very best", i will do as the primary song teaches us and "love one another as Jesus loves you. try to show kindness in all that you do. be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, for these are the things Jesus taught." and i know that i need to work on that.

    i know that i need to rededicate myself to the glorious organization of relief society. as lucy mack smith said at the meeting when the relief society was formed (and this is paraphrasing), if we live up to our promise then the very angels will be our companions. imagine what we can do for women, for the Church, for the entire world, if we can fulfill those words of sister smith!

    amen and amen to everything that you have reminded me of. God bless His Relief Society.

  16. I enjoyed reading your post which I found through Facebook. I was raised LDS, but gradually lost faith in the church throughout my late teens and early 20s. The thing that surprised me the most about your message is that the clothing standards are cultural, rather than policy or doctrine. Although, one of my friends stated that the phrase "I know the church is true" is also cultural. I can remember one time (not sure if I was a teacher or priest) when I was not wearing a tie but was asked to pass the sacrament. Someone (perhaps a missionary?) loaned me a tie so I could perform the task. My grandfather passed away before I was born, but my dad told me about an incident where he wore casual clothes to church one Sunday and was scolded for it. It's possible that this occurred before 1971 when the dress standards were stricter. The protestant church that I attend now does not have a set requirement in clothing (cultural or policy). I noticed today that all of the women were wearing pants. Most people still dress up nice to attend church though. One of my peers, who describes herself as a feminist and supports this cause, said that the LDS Church already allows women to wear pants. The other thing that surprised about your post was that the original pants group mentioned Jesus Christ. I was worried about their poor timing during this Christmas season.

    1. I do not doubt that your grandfather was scolded for wearing casual clothes to Church. People (not limited to Mormons) can be very judgmental, and it doesn't matter if the scolding came from a member of the ward or from the bishop himself, it was probably inappropriate, even if it was before 1971. I don't know that the Church officially required skirts/dresses for women prior to 1971 (other than at Church schools, such as BYU). I haven't been able to find any supporting evidence that suggests there was some kind of "dress code" prior to 1971, only that in 1971 the Church officially stated that there wasn't a dress code (you can find the reference here)

      So, I don't think the official dress standards were ever stricter - only that I think the Church was a little more tolerant of people believing that the dress code was stricter. I have seen the Church move farther and farther away from policies that dictate our lives.

      "I know the Church is true" would be, in my opinion, a personal perspective thing, not a cultural thing. There are a lot of things that I feel as if I "know". But that is a philosophical discussion for another day, eh? ;)

  17. Becca, I swear we are best friends from afar. ;) Love everything about this post. You have echoed everything my husband & I have been discussing all week. We have talked a LOT about the difference between culture & doctrine, and how especially here in Utah there's such a tendency to merge the two together.
    The Gospel is simple. Culture is what gets everything so convoluted.
    The anger from both sides makes me so disheartened. The church isn't a place where perfect people come to worship. It's a place for everyone to come to the Master Healer and let him make us whole. I wish everyone could look past the masks and realize we're all just struggling to find the same things. Peace. Love. Forgiveness.

  18. This was really well written Becca! Wow! Thank you! :D I may have to write a post on this topic (directing people over here, of course :o) after having my mind stimulated here tonight... :) Thanks again! Very enlightening!!!


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