December 15 will mark the second annual "Wear Pants to Church Day" for Mormon women.

December 15 will mark the second annual “Wear Pants to Church Day” for Mormon women. (Shutterstock)

Last December, a grassroots effort by Mormon feminists urged women to wear pants to church — something that is nowhere forbidden by LDS doctrine but in some locations has been frowned upon by the conservative subculture of Mormondom.

On December 15, Mormon women will do this again, likely with even more grassroots support from both women and men, who are encouraged to embrace pants and the color purple as signs of their commitment to the full flourishing of LDS women. The gesture also seeks to demonstrate solidarity and welcome among people who often feel they just don’t fit in at church.

I wear pants to church almost every week. If questioned, I tell people that I've had that nightmare where I forgot to wear my pants, and it just never ends well.

 

That is typically the end of that conversation.

The response to last year’s “Wear Pants to Church Day” was fascinating. Many people were supportive. But the organizers also received some accusatory, angry comments from fearful people who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the specter of Mormon women wearing pants to church proved that dogs and cats were about to start mating together and civilization would soon end in a fiery rubble. The organizers were told they were unfeminine extremists who hated men so much they felt the need to dress like them. (Um, irony much?)

According to the New York Times, one irate protestor threatened to shoot any Mormon woman who arrived to church in pants, because apparently the same gospel of Jesus Christ that tells him it’s anathema for women to have two pieces of fabric between their legs also tells him that it’s totally fine to deprive them of their right to breathe air.

In an unexpected twist to the story, the organizers have applied to submit a “pants quilt”  to the Smithsonian museum (see the lovely photo here).* I was asked to participate in this remarkable undertaking, sending the pair of pants I wore on that extraordinary Sunday to the quilter who would then snip them for possible inauguration into their rightful place in American history.

But I am too much a creature of habit to care so much about history that I would allow a pair of scissors anywhere near my favorite slacks. I’m also just too damn Mormon — too frugal, practical, and boring — to relinquish an article of clothing until I’ve completely worn it out. Ain’t nobody touching my favorite pants.

I will be wearing my pants again to church on December 15, and possibly a thousand more times after that. (I will wash them in between, I promise.) I hope some of you will join me in wearing pants to church.

And life will go on as usual, with hyper-conservative Mormons bewailing this tiny token of women’s equality as a harbinger of doom, liberal Mormons countering that it’s not really that much to ask for, and everyone else wondering when Mormons might see fit to join the twenty-first century.

 

* Note: In the original edition of this post I said that the pants quilt had already been accepted by the Smithsonian Museum. I have since learned that the quilt has been submitted but not yet accepted, nor is its inclusion a certainty. I have corrected this in the post above and apologize for the error.

49 Comments

  1. I will try to remember that date, and will signify my protest by wearing one of my most feminine dresses. I still remember the frilly skirt I wore during the last protest. I really don’t care if other women wear pants, even if they have a three-piece suit and a white shirt with a button-down collar and a boring necktie. I just hope I don’t see any men or boys in skirts; and I really hope no one kills anyone else over what they are wearing.

    • Hmm… That’s interesting that you “just hope I don’t see any men or boys in skirts.” My son (admittedly he’s 3) wore his hippo skirt to church last week and also has a lovely kilt he’s worn to church. Last year for pants day I know of 1 man who wore his wife’s pink skirt to church.

      My husband has worn a kilt to church, too. Additionally, the Tongan ward meets right after we do an lots of men wear skirt-like tupenu to church every week. I don’t see skirts/dresses/pants as anything other than cultural and I don’t get why that’s such a problem.

      • I stand by what I said. I don’t expect to see a Tongan at my ward, but if I do, I won’t call it a skirt that he is wearing. If I see kilts, I won’t call them skirts either. If I see very young boys wearing skirts, I will probably think they are girls.

        Mostly, I respectfully disagree there is any inequality between men and women that is worth protesting over, and I really respect the men that most of them won’t protest that they are not treated nearly as well as the women.

          • I’m sorry I wasn’t very clear.

            I do believe there are inequalities between how men and women are treated, but I think men are not treated half as well as women are. I’m glad they don’t protest, and I don’t see a need to protest in their behalf.

            Many men, probably most of them, enjoy having responsibilities and carrying heavy burdens. They may even desperately need to have the responsibilities that rest on them alone, and might even stop attending church if women took over the priesthood functions there.

            I’m glad that women can get together without the men and still serve good food. Sometimes they even get the men to serve at the dinners. If men want good food they have to invite the women. A priesthood party is hardly any party at all if the women aren’t there.

            I don’t envy men for being told constantly to do better, even on Father’s Day, when women are told how wonderful they are all the time. I already know how wonderful we are, though. It’s just nice not having someone harp on me about failing to do something.

        • Me too! I’ll get a super flouncy dress for this day!

          This pretend feminist protest is ridiculous. “people who often feel they just don’t fit in at church.”
          So THIS is to make them FEEL like they fit in more?!? Stupid.

          Fitting in more, means getting over yourself and getting to know others.
          You can’t judge ANYONE by what they wear, certianly not on Sundays. I suspect this is a Utah driven thing where everyone wears their ‘Sunday faces and sunday dresses’. Things aren’t so nearly as plastic in other places.
          Those who FEEL left out are usually the ones that misjudge others and think they are being judged by everyone else. Again I say, Get over yourselves!

      • So Shouldn’t you be spending your time doing something more christ like, helping the poor, preaching the gospel , mabye donating your pants to a charity instead? you utah mormons crack me up with you trivial matters. lol pants to church…. , the only person benifiting from this is jana riese. if it wasent for you guys i dont think she would have a job

    • My dad wore my mom’s kilt to church on Pants Day last year. (My mom’s a bagpiper. So it wasn’t, like, a girly kilt or anything; it was formal, traditional Scottish menswear.)

      I was so proud of him.

  2. i was the ONLY one who wore pants to my ward last year. although it was terrifying and uncomfortable i am glad that i did. so happy to finally stand up for what i really believe. i’ve felt silenced and wrong for too many years about the inequality i see everywhere in the mormon church. so glad i’m not alone afterall.

  3. I decided when B was born that I could not wrestle all three boys in Sacrament by myself while wearing a skirt. And since the hubs works every other Sunday, I have them sola 50% of the time. I found I couldn’t put Baby B in the crook of my crossed leg, my favorite spot while getting ready to nurse him–yes, nursed him in Sacrament meeting–or deal with the other two boys while wearing a skirt. And then I realized how warm and comfortable I was. And now that he’s 1 and it’s cold, I am wearing pants–every Sunday. I have lots of nice pants from my teaching days that were just sitting in bins in the basement. What a waste! I hate waste. And I love pants. So yes, I will join you on Dec. 15 and many other Sundays.

  4. Great article, Jana — but there’s one minor quibble I have. The “pants quilt” is not in the Smithsonian Museum; I know this for a fact because I just saw it last Saturday at Sunstone NW. The Smithsonian connection has been more of a rumor than anything else, nothing definite, although the quilt creator says she’s certainly open to submitting it to the religion collection.

  5. I very seriously doubt that if Jana was invited to a State dinner at the white house with the President and the Queen of England that she would show up in pants. Why, because it would be disrespectful to do so. Should the Lords house be any different? All the church teaches about attire for Sunday is that it should be your “Sunday best”. If pants are the best you have, more power to you. And 99.9% of men in the LDS church really don’t care what you wear to church (as long as nothing is hanging out). You reference the few nuts in the church, but fail to mention the majority. Church is a place of worship and should be safe from protests. You proved your point. I’m just not sure what your point is.

  6. With all due respect to everyone concerned, there are women who wear pants to church in my area of the world, and it’s not at all considered any kind of statement. Usually it means the person doesn’t have any better clothes. I’ve never heard any negative statements about the pants-wearers. Ever. Nobody cares about it. If I wore pants to church, people probably wouldn’t even notice. Maybe women need to choose something more meaningful with which to make a statement.

  7. I don’t mind at all when women wear nice slacks to church which I see quite often. I don’t see the need for a protest. To my knowledge no one has ever been asked to leave because they were wearing pants or anything else for that matter. What does bother me is when I see Men/women/children dressed casually when they can obviously do better. Hooded sweatshirts and logo tees with maxi skirts and flip-flops does not say “I am here to worship my God and Savior.” To me it says, “I’m here to worship as long as I can kick back and relax.” Why don’t we just trade in the benches for reclining theater seats with cup holders. However we dress should convey respect for the Lord.

  8. What I don’t like about the symbol of protest chosen by this group is the fact that it takes an article of clothing which may regularly be worn by thousands of LDS women on any given Sunday and turns it into something which these women may not personally identify with in the least. I find it unfair to such women that they may have to become self-conscious about their preferred clothing because a handful of agitators have hijacked it for their own purposes. As for wearing a purple tie, hello? it’s Christmastime! From roughly Thanksgiving until the new year, I’m wearing my assortment of Grinch, Garfield, Looney Tunes, and Spongebob Christmas ties!

    • This whole thing bothers me because it seems highly unlikely that the women who are doing this actually prayed and or fasted about this matter and the answer they received was to protest during Sacrament meeting. There is a time and a place for this discussion however, our attention should be directed to the Savior during sacrament. IT’S ALL ABOUT RESPECT. It’s as simple as that.

      • Pants Day is in no way a protest. It is a show of love and solidarity, and maybe a subtle challenge to our recent tendency toward judging others’ clothing choices. Mormonism didn’t used to be so externally focused and judgmental. A radical idea: how about we choose not to be shocked and offended when we see someone who doesn’t fit the LDS implied dress code? How about we remain unoffended by pants or cartoon ties or beards or pink hair or tattoos? The Lord looketh on the heart, after all. What exactly are we defending when we defend a cultural norm? Conformity? I would also add that one shouldn’t presume these women haven’t prayer about this and received an answer confirming the value of Pants Day. Perhaps talk to them instead of making that assumption?

  9. I have no problem with a woman wearing pants to church as long as they are nice dress pants and are giving the Lord’s house and meeting their due respect. That’s what we are saying by dressing up for church, really. As for the special “pants” days, I will agree with my friend who says that using our sacred sacrament meeting as a place to “send a message” detracts from the sacredness of that ordinance and meeting, so I personally will not be using that medium to express my own thoughts and feelings about certain non doctrinal issues that could be looked at further. If I have an inclination to wear pants, it will NOT be on that day.

  10. i feel like everyone is missing the point… the main reason for pants is to everyone know that there are active, faithful members out there who are not comfortable with the gender inequality they see and experience in the mormon church. some members may not see inequality but there are many members who do see it that and have felt silenced and “wrong” when they speak out about it or suggest that things might need to change. wearing pants is a way to bring the issue to the light. members who wear pants are not being disrespectful, in my mind they are being respectful by staying in the church and trying to find a place instead of leaving the church or becoming inactive.

  11. My wife and I fully supported the last round, my wife was the only woman that wore pants in our ward, no one cared – though two women commended her bravery. My sons and I wore our kilts, as we do most every Sunday. But this time we may skip the event. The first round we understood that the issue was putting women in a more equal light – let them do more for the Lord and the Church. There were a few women looking to alter doctrine, but the movement just wanted women to do more good. This time it seems to be less “put us to work” and more “give us the priesthood.” I don’t care one way or the other about this issue, I only want the Church to seek the Lord’s will in the matter. Protesting to try to get the Church to do something like this, to me, is as useful as protesting to get the Brass Plates translated. Sure, we’d all love to read them, but no one seems to be wearing pants, or anything else, to get them translated. The Lord must give them to us. Any woman that has been to the temple has the priesthood, just not the same keys to use it as the men. Only the Lord can give these keys. I don’t want to rant, so I’ll just post a link to my blog here:

    http://learnaboutchrist.info/women-and-the-priesthood/

  12. Just the fact that so many of these comments are so adamant against wearing pants convinces me I’ll wear them. Not to protest. But – just because I dislike that so many people can be so uptight about an article of clothing. Yes- If I were going to meet the President of the USA, I would wear pants. I wear them everywhere in my life except to church. I am not asking for priesthood. I’m not asking for all women to wear pants or stop wearing dresses. I just think it would be nice if we could choose our own respectful clothing to wear to church without people making a big deal about it. After all – 1st Sam 16:7 says, ” But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

    • Agreed, Carrie! That scripture is so applicable!! Furthermore, the Savior specifically chose to minister to many who were marginalized, women, minorities or sinners and offered them pure love, blessings, mercy and forgiveness. He commanded his followers to feed his sheep, especially those who were lost or separate from the fold—not to chastise them for not conforming or whatever else. The Savior Himself also refuted cultural practices of the times. He taught the gospel of inclusion and also stood up for the truth and for the marginalized, even when it didn’t conform to popular opinion.

    • It sound like the problem here is with American customs and not the LDS church. It would be seen as very disrespectful to go to a State dinner at the white house with royalty in attendance without formal attire. In fact, you may be even turned away from such an event because of your overt disrespect. In America, formal attire is a dress or gown for the women and a suit and tie or tux for men. LDS church follows the formal customs of the local areas. In Tonga, the men wear a Tupanu to the LDS services which is traditional formal wear that is a wraparound skirt. It’s all about respect for The Lord. It really has nothing to do with you but what is considered respectful in your culture. If you come to church wearing slacks and it’s the best you have, then your offering is pure. If you really insist on protesting the lack of equality in the church, I would suggest changing the event to “women wear a suit and tie to church day” and change the date from December 15th to August 15th. Because women are already able to wear pants to church if they want to, the protest is really slack (pun intended).

      • The idea that there is a dress custom or dress code is a myth. I call it the “white shirt prophecy.” Growing up in the Church I was always told the myth of the white shirt. “It’s come down from Utah” they would say here in Ohio, “wear a white shirt to pass sacrament, give priesthood blessings, etc…” Then the leadership manuals came out and no demand for the white shirt – but the stories kept up. The manuals were secret, so few knew what they said, those that did said the same thing – “It’s come down from Utah – this is the dress code…” Then the public manuals came out, the prophecy still didn’t come to pass. Now, I wear a kilt and white shirt to appease those that follow the lie that is the LDS “dress code.” It actually has come down from Utah that we should come to church, and wear what we think is best, but too many members still believe the false white shirt prophesy and judge other accordingly. Sad.

  13. Dave – this event doesn’t have anything to do with women wanting the priesthood. The event has three messages: 1. Mormon men and women will be wearing pants and the color purple to celebrate inclusiveness in the LDS Church. 2. We are active and faithful Mormon feminists who want to show that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman. 3. We believe that everyone is welcome at church.

    • You need to get that message to the press. It seems the Ordaining Women movement are hijacking it. I did a search and found this:

      http://pantstochurch.com/

      But no one is linking to it. Everything I read seems to be putting this and Ordain Women together as one movement.

  14. It’s easy for us non-Mormons to trivialize these kinds of things alongside of some of the respondents here, but the archaic, paternalistic structure of some religions doesn’t allow full and equal participation of women alongside of men. I admire the women for their gentle protest.

    I don’t know much about all the dimensions of your priesthood other than that it’s reserved for only those equipped with male genetalia. Apparently St. Paul wasn’t in on the male conclave that made this rule because he speaks of the priesthood of ALL believers!

    And female priests? Horror-of-horrors! I’ve spent some time in another Christian church where priests are not laypeople but rather the professinal clergy, and the female priests I’ve known there are so obviously called, gifted and anointed for their service and leadership. My service on several non-profit boards and as a lay community representative on the Ethics Committee of a major university hospital, bears out the value of female inclusion in membership and especially female leadership. The female docs have come to outnumber male docs on the committee, and as with other board service, I’ve found that women bring a wonderful balancing and humanizing presence and viewpoint that makes the whole enterprise stronger.

    I wonder how many years it will take for these male-dominated organizations to realize this–and religions especially, where we’ve always been taught from scripture that BOTH sexes were created in the image of ONE God!

    • Raymond Takashi Swenson

      Sabelotodo2: I invite you to come to soome Latter-day Saint church meetings before you try to pass judgment on the degree that women participate in leadership and ministerial activities in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      In the LDS Church, women from the congregation give sermons each Sunday along side men. They lead congregational prayers and hymn singing, and direct choirs. Presidencies of adult women lead and teach the Sunday meetings of the organization for adult women, the organization for teenage young women, and the organization for all children (male and female) up to age 12, including oversight of male teachers. The adult men have parallel meetings for adult men and teenage young men, operating basically identically though the men “hold the priesthood” and the women do not. Adult women teach Sunday School classes for teenagers and adults on the same basis as men do, often with married couples teaming up.

      On weekday mornings, the early morning religious education classes we call “Seminary” attended by high school students are taught by men or women. Where there are enough Mormons in an area and the state laws allow released time classes off-campus during the school day, the paid teachers include women as well as men.

      Young men and young women are invited to serve as full-time volunteer missionaries, putting college education, careers and family on hold for 18 to 24 months, many serving outside their home nation and learning new languages. Currently there are over 75,000 people serving in that way. There are also thousands of retired couples who serve together as missionaries. While priesthood ordination is necessary for performing baptisms, the important work of teaching and preaching is done equally by both men and women.

      One of the important activities for Mormons is researching their ancestors and and arranging to perform vicarious baptisms and other ordinances in our temples on their behalf. Women participate as proxy for women, and men for men. Mormons believe that the fullest blessings of eternal life require marriage, and that no man can receive those blessings without his wife, and vice versa.

      Note that at the local congregation and area, none of the people in any of these leadership and teaching roles is paid. Men and women are volunteers. There is no career of being a paid clergy person in our church’s ecclesiastical activities. There are paid positions in the church bureaucracy and affiliated organizations, but they are occupaied by men and women. Thus, Sheri Dew is the president of Deseret Book, the wholly owned Church book publishing company, which publishes books written by men and women. Teaching positions at Church universities are occupied by both men and women.

      My guess is that there are plenty of Mormon women who are just as capable leaders and teachers as many of the women ministers in other denominations, and the Mormon women demonstrate it within the many opportunities they have in the LDS Church to lead, teach and serve.

  15. Most divisive topics have people on either side who hold extreme views. We have all probably had the uncomfortable situation of someone who is on ‘our’ side argue in an extreme way that is embarrassing to us. Those who disagree with us, can then use this against us. It’s easy to point out the ‘crazies’. Does a person who wanted to shoot women fairly represent the ‘other’ side? Categorizing those who disagree with you as “hyper-conservative Mormons bewailing this tiny token of women’s equality as a harbinger of doom” and as “fearful people who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the specter of Mormon women wearing pants to church proved that dogs and cats were about to start mating together and civilization would soon end in a fiery rubble” is one way to make an argument. I think more will be achieved, though, if we try to understand one another more – no matter what our opinions are. Jonathan Haidt’s book, “The Righteous Mind” is a wonderful book for opening up that conversation.

  16. If this issue were totally about helping those women fit in when their best option is wearing pants to church, I would have no complaints. The thing I object to, is using this on a certain day to stage a protest about something else. The clothes we wear isn’t really the issue, is it?

    I learned something in Relief Society last Sunday. I think it is a quote that was heard in Primary, and apparently has been around for at least 20 years: “Cry a river, then build a bridge and get over it.”

  17. Back in the 70’s I was living in an area that Mormons might describe as ‘the mission field’. Smart pant suits, some with longer tunic style tops, were in fashion and several women started wearing them to church and it didn’t seem to cause a stir. When I moved west and attended my first weekday Relief Society meeting (as it was held back then) I wore dress pants. I was surprised that every single woman excepting myself was wearing a skirt or dress – and this for a weekday meeting! I don’t think I imagined the uncomfortable glances. It’s all so very silly.

  18. I have a question: would it be better to go with a color other than purple for men since purple is the liturgical color for Advent? Or does that not really matter since 99% of LDS members do not know what Advent is or liturgical colors are?

  19. There seems to be a lot of different ideas of what this pants/purple things is about. Why are some people saying it’s simply about inclusiveness while others are saying it’s a protest for the priesthood? While I suppose each individual has the right to go with his/her own purpose, calling this event strictly about one thing or another seems a tad problematic.

  20. For the past 11 days I have been glued to my computer screen, desperately trying to stay on top of any news about a friend from my ward whose plane went down in Idaho on December 1 along with two of his children, a daughter-in-law, and a soon-to-be son-in-law. Together with thousands around the country, I have poured out my soul to our Heavenly Father on behalf of my friend, his family, and all who are engaged in the search effort. Whatever the heck someone wants to wear to church on Sunday isn’t going to be on a single person’s mind in my ward. Nobody cares. It is utterly meaningless. Our ward family is in crisis, and we are singularly focused on our dependency upon the Lord to carry us through it.

    Wherever we may live, there are others who are lost as well. Thankfully not in the manner I just described, but in some respects the predicament may be even more dire. They are our family too. And when we come to see them as the Lord sees them, we might well spend more time pouring out our souls on their behalf as well, individually and as congregations. It’s times like this that virtually everything else seems so darned trivial. Wear what you want on Sunday. But please focus more on rescuing our collective lost ones rather than the stuff we’re so good at distracting ourselves about.

  21. If these women really wanted to be courageous, they’d wear something blatantly obvious to express their views: https://scontent-a-pao.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc3/q71/1014249_10151835033127596_2083975219_n.jpg

    :o)

    • Dress pants stand out well enough while still showing dedication to the Lord. If all you own is camo, go for it. But if you can afford to dress nice, you should. How you do it is, of course, up to you.

  22. Firstly, I don’t think dress pants stand out much at all. If someone is dressed reasonably well, they blend in with everyone else whether clothed in pants or skirt.

    Secondly, because other people wear pants regularly as their personal preference, it carries no useful significance when adopted as a symbol because you can’t separate the sympathizers from the rank-and-file.

    • You’ve obviously never been to an LDS service. Most women (sorry ladies) look like they are wearing dresses made from flowery curtains. 2 things stand out, denim skirts and dress pants.

      • Let’s see. Estimate 46 LDS services a year, accounting for enjoying General Conference at home and the occasional illness or travel, projected over 47+ years of life, that’s pushing 2200 LDS services in my lifetime.

        I guess I’m just not very fashion conscious.

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