Unsurprisingly, the Wear Pants to Church protest had zero effect in my Provo ward, and I have not heard how it went over elsewhere. (We welcome reports.) I long hesitated over whether it was worth the trouble to address it. Julie’s (my wife) inclination was certainly to ignore the “nonsense,” and I sympathized. But for someone who cares about The Church and its relation to The World, it seems pretty hard to ignore, since, as usual, any initiative perceived by the liberal media to be “dissident” is immediately given a huge boost. Given the media coverage, outsiders might easily believe that the pants protest is really a big deal. And maybe it is, in fact, for a few, mostly younger and mostly female LDS who are trying to negotiate, both intellectually and spiritually, that border between the church and the world. And so, in part because the matter in fact raises some interesting, even intellectually challenging issues, we at JAC thought it would be useful to provide an alternative to the as usual simplistic narrative (liberal-feminist Enlightenment vs. dark religious prejudices) promoted by the left-leaning LDS blogosphere and their ever-ready media allies. We are happy to note, moreover, that we are not completely alone in challenging this narrative, and so have provided some links to other thoughtful dissidence, along with our own varied collection of unconventional responses. We hope to have more to share a little later, and welcome further discussion. The ideology behind the protest may be a little thin, but there is no reason this initiative cannot be the occasion for some deeper and more careful reflection
— Ralph Hancock, President of the John Adams Center for the Study of Faith, Philosophy and Public Affairs.
Unzipping The Pants FacadeBy Kristen Doe
The recent movement encouraging LDS women to wear pants to church has aroused a slew of social media buzz, ranging from maintaining cultural apparel traditions to overcoming gender inequality. Commentary anticipating the event described it as, “a rule this meaningless, and this scary to break, needs to be broken,” while another suggested, “the LDS dress code is not doctrinal. Never was. All it amounts to is the opinions of elderly men” (LA Times).
I was mentioning these comments to my husband, and he asked, “when will it be acceptable for me to be liberated from my pants? The airflow seems so much better in a dress.” His comment, although comical, is telling as this movement has very little to do with pants. Several commentators have used language similar to my own, suggesting that this movement is about the high liberal democratic ideals of inclusion, freedom, and liberation. Joanna Brooks described the goal as, “to help make it [feminism’ more visible to those who love the church but carry a weight in their heart about gender issues. For so long women have felt they had to be silent at church to be safe. This is the end of that silence” (Salt Lake Tribune).
I’m unsure of why encouraging women to wear pants symbolizes escaping the social constructs of “elderly men” and somehow allows women to speak, as if they could not before. I’m also unsure of why we are pretending that women don’t choose to wear dresses, particularly when wanting to look their best or express some sort of reverence, is distastefully self-serving to the larger masked goals of the movement. Certainly we wouldn’t suggest that women’s likely apparel choices at events like The Oscar’s are entrenched in gender stereotypes, or that women’s apparel choices at funerals are somehow less equal to their male counterparts.
LDS church attendance is not predicated by some kind of written dress code. In my own home stake in Los Angeles, it is not unheard for women to wear pants, men to wear work uniforms, or investigators wearing jeans. In fact, in student wards at BYU I’ve seen women wear far more odd apparel than pants, and I don’t mind it. This movement is not about pants; it is a self-aggrandizing attempt by whatever group this is, to minimize gender differences under the banner of equality and liberation. Despite these deeper goals, I’m still unsure of what I’m being made equal to, and what I’m being liberated from; yet, I feel an ever-increasing pressure to jump on the bandwagon, as if my noncompliance somehow lessens my intellectual capacity or condemns me to the chauvinistic, dominating rhetoric with which feminists have defined men.
I’m surprised that this so called movement, that loves the church, has found it necessary to attempt a protest during church services. The superficial connection between cultural gender entrenchment and the LDS church has allowed the movement to subvert the purposes of weekly church worship, in favor of forwarding some kind of political movement. This is part of why it is so shocking that a movement that claims pious devotion to the LDS faith would be so willing to launch a protest under the guise of cultural dress code subjugation, to advance larger ideals for a feminist movement that has little interest in a flourishing Mormon church. The larger framework asserts “unequal” roles by attempting to superficially pressure members into homogenous dress through the church’s organizational structure.
Most importantly I’m unsure of the ‘inequality’ that the movement is trying to eliminate. Granted, there are specific cases where women have been dominated by men, and men by women, but this is not a disease exclusive to the LDS church nor is it linked to male church leadership roles. The Salt Lake Tribune quotes the group’s mission statement as, we do not seek to eradicate the differences between men and women, but we do want the LDS Church to acknowledge the similarities. 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 (Salt Lake Tribune).
This statement fascinatingly calls for increased gender similarities bearing a larger relationship to the external social reality within which the church resides. As if the ever changing, popular version of reality should constantly re-invent religious social relationships. Even outside of the claim that the LDS church is out-of-touch with reality, I am unsure of what exactly is unequal about male and female church membership as it stands.
The frustrating part about this “movement” is that it is selling wearing pants to church as a methodology for including lost members, or making women feel more comfortable, when in fact it is an assault on the male authority of the church. It minimizes gender differences to define revealed church structure distinctions as culturally entrenched stereotypes. The pressure this movement has placed on women and men to be “more inclusive,” masks a larger cost that calls for changes in gender representation in authoritative church positions. This cost is not one I’m willing to bear, and it is the reason I did not wear pants to church Sunday.Kristen Robinson Doe was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She received a BA in Political Science from Brigham Young University and is pursuing a MA in Political Theory and American Politics at the University of Utah.
What Mormon Feminists WantBy Brandon Dabling
Trouser-clad LDS feminists across the church attended their local meetings Sunday Dec. 16 with one clear message: “We’re here, we’re all in this together, and we’re ready to work to make the Church better. We’re faithful. We’re serving. We’re ready to work.” The symbolic gesture was meant to raise “awareness” of gender inequality in the church and serve as a gentle first step that faithful women and men could take to begin eradicating such injustices.
In the week following the first in what is promised to be a series of direct action protests, many Mormons, including those who joined the cause, are not entirely clear about what the pants and purple ties were all about. For some participants, it was simply to let Mormons know they were feminists. For others, it was because they did not understand why women tend to not speak last in sacrament meeting, serve as Sunday School Presidents, regularly attend PEC or not be allowed to hold the microphone during their child’s blessing. So, at the onset, let’s be clear that there were many motivations driving people to engage in this protest, and there were likewise many reasons why the overwhelming majority of Mormons chose not to participate. Both sides should be careful about the assumptions they make about their own “side” as well as those with whom they disagree.
There is room for honest questioning in the church, and this is one of the reasons I was disheartened by too much of the reaction from “conservative” or orthodox Mormons, some of whom lashed out in despicable fashion at their pants-wearing sisters and purple-tie-donning brothers.
That being said, I do not think that my love for my fellow Mormons requires me, or any other person, to withhold all judgement on whether this movement is indeed good for the church, its members, and especially its women. Granted, I am not a woman and as such I am not fully able to speak about some of the most sacred responsibilities and experiences righteous women in the church share, but as someone who loves the church and loves its women, I feel obligated to offer a few thoughts on the matter.
Whom are we Following?
While feminist and feminist sympathizers across the church had varying reasons to participate in the “Wear Pants to Church” event, All Enlisted, the group behind the protest, took the time to articulate their purpose and the message people would be sending with their pants and purple ties: “The creators of this event are feminists who recognize pants are a symbol of much larger issues that require addressing. … 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.” (Emphasis added)
I have now talked to many of the event’s participants and considered several of their thoughtful articles and blog entries. As I’ve tried to understand the individuals who have supported this event, I have become convinced that many of them either do not fully see or are not concerned with the true desires of those from whom they are taking their cues. The genius of the “Wear Pants to Church” day is that it easily serves as a catchall protest against any kind of sexism people see either in the church or among its members. What’s more, this is done with something as innocuous as wearing pants to church. Feminists get the benefit of sending a bold message against inequality (a message ranging from “Why don’t women wear pants to church?” to “It is unjust that women don’t hold the priesthood!”) and at the same time being able to rebuke their challengers by saying “Geesh! They’re only pants! What is this?! The Taliban?!”
Make no mistake; those at the head of All Enlisted do not share a similar confusion about the mission. All Enlisted co-founder Stephanie Lauritzen told Utah’s CBS affiliate, KUTV, that if the group was successful and the LDS Church lifted the restrictions that have been placed on her because of her gender, the first thing she would do is give her child or husband a priesthood blessing. Thus we begin to see what the group means by doctrinal inequality.
If women wore pants to church because they have a firm testimony of the gospel and the church, but think women having a greater voice in ward decisions would better the kingdom, then I encourage them to rethink the wisdom of associating with and even taking direction from those with more radical objectives.
I do not mean to say that Lauritzen or any other person should not ask tough questions about the priesthood, its role and why God has seen fit to only confer it to men. I do, however, think it is important that members see the end goal of the people they might follow. This goes double because I do not think Lauritzen has been honest in her statements about her relationship to the church and what she is trying to accomplish. She has painted herself to media as a faithful and active member of the LDS Church who is gently nudging church practices in a more egalitarian direction. Writing on her own blog, however, she chronicles her decision to become “an awesome apostate” when she could no longer manage the cognitive dissonance between the doctrines of the gospel and her feminism. As late as Dec. 5, she writes that she likes to call herself a Mormon feminist “because I consider myself a Mormon by birth, culture, and tradition, and a feminist by common sense and self-respect.” But not a Mormon who has a testimony of the restored gospel or who sustains her church leaders, including President Boyd K. Packer whom she blames for placing the final straw that broke her testimony and caused her to leave full activity in the church.
Again, Lauritzen and other feminists can ask questions or start a conversation, but they should do so honestly, without deceiving others about who they are and what they want. Undoubtedly, Lauritzen discovered that devout members refuse to take counsel from apostates (even the awesome ones), and that so describing herself would be a non-starter in most LDS circles. Better to call herself a faithful member simply raising awareness and sparking dialogue, all without violating the teachings of the church.
I’m sure Lauritzen is an intelligent and capable woman, and the fact that she feels she has lost her conviction of the gospel does not mean she does not have anything important to say or that members of the LDS Church do not need to answer her questions — not just for her, but for themselves and other Mormons who are troubled by and even leaving the church because of these questions. Latter-day Saints should remember that they are commanded to love and be one with each other, and this is impossible if members feel ignored.
The Principle Behind the Pants
As with most movements, the idea behind the action is more powerful than the immediate action itself. In this case, women wearing pants to church seems innocent enough. It’s not against church policy. Nobody would be punished or chastised by church leaders. By starting with cultural norms that have no bearing in church doctrine or official practice, the feminists at All Enlisted are building a narrative they believe applies to nearly all current inequalities. Dress codes and gender norms are a product of an outdated oppressive culture, they say. If true of pants, why not the woman’s role as a mother? Church leaders in the 1950s taught against interracial marriage for no other reason than its prohibition was a cultural norm that leaked into the church. How long must we wait before the church realizes its teachings and practices regarding women are likewise rooted in cultural bigotry? You see where this truncated logic takes you on gender roles, women and the priesthood, and an entire host of other issues on which progressives are anxiously waiting for the church to catch up to them and the spirit of our enlightened age. For them, the church is conveniently heavy on culture and light on revealed doctrine, and even the doctrine, it turns out, is malleable to direct action protests.
But what is the idea animating these feminists? The driving motivation behind this group is the eradication of inequality. Reading the list of inequalities in the church offered by All Enlisted’s Sandra Durkin Ford (the list was actually posted at LDS Wave), it becomes clear that inequality can, for the most part, be recognized whenever men and women are treated differently. Push many of these inequalities far enough — take, for examples, frustration with having a man (the bishop) sign off on expenditures, men in the most “prestigious” callings (bishops, stake presidents, apostles), or men having the final say on the direction of the ward (bishops again) — and you run right into the priesthood. Push other issues regarding motherhood, and you collide with the Family Proclamation. The quest for equality knows no limits, natural or doctrinal.
If we accept the premise of liberal secular inequality and begin leveling accordingly (making men and women equal and more alike), what is this equality’s limiting principle? Is one even possible? Though some well-intentioned members may think they are simply supporting women’s right to wear pants to church or simply starting a conversation, they are also strengthening a movement they cannot control, whose end goals they may not support but whose arguments they will not be able combat if they have been swallowing its premises all along. While it may prove to be possible to join this narrow cause while rejecting the larger ones, I would counsel such members to recognize the aims of the group’s leaders, the power of the idea being fueled and what lines members might faithfully and reasonably draw that could properly channel the power of this idea, making it compatible with the gospel.
What principle then should animate faithful members? Should Latter-day Saints move the church in a more egalitarian direction until and unless church doctrine and church leaders explicitly say otherwise? And, if they do say otherwise in some cases, what makes us confident our understanding of equality and our movements in that direction are what’s best for the church and its saints? If the principle is wrong when applied to the big questions (motherhood, fatherhood, and priesthood), is it right when applied to the smaller ones? I do not intend to fully answer this question here or flesh out a more fruitful foundational principle, but I suggest to the reader the fine work of Neylan McBaine as a starting point.
I think it is likely there are changes that could be made in an egalitarian direction that are compatible with the gospel and even beneficial. I certainly do not know why women don’t pray in General Conference, and I can see a value in changing that practice — not for equality’s sake, but for the kingdom of God and the development of women and men. But, this is not my call. So, I will ask questions without insisting I have the answers, and I will sustain my leaders.
The Politics of Pressure
In closing, I wish to say a few words on the tactics employed by All Enlisted. A frequent refrain from several commonsense Latter-day Saints has been that it was inappropriate to take what is really a political protest to Mormons’ most holy meeting of the week, the sacrament. Though well-intentioned, doing so works against the logic of the sacrament by emphasizing contention (that which divides members) rather than that which unites them. I question the wisdom and, yes, even the reverence, of using a political tactic in this manner to move a divine institution. Sit-ins, boycotts and other direct action protests are used in politics when an entrenched interest refuses to listen to or meet the demands of the powerless. It is meant to “raise awareness” or, more often, strong-arm an entity into accepting the neglected party’s demands.
The church is founded upon revelation given through a living prophet. It is, though the words fall hard upon our modern ears, a top-down model. The Lord told Joseph Smith in 1829 that “this generation shall have my word through you,” (D&C 5:10) and the same is true in our day with President Thomas S. Monson. Similarly, wards receive direction from their bishops who also receive guidance from their stake presidents, moving upward until you once again reach the prophet. This is how the Lord works; this is how the church works. It is true that the church also believes in “counseling with our councils,” which operates precisely on the principle that bishops must learn from and even depend upon those reporting to him. I do not doubt that many beneficial changes in wards, stakes and even the general church have come from the bottom-up, from earnest members who saw a problem and took their concern to their appointed leader. There is a difference, however, between this and the pants protest that took place Sunday — a contrast between taking a sincere concern to a leader and employing a tactic that tries to apply pressure on church leaders; taking a problem to the bishop and creating a conversation is entirely separate from insisting you are right and refusing to take “No,” “Not yet,” or even “I don’t know” for an answer. The former approach takes place one-on-one (or even in a small group or council) with a priesthood leader, and the other takes place in public. The latter is the opposite of humility and the Lord’s modus operandi for implementing change: study, pondering, prayer, fasting and revelation. I believe this political approach, unfortunately, is counter-productive to many of the positive changes LDS feminists want to make.
There is room and even the need for an expanded role for women in the church. Perhaps most importantly, however, I think there is desperate need for more women and men to learn Mormonism’s ennobling truths that uniquely empower women. Valerie Hudson Cassler offers a few here. I also recommend Virginia Pearce’s introductory essay to a collection of Joseph Smith’s addresses to the Relief Society. Righteous LDS women serve beautifully in the church and know what it means, better than men, to serve their fellow beings with “an eye single to the glory of God,” without the need to be seen or to be prominent. As President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “The women in our lives are creatures endowed with particular qualities, divine qualities, which cause them to reach out in kindness and with love to those about them.” I believe these qualities are natural to women and are magnified by the gospel. Women of the church need not look outside its walls to the world’s standard for empowerment. The highest and most ennobling truths are found within its teachings, and faithful feminists would do well to here take their bearings.Brandon Dabling is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Claremont Graduate University. He also works as the Managing Editor for the John Adams Center’s Bulwark.
Pants and the Higher Law of DiscipleshipBy Heather Jarman
The problem with the “pants” is that pants are a problem. If we understand and embrace the higher law, Mosaic specificity in our worship, both public and personal, should be a relic of the past. Simply put: we members should be beyond “pants,” and the fact that we may not be troubles me deeply.
Because Scott Trotter’s statement made it clear that no official policy exists specifying appropriate Sunday clothing, the misunderstanding resides with the members. Equally missing the mark are the wannabe Mahatma Gandhis making civil disobedience an issue in sacrament meeting, and the self-appointed Mormon Taliban threatening jihad against perceived threats to virtue. I have to give All Enlisted credit for exposing the degree to which cultural myth has metastasized into LDS worship and belief, revealing a troubling tendency to embrace Mormon Midrash. A woman who believes she is subject to Rosa Parks’ segregation if she wears pants to church is just as misguided as the morality police passing out “dress standard” literature and confronting/shunning those who don’t conform to cultural expectations of dress. The infiltration of our worship services by behaviors associated with movement politics should distress all of us. Sacrament meeting is about renewing and reviewing our covenants. At its most ideal, worship services should be a sacred, personal communion; at its most rudimentary level, it is for schooling us in how to overcome our mortal failings — boredom, distraction, physical aches and pains, impatience, irritation. Either way, it is a personal process of cleansing the inner vessel. If we utilize this time to pluck motes from a neighbor’s eye, a pox be upon us. I include myself in that “us.”
Any disciple of Jesus Christ should know that what is written on the fleshy tablets of our hearts is the measure of our commitment to the gospel and to the Savior; only God can judge our intentions.
When I first heard about the “pants” protest, I dismissed it as ridiculous. The phrase “first world problem,” however trendy, certainly seemed relevant to such a trivial matter. Surely members knew that attending church was of greater concern than what we wore to church. I live in Europe; every week women wear pants to church, and no one that I know of cares. The fact that the pants protest became a topic worthy of international media attention made me wonder if we have reached a juncture, as modern members, of forced epiphany, requiring us to reconcile personal “gospel according to me” beliefs and cultural practices with the actual organizational church and gospel of Christ. In desperation to feel more comfortable with our place in the world, we are teetering toward a Pharisaic tendency to reduce holiness to the most defined terms instead of embracing the first and second great commandments.
I am troubled that we are talking about pants and not the suffering, sacrifice and struggles facing many members in all corners of the world as they take upon them the name of Christ and bind themselves to the body of the church. And yet, if a discussion about pants will allow us to wrestle with the beams in our eyes, perhaps the pants will be a catalyst for change — not necessarily the change Feminists (with a capital F) envisioned — but one which can break our hearts, removing the cultural barnacles that stand between ourselves and a greater discipleship.Heather Jarman is a professional writer and mother of four who lives in Munich, Germany.
Pants, Protest, and the Danger of IsmsBy Kerby Davis
Sunday Dec. 16 saw a unique protest that perhaps could only happen in Mormon culture: a protest against the cultural norm of women wearing dresses. For myself, I did not know there was an expectation for women to wear dresses or skirts. While dresses are traditional wear and mandated by the missionary rule book, I was unaware that is was taboo to wear pants to sacrament meeting. If I met someone who said it was, I would probably laugh at them.
My ambivalence to this cultural norm, enforced perhaps only because of the expectation for formal wear at church, prepared me to see the underlying problem behind the protest: progressive feminist agitation. Now in the blogernacle I’m sure there are apologists that would argue that this only has to do with this specific cultural norm. However, one does not have to investigate long to find that the pants protest is but one move in a new game of chess between Mormon feminists and church leadership.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Stephanie Lauritzen, who two weeks before the protest called on Mormon Feminists too “stop playing nice” and begin a campaign of civil disobedience to create equality within the church. All Enlisted, the group behind the event, claims her as a leader. In a tame version of Sorel, this one small protest is due to create a larger one. Helping the cause was the violent reaction on Facebook condemning the event which served as a confirmation that there is actually something to protest against.
While this brouhaha over pants can seem trivial, the motivations of the protesters combined with the violent response go to a problem deeper within Mormonism: the problem of isms. Within Mormonism there are the philosophies of conservatism, progressivism, feminism, and a whole list of isms that isn’t worth mentioning. The problem of ism is manifested in the conservative reaction on Facebook; it’s not Christian. Christianity is (or should be) as binding upon us as any philosophy, if not more so. The loyalty of those facebookers was to their own cultural philosophy rather than Christ. They ought 1) cease in denigrating others because of Christian civility 2) out of Christian Charity realize that so long as it is modest and respectful it doesn’t matter what one wears to sacrament meeting (besides, what is a robe if not a dress? Does Christ now break a cultural norm?).
The point of the matter is that our religion supplies the premise for a good moral life that can swallow up or supplant our own personal beliefs. Mormonsim’s demands upon us are more compelling than any demand an earthly philosophy can make upon us. The problem that arises is when we measure our religion against other philosophies, and this is the error that Lauritzen and All Enlisted make. Feminism, as a subset of progressivism, tears down all gender boundaries if there is no logical (usually scientific) justification for their existence. The problem comes because of the assumption that all truth can be discoverable through these means. Mormonism rejects this idea on the basis that God is the source of all truth and that revelation is necessary to live by that truth. Even then, Mormonism allows for human error and our own personal revelation has to be in line with other revelations given by God. Those binding revelations are given by prophets and leadership. We then are dependent upon those who are ordained by God if we are to live truly just lives.
What is clear is that some Mormon feminists like Lauritzen see that leadership as not living up to their feminist creed. They have mistakenly put that creed before Mormonism, even though Mormonism makes broader and more compelling claims upon truth than feminism can ever give. Their actions, to initiate a campaign of civil disobedience, further refute the premise of Mormon belief because they sacrifice unity in the faith on the altar of gender equality. Protesting, especially the kind Lauritzen calls for, is just another form of political force. To use force to promote change in the church not only undercuts prophetic authority but also destroys unity in the faith. Force necessarily creates enemies, but Mormonism leaves no room for enemies. We are in a cause, not for social equality, but for salvation and this cause requires us to be united and one “even as [they] are one” (John 17:22).
That being said, unity in the faith is a cause that Mormon feminists can use to achieve some of the goals they currently desire. Unity in the faith requires women to be treated with dignity and respect. This means those who try to enforce cultural norms need to be restrained. Many equality issues can fall under the cause of being one in communion with Christ. Other issues, like priesthood ordination, are doctrinal and are intrinsic to the gospel. While today’s feminists can voice their concerns, unity in the faith requires personal sacrifice and faithful endurance. What always must be remembered is that the gospel is only designed to get us to the next life and salvation. Then our understanding will be opened and we will know the reasons for current practices. Gender equality is a worthy goal, but the general salvation of humanity is by far more valuable.Kerby Davis is currently attending Brigham Young University where he is studying political science and family studies.
Why Seek New Answers When the Old Ones are Still True?By Ben Haymond
I have given this “pants day” event a great deal of thought. I have seen and participated in online discussions about it and discussed it with women in my life. One thing that I found was that (like many such events) there are different interpretations about what exactly it means. To some, including many influential bloggers and activists, this is about women and the priesthood, it is about all gender roles being obliterated and complete “equality” being enshrined within the doctrines and policies of the church. To others that I have talked with, it is nothing so radical. They see it as combatting cultural assumptions (presumably cultural assumptions in Utah and the United States) that are not doctrinal. After all, the event itself calls attention to a norm that is not official policy. When asked about the event, a church representative replied mildly that women are not forbidden to wear pants to church. Church members are asked only to wear their best clothes; beyond that the manual gives a few non-binding suggestions about what could be worn. Finally, to another group, this event is not political at all but a harmless exercise in female solidarity.
As anyone who has even casually studied American politics, or constitutional law knows, divining legislative intent is a tricky business. Even should the sponsor of a bill state a clear purpose to it, the rest of the legislative body could have voted for it for a variety of different reasons and with different understandings of its meaning. The same goes for a bill’s opponents. Events like “pants day” are similar, especially because there is no official organization backing it to disseminate a unified message. Each blogger seems to have different grievances to address, and each person who supports it does so for different reasons and a different understanding of what it is about. Because of this I want to approach this topic carefully and make some clear distinctions.
I love women. I support them and admire them. Many different women (most of all my mother and my sisters) have been an enormous positive influence in my life. It has been an important part of my maturation to try to see the world from a woman’s perspective. Much good in this world has come from female organizations (including and especially the Relief Society, the largest women’s organization in the world). I do not oppose movements for female solidarity and empowerment.
I can also sympathize with women who feel that there are cultural assumptions that women are less than men. Without a doubt, there are men and women in virtually any culture who consider women to be second class citizens. Physical and emotional abuse as well as any other types of abuse are repulsive and have no place in a decent society or, of course, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I also believe strongly in what I and other Latter-day Saints claim is an inspired document written by 15 men whom we believe are prophets, seers and revelators: The Family, A Proclamation to the World. That document is also entirely complementary with women’s organizations and condemnatory of any form of abuse. It states among other things:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
This passage seems to be especially offensive to the first group of “pants day” participators whom my response is especially addressing. One blogger I read used language from the proclamation in her list of grievances that “pants day” is supposedly addressing.
Now, I don’t have any new or novel insights about men and women and the so-called “battle of the sexes.” To me, this entire issue boils down to a unique and vital doctrine to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: revelation. I will explain this distinct LDS interpretation using a scripture from the LDS canon: section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Section 28 was given in September of 1830. In response to Joseph Smith’s bold call for all members of the newborn church to seek revelation and guidance from above, a member named Hiram Page was reportedly receiving revelations using a stone that he had found in a well. Some of the revelations that he was receiving directly conflicted with those received by Joseph Smith. Many members of the church, including the prominent leader Oliver Cowdery, believed in the divinity of Page’s revelations. As he always did with questions of a spiritual nature, Joseph Smith asked for guidance from the Lord. In response, he received Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This section answered Joseph’s question, and I believe also answers any questions that we might have about “pants day.” The revelation is addressed to Oliver Cowdrey (as several others are). Oliver was told:
Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given. But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses… And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it. But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom; And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church; For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.
In this revelation different types of revelation and roles of the Comforter (or the Holy Ghost) are delineated. Oliver (and other members of the Church) are entitled to a privileged relationship with the Holy Ghost which includes certain types of revelation but one type of revelation is reserved for Joseph, the head of the church, alone. Oliver’s words will be accompanied by the Comforter when he teaches “concerning the revelations and commandments” which have already been given. Oliver can also be guided by the Comforter “to speak or teach . . . by way of commandment unto the church” with a qualification: his teachings will not be commandments to the faithful but “wisdom.” Only Joseph Smith is “appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church.”
Maybe this is a fairly boring response for members of the Church. But, why look for a new answer when the old ones are still true? According to LDS doctrine, the president of the church and those authorized to do so can and do receive revelation “by way of commandment” for the whole church. Everyone else may offer wisdom and council and receive guidance for their own personal lives. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was approved by all 15 men that Latter-day Saints consider to be prophets seers and revelators. While it may not be politically correct to some and not meet others specifications it was clearly given through those whom Latter-day Saints consider to be oracles of God. The Lord has spoken through His prophets. What else need be said?
Ben Haymond is a student at Brigham Young University.
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
Why I Didn’t Wear Pants to Church — And Why I Considered itBy Taylor Rosecrans
Alright, it is time to get my “little bit of feminist” out there. Most of you have heard by now about the campaign by Latter-day Saint feminists who encouraged women to wear (nice, dressy) pants or men to wear the color purple to church on Sunday Dec. 16. If you haven’t, here is the Salt Lake Tribune article. Several people who haven’t really read into the campaign seem to believe that this is somehow about fashion norms in the church and women wanting to “dress like men.” This is NOT true. The campaign is to call attention to the fact that there is gender inequality in the church. This is not women who think that dresses are bad, or who want to be men, or who think that the gospel isn’t true. The campaign leaders have asked that women wear pants and that men (and women) wear the color purple as a link to the feminist movement BECAUSE they want people to recognize that there are feminists in the Church and that they would like to see some changes made in Church policy and culture.
It isn’t about the pants. In fact, I’ve heard of some women who are actually borrowing slacks from friends who work in offices because they don’t even own any — simply because they want to be part of this movement. They want to make their voices heard.
What exactly are the changes they’d like to see made? This Ask a Feminist article is a great summary of some of their points. I’d like the reader to note that, in this article, the author makes sure the reader is aware that these are solely her feelings and that other LDS feminists can and likely do have different feelings. That means that if you saw a woman wearing pants at church or the color purple Sunday, she may (1) have no idea that she is correlating with a feminist campaign, or (2) she may believe that there is some form of gender inequality or unfair gender norms in the Church. It does not mean she is an extreme feminist who wants you to abandon your children, have a competitive career and to never can peaches again. In fact, I found very amusing that the Feminist Mormon Housewives website describes themselves as “angry activists with peaches to can.”
So, finally, now that I’ve done some groundwork, what is my opinion on this campaign? I have thought and thought and thought about this. You see, I do agree with several of their points. I thought the “Ask a Feminist” article was well-written, thoughtful, and heartfelt. I, and the vast majority of these women, are faithful members of the Church who love the gospel, are happy being women, and do not want to hold the priesthood (for an explanation of why I am satisfied without the priesthood, I would suggest the Two Trees Analogy). I would not dream of asking church leaders to change LDS doctrine because I have a testimony of its truth. However, there are church policies, LDS culture, and practices by local leaders that could certainly change.
The following are a few concerns I have or questions, not statements of what I think should change. They are questions of concern that I do not have answers to.
- Why are the prayers in General Conference never offered by women?
- Why are there no women in church disciplinary councils when they are making decisions about a woman’s membership?
- Why is it that when women are raped or sexually abused or have committed a sexual transgression, there are only men to counsel with?
- Why is there only one General Relief Society meeting each year but two Priesthood sessions? Why do they split the women and young women when the men and young men are together?
- Why do some local male leaders feel like they can make decisions about callings and changes in auxiliary organizations without counseling with the woman whose stewardship it is?
- Why is the Elder’s Quorum President called “President” and the Relief Society President is called “Sister”?
- Why are female Church Education System instructors not allowed to work when they have children at home? But CES will hire women as secretaries while they have children at home? (link)(On that note, why does CES refuse to hire unmarried instructors and ask divorcing instructors to leave?)
- Why can women hold multiple callings in the ward and stake when they have young children, but they can’t be temple ordinance workers?
- Why are there never women in the Sunday School Presidency? Why are there never men in the Primary Presidency?
I’m sure you can tell I’m getting worked up, so I’ll stop there. If I am thinking all this, then it would seem to make sense that I wore pants this Sunday. Wrong. So, I must think that pantsuits aren’t dressy enough or are inappropriate. Wrong again. You see, I have never even thought about wearing slacks to church before — never crossed my mind. In my view, it would not be appropriate for me because it is not what I consider my Sunday best. Perhaps it is someone else’s Sunday best and they feel perfectly appropriate in this — good for them! I found an author who explained this similar to how I feel in Meridian magazine.
You see, if I had worn slacks last Sunday, it would have been solely for a political cause, and I just don’t feel like that is appropriate for Sacrament Meeting. However, I’ve gotten my point across here, so please know that I do have questions about some gender inequality in the church. If they had asked me to wear something in particular on another day of the week, I probably would have. But for me, it just doesn’t seem right to wear pants to church.
Taylor Rosecrans is currently attending Brigham Young University. This article was previously posted at her personal blog.
If Women Wear Pants, Men Should Wear DressesBy Bradley Rebeiro
Change has produced much good in America’s history. Several groups have benefited from it. Women have benefited from the change wrought by the Women’s Rights Movement, African-Americans from the Civil Right Movement, and so on. Even the Mormon Church has benefited from the increased tolerance of different religions. However, when change is sought merely for change’s sake, it can become rather problematic. Modernity has produced progressivism: a new paradigm in which progress and change is considered intrinsically good without question. Progressivism seeks further change without concern for any potential consequence. Thus, change becomes synonymous with “good” and conservatism becomes synonymous with “bad.”
The purpose of this is not to paint progress or conservatism with a broad brush. The Civil Rights Movement brought about much needed change. African-Americans, once seen as second-class citizens, were able to witness the openings of new windows. Hopes, dreams, and aspirations to obtain success and further one’s condition suddenly saw new life. Women had a very similar experience with the Women’s Rights Movement as well. Mormons were once persecuted and killed for their beliefs. Now they are able to worship openly and freely; free from the fear of persecution. When observing these examples, it is easy to say that all change must be inherently good. This notion seems to have prevailed in modern-day society. Conservatism then seems to take on the persona of a misguided authority. Like all perceived authorities, it thereby represents dogmas that must be abolished. The question is: has the dogma of conservatism merely been replaced with the dogma of progressivism? If so, then to what avail?
A movement took place Dec. 16 involving the women of the LDS church. Apparently all women were encouraged to wear pants to sacrament meeting. All men who supported the movement were encouraged to wear a purple tie. This was meant to be a demonstration of equality in the LDS church. These women sought to be equal to their male peers. Equality in a traditional sense is the state of being equal. If one man has an apple and another does not, they are unequal. Therefore, in order for the two men to be equal, both must have an apple. Equality in the modernity has progressed and evolved to become synonymous with freedom. This partially came with the Civil Rights Movement, as freedom and equality were used interchangeably.
Those who support this “wearing pants” movement see women as being unequal to men in the LDS church. The topic of inequality among the sexes within the Church is not new. Many have expressed concerns regarding gender equality with regards to the priesthood. Women have pointed out that men have the priesthood and that this priesthood has been denied to them. With exclusion from the priesthood comes exclusion from several responsibilities held in the church. Leadership such as stake president, bishop, or branch president can only be held by worthy priesthood holders. If equality is applied in the traditional sense, then all people (regardless of who they are) must have an equal opportunity to hold these positions. Women, under this paradigm, should have equal opportunity to hold these leadership positions. In modernity, this equality is seen as good because it is directly correlated with freedom (which modernity has taught us is always good). In modernity, freedom is regarded as the acquisition of complete autonomy. The pursuit of this freedom disregards any moral notion of right or wrong. One should have the freedom to do what they may, regardless of the consequences. Any infringement on this newly obtained autonomy is considered bad, even if it meant achieving something higher or good.
This frame of thinking is the problem with progressivism. Women wearing pants believe that they are advocating the equality, and thus the freedom, of all women. However, they are actually inviting the opening of Pandora’s Box. The statement that everyone should have an equal opportunity to hold leadership positions in the church must be taken for what it is: equal opportunity for everyone. If women are to be allowed to hold these leadership positions, then other groups must be considered as well. Anyone must be considered if they can generate legitimate reasons for desiring the position. In this paradigm, the desire itself gives the legitimacy. Therefore, non-members should also be considered. What, then, would stop anyone from desiring to hold these previously priesthood-held leadership positions? Thus, leadership in the church becomes little more than a job to be attained by any person who desires it through submitting a job application. This may seem extreme, but the mindset and argument of these progressivists (if taken seriously) must then allow for all future petitions.
Equality is pursued for equality’s sake. Their argument does not go beyond the consideration of the obvious: he has something that I do not, and I want what he has. This argument can be used by anyone and it would be legitimate because the only prerequisite is perceived inequality. It is clear that progress and change must not be pursued solely for progress’ sake. There must be a consideration of something higher, something good. Instead, it is necessary to reflect on the current state of things. One must come to an understanding of why things are the way they are, and find the beauty therein. The fact that each member of the church has different responsibilities and yet is seen equal in the eyes of God is truly remarkable. This shows us that there is something more to true equality than everyone having an apple.
What of conservatism? Conservatism, like progressivism, has been misunderstood by modernity. All conservatism has been considered as “bad” and even ignorant. Language such as “just get with the program!” used by teens when talking to their parents demonstrates this idea of how “old” has taken on the definition of “ignorant” or “wrong.” There is a lot of danger in considering all standing institutions, ideas, and beliefs as “wrong.” However, this is the result of progressivism and its pervasiveness in modern-day society. Throughout history there is no doubt there have been certain perceptions of society, certain dogmas, which have been inherently wrong. In the days of slavery such rhetoric as “blacks are not human, they are inherently physically and mentally inferior” was accepted by many Americans. When dogmas undermine and inhibit the pursuit of the good, it becomes necessary to challenge social norms in order to produce a better society. When this happens, conservatism must concede that it was wrong and give up ground to progressivism. The process of relinquishing of ground by conservatism and the taking of ground by progressivism has defined American history. In many instances this process has been to the betterment of society. However, progressivism has taken so much ground that it has ceased to be accountable to any scrutiny. It started out as a snowball and has developed into an avalanche that seems to have no end.
Those who advocate the “women wearing pants” movement need to take a step back and question this progressivism that they have sold themselves completely to. They need to analyze what they are fighting for and wonder whether it is truly a pursuit of the good. The fact is, men and women will never be truly and completely equal. God knowingly made men and women different. The very nature of man and woman are starkly different. There is something to be said about the fact that men tend to be physically stronger, and therefore able to provide certain services that would be more difficult for the woman. There is also something to be said about the fact that women tend to be more caring and sensible than their male counterparts. These qualities also provide unique services, such as nurturing of children and service to others, which are essential to human existence. The Church, as instituted by God, has recognized these vital differences and therein has been established in such a manner that allows both men and women to utilize their individual skills to their maximum potential.
History has taught us that conservatism must be questioned for its intrinsic good. We must now begin to question progressivism in the same way. We blindly accept progressivism with the hopes that all change will produce a better society and will inevitably make us happier. However, we must not forget that every change must be carefully considered and understood. The danger is that we may lose something good that we have in exchange for something worse, and who is to say whether we will be able to get it back once it is lost? The Church has provided us with a gospel and community in which the pursuit of higher goods can be realized. We must not abandon the “old” just because it is “old.” We must carefully consider what we have, and realize that it is something good. As a Church, we must remember that we do not ebb and flow with society. We trust in Christ, who is the head of this Church. We follow Him to obtain true happiness. Those who support the “Women wearing pants” must cast off the world and its dogma of progressivism, and rely in the One who can be trusted and in His Church. Will you put your trust in Him who “knoweth all things from the beginning” (1 Nephi 9:6), or will you put your trust in the world and “just get with the program?”
Bradley Rebeiro is the president of the Tocqueville Society at Brigham Young University where he is currently studying political science.
Additional Links on this and related issues:
Rachael Givens: Pants, Doctrine, Culture, and Why, Maybe, We Shouldn’t worry
Junior Ganymede: Should Gals Wear Protest Pants to Church
New York Times: Mormon Women Set Out to Take a Stand, in Pants
Mormon Midrashim: Of Pants and Protest
Bonnie Blythe: In God’s House
Neylan McBaine: To Do the Business of the Church
A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman: Mormon Feminists Plan Demonstration in Sunday Worship Services
The Rains Came Down: A Call to Repentance: Pants
Heidi Sommerfeld Stevenson: Wearing Pants? Really?
Paul Mero: Placing Politics Ahead of Faith
Valerie Hudson Cassler: I am a Mormon Because I am a Feminist
Peter Lawler: Let’s Bring Back Gentlemen (Or Even Chivalry)
Ruth Institute: Was Rush Limbaugh Right on Feminism?