This week with everything swirling about in regards to Wear Pants to Church Day, I decided to take action (thank you Stephanie Lauritzen for inspiring me to act) and reach out to my Stake Relief Society President and Stake President in the Seattle stake so they were well aware and sensitive to the needs of women who choose to wear pants to support this cause. Here is my email:
As you have probably already heard, there is a woman in Utah who has invited Mormon women everywhere to wear pants to church this Sunday, December 16 to demonstrate how women desire gender equality in the church. As you can imagine, this has not gone over terribly well in our patriarchal religious community. As a Mormon feminist who sees inequality in the church and who has cried bitter tears behind closed doors, I view “Wear Pants to Church Day” as an opportunity for us to recognize and embrace our sisters who may feel like they don’t belong. While there have been a lot of people saying that church is no place for this type of political lobbying, I have taken heart from a blogger who said:
“It’s not a protest, it’s an outreach. …. You haven’t experienced the pain of not seeing more women speaking/praying at General Conference? Great! Can you use the power of the Holy Ghost to reach into your well of empathy and show understanding for those who do? You don’t know what it has felt like to be belittled because you are a woman? Then surely you will have the strength to help wrap your arms around a sister who experiences this daily. You don’t understand any of this? Look for the woman wearing pants for the first time on Sunday and ask her to tell her story, take her burdens and help lift them for awhile. This actual makes charity quite easy. And charity, as well all know NEVER FAILS.” (http://www.cjanekendrick.com/2012/12/the-worst-thing-is-pants-part-ii.html)
The reason I am reaching out is because I wanted to make sure that the leadership of our stake is aware of this and sensitive to the trials of women who may choose to wear pants on Sunday (Since, I do not have President Pederson’s email address, perhaps you could do the kindness of passing this onto him). Church should be a place for us to heal, for us to bring our burdens and lay them at the Savior’s feet. I hope opportunity this helps those of us who suffer to present our vulnerabilities to the Lord among our fellow believers so that we may all better mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
And here is President Pedersen’s response to the Relief Society President (cc:ed to me. He addressed our Stake RS President as “President”!):
“Please let me know if you hear of any of us in this stake, including me, speaking in anyway which you feel is degrading to women.“Anyone in the Seattle Stake is welcome to wear whatever they feel is consistent with the spirit of the sacrament on Sundays including pants for sisters. I can find no where in the General Handbook of instructions that advises otherwise. I have certainly never as a bishop or stake leader ever received council delineating what someone should wear to our meetings. We seek to be inclusive and invite all to come unto Christ.”The Book of Mormon warns us that when we start to judge one another by our outward appearance, we are in fact, the ones who need to repent.27 Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say-We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.“I agree with Sister Ward that church is a place we need to heal, and to reach out to one another in love.“I hope our meetings and leadership send that message everyday.”
“It’s not about the pants. Women can wear whatever they want to church. I suppose it’s a gesture of showing up with vulnerability. It’s a way women, in solidarity, can come to church with their hearts on their sleeves. Not so much a protest but a peaceable way to say, “I have mourned/I am mourning”, “I have burdens that weigh heavy on me.” And maybe we don’t all share those specific burdens, but let’s be human about this, we ALL have something that has hurt us. We all have a burden, we all are mourning. Like Christ, we have these emotions so that we can understand each other and apply compassion.
“You haven’t experienced the pain of not seeing more women speaking/praying at General Conference? Great! Can you use the power of the Holy Ghost to reach into your well of empathy and show understanding for those who do? You don’t know what it has felt like to be belittled because you are a woman? Then surely you will have the strength to help wrap your arms around a sister who experiences this daily. You don’t understand any of this? Look for the woman wearing pants for the first time on Sunday and ask her to tell her story, take her burdens and help lift them for awhile. This actual makes charity quite easy. And charity, as well all know NEVER FAILS.
“I keep thinking about Christ coming to the people of the Book of Mormon, the first thing he does is shows his people the scars on his hands and feet. After he heals them–with those scarred hands–he blesses them and later offers them the sacrament. Following the pattern of Christ, I do think showing up with our scars to church to be healed and heard, to renew our love of God, is very much reverent and very sacred.
“It’s not a protest, it’s an outreach. And if by chance my nieces pray about it or your neighbor prays about it and the answer they receive is, “Yes, wear pants on Sunday” then who am I, or who are you, to say it’s not a valid answer to prayers? Our only option at that point is to put our arms around these women and girls to say, Here I am. I see you. Let’s take the sacrament together and promise to do better.
“It’s about our hearts. It’s not about the pants.”- C. Jane Kendrick, The Worst Thing is Pants, Part II