Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why I Wore Pants to Church Today since no one asked...

The first outfit I wore during Sacrament meeting.  Because we attended another ward  we had a break between meetings. 

My Sunday School and R.S. outfit. (no one even stared at me.)
I was pretty ambivalent about Stephanie Lauritzen's call to wear pants in support of gender equality. But something changed when I started to read all the negative comments to Stephanie's Face Book event. It wasn't the "those women should be shot in the face" comment from a BYU student that put me over the edge, it was the comment from someone named Cheryl who said, "if some women have a problem wearing a skirt to church, they should just stay home." She had time to re-think that extremely judgmental, less than empathetic comment, but she reiterated it again. Fill in the blank and see it for what it is. If someone has a problem, no matter what it is, that isn't fitting with the typical Mormon, they should just stay home. Stay home, is not the admonition from our Savior. "Come unto me, all  ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give ye rest." Brigham Young didn't tell folks to stay home either, he said that our "chapels should smell like a tavern on Sunday morning." And of course there's the idea that the church isn't a showplace for the perfect, but a hospital for sinners--which includes all of us. But then wearing pants isn't a sin at all. It's not even church policy for women to wear a skirt, rather it's a pretty strong cultural norm. So once I read Cheryl's over-the-top judgmental comment, I knew that I had to wear pants, at least for a day.

Clear back when I attended USU, over thirty years ago I lived on Darwin Avenue. I met a guy named Rich. Rich was a returned missionary: outgoing, funny, and faithful in the church. He was everyone's friend. About ten years ago, Mick and I ran into Rich and his wife. In the conversation, he asked if he'd ever told us why he'd gotten active in church. We told him he hadn't and he told this story. Remember this was the 70's."I was a freshman. I came to USU and moved in with a bunch of guys I didn't know. They were clean cut returned missionaries for the most part. When sunday rolled around, they tried to get me to go to church and I told them, no way. They pushed and finally I relented on one condition and that was that I would go just the way I was: hair to my shoulders, wearing overallls, barefoot and without a shirt, that's not a white shirt--it's not a shirt--period. Then, if one person said anything to me about my appearance, I'd never go back again. They persuaded me to at least put  a shirt on under my overalls, so I put on a T-shirt. But I still went barefoot and strolled in and sat on the front row. No one said a thing about my appearance and I kept going." Rich was a great guy, fantastic father, husband, and teacher. He died in a tragic accident shortly after he told us this story, leaving behind his wife and children. I am grateful that no one said to Rich, if you have a problem putting on a white shirt and tie--just stay home. So for Rich, I wore pants today.

When we a were young married couple with our first baby, I was called into the Young Women's (for the first time) as a counselor and advisor. I loved it and still to this day run into some of the fantastic women I taught. I'll never forget a question from one of those girls. I was dropping her off at her house after an activity and she said, "Women aren't as important as men in the church, are they?" I was shocked. I didn't feel that way. "No, that's not true. Women are every bit as important as men." "Well, all the leaders are men. When they have general conference, it's all men up there." I don't remember what I said after that because I didn't have an answer, not a good one. So for Katie* I wore pants today.

My son Trevor married Joanna, a beautiful, compassionate and outgoing woman. After they had their first baby and Trevor started a teaching job in Colorado, they saw a young woman struggling to cross the road. She was carrying a toddler in a car seat and pulling another little boy by the hand. Traffic was backing up. I can see how hard that might have been. My daughter-in-law pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out and helped the woman and her children cross the road. Then,  told her to wait, that she'd be back. She then dropped my son and the baby off so there would be room in their tiny car for the woman and her two children. Joanna went back for them and got them where they were going. Joanna found out who she was, where she lived, and befriended the woman who I'll call Tamra*, and then introduced the gospel to her. Tamra, a young African-American, single mother joined the church. She had no car to drive, no dress to wear, but made the effort to attend church--in pants. It's nice that no one in Tamra's branch made her feel unwelcome because of the way she was dressed. For Tamra and all those like her, I wore pants to church today.

My mother-in-law was before her time. In the 40's she left the small town of Garland, Utah and went to arguably one of the most liberal, but prestigious schools in the nation--University of California in Berkeley. After graduation, she taught school, then married a rancher and helped support the family. When he had to take early retirement due to a disability, she became THE provider for the family. Not only was she a good mother to my husband and his siblings, she taught him by her example qualities of a truly equal woman. She died earlier this year. I wore her blouse today in her honor. For Ruth, a feminist before her time, I wore pants today.


*not real name


10 comments:

J Scott Savage said...

You are my hero, Carol.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

And mine. Always.

christine said...

Carol, this is exactly why you are one of my young women's leaders that I will always remember. Thank you for sharing your very meaningful reasons for wearing pants to church.

Anonymous said...

I love your reasons for wearing your pants----dedicated to valuable souls! Well done both in the doing and the telling. Thanks!

The Clawsons said...

Great post! I wish I would have known the details today. So interesting and heartfelt. XOXOXO

Anonymous said...

God or Jesus could care less what you wear to church. They only care that you are there to worship !

Donna K. Weaver said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you for doing what you did today and why you did it.

It's amazing the unspoken sermons that people send out. When cartoon ties became all the rage with the young men--which I loved because it made it easier to get them to wear a tie period--it bothered me when the local priesthood authority determined that young men wearing these ties could not officiate over the Sacrament. My thought: really? You're telling these boys that their worthiness in passing the Sacrament comes down to the kind of ties they have on? Not a good message to be sending.

Or the convert who joined while in the Marines who went to BYU after he got out of the service and was told in his Elders Quorum class that only people who were born in the church would go to the Celestial Kingdom. He had a great attitude and a witty comeback: "Well, I'll be in good company, then. You know, like with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young . . ."

Jeanne said...

If only we all could remember that people always matter more than stuff - or programs. I absolutely love your perspective, Carole -- and I love you too! Thanks for so sweetly and eloquently letting us see into your heart and share your sweet insight. Hugs!

CTW said...

Thanks Jeanne, I always love to hear what you have to say.

JoLynne Lyon said...

Carole, I am late to the discussion, but I love your reasons. I was in Wyoming a couple of months ago and met a woman who was going to join the LDS church. She didn't own a dress. She had no apprehension about going to church in her work clothes. I hope the people of Utah would have welcomed her as warmly.