On December 16th I, along with thousands of LDS women across the globe, wore pants to church. We did so not as a protest or a demand that we be given the priesthood. There was no marching, no political signs, no campaigning, but in wearing pants we joined our hearts together and hoped for an awareness that all is not necessarily well in Zion. We hoped for an awareness that some women, certainly not all, feel slighted. Whenever I post anything on Facebook about women's issues in the LDS church, I immediately get a backlash--even a few have dropped me as friends--perhaps because the discussion is uncomfortable to many LDS faithful. Nothing changes without discussion. My first realization that things would be different for me because of my gender was when my brothers got to be in the pinewood derby, and then the scout camps, river rafting, water skiing, more scout camps, priesthood ordinations, and finally the missions to far-flung places like Sweden, Ecuador, Italy, and Germany. Yes, we could serve missions, but their was a stigma attached to that for women. You only served if you could not land a husband first. I'm old enough to remember when girls had to wear dresses to school. My 4th grade teacher allowed us to wear shorts under our dresses so we could play baseball, kickball and so forth without embarrassment. This might have been after my dress got caught on the top of the fence when I went after a stray baseball and I showed everyone on the playground my panties--the ultimate in humiliation as any girl from the 60's can attest. The "I saw London, I saw France, I saw someone's underpants" was memorized before the pledge of allegiance, and chanted more often.
In Jr. High and High School, the super trips my brothers went on made the difference in our genders even more apparent. In school, I wasn't allowed to take wood shop which I desperately wanted to take. No sports for girl either. But these things weren't the church's fault, it was a part of the times. Culture. There was nothing wrong with the church--it was the culture that had the problem. But how much has changed since then? While the rest of the world has equalized somewhat, not much has changed in the church. Young women in the church still don't have a program that matches the boys in any way, shape or form. Some years back I had a bishop, whom I appreciate very much. He called me into his office and asked me to be the Young Women's president. I was pretty surprised. While I was very active in church, I wasn't the type to be the president. I balked a bit and then he got me with this (paraphrasing), "I am very concerned with the young women in our ward. I listen to my daughters, and they feel that the programs for them are not equal to the boys in adventure. I'd like to see the program matched in high adventure and you are the one who can make that happen." So I accepted. I talked to the girls and found out what they really wanted to do. They still wanted to bake cookies and take them to the elderly int he ward, but they wanted to do a lot more than that. For my term we rode horses, repelled, went to Bear Lake, rock-climbed, and took a very adventurous trip through the Slot Canyons in Zions. I relied heavily on the talents and resources of a lot of willing people who also wanted the girls to have a matching program. Our own daughter was already out of Young Women's by this time. For her we spent a lot of money and looked for programs so she could have high adventure experiences. It isn't about making boys out of girls. It's about opportunity and it's about choices. Many, in fact most, of the Laurels (my Laurels) have served missions. I don't give myself any credit for that, but when you accomplish something very difficult physically, it can boost your confidence to take on a challenge of a mission.
So back to pants. A few of my faithfully active LDS friends discussed the issue with their families. They got their husbands on board, who wore purple. They got their sons on board who wore purple. I have at least three friends who wore purple dresses instead of pants. And that's awesome too. I loved that families talked about this. I loved that husbands supported their wives and understood the issue. I loved hearing that some bishops and some stake presidents wore purple ties. I loved hearing that some discussion has opened up. Not all bishops are like mine, who said, I am concerned about the young women. Opening doors and listening is all that we ask. As one of my friends said, "There's a whole big range of issues that are important to us as women in the church. At the top, we have women who want the priesthood. But there are a whole lot of us that just want things to change for our daughters."
Few of our young women today will be aware that up into 1978 women weren't asked to give prayers in sacrament meeting. I dont' remember any announcement about it. My guess is that it didn't take a revelation to change that, but perhaps an awareness that this cultural tradition needed to change. It isn't policy that women aren't asked to pray in conference, it just hasn't happend yet. President Kimball stated that women could pray in any meeting that they are invited to attend. Some things could change without any change in policy. Some policies could change without any revelation, just an awareness. An awareness, an understanding, a listening heart, an open mind--that is what wearing pants was about.