Monday, December 17, 2012

Mourning with those who wear pants

I had no plans to write about pants. In fact, were it not for the internet, I would know nothing about the pants thing from this past weekend.

But after church as we drove to my BIL’s home for a second thanksgiving dinner, my 16-year old son brought it up. He had seen it on Facebook and read gazillions of comments.

My 12-year old daughter was totally flummoxed. Why would women want to wear pants to church anyway? So we talked about some of the issues they were trying to address and what we all thought about this issues and how they were being raised.

What irked my son is what irked me, and that is how supposedly otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints were talking to one another about the issue on line. The vitriol, while no longer shocking to anyone who spends more than 10 minutes reading comments on anything online, was disappointing among those who covenant to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

He was the first to acknowledge that any online discussion seems to attract the highly opinionated and the trolls, and that most people who argue in those forums have no interest in listening to another point of view. They seem instead to seek support for whatever viewpoint they bring with them to the fight.

My lovely wife had some interesting observations from her own experience. She’s served in a number of Relief Society presidencies, and is now in our stake Relief Society presidency. She’s been a part of ward councils in wards on three continents, and has consistently felt her voice has been heard by the bishops and stake presidents with whom she’s served. Furthermore, she knows that the Relief Society presidents in our stake are key to the successful running of their wards; their bishops seek their counsel and listen to it.

She also acknowledges that not everyone has the same experience she does.

As for pants in our ward? I have no idea. We often have one or two or three sisters in pants anyway for one reason or another. But I don’t really pay much attention. As I mentioned in another conversation on the subject, I tend to pay attention to what my lovely wife and my daughter are wearing, and I don’t pay attention to others.

When I think about those who feel like they are standing on the outside looking in, I hope we treat them with love and kindness. I’m reminded of an experience I had as a young married man:

We lived in a Provo family ward just after we were married. I was soon called to be the Sunday School president (at the time that Sunday School opening exercises was done away with), and I felt my calling to be increasingly less important. Still my counselors and I made a good effort to attend classes, provide feedback, hold in-service meetings, and so on. I never could, however, figure out the value of the stake Sunday School organization. The one stake training meeting I attended seemed totally useless to me, and I felt we were doing just fine on our own.

I’m fairly certain I was not shy about my contempt for the stake organization (since I wasn’t shy about much in those days). And yet, every time the stake Sunday School president visited out ward, he’d put his arm around me, give me a warm handshake and tell me how much he loved me and appreciated the work we were doing in our ward.

I don’t remember anything I taught in our in-service meetings, but to this day I remember the warmth and kindness I felt from this man who was doing his best to magnify his calling, despite my hubris.

I hope that if I met any of the pants-sympathizers (or any of the pants-haters, for that matter), that I would respond to either with love and kindness, just as my stake Sunday School president did with me.

(Photo credit: SL Tribune)


  1. I really appreciate your perspective. I see extremes on both sides and it concerns me as well. I am a moderate on most things and that goes for this topic as well. While I feel there are gender issues that certainly can be addressed and improved upon, I don't feel that this was necessarily the right way to go about it.

    Having said that, you probably didn't notice but I took the more moderate view as usual and followed another alternative that was suggested, which was for men to wear purple ties or shirts. I wore my skirt and my purple sweater and scarf. I didn't see anyone there in pants (other than those who occasionally wear them anyway).

    On another note, I don't think most people see the need for reform (in anything, not just church stuff) until it directly affects them. Most of the time when I have been in a presidency, I have felt that the male leadership has been responsive and appropriate. It wasn't until I served as Primary president under a bishop who felt very differently, however, that I became a radical feminist (I say that tongue in cheek. I am really not a radical feminist, but I do care more about women's issues in the church much more than I once did).

    I'm not even sure it's a gender thing. It might just be an authority thing. I would imagine that men in a presidency could easily feel the same way if they didn't feel they were being respected or listened to by their bishop or other church leaders.

  2. Angie, thanks for your comment. Until our HP group I was unaware of the purple portion of the, er, protest. I was thinking as I read your comment that a week ago my lovely wife wore her purple sweater and scarf; had she done so this week she may well have sent an message of which she was not aware.

    Regarding PH leaders' overreaching -- I can relate. When I was an EQP years ago, I struggled with our good bishop. He was a good man, but had many ideas that were not well supported by doctrine or official church practice and it drove me nuts. I can only imagine that women who feel shut out anyway may feel far more hopelessness than I did at that juncture, and I felt plenty. Still, that is a case of one person's overreaching.

  3. We need cool heads to prevail, and thoughtful posts like this one and others elsewhere.
    The hate that came out on this issue did not surprise me. For a very long time I have said that the membership of the Church is not very Christlike, and this issue proved it. I know, some people think the hate comments came from trolls and/or non-members. I don't agree.
    I have dealt with my share of these kinds of attitudes in many Wards.
    I don't care what others wear, I only care what me and my family wear.