Sunday, December 23, 2012

How PANTS restored my faith in Mormanity

As most of you have guessed, Tim and I have been attending our local LDS congregation more and more over the past month or so. We've made some really wonderful friends, and felt incredibly welcomed there, and so were naturally balancing our LDS church-going with a Unitarian service on Saturday, because we also really like the spirit we feel there. I still felt (and probably will feel again after the high of last weekend wears off) really conflicted about my testimony, and the Church in general, specifically with modern-day issues of gender equality and gay rights, and with glossed over historical facts that leave my stomach in knots. Every Sunday, I wake up and wonder if it's worth it. Worth it to get dressed, get my kids out the door at 8:30, bike the 1.5 miles to Church in the cold, sit through three occasionally frustrating meetings. I've had many doubts about doctrine, to the point I've been on the brink of submitting a resignation letter several times. Add that to my exasperation over how our families are treating us in the wake of our doubts, and it's enough to send anyone heading for the hills.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was reading on Stephanie Lauritzen's blog after a reader Jamie linked to it in a comment here. I read about her desire to practice some civil disobedience, to end the silence that Mormon feminists often partake of in their ward families, for fear of ostracism. I too had that fear for a long, long time, until recently really coming out in strong support of certain issues. I remember being a child and then a teen and having so many questions on things I was reading and learning, but no one to broach the topic with. It wasn't until I found like-minded individuals at BYU, and subsequently in the bloggernacle through FMH, Mormon Stories, and others, that I realized I was not the only one with these questions, and they didn't make me a bad person, or even a bad Mormon for having them. I yearned for more connection with these like-minded individuals, and Stephanie proposed a solution that resonated deeply with me: for one Sunday, December 16th, we'd all wear pants to Church! We'd find each other, if we happened to be in the same ward. If we were alone, we would sit in our pants knowing that hundreds of our fellow feminists would be wearing them at the same time, all over the US. We thought it was brilliant, and more and more women (and men!) joined the crusade.

Then the ugliness began, and wow, was it ever ugly. Our fellow Saints chastised us, berated us, called us to repentance, threatened to take away our temple recommends, even posted death threats ("feminists should all be round up and shot..." etc.) It reminded me of the time I received some pretty ridiculous emails in response to a letter to the editor I wrote at BYU, and then later an op-ed I wrote with Tim. The letter was about my discomfort with the Church's stance against Prop 8, and I was told that my temple recommend should be revoked and I shouldn't be allowed to be a student at BYU. The op-ed I wrote was co-wrote with Tim in our first year of marriage about equality in marriage, to which one email response was: "obviously, you two aren't married..."

And I could not help but think the entire time about Heavenly Father and Mother, slamming their faces on their desks as their daughters were once again subject to such perverted forms of male domination and patriarchy, and all in Their name, to boot. As backlash to the hatred (hahaha), moderate Mormons joined the event, realizing the reasons why feminists feel so alienated, if this is the kind of reception they get on a local level. And when it came to Sunday the 16th, thousands upon thousands of women wore pants, and even more wore purple in solidarity. At our ward, my visiting teacher was in pants, our choir director was in pants, and one woman I had never talked to but apparently is a feminist was in pants as well. And there was lots of purple, perhaps in solidarity or unintentional. I did not receive any weird looks or even sideways glances. I felt everything I had imagined I wouldn't: an outpouring of the Spirit and feelings of love and connection with my fellow Saints.

Tim and I were singing in the choir as a favor to our friend Jenny (who was wearing leggings? coincidence maybe?), and I could barely keep it together during some of the songs. When the primary children came up and sang "Stars were Gleaming" in English and Spanish, I could sense something, some kind of hope for the future. I saw these children, white and Hispanic but with little sense of their different race or ethnicity of legal status, and I could picture a brighter future in our Church, with real change.

After Sacrament Meeting, our bishop called us in his office to talk to us, and pretty much said: "we're glad you're here, I know you have doubts, but let me know if you'd like to talk sometime" and even wanted to hear more about our experiences at the UU church. Never judging, never questioning our motives or our faith, just having an open and honest discussion. The cherry on top of our already delicious Sundae (hahaha) was my Relief Society teacher opening with "I don't agree with most of these quotes in this lesson... so let's work through it together." If only more teachers were brave enough to declare that outright.

My conclusions from pants Sunday: if your friends are liberal and questioning the Church, you probably won't bring them back with saying any of these things, but give them an opportunity for civil disobedience and they will gladly return.


  1. I'm so glad you had a positive experience with the pants! My experience wasn't quite so great (my own stupidity. And no one in my ward wore pants (sad face)). But I love hearing of the good that came out of that day.

  2. Yay for pants! I am really glad this event happened, for a number of reasons, I think it show good things are to come. Five people in our ward wore pants and there were 15 in the other pittsburgh ward!!!! It made me happy

  3. I am so glad you are having good experiences, Cait! I am also glad that the Bishop was welcoming and that good things are happening in Wisconsin. Thanks for the post!