Over all February 10th was a nice Sabbath day. For me the best part was playing Sunday School Jeopardy with my class of twelve-year-old girls. At one point in the game each girl in turn shared her “first time you felt the holy ghost” experience with amazing clarity, confidence and innocence. I was in awe of these girls and found it remarkable how at a young age they could identify, respond to and later recount the effects of the spirit on heart and mind. This is such a vital part of being able to successfully navigate life and in this moment I felt profoundly peaceful and hopeful for each child in the class.
Also, I wore pants to church–again–and although they were lovely beneath a long, floral jacket, I felt conspicuous. My clothing choice became an unintentional social experiment motivated in large part by the twenty-eight-degrees Fahrenheit temperature. This experiment didn’t really lend itself to my feeling the spirit throughout the meetings–mostly because of my own discomfort with a few (what I perceived as strange) responses. However, my four Sunday School girls didn’t seem to notice. Maybe that’s another reason our class time was enjoyable for me. No judgement. No strained smiles. Just genuine, guileless, pleasant conversation about spiritual principles. . . And a little child shall lead them.
Early in the morning I looked out into the freezing beauty of that Utah County Sabbath and made a decision: I will NOT be wearing dresses to church in these temperatures when I am eighty years old. Nope. Not even with a wool skirt, warm tights and leather boots–the usual choice on below-freezing Sundays. I don’t care where I live. If it’s cold, I’m wearing pants. Maybe I’ll be in Florida or California by then, but maybe not.
Several weeks prior as I sat in my car in the church parking lot after meetings, waiting for the engine to warm, I watched a father and daughter make their way from the street toward the building. As they traversed the fifty-or-so yards across the large lot I couldn’t help noticing the stark contrast in their attire. The man wore a long wool coat. His collar had been turned up and he held one side against his jaw with a gloved hand to shield himself from the biting wind. His child wore a light-weight dress and no coat. Her legs were bare and she alternated folding her arms around her chest then pulling at the hem of her dress to keep her legs warm. He strode well ahead of her and seemed completely unconcerned with his child’s plight. He did not slow down to walk with her or offer her his coat but rushed ahead. I realize there may be an explanation beyond parental neglect for what I observed. But that’s not the point. The point for me that day was the internal distress I felt as I watched a perfect illustration of socially and culturally accepted norms for church clothing for men and women in our community. Maybe the child could have chosen something warmer to wear to church that day.
But she could not have chosen pants.
I genuinely feel that the Savior looks upon the heart and that our clothing may or may not mean anything about where our heart is. In the big picture clothing doesn’t really matter. Having said that, I feel it’s important to be sensitive to and realistic about the cultural norms of the community in which we live. Like my sisters in this LDS community I cherish the opportunity to join together in worship each Sunday. Many of us also cherish the ritual of honoring God in our choice of attire. There is something beautifully metaphorical about changing our way of dress to match our inner change of heart as we set the Sabbath apart as a holy day. I have no desire to alter this ritual. But I believe “dressing for Jesus” can–and in some cases should–include dress pants. We honor our body’s need for health and comfort by dressing appropriately for the season. So, rather than wait until I’m old and wise enough to really, truly, profoundly not care what people think or how they respond to pants at church, I’m starting now. I will shop for a few warm Sunday pants and I will wear them. Probably not every week and maybe only once or twice, but I certainly won’t wait for a formal Wear Pants to Church Day.
Yes, it was a good Sunday. As they sat on the metal chairs in the classroom two of my Sunday school girls said things like, “I’m SO cold today!” and “I hate winter.” Those dear bare-legged little darlings. Maybe by the time they are my age ideas about what is acceptable Sunday Best will have changed to include pants for women. Especially in winter climates. I hope so.
Once upon a time ago in 1978 there was a very cold winter in Southeastern Utah with temps dropping below zero regularly. At that time we were required to wear dresses to mutual, a mid-week activity for teenagers. It was so cold we wore pants under our dresses to stay warm.
That’s great! I can see it in my mind. Long live the 70s and 80s! What I like about the pants.under.dress thing is that it honors the letter of the cultural law and yet responds to the realities of daily life. Thanks for your comment.
Practical. Thanks for your post Melody!
You’re welcome, Paul. Thanks for the invite. P.S. I like your hoodie.
I completely get it. My wife and I are always looking for tights and shoes for winter weather. It would be so nice to not be worried about feeling judge about wearing pants. Maybe we’re just far too timid to lead a movement.
Thanks David. The weight to conform can be crushing sometimes. At least within the mountainwest mormon corridor where I live. The sad thing is: wearing pants purely out of common sense – as I did a couple of weeks ago – becomes a shouting statement of non-conformity. I don’t want that. I just want to stay warm(er).
Hooray for pants! I wore pants to church this Sunday for the first time and it was marvelous. I was not trying to make a statement, I just felt that morning that pants were the right choice. I wanted to be warm. I wanted to be comfortable. My heart was feeling tender and it was a “hard to go to church” kind of day for me. So, I opted to do the tender thing for my body and spirit. That day it was pants. A couple of people looked at me askance, but overall I felt as loved as I always do. And guess what, I was able to concentrate more on worship and feeling the spirit because I wasn’t uncomfortable in what I was wearing. Happy Sunday. I’ll be wearing pants more often.
Thank you for sharing this, Heather. Nice to know you’re out there. In pants, my friend.
This whole pants controversy seems just silly to me. I’m glad that you feel that you are entitled to wear them for purely practical reasons. But the fact that some people feel such discomfort when women do so and interpret it as a “shouting statement of non-conformity” only underscores the need for more women to wear pants. My wife has done it several times in recent weeks and she is about the most harmless person I know.
About the time of Wear Pants To Church day I decided to stop wearing ties to church. I really hate ties. I feel so much more comfortable now and able to enjoy the services. It was a little socially awkward at first, but now it just seems natural.
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