This was originally posted on my old site on December 8, 2013. Here it is in its entirety:
A few weeks ago at church I sat in the foyer, just outside the chapel during sacrament meeting like I sometimes do. A nice looking lady enters the foyer through the double doors right in front me, walks toward me but is clearly going to behind me into the multi-purpose room (gym) that the back of the chapel is opened up to in order to allow for the over flow of people to sit in the meeting (though, really, some of that could be fixed if everyone were on time and were willing to sit up front and in the center of the pews more, but whatever).
I tell the lady there’s room in the chapel. She doesn’t hear me, so I repeat myself, at which point she’s closer to me, and explain, “I just sit out here sometimes because I feel like, so there’s plenty of room to sit inside with everyone else.”
Then this lady explains that she can’t because she’s wearing pants. All her dresses were packed away, I think. I don’t quite remember exactly why her dresses were unavailable, there was some good reason for it, but whatever the case, her circumstances required her to wear pants. Then she says that there are some women rebelling and that she didn’t want to be associated with them, so she was going to slip in the back and then slip out again, and even miss out on Sunday School and Relief Society (the women’s meeting).
I repeatedly tell her, “No you look fine. I didn’t even notice you were wearing pants. It’s okay, just be here.” Alas, it didn’t matter what I said, she went and sat in the back. I just wanted her to be there and I felt so bad that she felt so uncomfortable.
Later, an FB post about Pants Day came up.
So, let me explain Pants Day real quick, it was a thing that happened last year to raise awareness of discrimination against women who wear pants to church as well as women’s empowerment. I kinda thought it was dumb. I always figured, if you want to wear pants to church wear pants to church. It felt like stories of women being ostracized, of members treating women wearing pants as being two steps away from apostasy, of women losing their callings over it, seemed over blown. Surely something else was going on. However, out of respect for people’s feelings I would say, no one should be judgmental over pants if I ever felt like commenting. Normally I didn’t really say much.
Then, in the facebook group, Exploring Sainthood Community, Pants Day came up. This lady had already been on my mind, off and on ever since, so I go ahead and read this thread. Then, a man posts about his sister’s experience. I wish I could remember this guy’s name and that the search function actually worked so I could find it. Anyway, there was something about her experience, the details I don’t remember well, of how she was treated at church over wanting to wear pants at church because that was what she was comfortable wearing, that just hit me. And suddenly, I knew that the majority of these stories that I had been hearing this past year were not over blown. Not only that, but I needed to support these women who were being hurt by participating in something as goofy sounding as Pants Day. (Which is on the 15th of this month.)
Fast forward a bit.
Fast and testimony meeting was coming up (where we all fast, give some money to help the poor in the ward – which was what we call a congregation, and some people in the congregation get to bear their testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ up at the pulpit if they want to). I briefly wondered if God was gonna ask me to deliver a message again. (I have this thing where I don’t bother going up to bear my testimony unless moved upon by the Spirit. Sometimes it’s a delight to do so, whereas at other times it can be varying degrees of eye-popping-soul-terrorizing-distress and then I go do it anyway, [edit: and feel good about it after the fact].) So, I have that thought, and of course, what comes to mind? The lady who wore pants to church and my new found commitment to Pants Day.
I immediately commence in the instant prayer thing. So, what’s the point of that? Just talking about it, it seems kinda, well political almost. How could it work and be appropriate for fast and testimony meeting? Then, blossoming in my mind I saw myself standing at the pulpit, wearing pants (O_O), talking about how heart breaking it was to see that lady’s discomfort when all I wanted was for her to be with us. Then I thought, about how we’re tearing each other apart over what we’re wearing, about how much God loves us, and is unhappy about people judging others for the clothes they wear. It’s not the sisters wearing pants that’s the problem. It’s people judging them for wearing pants that’s the problem.
Then that little vision went away, and I thought, sort of sending my thoughts out to the Spirit (or to the universe, whatever you want to call it) at the same time, really? Is that really want you want me to do?
HOLY CRAP. I am so uncomfortable with that!
So, of course, me being me, when I’m uncomfortable with something, I keep asking about it. The answer was always yes, and I never got much in the way of details about what to say. When I would ask for more details it was always, as usual, you’ll receive it when you’re up there. (I think there’s a conspiracy to keep me authentic or something.)
The first Sunday of the month comes along. The day of fast and testimony. The day to wear pants to church. On purpose. All Sunday. And to tell everyone about it. Holy crap. I stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom, looking at my clothes, and my heart starts racing. I begin a prayer, “Dear Heavenly Parents, is this really-”
“For my daughters.”
Yes. They totally cut me off.
And I totally buck up and put on the pants. It was a nice outfit though.
So, I’m all jittery going to church, opening up the library, taking care of before church needs (I’m the librarian at church), and even managing a bit of compassionate service in the mix. I’m wondering the whole time what people are thinking of me. I’m super nervous when sacrament meeting starts. The time comes. And, because of helping out someone out, I was in the foyer so I have to walk in, then take a really long walk, all the way up the pulpit, and wait my turn.
I stand up, move the microphone, panic because I think I’m getting dizzy from a sudden migraine but it turns out that one of the fellows behind me was just lowering the podium. Yeah, I was nervous. Then I tell them that the Spirit told me to do something uncomfortable and that sometimes when that happens I double check to make sure I’m getting the message right, but I needed to tell them about a lady I met first otherwise it won’t make sense (I apologized to the guys that I couldn’t just cut to the chase because it really wouldn’t make sense). I relate to them the tale of the lady. Then about Pants Day and my old opinion, and then about the stories I heard (but omitted my opinion of those stories).
So then I said that the Spirit told me to do something uncomfortable, and I double checked again this morning (meaning the morning of the testimony) and before I finished the prayer, the spirit said, “for my daughters” and the Spirit asked me to wear pants.
At that point, I burst into tears saying, and I’m really uncomfortable. I’m just like that lady. So there I was, wanting her to stay and just be with us and not even noticing her wearing pants, and now that I’m wearing pants I was just like her feeling horribly uncomfortable and worried about being horribly judged. Over pants. We need to just relax, and I say this in a relaxing meditative zen voice ahhhhhh, relief kind of tone. We should just come to church dressed comfortably without worrying about what others are wearing. We’re all in this together, and it doesn’t matter where you are spiritually. You can be way up high spiritually, like Brother Dave (haha, totally called you out almost extra publicly because it’s sans last name, this is what you get for being a great Gospel Doctrine teacher) and oh, he’s turning into a tomato that’s awesome (he totally did too, his wife, Sarah, was laughing so hard – love that woman, she makes me wish I were in Young Women’s again so I could have her as a leader) or can be not so great or one of those people who think they're not so great at spiritual stuff but you really are but it doesn’t matter because we’re all just starting from where we are and working together to be a better (Zion) people.
What matters is what’s on your inside. Not the clothes you wear. You could be “ugly” (I used air quotes) or horribly disfigured, but who cares? No trips over that because it’s who you are spiritually that matters, so who cares if you’re wearing pants to church? God looketh on the heart. I know that Joseph Smith is/was a prophet of God, and that Christ lives and thinks we’re worth it. That Heavenly Father and Mother loves us and think we’re worth it. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.
Then there was the long walk back out and I’m thinking everyone’s looking at my pants, and I’m wondering how people took it. But, it’s all good. I felt good. I did what God wanted me to do. I felt buoyed up, lighter, and suddenly like, I could dress in whatever I felt was appropriate to honor God in at church. Something I had never experienced before in all my years at church. Oh yeah, I did mention somewhere that I almost never wear dresses except for at church so for me dresses were doing something different on a Sunday.
During this I noticed that my daughter had opened the doors to the chapel and stood in the doorway after I started crying and was like wow. She had no idea that I had this pants issue. Frankly, I didn’t either. I didn’t realize I was just like that lady until I was up there. Oh, but God knew and used it for the extra spiritual punch. That’s okay though (I’m grinning at the orchestration of the event actually).
During the whole time I spoke, God did as was promised. I was given all the words I needed. I spoke with reverence, with love, with humor, and thus with inclusive power that lifts people up. The kind of power that rejuvenates and heals, if you let it. .
The problem with translating what happened to a blog post is, some of that gets lost in translation. You don’t get the spiritual soul zinger but hopefully you get enough. I was also human too and thus relateable. (Hm, maybe that’s why God uses fallible prophets instead of just sending angels to get us to do things all the time.)
Afterward, in the library, I had people express appreciation or that I looked just fine. One lady came into the library specifically to see the pants because she totally didn’t notice that I was wearing pants and needed to see it. Brother Dave gave me a hug before going off to teach his class (unless it wasn’t his week to teach, sadly I miss his classes now that I’m in the library). A fellow MoFem (Feminist Mormon) told me in Relief Society (if the library gets quiet I sometimes go into Relief Society before the end of church return all the things rush) that she loved my pants.
Another lady came in who was visiting from another ward that she came to church in pants because it was too cold for a dress and she felt the same way I did. And she was like, it’s not like I was dressed promiscuously. I said that’s true, but what if they’re just trying to be pretty and that’s how they feel pretty? I remember dressing in a very sexy outfit for my husband. I looked at myself in the mirror and I suddenly saw myself completely differently. I was beautiful. (stunningly so, really). I don’t think of myself in those terms. I told my husband about it, and how I don’t think of myself as being beautiful all the time like one would think of a flower as beautiful all the time. My husband said that I was beautiful all the time and that’s not his fault that I don’t see it. (Thanks media messages, but that’s an different post.)
I also told this lady, that a woman in another ward said that when she first joined the church she’d wear promiscuous clothes without realizing what she was saying about herself but no one said anything to her about it but slowly over time she changed what she wore as she learned more about the Gospel. This lady was like, wow, that’s a good point. (I’m kinda sad this lady is in the other ward, she was cool, we talked about other stuff too, and she had a cute passel of children.)
Today, I’m going to church in a dress. Next week, for Pants Day, it’s in pants. Then after that, I’m gonna shake it up. Now I’ll just have to see if I can find shoes I can sprint in comfortably that also look nice. Maybe then I’d be comfortable wearing a dress to work.
Oh yeah, and I should say, the Bishop was totally cool. He didn’t say anything about it, but I have an awesome Bishop.
Edit: Oh, and some people came up to me and said I was really brave. It was appreciated but also seemed to emphasize the point of my testimony.
(small confession: I didn’t proof read this post before posting this time)
[Edit: I did a little just now. But fiddly bit stuff, no real change to the words and meanings]
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