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Mormon women plan sequels — pants and priesthood part II

First Published      Last Updated Nov 19 2013 06:57 pm

Mormon feminists are continuing their push for inclusiveness in the LDS Church by focusing once again on pants and priesthood.

Organizers have set Dec. 15 as the Second Annual Wear Pants to Church Day, when Mormon women are asked to don dress pants — rather than the usual skirts and dresses — and male supporters put on purple.

The event is not meant as a criticism of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organizers emphasize on their website, but as "an act of solidarity" with those who might feel excluded because of their clothing.

"We are active and faithful Mormon feminists who want to show that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman. We believe that everyone is welcome at church," the site says. "We want to show that we believe that 'man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart' (1 Samuel 16:7.) "

Last year, the first Pants Day, staged Dec. 16, garnered national attention, including articles in The Salt Lake Tribune and The New York Times, and some participants experienced backlash from fellow Mormons.

The Utah-based faith has no specific dress code for Sunday worship and many Mormon women across the globe attend in pants with no apparent disapproval.

"Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ," an LDS spokesman said last year before the inaugural Pants Day. "Generally, church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don't counsel people beyond that."

Still, Mormon cultural conventions tend to be fairly firm on what makes for proper Sunday attire for women: Dresses and skirts are in; pants are out.

On the Pants Day website, several Utah women report being chastised by their local LDS leaders or by other women in their congregations.

"I thought my pants were doing just fine at church until I was asked to meet with the bishop. He told me that someone in my ward called the stake president to report my pants," writes Nancy Ross, a Utah mother and one of the organizers. "My bishop is a good man, we talked, and he was supportive. He didn't think that pants at church were a big deal, but the [LDS] stake president [regional leader] wanted him to speak with me."

Meanwhile, leaders of the Ordain Women movement have announced that they plan a sequel of their own by again trying to gain access to the all-male priesthood meeting at the April 2014 LDS General Conference.

In October, more than 100 women approached, one by one, seeking entrance to the Conference Center gathering in downtown Salt Lake City, but were all turned away. (In the end, LDS leaders wound up broadcasting the priesthood session live, for the first time, to all members.)

"OW will repeat the priesthood session [approach]," organizer Kate Kelly posted Nov. 9 on Facebook's Mormon Hub, urging more women to "join us."

"Are we a 'small and insignificant group?' " one of the founders of Ordain Women, wrote, "No!"

The group "believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings," it says on its website. " ... We intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood."

Ordination, however, may not be a desired goal for most Mormon women.

In a survey of U.S. religions, authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell, in their 2010 book, "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us," found that 90 percent of LDS women opposed female ordination in their church (ironically, only 52 percent of Mormon men were against it).

Peggy Fletcher Stack