By Brady McCombs
SALT LAKE CITY — For the second year in a row, a Mormon group is asking women to wear pants to church on an upcoming Sunday in mid-December—this time as a show of support for inclusiveness for all.
The first “Wear Pants to Church Day” was held in December 2012 to show solidarity for women’s equality. Organizer Nancy Ross said the goal of this year’s event is broader: to encourage The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to continue to grow more progressive and inclusive. They are also inviting men and women to wear purple.
The event, set for Dec. 15, is not meant as a protest of church policy, Ross said.
Women commonly wear dresses or skirts to worship services, but the LDS church does not prohibit women from wearing pants to church. Church members are only encouraged to wear their best clothing as a “sign of respect for the savior.”
Ross, an assistant professor of art history at Dixie State University in St. George, said her group thinks some people feel excluded at church, including feminists or gays and lesbians.
“We know that there are a number of people that feel marginalized at church and that they don’t belong,” she said. “We believe everyone is welcome at church.”
Ross said she’s been feeling a bit marginalized in her local congregation since she started wearing pants every Sunday last March. She said somebody reported her to a regional church leader, which led to a chat with her local bishop. He was kind and supportive, Ross said, but the experience left her feeling disappointed.
“I’m pushing back against the tiny little box I’m often asked to fit into as a Mormon woman,” said Ross, a mother of two. “I feel there are many ways to be a good Mormon woman.”
The push for equality by Mormon women’s groups has escalated in recent years, fueled by growing online and social media communities that allow LDS women from around the country and world to unite and discuss the causes they want to champion. They celebrated a milestone at a church general conference in April when a woman led a prayer for the first time in the conference’s 183-year history.
At the most recent general conference in October, a group pushing for women to be allowed in the church’s lay clergy stood in line outside an all-male priesthood meeting and asked to be let in. They were denied.
After the protest, the church issued a statement, saying, “Millions of women in this church do not share the views of this small group who organized today’s protest, and most church members would see such efforts as divisive.”
Women can hold many leadership positions in the LDS church, but they can’t be bishops of congregations or presidents of stakes, which include a dozen congregations. The Mormon church has said its doctrine holds that men and women are equal, but in regard to the lay clergy, “The Church follows the pattern set by the Savior when it comes to priesthood ordination,” meaning women aren’t ordained.
Ross said she and co-organizer Jerilyn Hassell Pool of Oregon didn’t want the momentum of the Mormon feminist women’s movement to die, so they decided to make sure there would be a second wear-pants-to-church day.
They are promoting the event on their website and on a Facebook page. Ross expects more women to participate this year after seeing there were no repercussions the last time for participants.
“I think people feel a little braver this time,” Ross said.