Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Dresses, Pants, Equality and God

On social media sites such as facebook and twitter, there have been people encouraging women to wear pants when attending an LDS Church today as a way of raising awareness for the need of equality in the Mormon faith. Supporters of this pants campaign in the LDS Church argue that claim that the freedom to wear pants or a dress when attending services at an LDS Church is not the issue. To them, the issue is about  about equality, tradition, Church culture, narrow minded people, and leadership. It's intended to be a show of solidarity that states hey there is a large segment of the church that feel their voices aren't really being heard and concerns aren't even given a forum for discussion. They are making a silent reverent plea for a open honest discussion about the direction of our church and culture. 
I wish to make it aware to everyone that, Stephanie Lauritzen, who holds herself out as a leader of this protest, is not a member of the LDS Church. I find it odd that she is leading a protest in a religion for which she is no longer a member of and no longer believes in. Many people have legitimate reasons to wonder that this protest isn't about equality fo LDS women in the LDS Church but that she she has a much deeper agenda. 
However, let us have an open and frank discussion about the issues raised in this protest.
For me personally, I am not thrilled with the idea of using sacrament meeting, which is a sacred space and time, to make a protest. Sacrament meeting is the most sacred meeting we have outside the temple. Therefore, it is not a place for a protest or to stir contention. For the majority of the people attending Church, it is a place of reflection, learning, improving and working on their relationship with God. Church has never been a place to make a fashion statement. If one feels that the Church needs to improve in a certain area, there are better venues for that.
When it comes to the discussion of wearing a dress or a skirt to the LDS Sunday services,  As an LDS male, I don't care if you wear a dress or pants in church. When I was growing up, I had serious war of words with my parents about what I wanted to wear on Sunday. I believe then, as a teenager, and I still hold this belief today that what you wear is not important and that I doubt He really honestly cares what you wear. He knows your heart. I  really think that God looks at your heart and your life more than your wardrobe. God looks at you as an complete individual and doesn't focus on your fashion sense which I am grateful for since my sense of fashion isn't always that great inside or outside of Church.
Whatever relationship you have with God is strictly between you and God. Church is a place to evaluate yourself personally as an individual in this mortal existence and how you can improve personally, professionally and spiritually as well as evaluating where you stand with God and how to repair or mend that relationship with Him. Worship is between you and God.
The gospel does not tell male or females what to wear. It doesn't say what length or style it must be. However, there are cultural norms. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view, there are standards of clothing for all types of events. As a lawyer, there are dress standards for certain situations such as appearing in court or at a deposition or meeting with a client. Both genders are expected to follow these standards as set up by society. Regardless if its Church, a courtroom or a job interview there are standards for formal wear for both genders. Men have to wear suits, the social equal for women is usually a dress. Remember, this is a societal expectation, not a religious one. I wish to point out that unfortunately, religion often adopts society's expectations and makes it a religious one. Church standards and society's standards are not sometimes not the same and are not in harmony in terms of beliefs and practices but people tend to confuse them as being the same.  Sometimes, things go a step further and take cultural expectations, which may have nothing to do with the gospel, and hold it up as doctrine.
A great example of where culture and religion, which are clearly different, can compliment each other is to look at the how Hawaiian, Tongan and Somoan members of the LDS Church show up for Church. While women wear dressses, many men wear a lava lava and sunday shirt with a tie. In the midwest, for men, it might be perfectly appropriate to show up in Church in blue jeans, cowboy boots and hat and a bolo tie. 
It is my belief that people of all faiths need to do a better job of being able to identify and remember the differences in worldly practices and expectations and religious practices and expectations and not let them bleed or mix into one another. There used to be a time when both society and religion were on the same page in terms of culture but that doesn't mean there were good traditions and beliefs that were being supported by both institutions.  
There are certain people in every religion who focus too much on the superficial and the legalistic aspects of religion. Unrighteous judgment is found in every religion, not just in the LDS Church. You'll find it wherever you go. If someone, regardless if they are male or female is judging you for what you wear in Chuch, don't be offended but feel sorry for them. They are blind because of the mote in their eyes. Someone on facebook made this profound point: "A relationship though with God, not religion, says come as you are. You don't need to clean up to come get clean through Jesus Christ."
Thus, if people are judging you for superficial reasons, I find that they are trying to avoid in dealing with their own personal issues by focusing on you and you issues. Sometimes it is a case of projection where they are accusing you of doing whatever personal sins they are committing. Regardless, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has wisely said: 
"When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it! It’s that simple."
In the end, it is up to you to decide how you will show your love, respect and faith when visiting His Church. That is between you and Him. Church is about you deep relationship with God and how you dress needs to reflect that. I wish my parents understood that more and let me figure out how to best express my devotion to God rather than fighting to micromanage what I wear on Sundays. How you dress in your Sunday best is up to you but do keep clothing standards in mind. They are there for a reason. 
However, don't get caught up in the superficial. Don't judge others about what they wear. Let them come as they are. Just as in tithing where a woman gave her widow's mite, which is all that she had, a person wearing jeans and a shirt is all they have in showing devotion to God. If others want to show up for Church to look good, that's not for you to judge. Focus on the meaningful and the significant which is your relationship with God. 
Having discussed the superficial issue of wearing clothing in Church, lets talk about the real issues that people feel needs to be addressed in the Mormon Church. Many people feel that there is a problem of equality in the Church. I am open to having this discussion. But sacrament meeting isn't the time and place for it. 
There are a lot of things that I don't agree with in the Church or I would like to see improvements made but I don't wage that fight in inappropriate places. There is a time and place for that.
Moreover, if we are going to talk about equality, we must remember that equality runs both ways. I don't like it when people declare equality for me but not for thee. Whatever it is that you are agitating for, must be applied for all people.  
That being said, I personally feel that the problem is not with the leadership but with the members of our Church. The members of our Church can and need to do a better job of treating each other in a way that we deserve regardless of our gender, disabilities, sexual orientation or wealth. I believe we can improve our thoughts, attitude and our behavior towards one another who may be different from us. I believe that people in the Church need to better distinguish what is gospel culture and what is worldly culture and stop mixing them together. Gospel culture and worldly culture aren't necessarily synonymous with each other.
I feel that the LDS Church and its leaders are both pro men and women. They support equality. Generally speaking, there already is equality in the LDS Church. Anyone who doesn't believe it doesn't understand our Church very well. However, that doesn't mean that there is room for improvement and changes. But for those who currently agitating for equality in the Church needs to also better distinguish what is gospel culture and what is worldly culture and stop mixing them together. For whatever reasons known to God, certain practices and beliefs, such as the Priesthood and marriage, are established as they are and are not up for debate or discussion.
In the end, I'm not sure exactly what the wearing pants in Church campaign is exactly agitating for. But if its a push to improve our thoughts, attitude and our behavior towards one another who may be different from us, I'm all for it. If its a push to change essential and fundamental practices and doctrines in the Church, then I'm not on board with it. But most importantly, don't get caught up in the superficial. Focus on the meaningful and the significant which is your relationship with God. Nothing else in this world matters but your relationship with Him.

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