I asked our home teachers how “Wear Pants to Church Day” went in our ward. As I expected, the day was ignored in our traditional neighborhood. I didn’t participate because, although I support sisters who want to make a statement about gender inequality in the Mormon fold, I just can’t force myself to sit through tedious meetings in order to do so.
From what I’m reading on the Bloggernacle, few Mormon women accepted the challenge to wear pants to church yesterday. I find this a bit strange since I hear plenty of older women who hate pantyhose and drafty skirts wishing “The Church” would say it’s all right to wear pants to Sunday meetings. Since there are no official rules about wearing skirts or dresses to church, I doubt we will ever receive official permission for changing the custom. Sisters waiting for a message from 50 N. Temple will endure pantyhose and cold legs at church for the foreseeable future.
Mormons live by rules. Mormon doctrine, “we are saved after all we can do,” makes works and obedience rather than faith the key to salvation. For many Mormons, a checklist of do’s and don’ts is seen as the best chance for inheriting the Celestial Kingdom. They feel confidant of God’s approval when they check off items like: Attend meetings, pay tithing, accept callings, abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco, avoid R-rated movies.
The problem I have with the checklist approach to religion is that items that can be checked off are mostly superficial. What I consider signs of true spirituality—reverence for what is greater than ourselves, kindness, generosity, peace of mind—are difficult to measure and impossible to place upon a checklist. The issue isn’t about what we wear to church. The issue is about how we treat those who make choices different from our own.
Last week, Lolly and Doc made the 1 ½ hour trip to Bountiful and dropped the kids off with us while they did their monthly temple session. They didn’t stay overnight because they wanted to beat the snowstorm home. We worried about them leaving late at night to drive through the mountains in bad weather, but knew nothing we could say would deflect them from their goal.
It made me think of an experience years ago when we lived 2 ½ hours from the Provo Temple. A few women in our ward planned temple days every few months—arranging for child care, driving to Provo, doing two sessions, eating lunch, and doing a third session before returning home. One November day, we noticed it had started snowing after lunch. We heard a man say he’d just driven down from Salt Lake and a major snowstorm was coming from the north. Dorothy, the driver for our group, asked what we wanted to do. She wanted to stay for another session because she had committed to doing 11 temple sessions that year and knew she wouldn’t make it back to the temple in December.
We stayed for the third session and exited the temple in a raging blizzard. We made it safely to within two miles from our town where we had to make a left turn onto the home stretch. The car refused to turn, skidded from the road, coasted down a steep hill, and stopped before entering the Sevier River. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Had God been asked if it were more important for us to fulfill a certain number of temple sessions or to return home to our families before the snow worsened, what would he have answered?
Focusing on attaining measurable goals of church participation demonstrates that we can succeed at attaining measurable goals. I’m not sure that it proves anything about our spirituality. If I were God, I would be concerned about the suffering in the world. I would judge my children—not by how many temple sessions or church meetings they attend, not by how much tithing they pay, and not by callings they hold and magnify. I would ask whether they are alleviating suffering or adding to it.