PART 1: The Pants (silly)
I wore pants to church a lot when I was investigating the Church. I wore them after I joined. They were nice, dressy, church appropriate pants. No one ever said a word about it to me. Ever. No looks or comments. Sometimes I wore a skirt. Sometimes I wore a dress. Again, no pressure on dress code (other than I knew to be respectfully modest). Everyone was just glad I was there! When I started to go to the Temple, I wore a dress or skirt. No one ever told me exactly what to wear to the Temple, either, other than to wear Sunday clothes. But my mentality was that if I was going to the House of the Lord, I had better look my best. For me, my best was a dress or skirt. It still is. Over time I haven't owned as many pairs of dress pants simply because I don't work in an office any more. I honestly love to wear skirts and dresses. I feel special. Wes gives me that "look" when I dress up. I also know that some women may feel that they are somehow being pressured to wear dresses. I have never felt that way, never seen any evidence of this, and was honestly pretty surprised by this. (I am not saying it couldn't/doesn't happen—the gospel is perfect, the people are not.) But there you have it. The pants.
PART 2: The Promise (serious)
When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it was not a choice I took lightly. It was a road fraught with heartache and hard choices. But more than that, it was a choice that resonated in my very soul—one filled with faith, and truth, and the undeniable witness that I had received through intense prayer and personal revelation. I didn't care what anyone else had to say about it (in the Church or out). I knew I was on a very personal road. One that included me, my God, and my Savior. That's it. I learned new things, and I reaffirmed familiar things. With some of the newer items on the list, I had to gain a "testimony" of them (that means I had to pray and ponder and get a personal witness about something and decide if it was true for me). I didn't accept anything blindly when I joined the Church. I studied a lot. I wrestled with God. I asked whatever I wanted, no holds barred (which was encouraged). I cried. I was headstrong. I listened. I prayed some more. I softened to things that I could feel were true. I opened up and let the Holy Spirit teach me. It was wonderful, and painful, and personal. And it changed me.
I'll share an example: Keeping the Sabbath day holy. I decided mid-semester of my final year of graduate school to stop doing what I thought was a simple thing—homework on Sunday. This freaked everyone out, and all my teachers said completing a thesis on a 6-day work week schedule couldn't be done. Well, it happened, and I received the only award that year for Outstanding Graduate Student. I feel I was blessed because of the choices I was making. I still keep the Sabbath day holy. I've lived it in order to know that it benefits my life. It is the same with anything the Lord requires of me. If I am asked to make a commitment, I pray, and study, and ask about that requirement and receive an answer. And then that's my answer! I'm sticking to it. I don't care what anyone else does or says about it. It's between me, my God, and my Savior.
This also goes for my role as a woman. I've had many people ask me if my church tells me that I have to live my life a certain way. Other than loving and serving the Lord, the answer is no. It's all my choice. There may be aspects of my religion that I've been asked to observe. But I choose to do that because I see it bless my life. I've had others ask if I feel like there is gender inequality in my church. Again, I have to say no. I have never once been made to feel unequal in any way. In fact, if I can see an imbalance at all, I would say that things lean in favor of the ladies. Women and womanhood are revered and honored. And in terms of men holding the priesthood, here is my response to that (taken from my mormon.org profile):
My favorite answer to this question is something my husband likes to say, which has a sweet and honest sentiment: "Men need the priesthood so that they can be more like women." The priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. This, for example, is used in ordinances such as baptism, or to give blessings of health and comfort. Women have innate qualities in our very nature which are essential to the balance of the Church. I have personal gifts as a woman that my husband doesn't have. I can serve in capacities that he cannot. In no way do I feel left out, or of less significance because I don't hold the priesthood. I have been given equally important blessings and abilities as a woman. Women have innumerable opportunities to serve and lead within the Church. Holding the priesthood does not equate to holding a position of power. Women are asked to serve within the church in many important capacities, including performing sacred Temple ordinances reserved only for women. The Relief Society is the global organization for women within the Church, and it is the largest women's organization in the world. Womanhood and motherhood are celebrated, respected, and honored. Women are considered equal in the Church, and there is no sexual discrimination. And while men administer the actions of the priesthood, both men and women receive the same blessings of the priesthood. Together, we are able to support and sustain each other.
As I sat in sacrament meeting today, I looked over at all the young men passing the sacrament (communion). And a clear, distinct thought came into my mind: These young men are learning how to serve us. They need this. Which brings me to the crux of this whole issue: The Sacrament. We go to sacrament meeting to renew our baptismal covenants. (A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and man, and there are promised blessings attached to these covenants. We take them pretty seriously.) When I take the sacrament, I promise to take on the name of Christ and always remember him, and to be a witness of God. In the Temple we also make sacred covenants. So in my mind it only makes sense that if I am going to be making a covenant every week, that I should show my respect for that ordinance. So I wear a skirt (yep, back to the pants thing). I dress my best because I want to show honor and respect to my Heavenly Father. I want to show that I take the sacrament seriously. I dress up because it takes thought and effort. It shows love. It shows that I care. And if pants are your Sunday best, wear the pants for goodness sakes. And if you don't have nice pants? Wear jeans. Just come.
I chose not to wear pants to church today. Not because I don't believe in women's equality. I do believe in that. I would fight for that. But I don't feel like that's something I personally need to fight for within my church. I have never felt out of place. I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I feel at home here. I feel loved, and respected. I feel equal in the eyes of God. And when I enter the chapel every Sunday, I am not there to make a statement to my fellow worshipers. I am there to make a statement to my Heavenly Father.