The Gospel of Pants



The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. It consists of an admonition to love God and love others, with ordinances designed to help individuals develop that love.

The simplicity of the gospel means that it can be adapted to any culture, to any time or place. Because of this marvelous flexibility, the church—the organization responsible for promoting the gospel of Christ’s love—looks different across time. It has different cultural trappings.

The disadvantage of this responsiveness is the possibility that a member or leader of the church will fail to distinguish between the gospel and its current cultural iteration. We can insist on a certain outward appearance, for example, forgetting that God looks only on the heart.

Insisting on a particular cultural trapping is dangerous because it subverts the very purpose of the gospel: to include all people in the embrace of Christ’s love. Instead of gathering the lost sheep, we alienate even the sheep who are already in the fold. During His lifetime, Jesus frequently pointed out this mistake: treasuring behavioral rules for their own sake while disregarding the purpose of the rules to point people to God’s love.

Wear Pants To Church Day—now in its second year—follows Christ’s example by pointing out the distinction He did. As in Jesus’ day, our church culture has grown too insistent on particulars of outward appearance, giving us an insularity at odds with the expansiveness of our mission.

God does not care whether people wear dresses or pants to church, whether we have facial hair or wear ties or dye our hair vermilion or pierce or tattoo our bodies. God does care whether we create loving, inclusive congregations where all people feel welcome regardless of their appearance.

Last year on Wear Pants To Church Day, I wore a purple ribbon and no tie. I felt so liberated without a tie cutting off circulation to my head that I have not worn one to church since. Over the past year, I have noticed something subtle and wonderful: my small act of tie-less cultural nonconformity created tension, but it also opened up a space for other people who do not match Mormon cultural patterns. Members who did not have nice clothes or who chose to dress more comfortably seemed to feel more included. Feminists in the ward talked to me, as did my LGBT sisters and brothers, liberals (*gasp*), and people with different theological leanings. In other words, Wear Pants To Church Day helped me become a better disciple of Christ.

I hope you will join me and many others in showing visible support for this year’s Wear Pants To Church Day. If you do not feel so moved, I hope you will find some other way to create space in our wards—in our societies, in our lives—to welcome all of our Heavenly Parents’ children to the great banquet of Their love.



6 comments on “The Gospel of Pants

  1. Melissa
    December 9, 2013

    I mostly love your way of seeing the Gospel :)! However I disagree on two points you made! 1-God does care if we tattoo and pierce our bodies if the intent behind doing such things is not true. 2- I disagree with wearing anything to church to make a statement that will detract from the reverence and respect we should show to the ordinance of the Sacrament.

    • EdwardJ
      December 9, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, Melissa!

      I am fascinated by your idea that the intent behind tattooing or piercing can be true (or, by extension, untrue). Do you mean, for example, that God approves of tattooing or piercing if we do it with the intent to glorify rather than deface our God-given bodies?

      Two points come to my mind with regard to wearing clothing to church to make a statement that would detract from reverence for the sacrament. First, I don’t know anyone who has worn or proposes wearing non-culturally-conforming clothes to church for that purpose. Am I wrong here?

      Second, in my opinion, reverence for the sacrament is a wonderful thing but is not nearly so important as actually doing what Jesus told us is vital: to love everyone, to look for the lost sheep and include them. If the lost sheep is a person who has come to sacrament meeting in loud clothing with the specific intent of disrupting the reverence of the occasion, so be it. In my mind, Jesus cares more about the soul of that person than reverential obeisance to Him during the sacrament.

      Mormons are, to my mind, far too concerned about cultural conformity. Jesus, on the other hand, was a cultural nonconformist.

  2. Melissa
    December 9, 2013

    Well I am happy to fascinate! Tattooing and piercing to glorify God sounds great to me! However, I am LDS and the prophet has asked me not to do these things so I will follow this cultural conformity. I do agree that Mormons are probably too concerned about cultural conformity, and I have no problem with women wearing pants to church unless it is part of an advertised movement to show protest during sacrament meeting.

  3. EdwardJ
    December 9, 2013

    One of the organizers of Wear Pants To Church Day writes, “This is not a protest. It is not political. It is not angry. It will not distract in any way from the worship of the day by any measure on our parts. It is an action of inclusivity and love.”

    Although some may perceive this as a protest, that is not at all the intent of the participants. As I try to point out above, this is entirely consistent with Jesus’ teachings.

    I know a number of people who do not normally come to church but who will come next Sunday because of this action. Some of them may even stick around. I imagine that is something Jesus will like.

  4. Melissa
    December 10, 2013

    I am glad to hear they know in advance that it will not be distracting from worship! I bet Jesus will like it even more if they stick around for the true doctrine and not the pants :)!

  5. Laurance Robinson
    September 22, 2014

    Maybe I am late to comment on this but I cane across this just browsing on the interwebz. I do agree that some branches/wards get too caught up on certain things (this was why I resigned). However some places aren’t so bad, my current branch is the latter.

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