I've had a couple occasions recently to discuss whether or not it is inappropriate for women to wear pants to church. I've done just a tiny bit of research and have formed a strong opinion on the matter, so I thought I would share. My words should not be taken as gospel-truth, as I am not the Prophet. I am, however a woman who strives to follow Christ and love and support others as He would have me do.
(I am fascinated by and respect churches that place a large emphasis on women wearing dresses at all times- not just during worship services- as a way to highlight the importance of femininity, among other reasons. For the purposes of this post, though, I will be talking exclusively about dress standards in LDS Sacrament Meetings.)
So, is it ok for women to wear pants to church? Yes! In the Church's Handbook of Instruction, I couldn't find any mention of dresses or skirts. Following are three statements that got the closest to giving any kind of dress-code.
1. In the Relief Society section (9.10.2) it says, "The Relief Society presidency teaches sisters to be well groomed and
modest in their attire. Presidency members help sisters understand that
at Church meetings, their appearance and clothing should show reverence
and respect for the Lord. Relief Society leaders also help sisters
understand that when they go to the temple, they should wear clothing
that is suitable for entering the house of the Lord. On these occasions
they should avoid wearing casual clothes, sports attire, and
2. In the section about young men passing the Sacrament (20.4.1), it says, "Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress
modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not
call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties
and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the
ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory
prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be
required that all be alike in dress and
appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to
young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and
maturity in the Church."
3. In the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, youth are counseled, "Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately
casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, 'Would I feel
comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?'...Show respect for the Lord and for yourself by dressing appropriately for
Church meetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week.
If you are not sure what is appropriate, ask your parents or leaders for
I feel strongly that what we wear to church has more to do with what is in our hearts and less to do with what is on our bodies.
When Hubby was a missionary, he was teaching one particular man who was making great progress. But this man didn't own a white shirt, tie, and nice slacks. The elders told him to come to church anyway. When he arrived though, a misguided member of the ward stuck up his nose at this investigator and told him he should wear something "nicer" told him he should be ashamed of himself for dressing the way he was. Instead of putting his arm around this new potential friend who was so fledgling in his testimony, getting to know him, and showing him love like Christ would have him do, he basically pushed him out of the building and told him he wasn't good enough to be a disciple of Christ. Soon after this event, this man moved (for an unrelated reason) to another town and broke contact with the missionaries. As far as Hubby knows, that man didn't go back to church after that.
This was a tragedy! And sadly, it is not a unique situation. I've heard more than a couple other very similar stories from various friends.
Heavenly Father loves all of us infinitely! He wants all His children to come unto him.
I firmly believe that women wearing dresses or skirts to church has more to do with how our American culture has defined "Sunday Best" than anything else. And other cultures have their own standards.
So if I had a nice pair of slacks that were modest, showed "reverence and respect for the Lord," and were "neat and clean and [avoided] being sloppy or inappropriately
casual," then I should feel comfortable wearing them while worshiping my God.
Also, what if I didn't own any skirts or even slack pants? Then I would wear the cleanest, nicest trousers I owned, be they jeans or sweats! The fact that I made an effort to go to Church should be more important than what I wore there.
All that being said, I personally prefer to wear dresses to church. (Though, especially as a mother with little ones climbing on my lap and a calling in Nursery, pants would be a lot more practical!) That's because it's just what I'm used to.
Dresses and skirts are the norm here so it would feel weird to me to wear something else (not bad, just weird.) Also, I often wear slack pants during the week (though, they usually end up with food and kid booger mess all over them and one pair needs to be hemmed-but I never remember until after I've put them on and left the house) so I like the feeling of Sundays being "different."
So while wearing pants to church isn't for me, if a friend sat down next to me in Sacrament Meeting wearing some, she can be sure I won't be calling her a "heathen!"