Mormon pants-to-church movement has historic roots

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Mormon feminists who planned last Sunday's "Wear Pants to Church Day" can point to an unlikely ally: Brigham Young.

In the early 1850s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prophet came up with a "Deseret Costume" for women that included pantalets, or "bloomers," worn under a long tunic, with an eight-inch top hat. Young conceived this outfit as both practical -- it used less material and was more durable than fine dresses -- and distinctive for Mormon women.

It didn't catch on, however. The women thought the costume was hideous and, well, too masculine.

That's precisely the point for modern Mormon women who see the skirts-only convention at LDS chapels to be evidence of outdated and discouraging stereotypes. So they proposed the "Wear Pants to Church Day" and posted an announcement on Facebook.

The event was intended as the first act of All Enlist, a group dedicated to gender equality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We do not seek to eradicate the differences between women and men, but we do want the LDS Church to acknowledge the similarities," the group's mission statement says. "We believe that much of the cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS Church today stems from the church's reliance on rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality."

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