Today’s NY Times describes a debate among Mormons about women and what they wear at church:
A call for Mormon women to wear pants at church, begun this month by a small group of women, has stretched across the globe, but not before creating a backlash and even generating death threats.
“Wear Pants to Church,” an event on Sunday, was meant to draw attention to the role of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, using attire as a symbolic first salvo in a larger struggle over gender inequalities.
In other words, the debate is about more than dress codes. It’s a reflection of new ideas bumping up against long-held beliefs and established interests, all within a religious institution.
What rules will guide the Mormon faith in the future? Which rules will endure and which will be deemed unnecessary? We don’t know. We can, however, make a general prediction as to the process by which a new idea may be adopted. It’s similar to the way in which a new idea is adopted in other institutions in a society.
As Ed and I explain in chapter 5 of Madmen, a new idea will have effect only if it resonates well with widely shared beliefs, which in turn must overcome established interests. If certain widely shared beliefs within the Mormon faith are changing — about pants or politics or anything else — then we should expect at least some new ideas to resonate with those beliefs. And that would be the first step towards change.