…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Wearing Pants to Church

By Rex Goode


Picture it! Fast and testimony meeting May 2010 in my ward. I direct the music each week, so I’m sitting on the stand. I tell myself I’m not bearing my testimony again. I do it each month it seems. I’m just sitting back. My knee hurts from a fall I took earlier in the week, so I’m content to not be standing at the moment. Then it happens. Sister S stood and very carefully hobbled up to the stand using a  cane.  She seemed to be having a harder time walking than usual. Unfortunately for her, another woman from the congregation made it to the podium first and Sister S was left standing on the stairs because there was something to lean on while the other woman had her say.

Finally Sister S got to the podium. She spoke of how much she loves her job working with developmentally disabled adults and how special they are in God’s eyes, and in hers.  She also spoke of having fallen that week and hurting her legs. She said she was glad that no one had been looking down their noses at her for wearing pants to church. She said that because of her injuries, her legs get very cold and she needed to keep them warm while they healed.

After she sat down, someone else was waiting. Sister S’s comments about wearing pants to church took me back to when I was twelve years old, a newly ordained deacon in 1968, passing the sacrament in nice jeans, white shirt, clip-on tie, and Keds tennis shoes. My hair was long and straggly. I badly needed a haircut. I was fashionable for school, but utterly out of place at church. I remember feeling utterly embarassed.

I figured that Sister S, even though she called attention to it, felt somewhat uncomfortable, else why did she mention it? Without thinking about it too much, I stood up after the next person. I looked down at Sister S and said, “We have a lot in common today. I also fell this week and hurt my leg. I also work with developmentally disabled adults. And…I’m also wearing pants to church today.”

Once in awhile I say something from the pulpit to get a chuckle, but this is the first time I had them laughing in the aisles. I felt a little bad about bringing that much levity to a fairly serious matter–bearing testimony of the Savior. From her seat, Sister S uttered a very sincere thank-you to me. It felt like I had cut through some kind of thread of tension in the meeting over her calling attention to her pants.

Before the laughter died down, I bore testimony of the thing that had really been on my mind to say if I found myself at the pulpit. I had been touched by a line from the sacrament hymn, As Now We Take the Sacrament (#169). It says, “As now our minds review the past, we know we must repent.”

It reminded me also of my long ago youth, passing the sacrament not only embarrassed by my appearance, but knowing secretly how unworthy I felt. I was involved in sexual encounters with friends my age, carried over after six years of being molested by an older male who taught me to do things no 12-year-old should know. A small core of boys from my school class were willingly involved with each other.

At that time in my life my parents both worked full time. My abuser had left. We had moved to another side of town. All of my friends were back near where we lived. My mother would drop me off early morning for priesthood meeting and expect me to stay through Sunday School and then get a ride home and a ride back for sacrament meeting. She had to work.

Out of embarrassment over my long hair, jeans, and Keds, I began to walk in the front door where she dropped me off, and before anyone could see me, I was out the back door and down the hill to my Jewish friend’s house. From there, we would go into the woods, play games, and “play” other things.

Eventually, my mom found out I wasn’t going to church and gave up dropping me off. I still spent Sundays with my friends. For the next four years, I stayed away from church on Sundays. I did go to some of the youth activities. I eventually went to Seminary. The only Sunday I went after that was to a priesthood meeting. I was 14 at the time but still a deacon. The bishopric had me meet with the Deacons rather than the Teachers quorum. I was a whole head taller than all of them. Again, I was embarrassed.

Eventually, I started going to church again, after a prayer experience where I promised the Lord I would stop my sexual encounters and become active in the Church again. By then, it was the seventies and fashionable youth wore bell-bottom pants, platform shoes, and extremely wide, gaudy ties to church. One father of boys in the ward owned and operated a clothing store, and his two sons dressed so well I felt completely inadequate around them.  One of them I even overheard making fun of my clothing. This time, though, I wasn’t going to let embarrassment over my appearance keep me from going to church, so I persevered.

I would bet that Sister S and I could not accurately read the minds of people who saw us dressed in less than Sunday best. For me, jeans and Keds were the best I had. I know I looked and felt out of place next to boys in slacks, black shoes, and decent haircuts. Yet, other than the comments by the boy whose father owned a clothing store, for all I know people didn’t really even care. They were maybe glad I was there anyway.

What eventually became more important for me than how I looked was what was illustrated in the line from the hymn. I knew I needed that weekly partaking of the sacrament to keep me on the right track. I knew that partaking of it wasn’t a matter of having been perfect as much as my determination to keep moving closer to God in my life.

Through partaking of the sacrament, I invite the Holy Ghost to be my guide through the week so that I will be better this week than I was the week before. I related in my testimony that one of the things I contemplate while waiting for the sacrament was the condition of my heart towards others. I think it is a good indication of my worthiness how I feel about other people.

If, through the sacrament, I am asking God to forgive my sins since I last partook, how can I sincerely ask it if I harbor resentments towards those who have harmed me or judgment towards those dressed differently than me? I check myself each week regarding how I am feeling about others. I told the congregation that I believe the Lord expects me, in taking the sacrament, to let go of judgment and bitterness.  If I have forgiveness in my heart, I am ready to be forgiven.

While it is a good and wonderful thing to make the sacrifice to wear one’s best to church, the condition of our hearts is far more important than the garments we wear. I hope that when I partake, the condition of my heart is that it is full of love, gratitude, and tolerance for others.

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13 Responses to “Wearing Pants to Church”

  1. Tim B said:

    I like this. I love the moment from the title. I am a fan of wearing pants and other appropriate clothing to Church. I have passed the sacrament in tennis shoes myself. I’m reminded of the Jewish folk-tale The Hungry Clothes, and think we sometimes pay more attention to simple external things like clothing because that’s easier than paying attention to things more important.

    I like the idea that we all need to repent. I am being struck a little too much by messages about “remembering who we are” and “remembering the Savior’ and “think about whether you would want the Savior to see you do whatever,” with the idea that this will keep you from sin. Now, maybe this works with amateur sinners, and maybe that’s where the folks saying these things are at, but I’m a professional sinner, and can go right ahead and sin knowing full well the Savior is watching. When I’m in that place, I really don’t care about anything other than getting what I want. But we don’t need to repent because we are terrible people — we need to repent so we can be better people. I can’t get by in the Church of the Unnecessary Christ of Practically Perfect People. I need to be in the Church of Jesus Christ, with all the love, power, forgiveness, understanding, grace and completeness that he brings to the party, because I’ve got bupkis. I can’t make it on my own.

  2. Phil Bell said:

    Even though I’ve heard you tell your story before it’s still as relevant and touching as it was before. Thanks for sharing..


  3. Rex Goode said:

    Tim, I’m no longer a professional sinner, because I’m not making any money off of it anymore. I’m an amateur now, which means I do it for the amat (love) of it. I’m like the guy who retires and goes back to do his job for free. 🙂

    When it comes to sin, I’ve never been dissuaded by consequences either. In those terrible moments, nothing else is on my mind. I’ve always been fully aware that I’m not magically hiding from the Lord at the moment. I’m always amused at Cain for thinking he could pretend he didn’t know what happened to Abel, as if God hadn’t figured out even before it happened.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Thank you, Phil. I hope you are doing well. Love ya.

  5. Tim B said:

    Well, I’ve never been paid for my sinning, so I guess I’m still technically an amateur. I could talk about being a world-class sinner, as opposed to being in the bush leagues, I guess. But the metaphor will always fail.

    That was the problem I had with the AA meeting I was attending last Summer — most of what I heard was “If you keep drinking, you’ll lose everything and die,” and “My life was just terrible, and I was really horrible, until I found AA, and then things got better until I was sober, and now things are good.” Hardly a reference to a higher power anywhere. I was never going to die from my addiction, so all of the Doomsday stuff went nowhere with me, and I wanted to talk about the solution.

    I’m still a fan of whatever works, but that did not work for me, any more than the Church of Perfect People does.

  6. Art said:

    Hi Rex!

    I really enjoy your talents – not only can you tell a story well, I’m a better person for having read it. And I love your sense of humor and your sensitivity to how people are feeling. Thank you.

    A minor concern: Every LDS church building I’ve ever been in, except for tiny branch buildings, has always had seating available for people who were waiting for their turn to bear their testimony (empty choir seats or where the priests were sitting when they blessed the Sacrament). It sounds like your building is different if people have to stand while they’re waiting. Is it so?

    I remember feeling so unworthy to take the Sacrament, not only when I had been, to borrow your term, “playing” but almost all the time. John Bradshaw’s term, “toxic shame”
    (“I AM a mistake” instead of “I MADE a mistake”) described my attitude towards myself real well.

    We’ve come a long way from where we used to be, my friend, haven’t we? Thank you, Heavenly Father.


  7. Bravone said:

    Amen to your last paragraph Rex. 6

  8. Arthur said:

    Please don’t use my full name but only my first name. I didn’t know that my name would be posted or i would have written in only my first name.

  9. Rex Goode said:

    Art, I see you aren’t a registered user at springsofwater.com, so you must have put your full name in when you made the comment. I’ve edited it and put it just as “Art”. Best thing is to register here as a user and then you can control how your comments appear.


  10. Rex Goode said:


    People waiting can sit on the stand anywhere, but Sister S didn’t plan on having to wait. It would have been more difficult to sit on the stand and then to have to get up again, so she just waited on the stairs where she could lean.

  11. Colleen Naqshbandi said:

    Dearest Rex,

    I would like publicly to tell you how proud I am of you. You have been through horrendous experiences and yet you have a very strong testimony. I too have a very strong testimony of a God and His Son who loves the sinners, forgives them and sanctifies them with the blood of The Lamb. Sometimes I feel I am a better person because of my experiences in my teenage years and that may not be so but I have great empathy for those who go through life feeling shame and unacceptance. Thank you for being who you are. You know I love you very much.

    Aunt Iona

  12. Rex Goode said:

    Dear Iona,

    Thanks so much. If there’s one thing about our family, it’s that we sure know how to go through things. I love you too.

  13. Christopher Mills said:

    youth activities are always centered on enjoying the day and socializing with other teens-*;

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