Source: Huffington Post
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is giving women who serve on missionary trips around the world the option of wearing pants instead of skirts in certain scenarios.
The Church announced Thursday that the update to dress standards for female volunteers, known as “sister missionaries,” was approved by the First Presidency, the three male leaders who form the religion’s highest governing body.
The Church said the new decision will help women to stay warm, ride bikes, and protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases.
Previously, the option of wearing pants was only offered to sister missionaries in regions of the world affected by mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, dengue fever and Chikungunya. That change, instituted in June 2016, affected about half of the church’s mission regions.
Now, women in all 407 of the church’s mission regions can wear pants while proselytizing.
Press release of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The adjustment to dress standards, which takes effect immediately, was approved by the First Presidency and is primarily motivated by safety concerns, said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council.
“Adjustment to the missionary dress and grooming standards have changed over time since the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in 1830 and will continue to do so in the future,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “As we adapt these standards, we always carefully consider the dignity of the missionary calling to represent Jesus Christ, the safety, security, and health of our beloved missionaries, and the cultural sensitivities of the places where they serve.”
The broader issue of Mormon women wearing pants to church-related activities has caused some controversy in the past.
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president and a member of the Missionary Executive Council, elaborated on the changes for sister missionaries.
“There are a lot of vector-borne diseases because of mosquitoes and ticks and fleas,” said Sister Cordon. “This helps the sisters to prevent any of those bites or at least minimizes them.”
Sister missionaries in roughly half of the Church’s missions have previously been wearing dress slacks during the wet seasons to help protect them from mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Zika. This latest change will allow all sister missionaries to do so year-round, based on their own discretion.
“This is truly optional,” said Sister Cordon. “The sisters can wear dresses, they can wear slacks, whatever will help them in their service as they’re out amongst the people.”
Sister missionaries will continue to wear skirts and dresses when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, mission leadership and zone conferences, and baptismal services.
In addition to safety concerns, Sister Cordon said the change will help sister missionaries who serve in cold climates to stay warm. Wearing dress slacks will also make it easier for sister missionaries to ride bicycles.
“Sister missionaries are amazing people,” said Sister Cordon. “We want to make sure that they’re protected.”
Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serve as volunteers at their own expense. Young men ages 18 to 25 serve for two years, while young women ages 19 to 39 serve for 18 months. Senior missionaries generally serve from six months up to two years.
Details of the revised missionary dress and grooming guidelines can be found online.