SALT LAKE CITY – Mormon missionaries serving in parts of the world where the sun blazes down upon the Earth — including Southern Utah — are getting some relief. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently gave missionaries in sun-touched regions the chance to wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to combat the sun … within reason, that is.
The changes are part of recently updated dress and grooming standards for the church’s missionaries who serve in many warm-weather areas worldwide.
While the change offers some relief from the sun, young men and women serving as missionaries remain advised to dress in a “simple and conservative manner.”
Missionaries hoping to wear the bright-colored, outlandish sunglasses inspired by those worn by Elton John in the past will have to wait until they are home and their missions are over in order to sport such head-bound decor.
Mirrored lenses for sunglasses won’t be allowed either. And, sunglasses are to be removed when the missionary is speaking to someone or when indoors.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, missionaries in sun-soaked climates commonly wore sunglasses during the 1980s. These missionaries were sometimes mistaken as federal agents due to their overall attire.
The “simple and conservative” look lends to hats as well.
The expanded rules allow for hats with at least 3-inch brims. The website shows pictures of hats that resemble what people wear in the garden, in Panama or Indiana Jones-style hats.
Whips completing a potential Indiana Jones-look for missionaries were not addressed in the revised dress and grooming standards.
Missionaries are prohibited from wearing baseball, cowboy, bucket and newsboy hats. Fedoras are also prohibited.
Both men and women are supposed to avoid bright-colored hats, but the options shown on the website reveal that women can have some color on their hats, while men are limited to beige, gray or straw.
Sister missionaries – the term the LDS church uses for women missionaries – have a little more leeway in the colors of hats they wear.
About the only bits of clothing the elders – men serving as missionaries – can accessorize somewhat are ties. Competitions over who can acquire the brightest and most gaudy ties among the elders has not been uncommon; though getting away with wearing them is another matter.
There are about 74,000 missionaries currently serving worldwide, including many in warm-weather areas such as South America and Africa.
The current number of church missions overall stands at 418.
The LDS church also announced Friday that women serving in parts of the world where mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue are prevalent can wear dress pants. Women, who account for about 29 percent of young missionaries, are still required to wear skirts and dresses during church services and at temples.
All missionaries are being encouraged to wear clothing that covers their arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites.
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and has been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with undersized brains and skulls.
The church periodically updates its rules of dress for missionaries. Last year, the religion began allowing missionaries serving in hot climates to ditch the suit jackets and just wear a white shirt and tie
While the updates to the missionary clothing and grooming guidelines always snag news headlines – especially in Utah where the LDS church is based – this new policy represents the biggest changes to the church’s missionary program in recent years.
A major change came in 2013 regarding the way missionaries proselytized. With door-to-door proselytizing being seen as as an out-of-date method, the church began to direct its missionaries to use social media and devices such as iPads in their work.
In October 2012, the church announced it was dropping the age for missionary service from 19 to 18 for young men and from 21 to 19 for young women. At the time, the church had 58,000 full-time missionaries. The number has since swelled to over 74,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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