SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will now allow female missionaries to wear dress slacks, a move from the previously prescribed dress code that only allowed skirts and dresses.
The adjustment to dress standards, which takes effect immediately in all of the church’s missions, is primarily motivated by safety concerns, Dieter Uchtdorf, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in a press release issued by the church.
“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,” Uchtdorf said. “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.”
Bonnie Cordon, general president of the church’s Young Women program, elaborated on the changes for what the church refers to as “sister missionaries.”
“There are a lot of vector-borne diseases because of mosquitoes and ticks and fleas,” Cordon said in the press release. “This helps the sisters to prevent any of those bites or at least minimizes them.”
Women in roughly half of the church’s missions were allowed to wear pants previously, but only during the wet seasons when the likelihood of contracting mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue fever and Zika increases. This latest change will allow all sister missionaries to do so year-round, based on their own discretion.
“This is truly optional,” Cordon said. “The sisters can wear dresses, they can wear slacks, whatever will help them in their service as they’re out amongst the people.”
Female missionaries will still be required to wear skirts and dresses when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, mission leadership conferences and baptismal services.
In addition to safety concerns, Cordon said the change will make it easier to ride bicycles and help women who serve in cold climates stay warm.
The church’s missionary program is made up of volunteers who serve at their own expense. Young men ages 18-25 serve for two years, while young women ages 19-39 serve for 18 months. Couples in retirement also occasionally serve, with terms running between six months and two years.
Full details of the revised dress and grooming guidelines can be found on the church’s missionary website.