Until today, it never occurred to me that Mormon ‘sisters’, taking Jesus to bug-plagued areas of the world, were at far greater risk of getting attacked by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas than their male counterparts because they were never allowed to wear jeans or pants except for activities such exercising.
But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just announced that it has lifted the ban because it’s apparently keen on “keeping up with the times.”
Apostle Dieter F Uchtdorf, head of the church’s Missionary Executive Council, said that missionary dress and grooming guidelines have changed throughout Latter-day Saint history to adapt to changing circumstances.
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 new dress rules minimise the risk that women will contract vector-borne diseases from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, according to Bonnie H Cordon, Young Women General President and a member of the Missionary Executive Council. She said in a press release:
Sister missionaries are amazing people. We want to make sure that they’re protected where they serve.
The new dress code will allow “sister” missionaries in all 407 of its missions around the world to discard their dresses and wear pants — at “their own discretion” — when they proselytise.
Kayla Bach, who returned last year from a mission in Santiago, Chile, was jubilant:
I say HALLELUJAH and ABOUT TIME. Pants are the WAY TO GO for female missionaries.
The changes also will make it easier for missionaries to ride bicycles and fend off the cold.
Jane Haugsoen said:
I was a missionary in Norway, and it could have been very useful to wear pants. Certainly much easier than five pairs of stockings to stay warm.
But the relaxation of the rule still has some way top go. While female missionaries can now wear dress slacks year-round at their own discretion they must still must don dresses and skirts when attending Latter-day Saint temples and Sunday services, along with mission leadership and zone conferences and baptismal services.
Neylan McBaine, founder of the Mormon Women Project, said the changes are significant because they reflect an increased sensitivity to the lived experiences of women within the church rather than:
Exclusively from the vantage point of the male experience. It puts the woman’s comfort and practicality ahead of this perceived traditional look, which I think is a very positive development. I also think it has larger implications for the church to show that we can be accommodating to various cultures’ sense of modesty and propriety.
Marie Cornwall, a former Brigham Young University sociologist and an expert on women’s studies, said the change now signifies the church is:
Keeping up with the times. It’s important to the brand. Given the conservative teachings about family and all of that, I think there’s an important message the church has to send about the freedom that women have to make their own choices in as many areas as possible of what they wear. Whether it’s pants or skirts is one of those that seems most obvious.