Updated dress and grooming guidelines now provide sister missionaries the option to wear pants during regular missionary activities, including during normal training activities at missionary training centers.
The updates came in a letter from the First Presidency dated December 20, 2018, and were effective immediately. The adjustments are primarily motivated by safety concerns, according to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council.
“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,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
The letter from the First Presidency specifies that sister missionaries should continue to wear dresses or skirts when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, leadership and zone conferences, baptismal services, and missionary training center devotionals.
It also states that in areas where for cultural reasons it is not acceptable for women (including sister missionaries) to wear dress slacks, sister missionaries may choose to wear ankle-length skirts for additional protection from extreme weather and vector-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and malaria.
“There are a lot of vector-borne diseases because of mosquitoes and ticks and fleas,” explained Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President and a member of the Missionary Executive Council. The change to guidelines “helps the sisters to prevent any of those bites or at least minimizes them,” she said.
She also said that wearing slacks is “truly optional.” She said sisters “can wear dresses, they can wear slacks, whatever will help them in their service as they’re out amongst the people.” She also noted that the change will help sister missionaries who serve in cold climates to stay warm and will also make it easier for sister missionaries to ride bicycles.