Sisters in pants

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces revised dress guidelines for sister missionaries in areas of the world affected by mosquito-borne diseases.

Sunglasses. Wide-brimmed hats. Pants.

Pants, people.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently made a few changes to the dress standards for its missionaries. The biggest change is that some female missionaries can now wear pants.

Now, before you all break into your happy dance (Mormons can dance, right?) you should know the allowances for sister missionaries come with some caveats. It’s only for missionaries in parts of the world where mosquito-borne diseases like Zika virus and dengue are common. And even then, only during the rainy season, when mosquitoes are prevalent. And, of course, never to Sunday services, conferences, baptisms or attending the temple. So not all that often.

Still, sister missionaries in pants is some pretty awesome sauce.

Why, until as recent as the 1970s, female students at the church-owned Brigham Young University were only allowed to wear slacks and pant-suits on Saturdays — and jeans were still off-limits until 1981.

In recent years, Mormon feminine activists — sorry, make that “Mormon feminist activists” — have been promoting women wearing pants to church. Indeed, last Dec. 13 was the fourth annual Wear Pants to Church Day. Which is, sadly, every Sunday for some of us.

I realize many of my fellow Mormons wouldn’t put it past these sneaky Mormon feminist groups to be behind the whole mosquito-borne illness epidemic in the first place. (“Say, if we release this Zika thing they’ll HAVE to let sister missionaries ditch the skirts. And if sister missionaries are wearing pants, they’ll HAVE to give women the priesthood …”)

But let me state for the record I fully support women wearing pants to church, funerals, weddings, formal events, etc. The idea that in order to be considered “dressed up” a woman has to wear an article of clothing that doesn’t cover her undercarriage from every conceivable angle seems an awfully vulnerable way to dress.

For those of you guys who don’t believe me, try walking around all day with your fly undone — shirttail out and covering it, of course — and see how self-conscious you feel.

As long as the pants women wear to church are comparable in dressiness to those worn by men, what’s the problem?

This Mormon version of “The Sisterhood of the Proselytizing Pants” was only part of the big news coming out of the LDS church’s Missionary Department in the past week. Also making headlines: To protect themselves from the damaging effects of the sun, the 74,000 Mormon missionaries around the world are now allowed to wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.

There are a few exceptions to these changes as well. Elders and sisters are being warned not to go all Elton John/Lady Gaga with it. The rule states simple and conservative sunglasses, with no brightly colored frames or mirrored lenses. And they’re instructed to take off the shades when speaking to people or when they are inside. And, we assume, unlike ’80s pop singer Corey Hart, they’re not to wear them at night.

As for church-approved hats for missionaries, brims can be up to three inches wide, but no cowboy hats, bucket hats, baseball caps or fedoras. In other words, nothing cool.

With all the recent changes, those unsure about acceptable missionary attire can always go to the “Missionary Dress and Grooming” section at lds.org. It contains appearance guidelines for elders and sisters, as well as helpful tips on how to tie a tie, iron a shirt, and apply makeup.

But the best part of the website? The comprehensive catalog of dozens of photographs of models wearing various examples of approved missionary attire. For example, in the “Suits” category, the website offers 21 photos of young men in suits of slightly different shades and styles. In the “Slacks” category, there are photos of 15 pairs of pants.

Also for male missionaries, they have photographs of: 20 outerwear coats, 19 pairs of dress shoes, 16 neckties, nine belts, nine pairs of casual/athletic shoes, nine shoulder bags, eight pairs of gloves, six cold-weather hats, six scarves, six exercise outfits, six casual outfits, five pairs of boots and sandals, four pairs of sunglasses, four wide-brimmed hats, four wristwatches, three sweaters, two tie pins, two tie bars, and a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s a fairly exhaustive photographic display, but seeing how this information is aimed at the brain pans of 18- and 19-year-olds, one can hardly fault the church’s thoroughness.

Or can one? Because there’s another category of photo illustrations in the “Missionary Dress and Grooming” section at lds.org that makes absolutely no sense: “Shirts.”

Seriously? They really needed a photo of a white dress shirt to show Mormon elders what the church means by “white dress shirt”? Well, actually, they didn’t need a photo of a white dress shirt. Apparently, they needed SIXTEEN PHOTOS OF WHITE DRESS SHIRTS!

That’s right, there are no less than 16 photographic examples of white dress shirts on the LDS website. And near as I can tell, the only difference is that 10 of them are long-sleeved and six of them are short-sleeved.

It’s probably just as well that sister missionaries are starting to wear the pants in this church.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.

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