The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had announced that female missionaries will now be allowed to wear pants, specifically dress slacks, when doing mission work.
Church leadership had previously allowed women to wear dress slacks when doing mission work during the wet seasons in nations where mosquito-borne diseases are common.
The new change in dress code for women allows for the wearing of dress slacks all year round at their discretion, according to an announcement released Thursday.
"This is truly optional,” explained Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president and a member of the Missionary Executive Council, according to the announcement.
“The sisters can wear dresses, they can wear slacks, whatever will help them in their service as they’re out amongst the people.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, said in a statement released Thursday that the decision to change the standards came with serious discernment.
“Adjustment to the missionary dress and grooming standards have changed over time ... and will continue to do so in the future,” stated Uchtdorf.
“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.”
On the LDS Church’s “General Guidelines” webpage, there are additional standards for the wearing of dress slacks and skirts.
“Dress slacks and ankle-length skirts should have a modest and professional appearance. Do not wear dress slacks that are too tight, that are cropped above the ankle, or that touch the floor,” noted the guidelines, accessed Friday morning.
“They should fit well (not too tight or too loose) and be in solid, conservative colors. Dress slacks and skirts should not be transparent, revealing, casual, wrinkled, sloppy, or faddish. Do not wear floor-length skirts, pantsuits, or baggy or skinny-style slacks.”
The extent to which Mormon women can wear pants instead of dresses has been a source of debate and activism within the LDS Church in the past.
For example, in 2013 feminists within the church held a “Wear Pants to Church Day” in which hundreds of women opted to wear dress pants to Sunday worship instead of the usual dress.
Meant to encourage gender equality, Nancy Ross, one of the organizers of the event, told The Christian Post in an interview in 2013 that she believed the “event was very successful."
"Several hundred people posted photos of themselves and their families wearing pants or purple on the event page," Ross said. "Almost 600 people RSVP'd to the event and there are nearly 2,500 likes on the main page. ... People associate Mormonism with Utah, but our participants were located throughout the U.S. and we had a number of people participate in other countries too."
Ross also explained that while there is "no official dress code" for Mormon churches, there can be pressure from "local leaders" to have stricter rules.
"I started wearing pants to church every Sunday. Someone made a complaint to my local leaders and I had to explain my pants to them, but I am not breaking any rules," Ross told CP at the time.