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Some "sister" LDS missionaries will now be allowed to wear pants during their full-time proselytizing service but only in areas affected by mosquito-borne viral diseases such as Zika, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya and only during the "wet seasons."
In those areas which include 230 missions, or roughly half the Utah-based faith's missions female missionaries are "strongly encouraged to wear clothing that covers exposed skin, especially arms and legs ... during [proselytizing] hours," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement Friday. "They will continue to wear skirts or dresses when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, conferences and baptismal services."
In places where "it is not acceptable for women (including sister missionaries) to wear dress slacks," the statement said, "they are encouraged to wear long skirts to protect themselves from mosquito bites."
The new missionary health-and-safety guidelines announced by the governing First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are being sent to all LDS mission presidents as well as newly called missionaries.
The affected areas, the statement said, include parts of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Mexico, the Pacific, Philippines and South America.
In addition to the dress-code changes, the LDS Church will now cover the cost of permethrin insecticide solution and DEET-containing insect repellent for all of its 74,000-plus missionaries.
"We are encouraging and training our missionary force to implement these preventative measures," said Gregory A. Schwitzer, assistant executive director in the faith's Missionary Department and chairman of the Missionary Medical Health Services Division, "and would also encourage the general membership to consider these measures for themselves and their families."
Mormon writer and editor Emily Jensen welcomed the news about pants for women missionaries, but wondered why it wasn't extended to all who ride bikes.
"It does not have to be a uniform rule, but riding bikes with skirts takes experience and certain types of bike equipment (like fenders) so that the skirts do not get caught in the spokes, chains or rims," Jensen said. "Also, windy days can make for both flashings and frustrations."
Besides allowing pants for some women proselytizers, the LDS Church recently added new dressing options for all missionaries namely, hats and sunglasses.
"You may wear simple and conservative sunglasses to provide protection from the sun," the church's updated website tells prospective missionaries. "However, unless your sunglasses serve a medical purpose, you should not wear them when speaking with others or while indoors."
The guidelines note "wide-brimmed hats may also be worn."
"Avoid bright-colored hats or hats that are too casual or that may distract from your message," the website says. "Baseball, cowboy, bucket, newsboy, and fedora hats are not acceptable."
These clothing choices go with the standard LDS missionary attire of white shirts, ties and dress slacks for men and professional-style jackets, skirts, dresses and now slacks, in some areas, for women.