When people think about Mormon missionaries, the image of two elders in dark suits, white shirts and ties come to mind. Due to recent changes, however, that image will shift.
According to Ruth Todd, a spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “In an updated dress and grooming standards webpage (https://www.lds.org/callings/missionary/dress-grooming), clothing for elders now includes lighter colored suits and slacks.”
And the changes don’t stop there.
“Missionaries are not required to wear a suit during regular everyday proselyting activities,” the webpage says.
Add a “no backpacks” policy and the ability to wear closed-toed sandals and khaki pants to the new missionary dress standards, and the list is about complete.
According to the webpage, the LDS Church urges missionaries to wear “professional, conservative clothing” that is reflective of their responsibilities.
Skylar Hair, a junior who served a mission in Phoenix, Ariz., mentioned how missionaries serving with him weren’t obligated to wear suit coats in the summer because temperatures sometimes reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as the temperature fell below 60 degrees, missionaries were required to don their suit coats.
“I think the changes are an awesome idea,” Hair said. “Sixty-degree weather is still relatively warm, and I remember how some people would look at us funny because we were riding bikes and wearing suit coats in warm weather.”
Between the recent changes in proselyting techniques to include social media and the new missionary dress standards, it seems to many that the Church is giving missionary work a much-needed facelift.
“Everyone in the Dominican Republic thought we were from the CIA because we looked out of place and too formal as missionaries,” said Ethan Jenkins, a returned missionary. “So it’s not so much about relaxing the standards as it is adapting to the world around us.”
Ogden Mills, a recent computer science graduate who served in the Russia Moscow West Mission, also welcomed the changed.
“It’s all about how people perceive missionaries,” Mills said. “Like when they changed the dress standards with sister missionaries so they don’t look like nuns anymore.”
BYU students and Church members alike are wondering if the change is necessary or if the relaxing of the missionary dress standards will continue.
Ryan Howell, a senior studying wildlife and wildlands conservation, said the Church was adapting to the world.
“It seems like the whole business style is becoming more casual and the Church is just mindful of the change,” Howell said.