BYU students react to sister missionary clothing policy change

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A new guideline encouraging LDS sister missionaries to wear pants while proselytizing to prevent mosquito-borne diseases has received a wide range of reactions since being announced on Friday, May 20.

Business slacks varying in style and color are available at the Sister Missionary Mall. Potential sister missionaries serving in the tropics must pack their suitcases with both skirts and slacks. (Paesha Tuttle)

In Provo, people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds blew up that day with posts of shock and disbelief.

“Honestly, I never thought sister missionaries would ever wear pants,” said Michael Sirriwe, a sophomore at BYU.

Many BYU students reacted like Sirriwe: baffled that the long-established sister missionary image had been broken with the approval of dress pants.

“I am seriously amazed,” said sophomore Sophia Osmond upon hearing about the new dress standard. “I’m not even overreacting … I can’t believe this … this is really weird!”

However, others were not as surprised.

Jenni Theobald, owner of the Sister Missionary Mall, was one of those individuals. She was aware of the LDS Church’s growing concern regarding the rampant mosquito-borne viruses in tropical missions throughout the world.

“I didn’t know when it would happen, but I thought sisters would one day wear pants,” Theobald said.

When the policy change was announced, Theobald was able to contact several vendors to provide her store with appropriate, professional dress slacks. She feels confident in the amount of dresses, skirts and pants available at the Sister Missionary Mall.

A variety of dress pants is available at the Sister Missionary Mall in Orem. (Paesha Tuttle)

Many LDS women are celebrating the new clothing change and viewing it as a feminist statement. But according to the First Presidency announcement, the guidelines were implemented based on health and safety purposes.

Chantel Sloan, a BYU life sciences professor, shared her reaction about the clothing policy change.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but I was really happy to see it,” Sloan said.

As a professor of infectious diseases, Sloan has learned that many students in her class contracted dengue fever and chikungunya while serving missions. Thus, she was glad to hear about the church’s actions to protect missionaries from contracting those diseases.

“It’s almost now that any missionary that goes to the tropics gets one or often both of those diseases and have a really rough time,” Sloan said. “When you see one person get dengue virus, you know you don’t want it. I would do whatever it takes and wear the slacks.”

Sloan explained that although the risk of contracting Zika, dengue or chikungunya is most high during the rainy seasons, one could become infected any time of the year.

Examples of the appropriate sister missionary look when wearing dress pants. (LDS.org)

Although many people voiced their unique opinions about the new dress code, most stand in agreement that the health of the missionaries is most important.

“If the (LDS) Church thinks it’s the best way to protect the missionaries, maybe it’s a good thing,” said freshman Carmen Ma.

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