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LDS Church tweaks dress and grooming requirements for missionaries

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently updated several pages on its website with new photos and instructions for the dress and grooming of its full-time missionaries. According to the updated Web pages, vibrant colors for female missionaries are in, as are light-colored suits and khakis for young male missionaries. Backpacks, "faux hawks" and hoodies, however, are out, as are big belt buckles, skinny ties and fishnet stockings.

The updated pages feature photo galleries illustrating the dress and grooming instructions for both men and women missionaries. For the most part, the photos reflect missionary clothing policies that have been in place for some time, although LDS spokeswoman Ruth Todd noted that "clothing for elders now includes lighter colored suits and slacks."

Recently returned LDS missionaries in the Deseret News newsroom pointed out several other changes from the policies of the missions in which they served, including:

Brighter, more vivid colors for sisters

Blouses for sisters that are "more fun and feminine"

More colorful ties along with tie pins and tie bars for elders

Elders being allowed to wear sweaters instead of jacket over their white shirts

The elimination of backpacks to carry books, pamphlets and other items. "If you need to carry additional items," the website's FAQ says, "you are encouraged to choose shoulder bags that are durable, professional and business-like.

Web viewers also noted the absence of severe parts in the hair styles shown for young elders, although "faux hawks," crew cuts, mullets and spiky and messy styles are still prohibited. While some were interested in the indication that elders are not required to wear a suit coat during "regular everyday proselyting activities," several returned missionaries observed that mission presidents have been free to establish their own policies allowing for proselyting without suit coats for years, usually dependent upon climate and local customs.

For sister missionaries, the most meaningful changes in dress policy occurred about three years ago, when skirt lengths were raised from mid-calf to the knee and sisters were allowed to go without nylons. "That made a big difference to our sisters," said Wanda Lynne Funk, whose husband, Ronald, was president of the Washington Spokane Mission several years ago.

Another returned mission president's wife, Kathryn Rawson of Salem, Utah, said the new look illustrated on the church website suggests that "our young people can dress more in line with the current trends, but can still be modest."

And that was the whole point, according to Brooke Porter of Yorba Linda, Calif., who was working at the Missionary Training Center in Provo at the time the dress and grooming update was being made.

"Having recently served a mission, I knew how people reacted to the floor-length skirts and generic collared shirts," Porter said. "Sure, we looked professional, but not all that current and approachable. Being a part of the standards update ignited my excitement for missionary work. Now sisters could feel cute, comfortable and still modest. And that was the goal.

"Everyone working on the project had the same collective vision," she continued. "We wanted the sister missionaries to be more approachable, more up to date with fashion and as always, modest."

In addition to featuring dress and grooming instructions for the church's missionaries, the new dress and grooming Web pages include a brief video with LDS Chuch President Thomas S. Monson explaining that "servants of the Lord have always been counseled us to dress appropriately to show respect for our Heavenly Father and for ourselves." There is also a video featuring Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church's Quorum of the Twelve teaching LDS young women that "in the gospel of Jesus Christ, modesty in appearance is always in fashion. Our standards are not socially negotiable."