SALT LAKE CITY – Mormon leaders are giving their young missionaries some help for those long walks beneath the blazing sun by granting them permission to wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.
Leaders with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated their dress and grooming guidelines this week to give proselytizing men and women who serve around the world more options to protect themselves from the sun.
But missionaries are being warned not to get too crazy with the new rules, ensuring the youngsters won't be sporting fedoras and hot pink sunglasses as they try to convert people to a religion that counts 15 million members worldwide.
They are instructed to use "simple and conservative" sunglasses, and forbidden from bright-colored shades or mirrored lenses. A church website shows pictures of appropriate options.
They are also supposed to take the sunglasses off when speaking with people or when they are inside, unless they serve a medical purpose.
Missionaries in sunny spots around the world used sunglasses in the 1980s, sometimes leading people to confuse them for CIA operatives or FBI agents, but they never had official permission, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
There are about 74,000 missionaries currently serving worldwide, including many in warm-weather areas such as South America and Africa.
The Utah-based faith also announced Friday that women serving in parts of the world where mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue are prevalent can wear dress pants. Women, who account for about 29 percent of young missionaries, are still we required to wear skirts and dresses during church services and at temples.
All missionaries are being encouraged to wear clothing that covers their arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites.
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and has been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with undersized brains and skulls.
The expanded rules announced earlier in the week allow for hats allow with at least three-inch brims. The website shows pictures of hats that resemble what people wear in the garden or Panama or Indiana Jones-style hats.
Missionaries are prohibited from wearing baseball, cowboy, bucket and newsboy hats. Fedoras are also banned.
Both men and women are supposed to avoid bright-colored hats but the options shown on the website reveal that women can have some color on their hats while men are limited to beige, gray or straw.
The Utah-based faith periodically updates its rules of dress for missionaries. Last year, the religion began allowing missionaries serving in hot climates to ditch the suit jackets and just wear a white shirt and tie.