The following summary of a study on Mormons and beards recently appeared in The Atlantic’s “Quick Studies” page.
Although Brigham Young wore a beard, today’s Mormon leaders insist that a clean-shaven face shows piety and obedience. But some bearded Mormons are resisting: they say they feel shame and resentment when told to shave, because their beards express “deeply felt, even intimate, identities.” Appearance is a “highly charged” marker of loyalty in the church, and growing a beard is increasingly becoming “a serious breach that sets in play a uniquely Mormon social drama.”
—“Men’s Grooming in the Latter-Day Saints Church: A Qualitative Study of Norm Violation,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture
Whether it is through social pressures to shave or the visibility of garments underneath clothes, Mormons routinely wear their religion quite literally on or, in the case of garments, under their sleeves. How does the visibility of our faith on our bodies reflect how we live our religion? Do we experience pressures to conform to certain standards of dress as intrusions on privacy, as welcome opportunities to express a shared identity, or as something else? Does our awareness that our religion is often visible to even strangers (through the garment lines that bulge under clothes) change how we interact with others and how we publicly present ourselves? Can we use decisions to, for example, grow a beard as a means of silently attempting to communicate concerns to other Mormons? Do we judge other Mormons when we can tell by their clothes, for example, that they are not endowed? What are the consequences of making faith so visible? Discuss.