Why Mormons love Movember?

Picture of me with a handle-bar moustache, circa 2008
Full disclosure: This moustache was not grown for Movember but simply because it made me look bad-ass!

During our Stake conference just under a year ago the Stake Presidency was changed. It was not a shock.One of the newly called members of that presidency however had to make a difficult decision. Just like other places around the world, during the month of November (Movember), men from all over the country begin to grow a moustache in order to raise money for testicular cancer.  Prior to his call, and while serving as YM president, this good man had been growing a mustache for charity. The next day, the Sunday, he arrived at his meeting sans ‘tache. I admit to feeling a little disappointed.  Not so much with him but with the culture which (either implicitly or explicitly) suggested that having facial hair – especially in the service of such a worthy charity – was incommensurate with serving as an ecclesiastical leader.

Mormons love Movember. It is ethically sanctioned disobedience; and Mormon men get behind it. It is wonderful to see this creeping facial hair spread across our wards and stakes during this wintery month and I love the fact that our ‘disobedience’ serves those outside our community.  Although unbeknownst to anyone but Mormons, these furry upper lips seem to say “I care more about others than I do about the norms of my community”.  However, I wonder whether some of us would still be involved if we were not Mormons, or if we removed the taboo around facial hair.  Part of the motivation for growing the moustache might, in part, be because it is a little bit rebellious.

In fact, my guess is that as this practice continues to grow – anecdotally at least, I see more and more men joining the ranks ever year – the taboo around facial hair will diminish slightly. The strange thing about the timing of this awareness-raising exercise is that it coincides with many of the stake conferences that will be held in the UK (I am not sure about the US). As such, the experience of the newly called counselor in my Stake will probably not be an exception. My modest hope is that if (and when) others are called to a responsibility that has traditionally been occupied by clean-shaven men that they will not even think about whether they need to shave off their moustache before being sustained.

Until that time, ‘Long live the ‘Tache!

** Edit: Included link for a UK-based Movember website.

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Brother Jon and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    After fall semester my senior year at BYU, I grew a beard over the break. When we went back to the first sacrament meeting in our married student ward before classes started up again for Winter semester, fully half of the men had holiday beards; it wasn’t something anyone had coordinated, we had all just done it on our own.

    It turned out my wife loved the beard on me, so I shaved it off, finished the semester, and then as soon as I graduated I grew it back and have worn it ever since.

    If I were called to a calling like bishop or whatever, I would tell the person extending the call that the beard and I are a package deal, take it or leave it. I would shave it off right now if my wife asked me to; but as long as she prefers it, her authority is superior to even President Monson to me in this matter.

  3. Kevin, in fairness to the person concerned, I am not convinced that he was asked to do it. Rather I suspect that he felt it was important. Plus, because it was only temporary I am sure there were no issues around identity that were at play here. With that said one of the saddest stories I know involving beards in the church involves exactly the situation you describe, except the wife has now passed away and he would love to work in the temple but is not allowed.

  4. I suggest that while there’s nothing wrong with facial hair, as such, there are some that get offended at the disobedient spirit it seems to represent to some. I’d suggest further, Paul’s counsel on meats offered to idols.
    1 Cor 8:
    “11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
    12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
    13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will [grow no facial hair] while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

    But I know that would mean faithfully applying scriptural principles to one’s own life. Something the liberal bloggernacle abhors.

  5. I’ve been tempted to participate in Movember but don’t want to have to continually justify myself to the ward grooming police. They think I’m apostate enough already. Our EQP is participating this year and the stake president didn’t say anything when he visited last week.
    I felt sad for one of the older high-priests in our ward who was made to shave off his mustache of many years so he could work in the temple. I always found it odd that temple workers couldn’t have any facial hair when two of the characters from the endowment movie have huge, white beards.

  6. h_nu, a couple of quick thoughts:
    1. If there is nothing wrong with facial hair then should not your chastisement be offered to those who judge another as rebellious merely for having hair on their face.
    2. ldsbishop represents at least one example of a ‘liberal’ participant in the bloggernacle who is doing just as you describe. I can think of a few others. Your generalizations are inaccurate and unfounded.
    3. My experience with almost all of the bloggernacle participants has shown me that they are trying to faithfully apply scripture in their lives.
    4. You are welcome to comment on the topic but please refrain from expressing such judgments about another’s spiritual life.

  7. I really don’t see what facial hair has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, I’ve been a member my whole life. As my son likes to say, “Didn’t Jesus have a beard?” In my opinion it’s an unnecessary focus – man looks at appearance and God looks at the heart. (…some thing like that.) I think we would be wise to do the same. Just saying…

  8. I was born in a barn and apparently reside in a cave since I hadn’t heard about this Movember thing until yesterday. I’ll have to get cracking.

    h_nu, you may be interested to learn that there exists a web log called Millennial Star where a number of self-styled conservative defenders of the faith have eked out an existence tilting at bloggernacle windmills. Perhaps you would feel more at home there?

  9. Sharee Hughes says:

    I don’t understand the fuss about facial hair. I happen to like facial hair on men. And I was not aware that temple workers had to be clean shaven. Men can attend the temple if they have beards or mustaches, so why can’t they also be temple workers? Is that a church-wide rule or just something certain temples have a policy on (like those who don’t allow menstruating women to do baptisms)? A counselor in my bishopric has a mustache and the another one grew a beard briefly a few months ago. Other men in my ward have facial hair. I’m not aware of anyone in my ward having any problems with it.

    By the way, does anyone know how I can change my e-mail address here? I changed servers and now I have to keep typing in my new e-mail address as the old one keeps showing.

  10. My dad has had a full beard since before I was born, and he has served on multiple Bishoprics and High Councils. As far as I know, he’s never felt pressured to shave.

  11. Last Lemming says:

    during the month of November, men from all over the country begin to grow a moustache in order to raise money for testicular cancer.

    Is this a British thing? Was I supposed to shave at the end of October and start over? How does the mustache relate to money for testicular cancer?

  12. For those who may not have heard of Movember

    http://uk.movember.com/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movember

  13. Facial hair in PH leadership positions is most often a function of area and stake authorities. In my stake, anything other than a mustache is soundly denounced. The rationale for and against facial hair runs the gamut. However, at the end of the day, I have opted to do as my local leaders have asked. Yes, temple workers are supposed to be clean shaven. I wish this was in the handbook so that the matter could be settled once and for all. When I visited SLC a couple of years ago, I was hoping to find examples of service missionaries and other church leaders wearing facial hair. I couldn’t find any among the Conference Center or temple tours and so forth. It struck me at that point that it is something that church leaders has asked of priesthood leaders, missionaries, and so forth. Do we own stock in some razor /shaving cream companies or something?

  14. 1. My second semester of college I pierced my nose and stopped eating meat. Eleven years later I’m still a vegetarian but the nose ring has been gone for three years. The reason I took it out was simple: I didn’t want a tiny nose ring to keep me from service opportunities and from participating fully in the body of Christ–even if what would have prevented my participation or service would have been prejudice or cultural preferences, not doctrine or a reflection on my worthiness to serve. I had not to that point been inhibited, mind you–I wore said nose ring to my temple wedding, and had callings in the RS pres and in YW, but I didn’t want it to ever impact such things in the future. It was a fantastic decision. I kept the nose ring–stud, actually–and it has become a symbol to me of not letting small points of pride get in the way of achieving more eternally important things. In fact, I taught a YW lesson on that topic once and brought the nose stud as a teeny tiny object lesson.

    2. This comment is too long already, but I’ll make one more quick point: I, for one, am GLAD there is are rules/cultural biases/whatever against facial hair within the Church because otherwise it would all be about hemlines and sleeve length for women. If we are going to do it to women, then there should be at least one appearance factor that could get a guy kicked out of a BYU testing center or a stake dance. As it stands such guidelines are old-fashioned; if we took out the facial hair part they would be downright misogynist.

  15. I’ve always found it funny that as a BYU professor, I am permitted to sport a horrific ‘stache that most people associate with porn stars, but a well-groomed beard is considered subversive because it reminds some elderly gentlemen of 1960′s counterculture.

  16. Coffinberry says:

    My husband wears a beard because I like it. There is no rule against beards except in some peoples’ minds. Jerks who think that he’s not worthy because of it can stew to themselves.

    I do not see where anybody gets off telling a husband and wife what they cannot do to please each other. Oh, yeah…

  17. there should be at least one appearance factor

    There’s at least two; let’s not forget the Uniform of the Priesthood!

  18. I’ve never heard of this Movember business before. I looked at your links, but I’m still unclear how this benefits charity. I’m all for raising awareness of health issues, but this smacks a bit of slacktivism to me.

    And I’m with Romni (#15). (With apologies for my shallowness,) beards are lovely, mustaches are kind of creepy.

  19. I too had somehow missed this important “holiday.” I didn’t have a lot of experience with male facial hair growing up unless their was a play, pageant or road show that needed men to spot them. Now, a few men in my life occasionally sport them for reason I find funny, and a little sad.

    My first husband constantly changes around his facial hair because he thinks it is a way of getting back at me. (I honestly don’t know why, but enough people have asked me why that I feel confident that he thinks he is. The only side effect I see is that our twin daughters won’t let him kiss them when he has a mustache because they don’t like how it feels. )

    My second husband had a mustache from the time he was fifteen until about five months after we started dating, when he met my children. The above mentioned twins disapproved of it tickling and so he shaved it the day before our next family outing. After our divorce he grew it back, and he is old enough now that it just makes him look older than it is since there is way more gray in it than there is in his hair. (Sad that it represents him walking away from a relationship with my older children that their father and I are supportive of him continuing to have with my older kids, but that he decided wasn’t worth continuing. Since he never really told me why he decided to leave me, I don’t have a lot to help them understand why he also decided to break promises to them that no matter what happened to me he would always be there for them. One daughter still occasionally cries when she sees someone of the same build with a mustache.)

    I guess because most Mormon men don’t have facial hair in our area, it becomes a way to rebel. Seems kind of a strange choice, but I guess it is better than some choices people make to show their rebellion.

  20. Laura, it is fairly simple really, it both raises awareness and money; regardless, this post is not about the merits of Movember but just a short commentary on how it intersects with Mormonism.

  21. We have Movember in the US as well. All of my friends are growing staches until the end of the month. I think it’s an awesome way for men to get involved in something. I also love some facial hair. As a convert, I find all of these things really odd. I still don’t get why men can’t have facial hair? Joseph Smith was clean shaven in his pics but from Brigham Young down they always had beards. I thought we gave up the Law of Moses for the higher law of Jesus, not the Law of Mormon. It’s at times like this that I start to wonder where our religion is headed and why dominant conservatives in our religion are so weird.

  22. I’m not seeing a rule about facial hair in the handbook. . .

  23. Aaron, clearly you are unfamiliar with the unwritten order of things?

    You are right, of course, about local manifestations of this rule but there is formal guidance about temple workers.

  24. I visited a fairly conservative ward on Sunday. Not only were there quite a few Mo’bros, the HPGL, wearing his Mo’, petitioned the HP for their support. I think you are on to something here, AR.

  25. I sport a goatee full time…doubt I could pull off a regular ‘stache, though; not enough growth above the lip. Also, my wife might leave me.

    I would also second M* as a home for those who would fulminate against the eeevil liberals of the ‘nacle. Best part is, with their aggressive moderation you’d rarely have to read opinions you disagree with, so go forth your echo chamber and be free, young libertarian!

  26. btw, Casey, BCC loved this post

  27. I get annoyed about the focus on female dress and grooming but the male rules are way strict. White shirt. Tie. Hair above the ears. No facial hair. Neutral color suit. It makes the stand look really really boring. My husband had a ponytail when he was called to serve in the bishopric. He cut it off the next week. He didn’t do it because he felt that the ponytail was a big deal. He did it because he felt that if the young men about to go on missions had to follow certain rules, then he would too. I still think it’s a bit silly and I miss his hair, but I like the male solidarity thing.

  28. In Montana I was asked to shave my mustache before joining the bishopric. In Los Angeles I was asked to shave it before I served as a temple worker. I was happy to do it while serving in the temple, because at least it’s a uniformly enforced practice, whereas with my stake presidency, I saw as a rigid outgrowth of a severely conservative stake presidency. I was chastised for wearing a bow-tie.

    As my very wise father in law has stated, as a church leader, “you only have so much capital.” Why waste your capital on things that ARE NOT IN THE HANDBOOK? Now that I’ve moved – every winter I grow a beard along with wearing bow ties and non-white dress shirts. To me, it is important for others to see that none of the standard grooming or dress that is prevalent in church culture has anything to do with testimony. I like what Brother Nibley says:

    “The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism… the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.”

  29. These are not rules, really, anymore, are they? I’ve had a beard for six years now. I’ve served on two ward councils during that time. Only once has anyone ever mentioned my beard in any kind of … almost negative way. *shrug*

  30. They are rules if the Stake Presidency makes it a rule. It was a rule where I was in Montana.

  31. TP, I am certainly not saying that these are things that are rigidly enforced but over that same period I have had quite a comments about having a beard or not being clean shaven. I have even had ecclesiastical leaders give me razors and shaving roam to encourage me to shave. Obviously this is not a case of my experience trumps yours but merely to highlight that there is still some variation in how this is applied.

  32. A bowtie? That’s hilarious! I think it’s as conservative and traditional looking as you can get. My husband recently inherited some very nice cufflinks from his father. I’d like to get him some French cuff shirts to wear them to church. I don’t think I can recall seeing cufflinks at church. They’d be a nice addition to the boring Mormon mens’ Sunday wardrobe.

  33. The HPL in my ward had a Brigham Young beard when he first moved in, despite that, he was called. His beard is now a more modern style, but still beardy.

    When men around here sport facial hair, we just assume he has his mind set on a big role at Pageant.

  34. In Utah while I was growing up the beard growing occurred for the deer hunting season. Nobody said a word – but then almost nobody back then said a word about facial hair at all.

    I love the charity / awareness focus of Movember. I just found a justification my wife might accept, since I am clean-shaven in order to conform to the Yes, Deary Theory.

  35. My ward goes in for Movember in a big way, but we have a fair amount of men with goatees, so it can be tough to tell who is ‘raising awareness’ and who is a ‘Godless Hippie’.

    I wonder if a few decades down the road when facial hair has long, long lost its countercultural connotation if we will be stuck with this ‘tradition’ and no one will even know why. Maybe we should elect some sort of facial hair Lorax?

    Finally, in response tonCowgirl, a man in my ward was wearing cream colored slacks with a black shirt and red tie last Sunday. I almost thanked him. I am looking forward to seeing a GA wear a cream colored suit (Utchdorf!) in conference almost as much as I am hoping to hear a woman give the opening prayer. They are probably equally likely.

  36. Precisely why I would prefer Chatham house rules be implemented in prudent ways. I’d rather avoid being “impreached” with an “anti-facial” sermon, at the expense of new ideas. :)

  37. Moss, you don’t have to wait a few decades down the road for facial hair to have lost its edge. Its come and gone numerous times. I can only hope that people forget about the ‘why’ behind this silly tradition, because if so, future apologists could come up with less ridiculous explanations.

  38. And all this time I thought men were blessedly free from the nonsense we women have to handle with our sexy deltoids and patellas and whatnot.

    Interesting concept in Cowgirl’s #27 that it’s a male solidarity thing. I wonder how much of Nibley’s “careful observance of all the rules, …precious concern for status symbols, [and] strict legality” is about the male solidarity?

    Montana collects careful-observance anecdotes. Mine was told to me by a dear friend, an inactive RM working waitstaff at a busy restaurant, serving a local church leader who asked that the entire party’s root beers be returned and re-served in tumblers without the Coke trademark on them. My friend uncomplainingly complied with his customer’s request of course, and made a mental note to avoid that congregation.

    And thanks DavidP#28 for introducing the concept of us mortals only having so much capital to spend. I’m always encouraged when I see folks in the church who have the pure love of the gospel higher on their list than stuff like this.

  39. Meldrum the Less says:

    These appearance rules may be a small thing to many. But they bite some people. They generally encourage a judgmental attitude and provide a convenient excuse for uncharitable thoughts and actions. They are a cheap lower level ploy of the devil to ensnare us and I am sorry to see my church so extensively entangled in them. Are we such children that we think we need a church to tell us how to shave?

    All the presidents of the church in this dispensation had beards between Joseph Smith and David O. McKay. McKay was about the most manly of these men from the perspective of our culture. But his beard was not part of the appearance he wanted to project. Since then church leaders have copied and substituted his style, in many instances in place of not just in addition to his substance of character.

    I have cousins who are identical twins. They are so similar that their parents and their wives cannot tell them apart. One experienced a bitter divorce decades ago which he claims was mishandled by their bishop and he didn’t heal from it. He has done everything he can to be ugly to his ex, even to the point of sabotaging his career to lessen alimony payments and it has take him down. He is miserable and hates life and the church and to put it bluntly is a jackass. His brother has a sense of humor and is quite creative and funny. He grew a beard to distinguish himself from his twin brother and married late. His wife has never seen him without his beard and she rather dislikes and avoids his twin, after some of the horrible things he has told her. She would never marry a guy remotely like what his twin has become.

    So my bearded cousin and his wife were about the most fanatical temple workers you can imagine. At one point they had visited every working temple in the entire world. They went every day. (Unable to have children and own their own business). He managed to dodge cutting his beard for many years even after it was against the rules. But eventually he was forced to choose: beard or temple work. Sounds like a simple choice. But the real choice is does his wife want to be reminded of his obnoxious brother every time she sees him or not?

    Guess what? He chose correctly. His wife is happy and the temple is minus two mighty devoted workers, or if there is something like a full-time-equivalent it would be closer to 10 average devoted workers. He is quite capable of becoming as bitter as his twin over this but rather he has settled for going once or twice a year as a patron and making a few hilarious remarks now and then. (“Quit yer damned snoring, yer keepin’ me awake.”). Church loses again.

    More people need to stand up for what is right, no excuses. Dictating facial hair styles is not right.

  40. My husband has been trying to find a way to get released from his calling. This would be perfect and I would totally support him growing a beard (he’s had one off for probably half of our marriage and I prefer a trimmed full beard on him) if he ever thinks of the idea himself. I can’t suggest it though because I don’t think it is a good idea for him to try to get released from his calling. And I don’t really think he’ll have a beer or take up porn just to get out of it….at least, I don’t think he will…..

  41. jks: I really doubt it would work. At least it would never work in my stake. After being advised that bishopric members typically conform to male missionary grooming standards my husband asked if he was actually required to cut his hair. He was told he was ‘encouraged’ to do so. In other words, ‘you aren’t getting out of this calling that easily.’ Maybe have him try wearing a cute A-line skirt some week. Bet that’d do the trick.

  42. I believe that the only way to kill this nonsense is for those of us who care about the issue, to kill ancillary practices when we are in a position to do so. In some cases, it seems like this will naturally occur with younger folks taking on church leadership positions. It may never permeate places like Utah, Idaho, Montana, and other places where there is a strong mingling of conservative social culture with church practice.

  43. Quickmere Graham says:

    h_nu: “I suggest that while there’s nothing wrong with facial hair, as such, there are some that get offended at the disobedient spirit it seems to represent to some.”

    But Elder Bednar taught that getting offended is a *choice*, and that we ought to choose not to be offended…I’ve also heard it justified as a test by which we can easily prove our loyalty to priesthood leaders. Really? Is that what we’re going to do? We really need to perform petty little tests of loyalty on each other, judging, excluding those who fail and accepting only those who adhere to obviously-outdated and pointless rules? With all the crap life hands us, all the important things to worry about, we’re going to introduce facial hair now as a little test for each other? The “test” explanation only exists precisely because people know inside that the rule is stupid.

    I think the strict rules at the Church’s educational institutions and at the COB have much to do with letting people know that clean-shaven may not be in the handbook, but it is the expected “unwritten order of things.” And the rule is simply stupid.

  44. it's a series of tubes says:

    Agreed. I’ve often found it helpful to sort issues along the heirarchy of doctrine, policy, and tradition. While in the case of temple workers this issue appears to have risen to the level of “policy”, elsewhere it is tradition at best and deserves no more consideration than that. I’ve sported my Van Dyke + soul patch, together with a non-white shirt about every other week, in bishopric meeting for the last 5 years and never heard a peep from anyone. Then again, living in Arizona means that no one thinks twice about wearing flip-flops to church because it’s often 115 out, so perhaps we’re less hung up on dress and grooming than our counterparts to the north.

  45. “h_nu, you may be interested to learn that there exists a web log called Millennial Star where a number of self-styled conservative defenders of the faith have eked out an existence tilting at bloggernacle windmills. Perhaps you would feel more at home there?”

    …Because nothing says stop being unfair and judgmental to BCC permas like being unfair and judgmental to MS permas.

  46. My husband has had a short beard as long as I’ve known him. I’ve only seen him clean shaven a handful of times, and I prefer the beard. He jokes that hopefully it’ll keep him out of high pressure callings!

  47. Kevin Barney says:

    I had never even heard of Movember before. But I’m watching The Office and some of the guys on the show are observing it and have porn star mustaches.

  48. Ya’ll seriously. Stop talking about Bro. Peterson’s sock puppet. He’s taken up way too much of this thread. In the meantime, I, like Casey, do all right with a full beard, but I’m afraid the moustache alone wouldn’t work. I’m with you in spirit, though.

  49. Aaron R:
    I was unaware that I had offered a chastisement wrt beards. I thought that I had offered a scriptural suggestion. Further, I have made no positive acceptance of beardless judgment of the shaving impaired, but as you note in the article, it does have a well-characterized stereotype, and that’s all I meant to address. Those By Common Consent minions who do not consider themselves liberal bloggernaclites shouldn’t assume I was judging them. I’m merely pointing out a difference in mindset. It is interesting to consider, however, that instead of applying this scriptural suggestion the instantaneous response was to attack it.

    FTR, Aaron R. When the ironically-named LDS Bishop had said he didn’t grow a beard, it had nothing to do with the weakness of his fellow saint, but protecting his own feelings from “being judged” from the people he judges to be the ward grooming police. To me, as a conservative saint, there’s a difference there. If the liberal saints don’t see the difference, they may want to investigate it a little more if they want to understand the problem in viewpoints here…

    PeterLCC. I’m aware of M*. But they just spend their time writing helpful posts for mature people that upset puerile writers. Nothing to attract brawlers who see things differently. Surely a group of open-minded liberal Mormons can tolerate hearing conservative viewpoints 1% of the time … Or would you rather BCC remain an echo chamber where malcontents focus on their unhappy perception of a fake reality. Seems wiser to allow some “Alternate Voices” contra the “Alternate Voice Choir”, at least in the name of the God of the liberals, Tolerance. Perhaps you’re not very good at knowing where people would feel at home. Mind-reading, while a widespread liberal trait… doesn’t work.

    Quickmere: I am not responsible for the veracity or consistency of Elder Bednar’s teachings to Paul. I suggest you take your question up with EB or his boss.

    Jimbob: Awesome. FTR, some of the M* perma’s stick up for the Alternate Voices Choir quite often. You should be more tolerant of M*. I understand that’s the stated religion of liberals…

  50. Jimbob, reread my last comment. DIdn’t mean to address the last You to Jimbob. That was a general BCC-You. I must’ve forgotten who I was talking to. Does anyone else have issues viewing this site with Chrome?

  51. Bro. Peterson,
    You have your own blog. Go troll elsewhere.

  52. Facialhairfree says:

    Growing a temporary ‘tashe for charity is not the same as refusing, under any circumstances, to remove facial hair.

    “Lovest thou me more than these?” as as of something far more important than facial hair.

    Sometimes we have to choose – not because of the community or the congregation – but because he ask.

    I have see temple workers with tattoos but they are not as easy to remove. So many choose (and submission) plays a role here.

    I’m glad I don’t live in a day when facial hair is expected – so it is easy for me (although I hate shaving and usually to it bi or tri-weekly.

  53. Facialhairfree says:

    Too many spelling errors to correct. Sorry. It’s lunch time here!

  54. Quickmere Graham says:

    “Sometimes we have to choose – not because of the community or the congregation – but because he ask.”

    See, this is exactly the sort of BS I was referring to above, where facial hair becomes a ridiculous loyalty test. The beard ban didn’t begin as a mere loyalty test, and Jesus never asked anyone to shave their beards.

  55. Something about Naman and taking a bath in a river seven times.

  56. Quickmere Graham says:

    Right. The proof-text used to justify completely irrational and unnecessary commands, the ultimate “unrighteous dominion” justifying verses in the Bible.

  57. Facialhairfree says:

    Quickmere Graham,

    Can you be so sure that Jesus never asked anyone to shave their beards?

    Jesus did, and does, require loyalty tests – but many of these are the result of personal revelation.

    I would no more judge the man that chose to shave than I would the man who chose not to – that’s not my call – but its not your call either.

    Revelations have resulted in what many consider “ridiculous loyalty” tests.

    If God looks on the heart – what does he see in the heart of someone – anyone – who refuses to change his appearance – even for God? Too easy to say what he sees in the heart of the person that judges the person that refuses to change their appearance!

    In the mote/beam parable but people have eye problems – in this, both have heart problems. So my position isn’t BS – it is balanced and nuanced.

  58. Facialhairfree says:

    Those are proof-texts of examples of God/prophets demanding what seem like “irrational and unnecessary” commands – showing that God/prophets can do such things – the thing in itself is less important than the faith and obedience manifested.

    It is only unrighteous dominion if you have not been persuaded by revelation – which is why agency and obedience can be compatible.

  59. Facialhairfree, the question that remains is whether God has ever made facial hair a loyalty test. The issue here is that it does not appear to be a loyalty test that God imposes on us but rather a loyalty test that we impose on each other. For that reason I think some people find it counter-productive.

  60. First, I prefer kissing a clean-shaven man, so I have to admit a bias. That said, I’ve know a couple of men who really truly did look better with a beard than without, so I can see where they would want to keep it.

    Then you have to realize that while the church is true, we are all human and fallible. I think the question you have to ask is ” is this something that will affect my salvation?” and then the second question is “and I going to let this affect my salvation?”

    So will facial hair affect your salvation? No.

    Are you going to let it affect your salvation by:

    being offended by others’ facial hair (or lack thereof)?

    judging others’ for their opinion of facial hair?

    making your facial hair more important to you than temple work?

    criticizing church leaders that you agreed to sustain?

    Here is where the slippery slope is. Here is pride. We all have much more important things to work on than arguing the doctrinal basis for whether men should have facial hair. Just like I have more important things to do than counting how many pairs of earrings the women are wearing and who has pantyhose on and who doesn’t.

  61. Facialhairfree says:

    Aaron R.,

    I think it CAN be a temporary loyalty test – in a similar way to how the whole Movember thing is a loyalty test in raising awareness about an important issue. Both the college I currently attend and the place I work are really pushing it – and to refuse to grow a moustache can seem disloyal.

    I think God could (and on occasion has) imposed it as a loyalty test. I can think of examples from my own life – in both directions. I would not presume to say that it only has man-made sanction. But I would not be fazed if the handbook changed the “unwritten”, sometimes ignored, order of things! ;)

    After all, many of the past great male servants of God did have facial hair! Not only that – but some of them still do! I would also agree that it would be counterproductive if it was viewed as more important as other things – which it is clearly not.

    But I would never say that God never commanded it – my experience contradicts that view. I should point out that I am usually only Facialhairfree on Sundays. Right now, I have been unshaven for 3 days …

  62. Quickmere Graham says:

    Can you be so sure that Jesus never asked anyone to shave their beards?

    Equally as sure as you that he has told people to shave their beards, I’d say. And since God didn’t make it more clear, maybe we err on the side of not looking like a cult of Pharisaical observations.

    I would no more judge the man that chose to shave than I would the man who chose not to – that’s not my call – but its not your call either.

    You’ve already imposed judgment by observing what the “righteous” decision would be; that is, the righteous one would shave because Jesus asked. (But again, Jesus didn’t ask. It began as a way for conservative white western church leaders to distinguish the church from polygamous forefathers and to identify with middle and upper class American business mores as opposed to those freaky hippies. Now it’s simply morphed into a loyalty test we’ve come up with to impose on each other for the purpose of sanctimoniously asking whether we will do little things out of obedience.

  63. Quickmere Graham says:

    Glowworm: We all have much more important things to work on than arguing the doctrinal basis for whether men should have facial hair. Just like I have more important things to do than counting how many pairs of earrings the women are wearing and who has pantyhose on and who doesn’t.

    The problem is that we foster an environment in which this sort of judging will flourish when we simply accept the status quo.

  64. Quickmere Graham says:

    PS Facialhairfree: I’m not talking about the philosophical undercurrents regarding different situations in which facial hair decisions may or may not be right or wrong, as you appear to be doing with your nuance. I’m arguing that in the very specific case, the case of the LDS Church, the facial hair thing is a vestigial remnant of earlier culture anxiety presently surviving in a way that fosters unrighteous and unjustified judgment of worthiness.

  65. The problem with relating this story to Naaman is that Naaman wasn’t a Jew (unless I’m misunderstanding what it means to be from Damascus). The test for Naaman was that of establishing belief and humility in preparation for the miracle.

    A better example would be that of the ten lepers that approached Christ to be healed. He told them to bathe in a river (I think) and they all promptly went. But the focus of the story ends up on the lack of gratitude from the nine that didn’t return.

    Neither of these examples really holds much relevance to me, however, because they were both very instantaneous “tests of loyalty” that were directly tied to an immediate benefit. The “test of loyalty” represented by being clean shaven is a permanent and pointless one–not to mention a very poor correlation to things that really indicate a person’s commitment to the Lord.

    A facial hair loyalty test allows us to judge a man as unfaithful, even if he’s the only brother in the ward that faithfully pays tithing, does home teaching, shows up to every service project, spends money out of his own pocket to help support his friends and neighbors, faithfully studies scriptures with his family every day, teaches his children to pray, and prepares lessons and activities for the youth every Sunday and Tuesday. With the facial hair loyalty test, a man of that quality that happens to have facial hair is unfit for priesthood service.

    For all those that would argue that this is a loyalty test, and those that won’t shave have proven their disloyalty, I ask them how that fits in with the additional nuance of “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

    So no, FacialHairFree, your stance wasn’t balanced and nuanced.

    Balanced and nuanced would be more like this: I understand that the Church has an interest in projecting a certain image that is favorable to the society around it, and I understand that there was a time where facial hair came with a larger and negative social connotation. At such a time, it made sense to encourage Church members to bear the resemblance favorable to society. Now that the society around us has changed its view on facial hair, it doesn’t make sense to dogmatically clutch to the same standards of a bygone era.

  66. Facialhairfree says:

    Yes, so we are talking about different things – and since what you’re talking about involves unrighteous judgement of like beams and motes I agree.

    But I don’t accept that Christ cannot give personal commands to any of the Saints. The ‘righteous’ response is to do as he asks – including, grow a beard (which is what I did 2 years ago … despite serving on a Bishopric.)

    The existence of my personal revelation refutes your denial of any revelation … on this issue … ever.

  67. Facialhairfree says:

    Benjamin, can you read?

  68. It’s hard to argue with that kind of irrefutable reasoning.

  69. it's a series of tubes says:

    #68 for COTW.

  70. Such potential; such waste of so much space.

  71. Moss, goatees aren’t allowed in Movember, not technically anyway. It’s considered cheating because you have something more contemporary than an old-fashioned moustache.

    Aaron, thanks for the post. I remember last year when we were sitting in stake conference and noticed that the man to whom you referred had shaved his moustache unnecessarily just because he had been called into the stake presidency. Your wife was in the middle of making fun of my own attempt at a Movember moustache at the time. I got a lot of weird looks in my ward (and by members of the ward that shared a building with us) because of that moustache last year — I tend to interpret it as based on the weakness of my moustache attempt rather than a Mormon culture-inspired judgment about facial hair. I certainly hope it wasn’t the latter as an amazing relatively recent convert in our ward (as well as a few others in the ward) had a beard.

  72. Thanks Aaron! Your post was rewarding and all but then you came out with the link on comment #26. That one gave me an immune system boost to combat all upcoming stressors for the day.

  73. As a bonus, here’s the proper way to react to h_nu:
    http://s5.tinypic.com/vgpruv.jpg
    Not only will minimize your own stress, it will feed the persecution complex that drives him so everybody wins!

  74. In my opinion the problem with the Church is that cultural beliefs are believed to be doctrine, like white shirts. Culture has permeated the Church to such a level people can’t keep it separate, leaders included. In the late 1970′s somewhat long hair was the norm for guys. My brother had hair that touched his collar. The Stake President (a Romney) told my brother he could not pass the Sacrament until he cut his hair to the SP specifications. The other young man passing Sacrament had a tobacco Skoal can in his back pocket, at Church, and everyone knew what that mark was, yet he could pass Sacrament because his hair was short. My brother is now a bitter enemy of the Church. I can’t blame him because we are not supposed to be worried about appearances and the SP was hateful to my brother and would not sit down and talk to my brother and father. And higher up leaders refused to speak to my father about this.
    It would be nice if the Prophet would put this stuff in the handbook because one Bishop/Stake Pres. tolerates facial hair, dyed hair, blue jeans, etc. and another Bishop/Stake Pres. are very intolerant of the same. There is no consistency on a lot of issues and there needs to be.
    My son’s friend had a shaved head but left a tiny “tail” at the back of his head, hardly noticeable. The abusing his leadership Bishop of this friend’s Ward told my son’s friend to cut the tail off or no passing sacrament AND (the family is very poor and the kids went to Church on their own without adults) the young man had to buy slacks and a suit coat or blazer and quit wearing black jeans or no passing Sacrament. This Bishop was not nice about it. Other Bishops had no problem with these tails on young men or wearing dark jeans to pass Sacrament. These kids joined the Baptist church where they were not judged and welcomed regardless of how they looked. They left because the Bishop was a jerk, was judging them, and because of the inconsistency of adherence to these cultural, non-doctrine issues. What was alright in one Ward was not alright in another. Not fair and not right.
    We also need to get away from the “pat” answers given to members which is also cultural: the Church is true and the members are not perfect; you choose to be offended; we don’t ask those kinds of questions; don’t worry about it; I don’t know so it doesn’t matter.
    Why is the offender and their comments never addressed, why is the fanatic, power abusing leader never addressed and the fact that they are not being Christian and are judging and lacking in compassion.
    By telling someone who was abused by power hungry leaders or by anyone for that matter condones the offensive behavior and it tells the offended person that they and their feelings don’t matter and they really are not important to the Church. This is all part of the culture and it is not good and it goes all the way up to the General Authorities. Wearing a white shirt or not, having a moustache or not, having a shaved head with a tail or not, is not essential for our Salvation. I agree we need to have some guidelines, like no shorts, no torn pants, no immodest dress of men or women etc. but we also need to have leadership classes, guidelines on certain (cultural) issues , spelling out what is doctrine and what is not, and compassion and kindness needs to be emphasized and abuse of power and authority addressed.
    We should not have loyalty test or obedience tests. That is so wrong. It is one thing to do what you are asked to be healed to test one’s faith. But to use clothing or facial hair to test obedience is so wrong and we should not be doing that to one another. Benjamin and Quickmere Graham – right on! Another cultural thing is “the Church is true”. The gospel is true, not the Church.

  75. “It would be nice if the Prophet would put this stuff in the handbook”

    Please, by all that’s holy, no.

    I want less “thou shalt” in the handbook, whether that be “do” or “don’t”. If it ain’t in the handbook, I have plausible deniability. I want to be commanded in fewer things, not more.

  76. JR-

    Well said. I am doing a series of posts on the difference between LDS culture and doctrine. I would like to share this, along with a number of other people’s thoughts, during a series of posts in December. Let me know if you object to including the entire comment.

    Julia

  77. Facialhairfree or CleanshavenSundays says:

    It seems from reading some comments here that the “you have to be tolerant of me and my beard” types are in no way tolerant (unsurprisingly) of those who are completely intolerant of beard-growing but also (surprisingly) of those who are tolerant of those who grow AND of those who don’t for loyalty reasons. One man’s test is another man’s ‘tashe. Another man’s test is his own ‘tashe.

    It is always ironic how those who claim tolerance for non-orthodox or non-traditional things are so quick to be intolerant of those who manage to see it both ways. They are basically as intolerant of anyone who does not agree with them 100% as they accuse the intolerant types. They overcorrect from the danger of intolerance to tolerate anything – except disagreement with their universal tolerance. When someone comes along that is simply not tolerant enough – they jump at them with all the fury of hell – because, God-forbid, they might actually give license to those intolerant types to feel justified.

    For those who claim to see that there are grey areas they are so quick to see only black and white. It is another form of intolerance – another form of bullying. For them no one can ever say that God has ever said that he will test anyone … in any way … or over anything. It is all about love … the whole love … and nothing but the love … except of course, for the intolerant, insipid, false-ly inspired types – these we must condemn … and anyone that even seems to understand them. No the party line has to be ‘No tests here … only tolerance … except for the test-believers!’

    Yes – some are, have been and will be intolerant – unrighteously so. But does that mean that God never ever commands anyone to do something that others will fail to understand or agree with – or that he might even ocassionally command someone to do something that, in most cases, would be strange? I am not so quick to discount that.

    The underlying assumption for many here is that God couldn’t possible care about facial hair. Well, scripture shows a God that seems, at least ocassionally concerned, about some silly things. How does it go? … “By small and silly things are … brought to pass” It is an assumption that the beard-ban is a loyalty test imposed by some men on other men. I question the assumption – although the presence of beards is not alway proof of disloyality. The point is in a kingdom where the king can give different revelations to different people – two people can both obey although they look differently – especially over cultural things.

    The assumption of others that baptism, for example, is a loyalty test imposed upon some men upon all others is not the same – although even here we see differences (Some are baptised at 8, others as adults – Christ and Joseph Smith were baptised as adults) – because these have a doctrinal element. Because things can change is not proof that God has never commanded anyone to do something different. To some he commands to grow, to others he commands to shave and yet again to others he commands … “It matters not unto me”

    If you claim to be tolerant … at least be tolerant of all the plausible possibilities – instead of assuming that any an intolerant person is proof of an intolerant position. Don’t throw the baby out with th bathwater – or the inspiration out with the intolerance!

  78. Facialhairfree or CleanshavenSundays says:

    I hope that makes my naunce and balanced approach less naunced and more balanced. I have friends who wear beards at church and I have friends who probably wouldn’t dream of it. Although, the second group is currently in the majority, I break bread with both.

  79. Quickmere Graham has a beard says:

    Good call. God, above all, is especially concerned with facial hair and wants us to cultivate a culture in which we can identify one’s righteousness by the length of their whiskers. Go back and read the comments and count how many times the word “tolerance” or “tolerant” is used. I count 29, only two of which from someone arguing that the facial hair policy is dumb. The rest are from you and our friend h_nu, bringing culture-war language into the mix regarding us evil libruls.

    Then you say stuff like this:

    “Because things can change is not proof that God has never commanded anyone to do something different.”

    Who suggested otherwise? As a test of your righteousness, I’d like you to shave your entire face, including your eyebrows. Will you prove your righteousness by such a small and simple thing?

  80. Quickmere Graham has a beard says:

    Although, the second group is currently in the majority, I break bread with both.

    The fact that you even have to articulate this as though it proves something about your ability to put up with disobedient folks is laughable.

  81. I keep getting updates in my email with replies to this post, some of which make good points. I feel that this topic is one (of many!) in which the appropriate response or message depends on your audience, as there are many possible Gospel justifications and some competing priorities here. Let me take a crack at some audience-specific messaging on the topic of facial hair for men in the LDS church/culture. This is how I see it anyway:

    To Church members: Don’t you dare make anyone feel unwelcome or unloved based on their facial hair status.
    To local leaders: Please consider which of the many Gospel principles are most important when deciding whether and how to bring up a man’s facial hair.
    To men with facial hair: Be gracious if a local leader brings up your facial hair, even if you think they’re being dumb. Some things (like service) are more important than other things (like facial hair).
    To men w/o facial hair: Congratulations, but shaving is not a saving ordinance. (A shaving ordinance?)
    To prophets and apostles: Not. My. Call.

  82. PS I just realized that the Gravatar profile pic which suddenly showed up next to my name (?) is an old one in which my old nose ring is visible. How apropos.

  83. #81 – Well said. I will add one thing:

    “Don’t you dare make anyone feel unwelcome or unloved based on their facial hair status.”

    or unworthy or disobedient or unable to serve

    The fact that such additions even need to be written is instructive in and of itself.

  84. Facialhairfree or CleanshavenSundays says:

    Quickmere Graham,

    I was not speaking about disobedient folks when I was speaking about breaking bread – so your misreading is laughable! Maybe you should check the mote in your eye – thanks for removing the beam from mine!

    I’m sure that God is far more concerned about your misjudgements of others than he is about your facial hair. Hasn’t someone just wisely noted that service is more important?

    The point I was making, and have been all along, is that it is up to God to make requests of righteousness of his children.

    I suppose it is remotely possible that every priesthood holder who has even thought that another person in a particular circumstance should shave has been imposing unrighteousness dominion on that person … even if only in thought. Of course the list of sinners for that sin is fairly large – including as it does every recent mission call.

    But if so, is it even remotely possible that at least one person has exercised unrighteous rebellion by refusing to shave? That was my only point. It is conceivable that God would command, would want, would ask someone to shave for a particular purpose and for a particular time. Indeed, through the prophet is that not precisely what now happens to full-time missionaries?

    I never said that facial hair was automatically or always evil, unrighteousness or disloyal. How could that even possibly be true? But sometimes it can be – just as a person could be quilty of sin because they are clean-shaven (and hence think they are better than others).

    It is a shame that you are judging all those people who think that God is concerned about every aspect of our lives – even if you think they are wrong. I tend to think that God is only concerned about those things that are keeping us from Him … and that could be anything …. even small things … conceivable. It depends on the person. Christ could drink wine without that indicating unrighteousness on his part – yet many in the church would see that as impossible. I tend to think we should be as kind to those who tend to see the small things as big things (dress, langauge, habits … or, in this case, facial hair) as we expect them to be towards those who are marginalised by the small things.

    In honesty, I have not sensed that in you. You have obviously not sensed that in me – in which case, I can only hope that I am misreading you as badly as you have misread me. Well, hair today and gone tomorrow.

  85. So let me see if I understand this now:

    The unwritten prohibition of facial hair in the Church is a valid test of loyalty because God could very well ask individuals to shave or not shave to show their loyalty to him. So we shouldn’t talk badly about the general and permanent prohibition of facial hair because individuals may have received personal revelation from God to either grow facial hair or not grow either in the long term or the short term.

    And we’re supposed to accept this as balanced and nuanced, and not a mockery of basic logic.

    Also, “you’re a hypocrite because you claim to be tolerant but you are intolerant of my intolerance” is not a valid argument. It’s shifting blame.

  86. Quickmere Graham has a beard says:

    “so your misreading is laughable! “

    Yes. Ha! Ha!

    “I’m sure that God is far more concerned about your misjudgements of others than he is about your facial hair.”

    Well flip, I wonder how concerned God is about your misjudgments of my misjudgments of others. You seem pretty connected, maybe you’ll ask him and then let me know what he says.

    “The point I was making, and have been all along, is that it is up to God to make requests of righteousness of his children.”

    I don’t even know exactly what it means to make “requests of righteousness,” but it seems you are conflating an outdated policy regarding facial hair with the actual will of God. This boils down to your apparent assumption that any and everything any church leader says or any and all policies put in place by any and all church leaders represent only God making “requests of righteousness.” If you believe that to be the case, I have a few folks from Mountain Meadows to introduce you to once we cross to the other side. If you don’t believe that to be the case, you’re merely engaged in a form of special pleading in that your entire argument is predicated on the assumption that God himself, the almighty ruler of the universe and worlds without number, presently demands that no priesthood leaders or church employees can don facial hair. That is the very thing I’m saying is foolish, in addition to the fact that it becomes an easy was by which people can unrighteously judge another person’s worthiness.

    “I tend to think we should be as kind to those who tend to see the small things as big things (dress, langauge, habits … or, in this case, facial hair) as we expect them to be towards those who are marginalised by the small things.”

    I tend to think that this attitude is a hindrance to the progress and mission of the Church as a whole, and that by ceding the floor to overconfident dogmatists overly concerned with the smoothness of men’s faces we lose way more than we gain.

  87. That was a close shave! says:

    No, Benjamin, you have not understood me. I know of no general or permanent prohibition of facial hair in the church. I know of a current prohibition, ‘unwritten’ as you say, against facial hair in certain circumstances. Such does not upset me – anymore than a faithful man with a beard does. Any ‘unwritten’ position, just as most written ones, can change. If I really believed that all men with facial hair were disloyal, I would say that. I have not said that … simply because I do not believe that.

    By the way, thank you for shifting the blame rather than giving me a valid argument.

    Quickmere Graham,

    I’m hopeful that I have misjudged you. No, I don’t claim to be permanently “well connected” to God — although I have been well connected on ocassion. If I remember correctly, it was you who told everyone what Jesus would “never” do. I reflected agnosticism about that. In addition, although I am far from a believer in infallibility, it does seem plausible to me that policies, although timely and temporary, can be the result of revelation. God does not always make the same distinction between temporal/spiritual and doctrinal/cultural that we make.

    As for what God himself presently demands of all priesthood leaders or church employees… that is something to take up with him (through prayer) or with his spokesman (the prophet) – I do not speak for him … except in my own stewardship.

    Finally, your last comment merely shows that you want to take the place of the “overconfident dogmatists” because like them, (or indeed, like me … apparently), you have been overconfident in you dogmatism. It seems so true to me now that kindness is incompatible with your vision of the progress and mission of the church.

  88. Quickmere Graham has a beard says:

    No, shavey mcshave, you have misunderstood me. Wow, it’s so easy to disregard someone else’s view by just saying they misunderstood you. That way I don’t even have to begin to engage anything you’ve said. You are on to something here. To be sure, your last comment merely shows that you want to take the place of the “overconfident dogmatists” who want to take the place of “overconfident dogmatists” because like them, (or indeed, like me … apparently), you have been overconfident in your dogmatism about my overconfident dogmatism regarding their overconfident dogmatism.

    You write as though those who want to maintain the shaving policy and those who don’t are somehow on equal grounds about all of this when they’re patently not. Your passive-aggressive remarks about kindness make it seem so true to me now that kindness is incompatible with your vision of the progress and mission of the church.

  89. Could God make your facial hair a test for me? Yes. When my stake leader asks me to shave “to show my commitment to my calling” or whatever justification he gives, is that REALLY a test from God? It COULD be, but it’s just as likely that it’s that Stake Leader’s personal prejudices speaking.
    I guess the real test is whether I blindly obey or whether I seek my own confirmation that my leader is truly speaking on God’s behalf in this case.

  90. angelandsimba says:

    I meant to say Could God make MY facial hair a test for me?

  91. That was a close shave! says:

    Hi Beardy McBeard,

    As do your passive-aggressive remarks about my passive-aggressive remarks!

    This is getting noisy – who let the overconfident dogmatist’s out!

    Bye Beardy McBeard

  92. I’m financial clerk in a Wasatch Front (North of Salt Lake City) ward. I have a short, trimmed beard. About one-third of the HP’s have facial hair. The percentage in the EQ is higher. One of the counselors in the bishopric has a beard (goatee). Executive Sec. has a beard (goatee). EQ Presidency has one man with long hair and one with a goatee. It is hardly a sign of rebellion. Some men just look better and more dignified with the facial hair that the good Lord created them with… why fight it?

  93. God bless that ward.

  94. I live in Salt Lake County, and the situation in my ward isn’t much different than in Suleiman’s (although nobody in the bishopric has facial hair, but they probably aren’t ones who would anyway). The EQ secretary even had shoulder-length hair until he had to get it cut for his employment. Also, a couple of the boys passing sacrament don’t have missionary haircuts. So I was surprised when I read this discussion this morning that facial hair remains an issue. I was hoping we as a church were getting past such pettiness, but I guess not.

  95. I did Movember last year. It wasn’t Church-sponsored rebellion, though; rather, it was the one time my wife would let me have a mustache (though she’s fine as long as I have a full beard).

    That Mormon facial hair taboo is, in my experience, remarkably local. In my current stake, at least three bishopric members have beards/goatees (or at least did, last time I saw them), including one member of my ward’s bishopric. Our Elders Quorum president and one of his counselors have beards, as does our Sunday School president and ward clerk. (IIRC, they all had beards when they were called.) And we have several other members with beards. Nobody in the ward or stake has ever asked any of our bearded members to shave.

    Which is to say, at least in my neck of the woods, a beard won’t get you out of a calling.

  96. Sharee Hughes says:

    I posted this story once before, can’t remember if it was on this blog or not. Forgive the repetition if you’ve heard it before. A man went to a GA friend saying his bishop would not give him a temple recommend because he had a beard. The GA investigated and found that the stake president had stated that no man in his stake who had facial hair was going to get a temple recommend. Shortly thereafter, that stake present was released. So the clean-shaven mandate is a local one; it does not come from the top. Don’t know why temple workers must be clean-shaven, though. Doesn’t make sense to me. And a young man in my ward had long hair until he had to shave it before he left on his mission. No one was upset about it. When he received his call, the bishop joked that he wold have to cut his hair before he left. The bishop did not prevent this boy from blessing the sacrament while he had long hair. He had curly hair and the length looked really good on him. It seemed a shame to have it cut, but it looked nice then, too. You also see many different colored shirts in my ward, too, not just white. And I live in the best ward in the church.

  97. Carsten Nørgaard says:

    Rules to shave your beard are not found in either of the following:

    * Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops
    * Handbook 2: Administering the Church
    * The Standard Works
    * Any signed document by The First Presidency

    Rules do exist for temple workers and full-time missionaries, though. I believe they also exist for General Authorities, but if they do, they are not in Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (which is also used by them).

    I currently serve as a counselor in the local bishopric, sporting a budding red Donegal beard style. My Branch President calls me Brother Brigham. I also have an area calling, my primary calling, as a Church Country Webmaster.

    Photo:
    https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7s3HwCqhbGpeUJGWDVUVERHcFU

    No problems here. Some saints are just conservative.

  98. love it, carsten

  99. Good work, Carsten

  100. I also sport a beard and have been in a bishopric, EQ presidency etc etc with a beard. Was also a temple worker for awhile and was asked to shave before starting by the temple presidency. The way they explained it, it is up to each temple presidency to determine grooming standards, and their president requested missionary grooming standards.

    Consider the following excerpt from a Feb. 1993 Ensign article on proper dress for temple attendance:
    “Church leaders, recognizing that fashions go in cycles, are sensitive to the rich cultural diversity within the Church. For example, they have recently held that clean, neatly trimmed and managed beards and long hair for men—as well as certain other fashions that to some might seem “trendy”—are acceptable for the temple, provided they are not inherently offensive or vulgar.”
    This was referring to temple attenders, so perhaps my temple district just enforces a “higher” standard on temple workers.

    The church policy since at least 1971 (as early as I could find) has been that guest performers (for instance, a band at a youth dance) at church functions may have beards if they are neatly trimmed. However, the church schools’ policy has been a complete beard-ban since who-knows-when, although at some point BYU must have been beard friendly (consider Mr. Young himself, for example). I have yet to pinpoint the decade, much less the year, when this about-face (pun intended), or the related one that must have occurred for missionary standards, took place. The church says the current policy of church schools being beard-free is because students must dress “modest, neat, and clean, consistent with the dignity of representing Brigham Young University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” I’ve got no problem with BYU saying what it wants, but I take umbrage over the inclusion of the Church in the statement for two reasons: (1) It implies that bearded members of the Church are at least undignified, if not unworthy of representing the Church, and (2) it implies that the world should use BYU students as a metric against which to judge our religion, a scary proposition if ever I heard one.
    Anyway, only one talk in history (that I could find) really addressed the issue, and it was a hippie-laden time. Keep that in mind while reading the following excerpt:

    ———————————————————————————————
    Dallin H. Oaks, Dec. 1971 New Era
    The rule against beards and long hair for men stands on a different footing [from the standards for modest dress]. I am weary of having young people tell me how most of our Church leaders in earlier times wore beards and long hair, which shows that these are not inherently evil. Others argue that beards cannot be evil because they see bearded men enjoying the privileges of the temple. To me, this proposition seems so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning. Unlike modesty, which is an eternal value in the sense of rightness or wrongness in the eyes of God, our rules against beards and long hair are contemporary and pragmatic. They are responsive to conditions and attitudes in our own society at this particular point in time. Historical precedents are worthless in this area. The rules are subject to change, and I would be surprised if they were not changed at some time in the future. But the rules are with us now, and it is therefore important to understand the reasoning behind them.
    There is nothing inherently wrong about long hair or beards, any more than there is anything inherently wrong with possessing an empty liquor bottle. But a person with a beard or an empty liquor bottle is susceptible of being misunderstood. Either of these articles may reduce a person’s effectiveness and promote misunderstanding because of what people may reasonably conclude when they view them in proximity to what these articles stand for in our society today. In the minds of most people at this time, the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards or long hair, whether they desire it or not, may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent. In addition, unkemptness—which is often (though not always) associated with beards and long hair—is a mark of indifference toward the best in life. As Elder Sterling W. Sill has observed:
    “A let-down in personal appearance has far more than physical significance, for when ugliness gets its roots into one part of our lives it may soon spread to every other part.” (The Quest for Excellence, Bookcraft, p. 38.)
    [Elder Oaks goes on to share a story of two young men who wore beards, had a drug problem, moved, were approached by a drug dealer, succumbed to the temptation, and later told their Bishop they supposed the dealer approached them because they "looked like users."]
    ———————————————————————————————

    Pretty fiery and perhaps on-point for 1971, but I cannot imagine anyone today would seriously claim that beard-wearers “may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent.” At least I can promise that going 7 days without shaving never made me sympathetic to meth-users or terrorists. Also, even he is careful to distinguish “unkemptness” as not including neatly trimmed beards.
    I think I can safely say that based on Oaks’ remarks, anyone can justifiably argue that any reasoning for any ban on neatly trimmed facial hear, if it was ever justifiable by the church, BYU or any other church affiliated group, has not been rational or justifiable for many many years.

  101. Wow! This thread, even with some snark, has been a great discussion about culture vs doctrine, about an issue that impacts the every day lives of LDS men, at least in the English speaking part of the church. What strikes me is that there is so much variety of not just belief, but practical application.

    There are a lot of areas where culture and doctrine are seen to be “doctrine” even though there has not been an official church statement, within the policies of the church, claiming it to be. People who are fully committed to what they consider doctrine, often find it hard to realize that it isn’t that important to the entire church. (Certainly caffeine consumption seems to have been blogged and discussed to death, on the Bloggernaccle and in ward lessons and meetings, since the clarification made after the Rock Center dedicated to the LDS church, stating that only coffee and tea are to be abstained from, there is no prohibition against a Coke, Pepsi or other caffeinated drinks in the WoW.) People who had considered it doctrine seemed eager to justify why they don’t, and others shouldn’t, have caffeine in their lives. Other members have always considered that same thing as cultural not doctrinal, because they could find no official church statements in support of it.

    I think that for some people, these cultural parts of the church are a necessary part of their lives, and if they have received personal revelation for their lives, then more power to them, *in their own lives.* Since most of those things have to do with personal observance and personal revelation or a personal witness, for that person, that thing is important, maybe even vital to their salvation. I have always gone by the rule of thumb that, if something I am doing would keep me being comfortable gushing to my best friend, Christ, about what I am doing, I probably shouldn’t. Even that standard leaves a lot of wiggle room, for personal revelation, for every member of the church.

    I agree with many commenters that seeking prayerful confirmation on a personal level is important when deciding which cultural parts of the LDS community are things The Lord asks us, personally, to do for our own betterment. We each have unique gifts, and unique challenges, and that is why personal revelation is so important to me personally. I do not assume that everyone must live the way I do, or think the way I think.

    For the sake of brevity, (yes I know I am hardly ever brief, even when trying, but I left out both stories that I original typed as part of the comment) and will quote some specific comments, and then respond to them on my personal blog. At least one or two posts worth. :-) I have really appreciated the deeply thoughtful discussion, especially Micah’s research, and Meldrum’s thoughts on our “judgment shortcuts.”

    For me, it always comes back to personal revelation and constantly searching the scriptures, learning to accept The Lord’s quietly shared instructions for my life. Some parts of LDS culture are right for my life, some parts I care enough about to choose to participate, because I believe that only in serving in the organization do I have any voice in encouraging subtle cultural changes. There are other parts of the culture that are not healthy for me, and after prayerful study and confirmation from the Holy Ghost, I step back from some of the cultural norms, either by not participating, or refusing to be silent just to make others comfortable. At first I was afraid I would be lonely taking some of those stands. Instead, I have found I am not the only one who asked the question and received their own personal revelation close to mine.

    The biggest, scariest questions to ask, at least for me, were Joseph’s, had as a young boy. Where do I need to be to serve God? Do I belong in the church? Am I a daughter of my Heavenly Father, who pleases Him and an I acceptable to Him? Am I finding ways to serve Him, whatever my circumstances? Scary questions, but infinite tenderness from my Heavenly Father who assures me that I am indeed His daughter, He accepts my offered heart and service, and He doesn’t just want me to be a member of the church, He needs me to be a member of it.

    Apparently lightening doesn’t strike me dead when I have a few hairs on my chin that haven’t been plucked, so I haven’t really had to ask the beard question. There are plenty of others though, and each answer helps shape my life, almost as much as seeing clearly enough to ask the question.

  102. About 2 months ago I had a rough couple of weeks at work (12-14 hour days, a couple of all-nighters) – it comes with the territory of being a computer guy. During this period of severe over-work I gave up shaving and got a good start on a beard that I’ve occasionally kept for a few weeks at a time in the past. This time I decided to give it a good long go and see if I or my wife preferred the beard or not as semi-permanent look. That was about all the thought process that went into my facial hair situation and haven’t thought much about it except how much time I save getting ready in the mornings.
    I told all that so that I can tell this part. I was recently released as the Ward Executive Secretary as we are moving soon. When I met with counselor in the Stake Presidency so he could formally release me he made the comment that when we move to our new ward I might end up being called into the bishopric due to my experience and that my beard wouldn’t be enough to not get the calling, he has asked many men to shave their facial hair in order to accept a calling in a bishopric. Wow. I had to bit my lip and the inside of my cheek to just let that comment go, it wasn’t the purpose of this brief meeting to get into it with him about such a topic and I was just happy to be done with this very time-consuming calling.
    Suffice it to say, the idea that church leadership cannot have or ought not to have facial hair is… well-entrenched cultural doctrine.

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