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.