BYU, Religious Freedom (or its Lack), and Beards

Used subject to Creative Commons license.

Photo by Adam Jones.

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the New York Times’s article on BYU and beards at least dozens of times in your Facebook feed.

Clearly, BYU’s anti-beard rule is stupid. It just is. That said, stupid isn’t necessarily an affirmative reason to do away with it: plenty of institutions have plenty of stupid rules, and, on the list of stupid rules in the world, the beard prohibition isn’t terribly high.[fn1] For the most part, it’s stupid, but not malicious.

Unfortunately, I learned from the Times article, there’s one situation where it is malicious, hypocritical, immoral, and damaging. BYU no longer offers a religious exemption from its no-beard policy. And that needs to change.[fn2]

I’ll let BYU speak for itself, through its spokeswoman, Carri Jenkins:

The university’s spokeswoman, Ms. Jenkins, said it makes its policy clear to Muslims during the application process. “He would have known all the standards before ever even enrolling in the university,” she said.

I don’t even know what to do with this. This is the same language BYU uses when a student athlete gets in trouble for drinking or having sex. A religious obligation not to shave is not the same thing as drinking and having premarital sex.

Maybe BYU’s administration doesn’t understand the religious obligations some students are under.[fn3] So as a quick primer:


For Sikhs, not cutting their hair or their beard is one of their five articles of faith.

Let me repeat that: not cutting their hair or their beard is one of their five articles of faith. It’s not a hipster trend that may or may not have peaked. It is a central tenet of their religious faith.

But to attend BYU, apparently Sikhs have to violate a fundamental religious duty.


I don’t pretend to be an expert on Islam (or, for that matter, Sikhism or Judaism), but for at least some Muslims, growing a beard is mandatory for men who are capable of it. (It’s worth noting that not all Muslims agree, but the fact that various sects of Islam aren’t correlated doesn’t mean that growing a beard is somehow not a real commandment for those who follow sects that require it.)


Leviticus prohibits “rounding” (or destroying) the corners of one’s beard; per the Talmud, that means that observant Jews cannot use a razor to shave part of their beard. For some Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, that means that, for religious reasons, they do not shave their beards at all.

Religious Liberty

Elder Oaks has spoken frequently in recent years about the importance of religious liberty, and the centrality of religious observance to a functioning democracy. In general, he’s talking about religious liberty vis-à-vis the government, but he doesn’t limit it to that. Elder Oaks asks rhetorically what has led to the threats against religious liberty, then answers his question: “I believe the cause is not legal but cultural and religious.” He further argues that “religious persons should insist on their constitutional right and duty to exercise their religion.”

Elder Oaks doesn’t believe that only Mormons deserve to exercise their religion; it is necessary that all religious people do so. And, in fact, our belief that all people should be able to exercise their religion is enshrined in our Articles of Faith:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

But They Can Go Somewhere Else

Certainly they can. But so what? Do we want to force other religious people to choose between their religious beliefs and their educational goals? Universities are not fungible; while BYU is certainly not for everybody, it has certain strengths that undoubtedly appeal to at least some Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish students. And if BYU truly believes that individuals should be able to exercise the religion they believe in, it should make that exercise easier, not harder.

And the thing is, this is a pointless hill to die on. Being clean-shaven is not a tenet of our religion. Note, again, that that doesn’t mean that BYU can’t, or even shouldn’t, ban beards.[fn4] But it does mean that others’ beards don’t conflict with our religious beliefs and obligations, so granting a religious exemption does no harm whatever to Mormonism. That is, to be more blunt, there’s no ambiguity in balancing the equities, because there is no moral weight on the no-beard side. It is simply a policy, and a school policy, not a religious policy, at that.

For that matter, it’s not even an absolute policy on non-religious grounds. A student who is acting in a play, for example, can get an exemption for the duration of the play, and a person whose skin gets irritated from shaving can get a medical exemption.[fn5] But yet you can’t get it if you have a religious obligation to grow a beard. At a religiously-affiliated school.

So Why The Hard-Nosed Attitude?

Honestly, I have no idea.

That said, if you want to read something really sad, read this description of the bind a Sikh student found himself in a couple years ago. His shaving and cutting his hair is nothing less than tragic.

But the Sikh student was told that the policy had changed because the administration was afraid people were lying about their religious convictions in order to have beards.

To which I respond: so? Banning all religious exemptions to prevent fake religions exemptions strikes me as overkill. Especially because of this: according to BYU itself, in Fall 2014, a full 1.3% of BYU students were non-Mormons. BYU has 29,672 students; that means that about 386 students aren’t Mormon.

That means that not more than 386 students could get a beard card based on fake religious convictions, and that number’s probably closer to 212, since 45% of BYU students are women.

How do I come to this conclusion? Basically, like this: the Honor Code says that if a Mormon student converts to another religion, that student is no longer Honor Code compliant, and can’t continue at BYU. And, while beards are not inconsistent with Mormonism, they’re clearly not required by our religion. Therefore, 98.7% of BYU students can’t fake a religious obligation to have a beard.

So the number of students that could possibly need a religious exemption, much less fake one, is vanishingly small. But BYU’s current policy burdens those students unfairly and inordinately.

Communion Wine

Maybe the problem is a lack of familiarity with the religious traditions that require beards. So let’s think about Catholics: are Catholic BYU students forbidden from taking communion while students? They’ve agreed, per the Honor Code, not to drink alcohol, which would seem to forbid communion wine.

If Catholic students cannot take communion, that’s unconscionable and needs to be changed. If they can, well, why is wine different than shaving?

Changing Places

I’ve tried to think about how Mormons could be put in the same situation; nothing quite works. The best I can come up with is a school forbidding endowed Mormons from wearing garments as students, because they require all students to wear briefs.

But I don’t think that works. Not because the hypo is absurd—it is, but it’s not any more absurd than not allowing someone to grow a beard for religious reasons because, according to Jenkins, “This is just how we’ve chosen to represent ourselves.” The problem is, many college students aren’t yet endowed, and theoretically, a student could put off his or her endowment until after graduation with essentially no religious repercussions. The beard obligations, on the other hand, kick in when a boy can start to grow a beard; for many, that starts before college, and thus, the beard prohibition is a bigger burden on college-aged Sikhs than my hypothetical no-garments prohibition would be on college-aged Mormons.

Even still, imagine how outraged we would be collectively (and rightfully so) if a school enacted such a policy.

In Conclusion, Please Bring the Religious Exemption Back

Seriously. I have to say, reading the New York Times article hit me hard; I don’t like to be embarrassed of my alma mater (a school I enjoyed attending and a school that launched me on a good trajectory, both educationally and religiously). But this is embarrassing: we speak of the importance of religious liberty and religious practice, but we don’t respect the religious practices of those whose religious practice doesn’t look like ours.

Look, I get that BYU doesn’t have to grant a religious exemption. It certainly has the right and ability to require all students to be clean shaven.

But just because it can doesn’t mean it should. And, in this case, BYU should not.

I’m not saying do away with the no-beard policy. It’s stupid, but it’s not harmful. Or, at least, it’s not harmful as long as BYU allows a way for those with a religious obligation to wear a beard to not have to choose between their religious obligations and their educational goals.

[fn1] It’s probably worth noting that (a) I’m a BYU alum, (b) I didn’t have a beard at BYU (though I had a couple mustaches), and (c) I haven’t been clean-shaven in at least six years now (most of that time with beards, although I’ve done mustaches during a couple Novembers, and needed a goatee for one Halloween costume).

[fn2] Ideally immediately. Seriously, it’s shameful.

[fn3] That’s actually the best-case scenario: that they’re stupid and ill-informed. Worst case is that they are in fact aware of it, and just don’t care. And I really don’t want to believe either one, frankly.

[fn4] Seriously, the argument that BYU should allow beards because Brigham Young and/or Jesus had one is tremendously adolescent (though I have no doubt I made that argument when I was a student there). BYU students are not Jesus or Brigham Young, and neither Brigham Young nor Jesus was a BYU student. As such, the facial hair that they had has no bearing on BYU’s facial hair policies.

[fn5] And, while I do know people who have medical issues with shaving, rumor was, when I was at BYU, that the medical exemption was tremendously easy to get. Don’t shave for a week, then shave with a dull razor and without shaving cream, and bingo, you’ve got a beard card. (I don’t personally know anybody who did that, but at the very least, that was the rumor.)


  1. Keep the beard rule, BYU, let the students wait to look like mountain men until after they graduate, I really don’t care.

    But this situation is deeply infuriating and offensive. I graduated from BYU myself and as many sillinesses as BYU may engage in, none of it is as evil as requiring a Sikh to shave or leave school. My family owes a real debt of gratitude to a lovely Sikh family, and I would be thoroughly distressed if they were to get word of this. In many ways their religious practices are similar to ours, and they are good friends to have in a fight.

    One of the defining cultural markers of Mormonism is the Word of Wisdom, so making a Sikh shave would be like making a Mormon drink or smoke to remain at school. Of course BYU has the right, but doing so is a clear violation of fundamental principles of our religion, as Sam quoted above:

    “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

    BYU needs to practice what its founding institution preaches, and it owes a sincere and official apology to those whose religious principles it has compromised.

  2. And thank you, Sam, for writing about this.

  3. When a policy or regulation does not raise any moral, doctrinal or administrative issue, we should ask ourselves: “Will continued enforcement of the rule in question increase or decrease the likelihood that outsiders will want to affiliate with our educational and religious institutions?” Will they say: “Gee, BYU’s rigid anti-beard policy, and its attendant insensitivity towards the religious beliefs of others, really appeals to me. I’m going to call their missionaries right away and find out how I can join!”

  4. John Harrison says:

    I would actually go further and argue that the beard policy is so stupid that it does actual harm to the broader LDS culture.

    It takes a policy and elevates it almost to the level of commandment. And given Mormons’ penchant for obedience and going the extra mile many simply take it as a soft commandment whether you’re affiliated with BYU or not.

    I have witnessed with my own eyes and ears a BYU professor bear testimony of not only the Honor Code in general, but the beard policy both in and beyond BYU as the will of the Lord. The professor went further and characterized beards as evil. This in a testimony meeting with bearded men in the audience.

    By setting a non-scriptural “higher” standard the beard policy implies to many LDS that being clean shaven is a higher law and that not only should they comply but causes at least some to look down on those that don’t.

    This is stupid, destructive, and an example of the doctrines of men mingled with scripture. If you think I’m kidding look no further than the idiotic stance the administration has taken as outlined above by Sam.

    At this point BYU doesn’t need a religious exception for beards. They need to do away with the beard aspect of the honor code. Facial hair has nothing to do with honor. Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. This would have the bonus effect of getting rid of the low hanging fruit when people want to point out that the Honor Code is obviously stupid. Not that aspects of it wont still be stupid, but that it will be a touch harder to make the argument.

  5. I was very disappointed to learn that there isn’t a religious exemption for beards at BYU anymore. Having devout members of other faiths attend BYU should be a goal, not something that is impossible for some people because of a conflict between school rules and religious obligations.

  6. “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” –A quaint, 19th Century idea that really has no place in a modern, 21st Century church.

    I remember reading the footnotes in Nibley’s “Jesus the Christ” where he described the inane, picayune rules devised by the scribes and Pharisees to regulate conduct on the Sabbath (e.g., “don’t walk on grass lest you loosen the seeds, causing them to fall into the earth and germinate on the Sabbath”)

    In the immortal words of Pogo: “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

  7. Thanks for this post, Sam. May its wisdom gain traction.

  8. Correction: James E. Talmage, of course, “Jesus the Christ,” not H. Nibley. (Stupid keyboard.)

  9. “So what?” So… freedom of association, and all that.

    Universities are fungible, despite trivial differences between brands, just as gasoline is fungible, despite trivial differences between brands.

    On what consistent grounds would the author fail to advocate that BYU give public place for skyclad wiccans?

  10. I didn’t realize there wasn’t a religious exemption until I read the Times piece. That is pretty darn gross and intolerant.

    In the secular beard department, when it was our ward’s turn to clean the temple recently the high priest group leader was not permitted to lead the cleaning team or even be on the third floor because of his beard.

    This is the kind of thing that makes the damage control of the “I’m a Mormon” (Mormons–We’re Not So Bad!) campaign painfully necessary–and inadequate.

  11. It seems like there’s an easy way to check whether someone’s religious requirement for a beard is genuine. You’re already making them get an ecclesiastical endorsement from their religious leader every year to continue attending– you could totally use the same interview to have the religious leader sign an affidavit requiring you to have a beard. Problem solved?

    On that note… has a non-Mormon ever failed their ecclesiastical endorsement? Is there a minister of another faith who has determined that someone was insufficiently devout to attend the Mormon school? Hmmm.

  12. paulhbrown says:

    FarSide: Talmage.

  13. “On what consistent grounds would the author fail to advocate that BYU give public place for skyclad wiccans?” Log, this is a dumb question and you can prove it, if you will just think about for five more minutes. Feel free to chime in with your answer when you’ve got it figured out.

  14. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may BUT we believe more in being subject to kings, PRESIDENTS, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
    Big contradiction here and guess which way the church goes? The rule of men, of course.

  15. I agree with John Harrison, that there are real negative consequences to our random rules. Undoing the beard policy could go a long way to helping members untangle traditions/culture from the Gospel. I was under the impression that at least some of our leaders were interested in doing so. Just as an example when I posted the NYT link on FB yesterday a fellow RC alum said people aren’t spiritually judged by these rules and then went on to say that it’s obvious I have deep issues regarding my faith bc I question something from the brethren which means it’s from God.

    You’re correct about the religious requirement. It also shows a bit of hypocrisy on our behalf, willing to play the “religious freedom” card on our own behalf in instances favoring us but not others whose interests don’t align with ours. That’s not true pluralism, just self-interest.

    P.S. It’s more than students this effects, spoken as the spouse of a full-time church employee. And there is no, let him grow a beard when he leaves; we’re looking at serious career implications. Sure we didn’t have to take the job but we did, and this just adds another item to my shelf of having belief in the Gospel but not in the “church”.

  16. Sorry, Morgan, but failure to answer and simultaneously calling me “dumb” does not persuade me that there is an answer; at least, it rather persuades me against the proposition that you possess the right answer.

    The general principle being bandied about is whether we are justified in setting behavioral rules that people must abide by when we allow them into our house.

    If so, then if people choose another allegiance which precludes abiding those rules, then they have made a choice and have no just grounds for complaint.

    When the issue is cast that way, the author’s position seems evidently incorrect.

    I mean, even BCC moderates their comments, don’t they?

  17. It is gut-wrenching and horrifying to any person of faith to think of forcing another to violate their circle of honor. What are we possibly thinking in doing so?!

    “I have been asked what I mean by ‘word of honor.’ I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls–walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground–there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!”

  18. John and kristine, like I said, I think the beard rule is stupid. I don’t think it does any good for the church, in terms of burnishing an image or making us attractive to outsiders, and, on net, it may do more PR harm than good. And its effects on faculty are probably slightly more severe than the effects on students (because the academic job market is a tough market).

    Still, the rule isn’t evil as applied to Mormons. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to get at: without a religious exemption, it’s worse than just stupid and (possibly) harmful to our image. Without the exemption, it violates our core professed beliefs and is truly morally wrong.

    Like Amy T, I won’t cry if the rule goes away. But it doesn’t violate my deeply-held beliefs if it stays, even if it infects non-BYU church culture. But without the religious exemption, it offends me to the core.

  19. And we should be ashamed that this failure to honor others’ religious freedom makes our insistent refrain of “we don’t hate gays, we just really really really believe in religious freedom!!” sound an awful lot like “actually we just hate gays and only cynically raise the religious freedom issue when it is self-serving.” If we really are serious about religious freedom, we’d better get serious about it on this issue, too, ASAP.

  20. say no to religious exemptions for beards says:

    Come on, Sam! I think Log is on to something. Just look at the picture of that disgusting hippie at the top of your post! Looks like he just came straight from a head shop. All the filthy hippies in the 1960s claimed to be interested in precepts of so-called eastern religions. Of course even though the beard restriction was already in place back then to make sure no filthy hippies could attend BYU — to make sure BYU incorporated the secular culture wars directly into its daily religious walk and talk — the rule did include religious exemptions so that adherents of those religions that shamefully require their adherents to look like filthy hippies could attend. Back then.

    But five or six (at most, in all probability far fewer) BYU students in the 50 or so years since the beard restriction was put in place by BYU administrators who apparently believed that the immoral J. Edgar Hoover was an honorable man have faked adherence to these so called eastern religions in order to look like druggie hippie beard wearers, so in the last 15 years or so, virtuous BYU, whose sponsoring institution is constantly preaching about religious freedom and religious exemptions (when they benefit Mormons in civil society, whether vis-a-vis the government or private institutions like employers), has eliminated the religious exemption to make sure that not even one of these filthy hippie-minded youth can get away with wearing a beard by appealing to fake adherence to one if these so called eastern religions.

    This is of great importance, BYU. Janet Sharman and Dean Heperi, and associate Dean Jonathan Kau were completely correct to force a devout Sikh to violate his covenants and shave his beard in order not to lose everything as far as his education! Those valiant BYU middle managing bureaucrats were only following the prophet! All BYU students and administrators must follow the prophet no matter what he asks, and if that includes forcing devout adherents of so called eastern religions to violate their faith commitments, then they must do so and do so joyfully! Or, if BYU students and administrators even guess that that is what the prophet or their favorite apostle would want, then it must be made so! That’s how God’s Church works!

  21. Log, I’m with Morgan. You’ve chosen to misread the OP and argue against your misreading. Which is fine; I’m letting you stay at BCC. But, like he said, you can figure out why your question is dumb, and I’ll leave it to you.

  22. And, I didn’t call you dumb. I said your question was, and I stand by that. The OP answers it for you, if you will have eyes to see.

  23. Isn’t the point of the post to argue that Mormons shouldn’t cause situations where people have to choose between BYU attendance and freely chosen religious observances?

  24. If it is the point, then my “skyclad wiccan” question is exactly on point, and I would like to hear the principled answer. If I have misunderstood the point, then I humbly request clarification as to what the point actually was.

    Because it seems, from statements like this: “Or, at least, it’s not harmful as long as BYU allows a way for those with a religious obligation to wear a beard to not have to choose between their religious obligations and their educational goals,” that the point was exactly that.

  25. A Rabbi with a beard can’t attend BYU. So what we are really saying is that Jesus of Nazareth would probably not qualify under this Honor Code? I think I am not taking an extreme position in suggesting that it is time to change the Honor Code. BYU students and alumni, get it done!

  26. From the OP:

    “[fn4] Seriously, the argument that BYU should allow beards because Brigham Young and/or Jesus had one is tremendously adolescent (though I have no doubt I made that argument when I was a student there). BYU students are not Jesus or Brigham Young, and neither Brigham Young nor Jesus was a BYU student. As such, the facial hair that they had has no bearing on BYU’s facial hair policies.”

  27. John Harrison says:


    At what point does adherence to a stupid rule for the sake of the rule become something worse than merely stupid?

    I am in complete agreement that a religious exemption makes sense. There used to be one. That there isn’t is astounding.

    But I think that the administration’s inability to see the wrongheadedness (I’m tempted to say evil) of not granting exceptions is an argument in my favor. It shows that the policy has become an end unto itself. This is the tail wagging the dog and it is illogical. I have seen the influence of this stupidity extend beyond the campus and it is harmful.

    Getting rid of the policy entirely solves the problem of those that have a religious obligation but also treats BYU students as adults, is in line with Mormon thinking regarding agency, and would let busy bodies get back to worrying about themselves rather than policing each other’s facial hair.

    BYU has a right to have any policy for their students that they care to write. I think they ought to think through the all the consequences of a particular policy. What worries me is that I think that they have done that calculation and are satisfied (perhaps even pleased) with the policy.

  28. say no to religious exemptions for beards says:

    But, Bryan, I think we can all agree that Jesus would not get a religious exemption for wearing a beard, and that is as it should be. If some middle managing BYU administrator thinks that his or her favorite apostle on the board of trustees (ahem, Elder Nelson) hates beards and hippies so much that they thought it was necessary to eliminate the religious exemption entirely to ensure that not a single BYU student can look like a filthy hippie by claiming adherence to a so called eastern religion that shamefully requires a beard as part of orthodox and devout religious practice, then that is exactly as it should be! (“Not even once!”) The Lord would never let an apostle lead church members astray, or let church members make inaccurate guesses as to what they think the apostle they see themselves as accountable to would prefer based on precedent and past rhetoric from that apostle! I think we can all agree on that! Or, if not, you are an apostate and Pharisee at best, or a democrat at worst!

  29. fuddyduddy says:


    Folks aren’t replying because they see your point as trolling or simply dumb. Since you’re pressing the point, here you go.

    Exemptions to the beard rule are freely given to students for a number of reasons. The blog post merely states that religious claims should be among those valid reasons, given our church’s desire to protect religious liberty.

    However, students cannot receive permission to walk about campus naked for any reason. Nor can they receive permission to use illegal drugs for any reason. Hence, this post’s logic does not require BYU to allow skyclads (whether Jain or wikkan) or peyote users, despite their religious claims, because these religious claims would indeed create a fundamental conflict with LDS teachings.

    The example of Catholics and communion wine is a little hairier, but still easy to resolve, since the D&C does allow for use of wine in communion, even though we no longer do that in our meetings.

  30. fuddyduddy says:

    @say no to religious exemptions for beards

    Bear in mind that there is no doctrine of infallibility in this church. More to the point, the beard ban has never been presented as doctrinal anyway. Indeed, the exact opposite was specifically stated by BYU’s president at the time the ban was introduced (Dallin H Oaks). Here it is, from the December 1971 New Era:

    “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.”

  31. fuddyduddy says:

    And yes, I detected your sarcasm, but I wanted to put that quote into this thread.

  32. As a BYU alum, I find the fact that the school has done away with the religious exemption is deeply embarrassing. Does anyone have any insights regarding what the most effectual target for a letter might be?

  33. fuddyduddy says:

    @Segullah wrote “BYU students and alumni, get it done!”

    I wish that were possible. This is a decision that will only happen if the Board of Trustees initiates it. If anything, bottom-up pressure will cause administrators to dig in rather than consider honestly why there is pressure.

  34. John, I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written. I think that there’s a decent argument for eliminating the requirement altogether, though I also don’t think that there’s an absolute imperative for BYU to get rid of it. It’s stupid and probably counterproductive, but I’m not willing to call it immoral.

    I can live with my alma mater having stupid and counterproductive rules, even though optimally it wouldn’t. But I can’t live with it having immoral rules, and a no-beard rule with no religious exemption is immoral and violates LDS values.

  35. Maybe BYU just wants to discourage Muslim and Sikh students from attending. Obviously, they don’t care one way or another whether they ever get another Muslim or Sikh student. BYU is designed to be a school for LDS students, and they’re hardly hurting for willing candidates. It’s just an odd little hill to die on.

  36. John Harrison says:


    The symptoms have made the disease clear. BYU can easily treat the symptoms or remove the disease. My guess is that they might return to addressing the symptoms on a judgmental case by case basis. Addressing the disease would make too much sense.

  37. Hi Bryan,

    Of course Jesus was not a BYU student. If He returned today, he could not be matriculated as a student without shaving. With the beard, He just isn’t good enough, regardless of his ACT scores and GPA.

    Is my argument adolescent? Yep. But so is that portion of the Honor Code. It deserves to mocked out of existence.

  38. Exemptions to the beard rule are freely given to students for a number of reasons. The blog post merely states that religious claims should be among those valid reasons, given our church’s desire to protect religious liberty.

    Thanks, fuddyduddy. That largely encapsulates what I wanted to say.

  39. say no to religious exemptions for beards says:

    James and others pressing for writing letters to someone, anyone, who has influence to make a change:

    This is BYU we’re talking about! If you read the experience of the Sikh who BYU adminstrators Janet Sharman (Vice President of Student Life at BYU) and Vernon Heperi (Dean of Student Life at BYU) rightly forced to violate his sacred covenants and shave his beard, you will see that Sharman and Heperi also took righteous petty revenge against an annoying student busybody who took it upon himself to try to get the religious exemption for beards back when he learned that the Sikh student had been forced to shave a beard that he had never shaved before in his entire life out of obedience to religious covenants!

    Who is a random Mormon or BYU alum to argue with Janet Sharman! She is only doing what she guesses her favorite apostle would want! Or perhaps what she guesses the BYU Board of Trustees would want! Or maybe what she thinks is required by the logic behind the beard ban! Well, no one really knows the reasons why she did this or took administrative revenge on the irritating student who tried to move the administration to restore the administrative exemption! And this is how it should be! She works for BYU, so she works for the Church, and so she would never do anything that is not directly commanded by God directly to prophets, seers, and revelators! Her actions might as well be the actions of those very apostles, seers, and revelators that are on the BYU Board of Trustees! She would surely never do anything that she had not guessed that they would want her to do! And that’s as good as coming straight from God! That is how the Church works and if you don’t like it, you should not even consider yourself Mormon at all! And so writing a letter like that is tantamount to marching on temple square and asking to be admitted into Priesthood Session! Just don’t do it! Or if you do, you can fairly expect Elder Whitney Clayton to speak to your stake president and/or bishop and tell him that only an apostate would do such a thing! Then you can expect to be excommunicated!

    This Church is no place for agitators like you who want to write letters to BYU to request restoration of the religious exemption! Of course as Mormons we feel that we deserve a religious exemption in every circumstance whether against state action or private action of employers or the like! But that does in no way mean or imply that we should provide a religious exemption from our inspired no-beard rule! It just doesn’t work like that, as Janet Sharman has made clear!

  40. What’s sad is how much truth there is in the preceding comment.

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    Does anyone have any insights regarding what the most effectual target for a letter might be?

    Write to the Annual Fund and inform them that no donations will be forthcoming until the exemption is restored.

  42. How does an alumni who can’t afford massive donations influence BYU? We’ll probably just have to wait until the board of trustee members whose formative years were in the 60s to die off.

  43. Amen. I’ve always thought the rule was dumb, but gladly submitted to it myself as the price of admission, since the benefits outweighed the costs. But when I read yesterday that BYU has done away with a religious exemption, I was deeply embarrassed. That is seriously messed up, and to do it while we are sounding the alarm that religious liberty is threatened by gay marriage sounds very hypocritical.

  44. @fuddyduddy:

    @Segullah wrote “BYU students and alumni, get it done!”

    I wish that were possible. This is a decision that will only happen if the Board of Trustees initiates it. If anything, bottom-up pressure will cause administrators to dig in rather than consider honestly why there is pressure.

    I suppose BYU might take note if enough people who donate money started to take issue. I know I periodically get requests to donate money to BYU or take surveys. Does anyone remember if those channels have a feedback mechanism?

  45. All I know is that as a BYU employee, agitating for any sort of change can get me quietly fired. This was made clear to me when first interviewing. I had to visit with the VP over faculty. Roughly quoted (it’s been a few years), he said, “Don’t come here if you’re trying to change things.”

    So as much as I support eliminating the beard ban, I won’t be posting it to Facebook or Twitter, and I certainly won’t be emailing the administration expressing support for a change.

  46. Deeply embarrassed is a really good way to put it. That is also my reaction to learning (in 2010 from this series of blog posts about the Sikh who had to shave) about the elimination of the religious exemption. It is embarrassing and even hypocritical. We really need to change it back. It is the only just and moral thing to do, especially in light of Elder Oaks’s and other church leaders’ frequent talks about religious freedom and encouraging religious people to stand up for their convictions in the face of society or institutions that would try to make them change their beliefs or violate their covenants, as Sam pointed out in the OP.

    The lack of a religious exemption to the beard rule — and the documented effect that has had on a devout Sikh who had to shave — would tend to raise a plausible inference that we really don’t practice what we preach. It raises the inference that we only seek such an exemption for ourselves and are not wiling to provide it or fight for it on behalf of others. This is really too bad. And it is embarrassing for all of us who are committed to religious freedom and the related religious exemptions that go hand in hand with it.

  47. The lack of religious exemption is truly what is disturbing and hypocritical. Upon further reflection I have decided to quit complaining about the beard rule in any form, knowing full well that any rule relaxed in Provo becomes more deeply entrenched in Rexburg.

  48. As someone who grew up in the Shadow of BYU and attended, I’m well aware of the cultural dynamics at play, the entrenched attitudes of some middle (and senior) managers, and even have first hand knowledge of situations where unrighteous dominion has reared its ugly head. The annual fund is a good place to start. Thanks for the suggestion, tubes.

  49. This is really upsetting to me. I spent a wonderful semester BYU Jerusalem Center, basking in the Jewish-Muslim-Christian harmony that prevailed among the mixed-faith students, faculty, and staff, and was proud that BYU’s Islamic Studies department saw clearly the ways in which Mormonism was uniquely poised to bridge the communication gap between Islam and Christianity. And of course the warm feeling Mormons have always had for Jews also made me proud to be the Mormon flavor of Christian. I was proud that my very conservative campus appealed to religious conservatives of other faiths–that they felt more comfortable at BYU, despite its heavy Mormon influence, than they did at secular universities. So why the ham-handed policy over something that is for us cultural and not religious? I was worried that the Church’s push on the “religious liberty” thing would embarrass the Church when rank-and-file Mormons inevitably failed to defend the rights of other faiths, but I’m stunned that it happened at BYU. Whatever faults it may have, I thought that BYU’s was better than that.

  50. Sam, we members of the Church and graduates from BYU with “spectacular” beards salute you. The Church (and BYU) are not democracies. I fully sustain the Church leadership. I do believe the sanctions against bearded wonders is a bit silly–especially considering the wonderful beards sported by earlier Church leaders.

  51. Does sustaining the Church leadership somehow have to include defending or supporting the elimination of the religious exemption from the beard restriction? Your comment implies that it does.

    I know that Sam sustains the Church leadership too. As do I. And yet we are deeply embarrassed that BYU no longer allows a religious exemption for beards. Paradox? Or can active, faithful members who sustain Church leaders legitimately disagree, even publicly, with the idea and implementation of the elimination of the religious exemption?

  52. A Happy Hubby says:

    I think the desire for being clean shaven is due to the churches investment holdings in Gillette and Bic corporations. he he he

  53. This story makes me utterly heartsick. I have met many devout Sikhs and Muslims in my work life, and their devotion and commitment deserves respect, not bureaucratic hardlining for no real reason at all. Unfortunately, “say no to religious exemptions for beards” said it just the way it is. Yes, it’s an embarrassing day to be a BYU Alumnus.

  54. Why on earth would God make bodies that grow beards if he was going to expect them to shave it off every day? I just don’t believe in a God that is such a jerk. The BYU Beard ban, the requirement that bishops/SPs/Temple Workers be clean-shaven– I agree with the OP. It’s just stupid. And to see BYU pull this is really disheartening.

  55. To my wonderful Sikh friends, Sat Sri Akal! Please don’t go to BYU, it would be a huge mistake. And no, its not just about the beards it just that its not a good place for non-Mormons. They speak of religious freedom, but its a one way street. Just trust me on this, Please.

  56. Amen and Amen. I was questioning this after reading the NYTimes article. It’s utterly embarrassing that there is no longer a religious exemption for beards at BYU. One of the most incredible BYU students that I knew during my own time there is Sikh and he (of course) had a beard. I didn’t realize that there had been a policy change. Upsetting and embarrassing and wholly perplexing. Thank you for the post!

  57. Kevin Barney says:

    Great post, Sam. I read the Sikh articles when they first came out and wanted to throw up over the whole thing.

  58. I think this policy is naive at best. Looks like it is a policy decided upon by some real absolutists who believe that beards are of the devil of such like. Or by people who are so very immersed in the Mormon culture of Utah or the intermountain West, that they probably are not aware of Sikhism or Judaism or for that matter anyother religious group that might have issues with BYU’s no-beard policy. Sort of like the brethren in my EQ here in Michigan- during discussions about the WOW, I am always amazed by the totally naive and uneducated remarks made whenever the subjects of drinking alcoholic beverages, or drinking coffee or tea come up. Sort of like the discussion we had right here on BCC a couple of months back( was it a piece that Sam wrote?)

  59. As a compromise, perhaps skyclad wiccans should be allowed as long as they grow a beard over their…umm…skyclad parts.

  60. What in the what?! I read the article and I just sat down stunned at the revelation that BYU retracted the religious exemption. To then read that the university has FORCED Sikhs and Muslims to shave their beards / cut their hair is a travesty of all we claim to believe.

    Karan Deep Singh was a friend, a classmate and the valedictorian of my graduating class at BYU in 1995. And yes he was a fully practicing Sikh. He relates that he would have never considered BYU had the beard ban been enforced against him and if there wasn’t a religious exemption. How poorer would we as a university and as a community have been without someone like Karan among our ranks? His grace and eloquence were inspiring and his willingness to share insights about his own faith in our Comparative Religions course was one of the highlights of my religious educational experience at BYU.

    Consider his own thoughts on what it meant to come to BYU during his own faith evolution and how it almost didn’t happen back in 1992:

    Interestingly, the entire time I was being initiated into the rigors of discipleship, I had no idea that twelve thousand miles away, across a continent and an ocean, fellow adolescents in another community were experiencing similar throes under their own prophets and mentors. I had never heard of the Mormons, nor was I even remotely acquainted with Brigham Young University. What I was acutely aware of, though, was an overwhelming desire to come to the United States to further my education. The liberal arts have always entranced me; and of all the universities in the world, I thought the American ones incorporate the liberal arts most effectively into a rigorous undergraduate curriculum. When application season came, I applied to five of the best private schools in the country. A couple of months later, a family friend, himself a graduate of Harvard and an admirer of Latter-day Saints, brought up the possibility of going to BYU. On his lofty recommendation, I decided to give it a shot, only to be told in a curt official notice that BYU doesn’t allow men to wear facial hair for nonmedical reasons. Oh, and rule number two: hair must be worn short—no longer than collar length, ears exposed, neatly groomed.

    That has to be one of the most amusing nonstarters. Not so much offended as baffled by the tone of the letter, I forgot all about BYU. But this family friend was irate. He pursued my case with some LDS friends in Salt Lake City. The misunderstanding was sorted out: of course I would be allowed to keep my hair and beard. A week later, I got a letter in the mail congratulating me on being accepted to BYU. Now I had a choice. The Honor Code tilted the scales in BYU’s favor, and I moved into room 312 of V Hall, Deseret Towers. That was in the fall of 1992. In the spring of 1995, I received a letter announcing my eligibility to graduate that April, which I did with two majors, three mentors, four B’s, and no job offers. But perhaps most importantly, with the art of preserving God in my life.

    We need more contributors like Karan to the BYU experience not fewer. We need more friends of the faith like Karan not fewer.

    This needs to change and it needs to change NOW. The next time I get a call or letter from alumni relations asking for a donation – if you donate once they never forget – I intend to offer a very direct explanation of how they are damaging the reputation of the alma mater I recall and the university I have previously willingly supported. Unfortunately I cannot direct my tithing funds away from the university but I can guarantee I would if that were possible. In fact, I am calling the alumni board today to voice my distaste and dissatisfaction with such religious bigotry being enforced in the name of a rule that might, might I say, have merit for clean shaven Mormons and the image of a well groomed campus but has no place when it comes to those who adhere to other faiths and wish to attend.

    That is how big of a mistake this is and how damaging of a decision that governing counsel has made. I hope and pray this was a decision made at the lower levels of the University Honor Code Council on which I once proudly served and that it is simply an example of bureaucracy run amok that will quickly be corrected once the brethren on the Board of Directors recognize the unbelievably stupid decision that was made.

    How could they let this happen? This calls for a reaction by any and all alumni. They need to know how disturbed we are by such a rule when it comes to forcing those of other faiths to choose between learning and contributing to the educational experience at BYU and staying true to important tenets of their own deeply held faith.

    Now is not a time for slacktivism. Now is a time to let the University know how wrong they are. Forget about Shane Pittson and his quest to lift the beard ban – they need to know that this is not a silly issue when it comes to treading on those who believe differently.

    You want to have an impact then forget about Janet Scharman and Vernon Heperi. Contact Keith Lue who is the Managing Director of the Alumni Association and sits on the Executive Board.

    Money talks on this issue. Seriously.

  61. The quote from Karan comes from the book, “Finding God at BYU.”

    I fear with petty rulings like this we are driving God out of the university.

  62. Thank you, Gilliam.

  63. Not Happening says:


  64. When I hear of things like this in my Mormon faith community, I find it helpful to follow these steps.
    1) Apply palm of hand to forehead.
    2) Sigh and try to smile at the same time.
    3) Pause for breathing and more breath.
    4) Calmly tell yourself that this “policy” is just bad culture not The Gospel and that the actions and institutional stupidity of zealots aren’t the only definition of your faith community.
    5) Repeat steps 1 through 4 as needed until you can remember the faces and names of the many amazingly brilliant, creative, thoughtful and selfless Mormons who are part of your faith community.

    I am not trying to be sardonic with this. I am serious. I do this. Hope it helps someone out there.

  65. I remember Karan too. He would color coordinate his turbans with BYU home and away football games. His grooming was impeccable even if hi hair was long underneath.

    I always just assumed there was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” religious exception. For beards and for communion wine. And probably a dozen others as well.

    I don’t trust a rookie NY Times reporter to get the subtleties of the actual BYU implementation of the policy correct. I am nervous about mixing legitimate cases for exceptions like Karan with broader fashion trends and more superficial desires for a change to the policy.

    I think BYU has a legitimate interest in maintaining the general grooming practices of its students. Of course there will be considered exceptions. Of course there will be shades of gray in deciding where those lie.

  66. Gilliam: thank you for a powerful comment—and call to action!

  67. Mike H, there’s no need to trust the reporter (who only mentioned it in a paragraph or two toward the middle of the article anyway): Carri Jenkins, the school’s official spokesperson, has confirmed it, and the story of the Sikh who had to shave and cut his hair to stay at BYU (and meet the terms of his visa) adds a confirming witness (and serious poignancy) to the story.

  68. john f:

    “I know that Sam sustains the Church leadership too. As do I. And yet we are deeply embarrassed that BYU no longer allows a religious exemption for beards. Paradox? Or can active, faithful members who sustain Church leaders legitimately disagree, even publicly, with the idea and implementation of the elimination of the religious exemption?”

    The answer to your question depends on whether your first loyalty is to what you believe are true and correct principles or to an institution run by men. Even in the case of our church, the two periodically diverge.

  69. Honest Question says:

    FarSide, is BYU the Church? Do we sustain the bureaucrats and policies of BYU?

  70. Honest Question: The answer to your question can be found by examining the composition of the Board of Trustees of BYU: BYU’s Board consists exclusively of the the members of the Church General Education Board, and they are presided over by the President of the Church.

  71. Gilliam: thank you. Excellent comment.

  72. Christian C. says:

    I sympathize with the post, but also feel a perverse need to know how far and towards what targets the author is willing to take his logic and tone. In particular, is he willing to say, “Clearly, the required beard rules of Sikhism, Islam, and Judaism are stupid. They just are.”

  73. Christian, no. I try to give others’ religious beliefs and practices the benefit of the doubt, even when they aren’t based on a rationally-expressed foundation.

    But rules that don’t even claim a rational or religious foundation (viz. “This is just how we’ve chosen to represent ourselves”) get no such presumption of non-stupidity from me. If they’re stupid, they’re stupid. And this rule—especially in its currently-enforced guise—is stupid.

  74. Inner Workings says:

    Mike H, there’s no need to trust the reporter (who only mentioned it in a paragraph or two toward the middle of the article anyway): Carri Jenkins, the school’s official spokesperson, has confirmed it, and the story of the Sikh who had to shave and cut his hair to stay at BYU (and meet the terms of his visa) adds a confirming witness (and serious poignancy) to the story.

    I actually don’t trust Carri Jenkins. I know she has gotten facts wrong in the past. I don’t trust that she did her due diligence before responding to this journalist.

  75. Inner Workings, I’d be thrilled if she were wrong and BYU does, in fact, provide a religious exemption. Based on other anecdotal evidence (linked to in the OP), though, I suspect she’s right.

  76. From Christian’s post I can’t tell if he thinks that A) Sam thinks the fact that BYU requires other religious people to shave their beards is stupid or B) Sam thinks the fact that other religions require beards is stupid.

    I think it’s clear that Sam believes A. But I think Christian might think Sam believes B.

  77. On second reading (Or rather 4th). I retract my last comment. I see what Christian was trying to say and I had bad reading comprehension. Sorry…

  78. Since others have brought up the no facial hair for temple workers, I will share an experience I had within the last year. I think it is pertinent.

    I had a temple recommend and a mustache concurrently for about 30 years, including a five year term as a bishop in the 1990s. I later shaved it off and went clean shaven for a few years, but a year ago, decided to grow a goatee. I had also been a temple veil worker, and had never been told that as a veil worker, and not a regular ordinance worker, that I also was subject to the no facial hair rule. Long story short, I showed up at our temple one night to fulfill a 3 hour veil assignment, and was told that I couldn’t do it. I found a razor, shaved, and fulfilled the assignment. When I returned my veil worker badge to the office, a kindly temple worker referred to the September 9th, 2001 (as best I can recall) instruction from President Hinckley that temple workers should be clean shaven as prophetic because of what happened two days later. I tired ti hide my incredulous look, and took back the goatee ever since.

    Point being, in the absence of sound doctrine for a policy, we make things up, as evidenced in the PH/Temple ban for black members. If there is a good reason for these beard bans, let’s hear it. Otherwise, we come off as petty, hypocritical, and mean-spirited in the eyes of many. I don’t think that is what we want.

    And Rulon, good advice. I’ve seen you practice that many times. It works.

  79. FarSide: is this the Nibley quote you were thinking of?: “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.” (Hugh Nibley)

    I found fuddyduddy’s comment deeply disturbing: “All I know is that as a BYU employee, agitating for any sort of change can get me quietly fired… So as much as I support eliminating the beard ban, I won’t be posting it to Facebook or Twitter, and I certainly won’t be emailing the administration expressing support for a change.”

    This fear of freedom of expression is nearly as troubling to me as the no religious exceptions to the beard policy.

  80. I went to school with a Sikh at BYU and he was not required to shave his beard.

  81. Actually, Jen K, I wasn’t thinking of that quote, but it’s a very good one. As I noted in a correction I posted afterwards, I mistakenly attributed authorship of “Jesus the Christ” to Nibley instead of Talmage. Moral of story: don’t get old. Your brain shrinks.

  82. “The Commission hereby notifies students, employees and members of the public regarding the opportunity for third-party comments about the following member institutions with upcoming Year Seven, Initial Candidacy, Interim Candidacy, or Initial Accreditation evaluations. Third-party comments may be sent to the Commission office at:

    Attn: Third Party Comment
    8060 165th Ave NE, Ste 100
    Redmond, WA 98052”

  83. As a beard-wearing Christian, I was dismayed to read about this. As a former BYU student, I was not surprised.
    I share the concern of others in previous comments that policies like this lead to attitudes in the general membership that diversity is a bad thing, and can be “corrected” by coming unto Christ. We claim the right to be a peculiar people, but are not very good at extending that right to others.

  84. Jen K: “This fear of freedom of expression is nearly as troubling to me as the no religious exceptions to the beard policy.” They are not unrelated.

  85. I would wager a lot of BYU admins kind of bank on the fact that it’s frankly “wink, wink, nod, nod” easy to get some doctor in Utah Valley to sign a “medical exception” waiver.

    That’s what the T.A. for my World Religions class with Roger Keller did. He was a Sikh and very articulate and intelligent. Professor Keller had him give a lecture on Sikhism for the class and it was excellent. He got a rousing ovation at the end.

    During QA time he was asked how he dealt with the beard issue, being a BYU student. He said he specifically asked for a religious exception (this was the late 1990s) and was denied. So he just went out and found a doctor to get him a medical exception statement. Honestly, it’s easy to do because the threshold for getting a doctor to honestly say “this guy has sensitive skin and shouldn’t need to shave” is really quite low.

    I think the admins who don’t like fact patterns like this kind of count on doctors in the community doing this.

    I think it pretty much stinks. It’s a lousy basis for administration of an “Honor Code” in any case.

  86. Here is another paragraph from Karan Singh’s autobiographical essay, talking about giving his speech at BYUs commencement. It leaves us a lot to live up to:

    Three weeks later, President Gordon B. Hinckley got up and introduced me to an audience of eighteen thousand. “An anthropology and humanities-philosophy major,” he said, “Brother Singh is from New Delhi, India. The Sikh honor code requires him to wear a turban and a beard. He has been respectful of our faith, as we are of his.” We had come full circle. From the terse you-can’t-wear-your-beard-at-BYU notice to President Hinckley’s cordial introduction, the journey had at once been full of both anguish and inspiration, suffering and salvation, despair and deliverance. “The World Is Our Campus,” says the inscription at BYU’s entrance. Where else would twenty-seven thousand Mormons train a Sikh to preserve the companionship of God?

  87. Ed, are you sure the Sikh you went to BYU with didn’t just have a medical exception?

  88. Ed, BYU used to have a religious exemption that allowed Sikhs and others to have beards despite the beard ban if their religious commitments/beliefs/covenants required it.

    That religious exemption has been revoked at some point in the last 10 years or so. It sounds like you were at BYU before the exemption was revoked (as was I — I remember Karan and another devout Sikh who had full beards, and greatly enjoyed Karan as a world religions teacher).

  89. Yeah Morgan, that’s him. That was the name of the T.A. in my World Religions class.

  90. John F.

    Karan specifically told our class he got a medical exception – unless I’m just getting senile and not remembering my facts right.

  91. I believe that Karan graduated in 1995 and that he benefited from the religious exemption that was still in place at that time.

  92. Almost makes me wish I’d previously been giving money to BYU just so I could stop now as a form of economic protest.

    And, for whatever mid-level school bureaucrat came up with this, I’d quote them something like:
    “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

    Then, I would patiently explain, much in the same way I’d explain to a four-year old cracked out on Halloween candy, that they do not fall outside that category of “almost all men”. I’d try to teach them that if I work for a big corporation, that it doesn’t mean that every action I take has the implicit approval of the CEO, and that they are likely to have an uncomfortable interview at the Last Day, when they are asked “How did you treat your brothers? Were you an example of the Light of Christ in their lives?”

  93. “plenty of institutions have plenty of stupid rules, and, on the list of stupid rules in the world, the beard prohibition isn’t terribly high”

    Worst defense possible for the non-religious exemption part of the ban. I know it’s not being defended here, but don’t let stupidity off the hook that easy.

  94. A commenter says:

    Sometimes I think the church, and Mormons in general, dig in our heels just because we can. It sort of feels like we stick to these positions and rules because if we change them we’ll appear weak…and we’re deathly afraid of the public at large thinking we’re open to influence of public opinion.

    It’s kind of like a defensive, immature teenager discovering its place in the world. We’re going to do things just because we’ve got something to prove (probably to ourselves). We’re not sure what it is, and we lack awareness that nobody really cares about what we’re trying to prove, and in the meantime we cause harm to ourselves and others, but dammit, we will NOT be pushed around!

  95. I would encourage those frustrated by this to voice their frustrations to BYU directly. You can call the honor code office or the alumni association. They sounded genuinely surprised when I spoke to them and said I misread the article and that there never was an exemption for religious belief.

  96. Nate, thanks. But even if there never was a religious exemption, its absence is still inexcusable.

  97. Christian J says:

    Ya, the religious liberty rhetoric going around lately just lost its teeth in my mind. As expected, although wanting to give the benefit of the doubt, its really just code for Mormon religious liberty.

  98. I am frankly so sick and tired of this type of mindless dribble. BYU is a private University. It can do whatever it wants. If it demands that everyone wears pink, then they have the right. If you don’t like it, if you don’t like the Honor Code, if you want to drink and smoke, have premarital sex, sport some beard scruff into a testing center then GO TO A DIFFERENT SCHOOL for the love of heavens! For those that believe in the LDS gospel, take a moment and realize who the Board of Directors are of BYU… the Apostles of The Lord Jesus Christ… and you think you know better than them?! I get it if you are a non-member of our faith, but then please have some respect that BYU is a private institution and they can do as they wish. If the Board chooses to change the rule, so be it. Until then, shut your mouth and fall in line or go some where else. Good grief, I seriously cannot take this anymore.

    Oh and while I am on my rant, consider this for everyone who wants to break the Honor Code or who feels like it is unfair or “stupid”… there is a widow in some third-world country who pays her tithing faithfully so you can go to BYU and receive an education. It is estimated that a BYU 4-year degree costs the church somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000.00. Even if you pay full tuition, you are still on SCHOLARSHIP… you essentially get $60,000.00 of free education. So you get all this free education, set your self up for a sweet job, and then have the audacity to complain about a beard or the rules within the Honor Code? You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself for even thinking of this as an injustice or even slightly stupid. And let’s assume that widow has children, she pays into a system when she knows her own children will NEVER get the opportunity to attend BYU. Its almost immoral to ask her for money, but I am not asking, the Lord is, and she gives it willingly to the Kingdom. So have some respect for others who put you through school. Obey the rules and fall in line, earn your degree and go forth to serve. If you can’t do this, then LEAVE and let someone else in who will abide these rules. I am a proud alum of BYU. I worked hard to get in and had a wonderful experience. It set me up for a wonderful life of prosperity. It’s a sacred place to me. If you choose to attend, please respect the school and the members who pay for you by living the Code. if you are an outsider, please respect we are a deeply religious and PRIVATE university and sometimes we do things that isnt going to make sense to the World. Its our/BYU’s choice.

  99. “They sounded genuinely surprised when I spoke to them and said I misread the article and that there never was an exemption for religious belief.”

    I imagine that might be the response of some apologists who feel compelled to defend even indefensible policies such as this. As if the fact that a religious exemption never existed in the first place (if that is true and I hope it’s not) somehow makes the situation better.

    By the way, if it is true that an exemption never existed then what that shows is the length to which people who make themselves “critics” of the church in certain apologists’ eyes by virtue of being embarrassed by the lack of a religious exemption, even though they are faithful, active Latter-day Saints (and for that reason are ashamed about this policy), will go to give BYU and the Church the benefit of the doubt by assuming that a rational religious exemption used to be in place rather than thinking from the outset that it could possibly be the case that the policy against beards was so irrational that it did not even include a religious exemption.

    Also, if it is true that there never was a religious exemption, then that throws the wonderful quote by President Hinckley into an unfavorable light, implying to some extent that he was being disingenuous when he said we at BYU offered Karan our respect for his religious commitment to wear a beard (if it is true as Seth R. claims that Karan had to seek a bogus doctors note to avoid the beard ban). I really hope that’s not true and that there used to be a religious exemption that benefited him as implied in President Hinckley’s statement about him.

  100. If there ever was an exemption for religious belief, how do we explain this language which is still on the BYU website?
    ( This is apparently being ignored in practice, based on a number of anecdotal accounts mentioned by the NYT, Sam’s BCC post, and the associated comments, and what you were told, Nate, on the phone. Someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

  101. “Exemptions to the beard rule are freely given to students for a number of reasons. The blog post merely states that religious claims should be among those valid reasons, given our church’s desire to protect religious liberty.”

    Why should “religious” claims be among valid reasons? Either there is a principle being addressed – say, protecting religious liberty, in which case skyclad wiccans are in play again (and I want to hear the principled difference between beards and nudity when both are freely chosen religious observances – “the rules are this way” is not a principled argument), or the author is expressing a mere prejudice or taste preference, and the OP is then no more significant a statement than “I like pie.”

    So which is it – is there a significant principle being addressed, or is an insignificant opinion being expressed?

  102. Steve, the discussion here isn’t about rabble rousers wanting to smoke, drink, and have some beard scruff. This is about not having a religious exemption to the no-beard rule, which makes it so that we require Sikhs to shave a beard that they have never shaved in their life out of obedience to their sacred covenants.

    The widow in a developing country whom you invoked does not subsidize his tuition.

    And your argument that such a Sikh should just tuck it up and violate sacred covenants by shaving our leave BYU runs afoul of LDS values honoring and supporting religious freedom and encouraging religious people to stand firm in their covenants or sacred obligations against the world that seeks to get them to violate them. In this case, BYU is “the world” seeking to influence such people to violate their sacred covenants. I don’t want to be on that side of the issue as a faithful, active Mormon working toward a Zion that we believe will include many people of other faiths working together with us.

  103. I don’t dispute that BYU is a private institution and can do whatever it wants.

    I would however point out that this policy is not in keeping with BYU’s ideals in my opinion.

  104. Change “ever” to “never” in my previous comment, sorry.

    And here, for the record, is the language from the beard policy as of today (link above):

    Exceptions may be granted if an individual (1) has a documented medical condition which is exacerbated by shaving, (2) is performing in a theatrical event short-term, or (3) actively participates in an officially recognized religion which advocates the wearing of a beard as one of its religious tenets.

  105. Morgan’s link explaining beard policy for employees (not students) is great. But, other than the Times article, I’m not seeing links to the current student policy, administration comments on the lack of religious exemption, etc. Anyone have access to the actual text of the student policy? Links to statements made by administrators at BYU?

  106. There are tradeoffs to any human endeavor. BYU is not a public venue, and I see no principled reason that they cannot set any rules they want for people who wish to attend there. The no-beard rule, whatever exceptions may be granted, need not admit any exceptions, or may admit arbitrary exceptions. I cannot see a principled reason why a religious exemption “should” be made to the no-beard’ rule, for no general principle which can be universalized has been advanced in support thereof (without admitting skyclad wiccans), but then, I also don’t see a principled reason the “no beard” rule should exist.

    The price of BYU attendance may be too high for the Sikh, but, as the song says, “you can’t always get what you want.” BYU has no affirmative duty to lower the price – economic, cultural, whatever – to accomodate all comers.

    A more interesting analysis, to me, would be “is the ‘no-beard’ rule consistent with the Golden Rule?”

  107. The lack of religious exemption to the no-beard rule fails the golden rule, especially in light of recent frequent talks by church leaders about religious freedom and the need for religious exemptions in all kinds of contexts so that religious people are not forced by “the works” to violate sacred covenants.

    It is hypocritical for us to preach this but then not allow a devout Sikh to keep a beard out of obedience to sacred covenants while attended BYU.

    It makes reason stare that BYU would require such a person to violate their covenant in order to obey a cultural expectation like BYU’ beard ban.

  108. *forced by the world.

  109. This is just embarrassing. I have worked and attended school with many Sikhs and Muslims in my life, and their values are so complimentary to ours. I have a hard time believing we would turn them away for such a silly man made rule. Certainly BYU is a private institution and can do what it pleases, but do we really want that to be our line of defense when it comes to religious discrimination? We request that those around us respect our covenants, values and standards. I would hope we are kind and thoughtful enough to allow others to honor their beliefs and invite them to work and study along with us. The beard ban is a self made rule based on culture and nothing else..since when does a cultural rule trump “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and ALLOW all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (Article of Faith 11). by asking someone to compromise a deeply held belief for one of our institutional rules runs counter to one of the basic tenants of our own faith, I am in disappointed that one of our own institutions would do such a thing. The beard ban is silly, but if BYU is going to have it the least they could do is make sure there is room for religious exceptions…that is not an unreasonable request.

  110. doctordoctorstein2013 says:

    Log keeps rolling out versions of the following: “I cannot see a principled reason why a religious exemption ‘should’ be made to the no-beard rule, for no general principle which can be universalized has been advanced in support thereof (without admitting skyclad wiccans).”

    He just “cannot see” any sufficient principles here? These strike me as totally sufficient (and rather obvious): “BYU encourages enrollment by sincere believers of all faiths, and respects their right to the expression of their own religious beliefs, subject only to relevant secular law and the university’s desire to maintain a distraction-free educational environment.”

    And no, the no-beard rule is not consistent with the Golden Rule.

  111. the lds church and byu continue to make stupid hills to die on. stupid is the right word, and i’m glad the author used it. It seems that BYU and the LDS church are happy to to die on so many hills of their own making. And yet they claim they want converts and to be accepted by all. If the beard rule offends one person, was it worth it? And i can gaurantee you there has been more than one.

    What harm would come up doing away with the beard rule? I can’t even list the other numerous hills on which they are choosing to die on, and are finding themselves increasingly more and more alienated from the main stream and not accepted. A stone taking over the world , the church is not. its a fringe groups whose rules and view change, despite saying they dont.

  112. I cannot believe that no one has made a “sikh and ye shall find” joke. Quality is slipping around here.

    I am, however, encouraged by the obliviousness of commenters whose argument in favor of the beard ban go like this:
    1. Religious liberty!
    2. BYU is private!
    3. BYU is run by the Almighty!

    The fact that BYU is legally permitted to take a given course of action does not morally justify that action. The same goes for the Church. God installed this sucker, but that doesn’t mean that everything the administration does is His command. If anything, the imprimatur of divine authority at the head of this Church should fill leaders and administrators with a sense of humbling dread, as they should try to live as Jesus lived.

    Asking a sikh student to shave off or shove off is not Christlike. It just isn’t. Beardlessness has zilch to do with righteousness, even when we artificially install it as some sort of Abrahamic sacrifice.

    So, to those who are defending the beard ban: we get it. Seriously – it’s a very simple argument. It’s just that you’re wrong.

    PS I will ban the next idiot who brings up wicca.

  113. John Wallet says:

    Just stop it with this rhetoric. There are thousands of universities that are fantastic. All have their rules. Deal with it. “But I just have to go there. They can’t tell me I can”. They can and they will. That is exactly why it is a private institution. Go to a public school. Drink, gamble, have sex, don’t shower, don’t shave, do whatever you want that is not against school or societal rules. Enjoy!

    If you don’t like it apply elsewhere. This liberal agenda about being PC so people can do what they want, wherever then, whenever they want with whomever they want is what is wrong with our society.

  114. Tim, the student version says, “Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable.” Tge only express exception I can find for students is for medical reasons.


    Medical exception:

  115. Thanks, Sam. Interesting that employees have more exemptions available than students do.

  116. John Harrison says:

    Dear “go somewhere else idiots”,

    Some of us did in fact go somewhere else and some of us decided to do so in part because of the stupidity of the honor code.

    Yet that doesn’t make us disinterested parties. The stupidity of the honor code seeps beyond BYU and permeates the broader LDS culture. One need look no further than the knee jerk defensiveness of some of the commenters here to find evidence of that.

    The discrimination against those that consider facial hair sacred is offensive to gospel values. That alone should be enough to justify exemptions. But the underlying arbitrariness of the policy and the willingness of so many to defend it using such poor logic as has been shown here is evidence that the entire beard policy should be scrapped.

  117. “These students knew about the policy and they could have gone elsewhere.” OK, fair enough, but the issue is for which groups exemptions should be had in the first place, not whether the policy as it stands should be implemented.

    One might ask, then, why BYU should bother to have a medical exemption. Surely this exemption can and has been abused (with far greater chance of abuse than religious exemptions, because it can be abused from among the entire male populace, not just the tiny fraction of non-LDS students; simply shave with a dull blade and no shaving cream for several days). If the concern is limiting abuse, then wouldn’t it make sense to ax the medical exemption also? We can simply expect for men with medical problems to shaving to accept that BYU is not for them or to medically compromise themselves in order to attend. The choice is theirs. This possibility makes any sane person’s skin crawl, and the parents of future Cougars will surely be outraged: Susie can go to BYU, but not Billy because he has a skin condition–all to preserve an inflexible policy that has nothing to do with LDS practices.

    But, but, but: If we take Carrie Jenkins at her word: We should have no compassion whatsoever for Billy. He may have dreamed to go to BYU all his life. He may be better qualified than all of his peers. But he can go somewhere else. Or he can have a chopped up face for four years. End of discussion. Close the curtains.

  118. BYU has the right as a private institution to do all sorts of things. That right doesn’t put those decisions beyond the reach of discussion or criticism, it just makes them possible.

    I have the right as a private individual to do all sorts of idiotic things. My right to do them doesn’t make them wise. It just makes them possible.

    It’s unconscionable for Mormons to hold others to a completely arbitrary, non-religious rule in a way that makes them violate their own religiously-based rules.

    And it’s frightening that folks on this thread graduated from BYU and don’t get that. I’m wondering how these dudes fulfilled their Global and Cultural Awareness credits. These are the same kind of people that whine at the faintest hint of a slight against Mormons in the media, but turn downright boorish when it comes time to show respect to others.

  119. For what it’s worth, Sam, I was denied a beard card last year in my very last semester of law school after doing precisely what you outlined. I dry-shaved with a dull razor and the doc took a look at my red neck (not redneck) and decided i was full of it. Oh well. I haven’t shaved since graduation, though. So there’s that.

  120. Normally I’m opposed to whatever offense the bloggernacle discovers on any given day. But this is truly offensive and whoever ok’d it should resign from asy involvement at BYU. It tends to run a the credibility of the churches teachings put into institutional practice next other areas as well.

    I’d fully support a petition to have the person behind this removed. I’m sure they’re nice in a lot of ways, but they ought to seek employment elsewhere as a result of this grievous mistake.

    How could no one in the chain say, this is wrong?

  121. Douglas Collins says:

    I went to college in Utah Valley at what was then known as UVSC. It was across town from BYU, and was a state college with no religious affiliation. I was LDS at the time but also had long hair- part of my chosen look as a musician. One night, I performed at BYU with a girl who was a student there, and a few minutes before the performance someone from the university said my hair needed to be in a bun before I could go on stage. I was pissed at the nonsense! There was no wiggle room for a non-student who was performing one song. I mean, if someone can have a beard card for being in play, this was an especially unnecessary to treat someone… I can’t imagine how frustrating this beard issue is for any BYU students who have other religious beliefs. As an aside, I thought it was terribly two-faced of BYU when I heard, about a week after my experience, that they were allowing an openly gay speaker to come to the university and give a talk. Talk about picking strange battles…

  122. What is bothering me is BYU is totally violating a basic Christian creed called the Golden Rule based on Matthew 7:12. If we ask that others respect our beliefs (A of F 11), we need to do the same. Respecting others is so fundamental, this BYU snafu is embarrassing. I agree with signing petitions, withholding donations or what have you to change the policy.
    Also I am afraid we are becoming like the Mennonites, Hassidic Jews, FLDS and others who take a mode of fashion and turn it into a religious tenet. As LDS we need to strive for balance and reason, and avoid extremism.

  123. I can’t believe they didn’t grandfather in the Sikh student that came to the Y under one policy and then had it changed on him. That is just plain unconscionable. I worry what is says in regards to the strength of the decision making process and capabilities of the Y administration. This seems like an easy give me. It takes some pretty messed up or weak leadership to let that change wend its way through the bureacracy and then to tell a good hearted student they have to get kicked out of the university over that. I personally also think that the rules that kick out LDS students who faith transition while in college also strike at the very heart of religious freedom. As long as they continue to abide by the honor code behavioral standards, a change of belief should not invalidate a college education or lead to dismissal.

  124. Even the military has beard exemptions for religious and medical reasons. An institution’s doing away with that exemption just because it can simply alienates otherwise qualified and bright people from joining the organization. In other words, your loss. You’re right on with this article. Well said.

  125. The frustrating thing is that the Church DOES make all sorts of exceptions for things that are arguably MORE important than facial hair or the lack thereof, and we expect others to do the same for us, at least when we’re in the minority.

    When I went to US Army Basic Training after my mission, I did not wear the Army-Issued brown t-shirts and briefs, and I was the only person in my company who didn’t. Instead, I had my own special t-shirt and (what appeared to be) long-ish boxer briefs which were manufactured by Beehive Clothing. So the Church allowed me to not wear white garments (which are the color of purity) and instead wear brown ones (which are the color of… well, NOT purity) because the Army expected me to have brown underclothes. Meanwhile, the Army allowed me to wear my custom underwear because it knew I had religious obligations which required me to do so.

    So it appears that in the case of allowing our people to serve in an organization dedicated to killing people and blowing stuff up, we can compromise because we’re in the minority. But when we’re in the majority, the attitude becomes less “can we find a way to make this work” and more “we set the rules, and if you don’t like them, go to hell (possibly literally)”.

  126. Isn’t it hypocritical of us to accept such a religious exemption from the military from wearing their standard issue underwear so that we can wear garments when we aren’t allowing a religious exemption to devout Sikhs to have a beard in spite of the beard ban so that they don’t have to violate their sacred covenants?

  127. “This liberal agenda about being PC so people can do what they want, wherever then, whenever they want with whomever they want is what is wrong with our society.”

    I guess you’ve given yourself an exception from believing in the 11th Article of Faith?

  128. Wow. I didn’t know of this change in policy. I feel bad for BYU and how deviant they have gone from true Christian principles. It is a Pharisee/Sadducee ego-maniacal self-centered always right administration. They are an embarrassment to the principles the Church teaches. “Humility,” imagine that word juxtaposed with these practices. I agree this is beyond stupid well into the malicious.

    False religious claims to wear a beard… I can only imagine the imperial god like attitude at BYU. How dare they! We will teach them we will have the last word on this matter no matter how far we have to go with this. Not wearing a beard is absolutely one of the great tenets to which we must ascribe and over our dead bodies are we going to let anyone get away with this sin!

    I find it embarrassing sometimes to be an alumnus of such un-Christian organization.

  129. Rick H. does seem to be onto something. There’s a big difference in how people act when they are in the minority vs. when they are in the majority. How quickly we forget.

  130. Gary Payne says:

    I am embarrassed to write on this blog and embarrassed to admit to reading it.
    As a mature alumni my advise to all of you is to get a life.
    I’m certain that there are 10,000 universities where you can attend and dress, act, and look any way you choose.
    Pick one…….. and leave my Alma Mater alone.
    And exercise your freedom of speech an another subject.

  131. Jack of Hearts says:

    Gary, the question isn’t whether there are other options; there are. It isn’t a question of whether BYU can do this; it can. The question is should BYU do it, and given our concerns about religious liberty, our hope that people make religious exemptions for us, and our core belief as expressed in the 11th Article of Faith, the answer is clearly no. I’m a current BYU student, and I fully agree with this. BYU policies that contradict our beliefs should be called out and changed.

  132. “As a mature alumni my advise to all of you is to get a life.”

    “leave my Alma Mater alone.
    And exercise your freedom of speech an another subject”

    Man, that screed would have been, like, 10,000 times more effective without the lame typos. SO CLOSE.

  133. I called to voice my concerns yesterday to the alumni association at BYU. They were confused and tried to transfer me first to the Dean’s office of student life abd then the honor code office before routing me to Jenkins. Her secretary said she thought I had misread the article. Jenkins told me there never was a religious exemption abd that I should voice concerns through the student counsel or somesuch. Upon which I informed he that I was alumni and simply calling because I had heard something I found distressing abd that it was abhorrent that BYU didn’t have an exemption. As I stated before, start to finish everyone seemed surprised that there even was an issue. So call, email our whatever you need to if this makes you as embarrassed as I think many of us are.

    Hopefully then this oversight will be righted

  134. “exercise your freedom of speech an another subject”

    So, Gary Payne, what you’re saying is that sometimes just because you have the right to do something under the law doesn’t mean you should do it? That exercising your freedom in in certain ways may be a misuse of that freedom? INTERESTING. Tell me more.

  135. Thanks, Nate. I’m planning on calling (and, perhaps, emailing) tomorrow. I hope plenty of others will do the same.

  136. I have never understand why my religion which is otherwise so concerned about the eternal differences between the sexes, would insist that beards – a clear marker of maleness – be eradicated.

  137. I have emailed.

    >As a BYU alum who also taught there during grad school (summer ’04, ’05, ’06) I was surprised and dismayed to learn of the Sikh student required to shave off his religiously-mandated beard in order to attend BYU. Certainly the school may set any policies it wishes within legal bounds, but this does not make them either wise or moral policies.

    While I find the rationale for the general beard policy outdated (see then-President Oaks’ very reasonable reasons for it in the 70’s), Muslim and Sikh students who grow beards for religious reasons should be granted an exception. To do otherwise is both hypocritical and counter-productive to the mission of the Church.

    “Standards of Dress and Grooming” in the Dec. 1971 New Era:

    The rule against beards and long hair for men stands on a different footing. 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.

    All that said, after living in Brooklyn for 6 years, I can't stand all the hipster beard craziness.

  138. Ben S

    Your defense of the general “no beard/no longhair” policy is silly and perpetuates a stereotype that no longer obtains in our society and especially the world at large. Worse, it evinces a visceral reaction to those who look different, and in doing so you reinforce a stereotype that so many people have of Mormons: a faith that exalts conformity over creativity, that has a high level of intolerance for anyone who doesn’t fit the LDS mold—white shirt, close-cropped hair, and a perpetual smile. And equating a bearded gentleman with a guy walking around with an empty liquor bottle. Really?

  139. Log says on the 19th, jamming bamboo slivers under the fingernails of logic,

    in which case skyclad wiccans are in play again (and I want to hear the principled difference between beards and nudity when both are freely chosen religious observances – “the rules are this way” is not a principled argument)

    I have never met a Wiccan (and I attended the University of Minnesota, where they didn’t have to hide) who regarded it as a religious requirement to be skyclad all the time. Likewise, I’ve never met a Sikh or a Muslim who only donned his beard for certain rites or ceremonies. Is that a “principled” enough difference for you, Log, or is the simple, obvious, fact that they are in no way analogous good enough?

    Hopefully, I haven’t triggered the Evans Ban. :)

  140. FarSide, that is President Oaks’ statement of the policy rational in 1971, hence the “Standards of Dress and Grooming” in the Dec. 1971 New Era:” preceding it.

  141. Perhaps an admin can fix the formatting there to make that clearer? I don’t know how many others will misread it.

    [Admin: Done.]

  142. My apologies, Ben. The formatting did throw me off, though I should have figured out that you were still quoting from the New Era since those paragraphs are inconsistent with your observations in the first two paragraphs. My mistake.

  143. I have never understand why my religion which is otherwise so concerned about the eternal differences between the sexes, would insist that beards – a clear marker of maleness – be eradicated.

    That’s probably not the strongest of arguments, Lisa … else Log’s skyclad Wiccans might actually have some relevance.

  144. Can we move on from the old stereotypes about facial hair? The kids entering BYU as freshman weren’t alive during Vietnam and some weren’t even born until after the Gulf War…the whole beards=long haired hippie doesn’t even register for them. The hippie generation was probably prior to even their parents time. It’s time to move on. With Movember and the growing popularity of products like beard oil it’s pretty safe to assume that the view on facial hair has changed.

  145. “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.”

    “All that said, after living in Brooklyn for 6 years, I can’t stand all the hipster beard craziness.”

    The first paragraph seems like a bunch of outdated BS. I wear a well kept beard and a business suit to my client meetings. I think all this mayor BS is in part created by beard envy of those who can’t grow one. Welcome to the 21st century and a global culture. Mormons usually get exposure to many cultures due to their proselytism efforts, it is weird to find out how poor of a culture some end up with anyway. Anyone who still identifies beards with “drug culture” or with “indifference to the best in life” is a culture lacking moron.

    The second paragraph sheds light on how these decisions are made. Somebody “can’t stand” something. Sometimes is dark skin, sometimes is facial hair, but there is always an element of ignorance stamped by preconceived notions and stereotypes.

  146. Manuel, the language you’re quoting is, in fact, outdated. It comes from 1971.

  147. Yes, I know. But I am not unfamiliar with those who still think this way; and since the post is about the Honor Code and its absurd measures regarding beards, it is safe to say there is still some validity to these mantras among those policing the growth of facial hair in the ultra-righteous universe of Mormondom.

  148. For additional outrage, here is another excerpt from the same 1971 address, demonstrating the administration’s contempt for student opinions:

    “Young women, the principle of modesty—the commandment that you should avoid a tempting manner or appearance—is fixed and eternal and will not deviate. Don’t assume that anyone will be impressed with your experience, or your preferences, or your wisdom on this subject.”

    I haven’t seen any indication that this attitude has changed. Alumni complaints will most likely carry a lot more weight than those currently attending or working for the school.

  149. Ah, Manuel, I understand. Yeah, I know plenty of professionals who have beards; though I don’t know much about perceptions in 1971, clearly what wearing a beard communicates today is different than what it communicated 40 years ago.

  150. The dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland. As mistakenly pointed out on a different forum, might the church’s obsession with clean-shaven faces be a tactic to distance ourselves from polygamy? Polygamous church presidents are the ones with beards. There’s a rationale I can sorta get behind. (But not related to ignoring others’ religious requirements in the process, just the beard ban having some actual justification – essentially declaring ourselves anti-polygamists).

  151. “there is always an element of ignorance stamped by preconceived notions and stereotypes.”

    Yes, clearly I am an ignorant racist. I’m rolling my eyes here.

    Do *you* live in Brooklyn? There’s a good difference between hipster beards and facial hair.

  152. hawkgrrrl–I’ve wondered the same exact thing myself, though my hope is that it would be at an unconscious level. Otherwise, it would imply that church leaders were overtly trying to have youth avoid the “hippie” look when they were covertly attempting to distance themselves from the perceived image of polygamists. Which would be highly disappointing/

  153. I wasn’t talking about you in particular being ignorant, but in how your “can’t stand” attitude affects the decision making process that yields these phenomena. We as individuals are free to like and dislike as we wish and many of our tastes and distastes are based on stereotypes, limited information, fear, experiences and sometimes plain ignorance. To make discriminatory actions that affect the opportunities of others based because of these type of “can’t stand” biases, is what I have a problem with.

    The following are some possibilities as to how the “can’t stand” attitude went beyond being a personal prejudice and into an action.

    Some Mormons couldn’t stand at the idea blacks were marrying white women, then suddenly, blacks were barred from holding the priesthood and being able to participate in temple ceremonies. Later leaders (like Boyd K. Packer to mention one that is still around) started and continued an indoctrination of how interracial marriage is a no no.

    Some Mormons couldn’t stand the publications of certain printing press, therefore, the press was destroyed.

    Some Mormon couldn’t stand the behavior of gay student Matthew Sheppard and therefore he brutally murdered him.

    Apparently, people within the BYU administration can’t stand being lied to in order to get away with growing a beard, so they make an honestly religious Sikh student shave his beard because they are making the policy stricter and cannot make exemptions for anyone.

    My point was to further your trivial “can’t stand” attitude and expand it into the possibility of it playing a part on how we can make terrible decisions based on it.

  154. If Manuel would only listen more carefully to what Basil and Sybil ask him to do, all would be well.

  155. fuddyduddy says:

    Manuel: Just to be clear, Aaron McKinney, who killed Matthew Shepard, was not Mormon. It is true that his accomplice, who may have tried to stop the killing, was an inactive Mormon who was excommunicated for his participation. But let’s not pin the Matthew Shepard killing on Mormonism.

  156. Manuel, Not to mention the truth about the Shepherd case is not just coming to light.

  157. john f,

    The writer just throws out “Clearly, BYU’s anti-beard rule is stupid. It just is.” as if it’s some self-evident axiom that has all of us in nods. Uh no. He is wrong. He said that to catapult his main idea about religious expression or whatever he was going for. Its intellectually dishonest. So I know what the discussion is about, and I am telling you its based upon a “stupid” idea. Nothing like making idiotic postulates only to build up a larger and equally stupid main idea.

    Secondly, you seem to try to discredit a large point of my argument by saying “The widow in a developing country whom you invoked does not subsidize his tuition.” Wrong again. Non-LDS students pay about twice what the rest of us pay, but they still get roughly a $30,000 subsidy… scholarship… grant… FREE MONEY. Don’t believe me?

    So lets get this straight, BYU invites them to their religious-based campus, gives them $30,000 of free education (money that is aggregated from all over the world by members), and ask them to abide by BYU’s Honor Code, and you/them whine about it? Only a politically-correct jaded mindset wouldn’t see the preposterousness of that scenario. Good Grief.

    I am not even going to comment on your “BYU is the world” quip… I’ll just get more fired up. But based upon your track record so far, what are your chances that you nailed it? Not good.

    Where I do error, is taking this too personally. For that I apologize. I’ll calm down.

  158. Mark B, I am a Mexican born in the late 70s, so even after doing a quick search for Basil and Sybil, I still couldn’t find much that could help me understand your reference, but I trust you and I bet the reference is hilariously spot on. ;)

    fuddyduddy, I was throwing quick and careless examples of possibilities of a “can’t stand” attitude, all which were somehow connected with Mormons, trying to imply even within Mormonism this type of attitude can lead to negative consequences, since in my experience, examples not involving Mormons would simply be disregarded by Mormons. But you are right, I is out of place to pin the Matthew Shepard murder on Mormon intolerance of homosexuality. So, I agree that this was reckless commenting on my part.

    M Miles, You are right that new journalism done on the case shifts the motive significantly from a hate crime to something much more complex. So, I agree with both you and fuddybuddy that this is an inappropriate example.

    Still, after the context of the original post, I find a bit bizarre to say something akin of “I can’t stand it” anyway. It’s like if someone wrote about discrimination against Mormons, and then someone comes along and comments, “well, I lived in Provo, and I can’t stand those Mormons anyway.” True, it is a very valid thing to say, but I wanted to criticize that how if could play a role in the context is a discriminatory action against the subject in question. Therefore, I find the “can’t stand” attitude a little crude within this context and I wanted to juxtapose it as to how this attitude could be an element in the actual discriminatory actions.

  159. As an alumnus myself, reading the comments of those in the “Go Elsewhere” camp, almost makes me embarrassed to admit it. I had a medical exemption and grew a beard while I attended. It seems silly to me that a Sikh wouldn’t be afforded the same consideration. The leadership at BYU continue to show how out of touch they are with those they are entrusted to educate. How about this as your “Honor Code”: Live worthy of your Temple recommend. The End. Everything else is fluff.

  160. “How about this as your “Honor Code”: Live worthy of your Temple recommend. The End. Everything else is fluff.”

    That sounds wonderful!

  161. “So lets get this straight, BYU invites them to their religious-based campus, gives them $30,000 of free education (money that is aggregated from all over the world by members), and ask them to abide by BYU’s Honor Code, and you/them whine about it?”

    And makes them shave their religiously mandated beards, meanwhile demanding religious exemptions for Mormons in myriad ways and places throughout broader society, and charging those unwilling to provide such exemptions (private employers, the government, etc.) as persecuting the Church.

    I didn’t know that it was a “liberal” or “politically correct” thing to not force a Sikh to violate his sacred covenants in order to get him to comply with a cultural expectation that has nothing to do with religion at all, whether ours or his.

  162. For example, steve, did you know that BYU relies on a number of religious exemptions to allow it to segregate housing between male and female students and to discriminate in employment (i.e. maintain a preference for hiring Mormons), among other things? The existence of such exemptions is a conservative principle that allows religions to direct their own internal affairs. And BYU and all Mormons benefit directly from that principle.

    And then we turn around and deny the same to devout adherents of other faiths when they are in our house, and force them to violate their sacred covenants in order to be in our house where we are in control of the rules.

    So, when we are in control of the rules, we deny the same exemptions that we rely on when we’re in someone else’s house.

    That is, of course, allowed. We can make whatever legal rules we want. But it is not morally right. And it is a conservative position to say as much.

    This has nothing to do with the concept of students wanting to drink, smoke, have sex or have a scruffy beard, which is the accusation you led with as you began your enlightened contribution to this discussion. Instead, this is about the conservative desire to allow all people the same religious freedom and religious exemptions that we ourselves rely on. We do not want to adopt the position of “the world” and force devout adherents of other faiths to violate their sacred covenants in order to stay for a while in our house. Instead, we want them to honor their own commitments, to stand up for them, and to benefit from religious exemptions if our cultural expectations (as turned into hard and fast rules in BYU’s “honor code”) transgress their religious duties.

  163. (so, just admit you’re wrong and then you can sleep better tonight.)

  164. regarding [fn4], the argument that BYU should allow beards because Young and Jesus had them isn’t tremendously adolescent so much as incomplete. It’s basically a smart-aleck version of your point that “beards are not inconsistent with Mormonism”.

    Isn’t it a little funny that Jesus who had to correct Pharisees for making too much of the Mosaic law would now be banned from attending BYU over this stupid rule unless he shaved?

  165. mormonbachelorette says:

    john f,

    Yes, I am aware of the history of Rex Lee (my father’s mentor) and his monumental work with the things you mentioned. I am also friends with Kevin today. I have sat in meetings, rubbed shoulders, and visited with many presidents of BYU. I am honored to call some of them friends. These are some of the greatest people I have ever known. I have the upmost confidence in the President’s leadership. I sustain them and the Board as leaders.

    I don’t mean this as an attack, but I don’t know you… why would I listen to your arguments when they oppose Kevin’s. You know better than Kevin Worthen?? You? Have you talked to him? Besides him being a spiritual GIANT, he has one of greatest minds in this church. He’s a genius, both mentally and spiritually. If Kevin wants to change the rule, so be it. I trust him for many reasons, but above all I trust him because President Monson trusts him.

    Now I know you are going to get all miffed that I name dropped. I’m trying to give some perspective here on who are actually making these decisions. I mean instead of saying I know better than BYU, say “I know better than Elder Kevin Worthen. I am smarter and more in touch than Kevin and Brent Webb and the rest of the VPs.” I challenge you to go meet them at the ASB, knock on their door, chat for a bit… I think you’ll see things differently. I follow these men because I believe they were called by a prophet. That is enough.

    I will fight for religious freedom for anyone (well, a religion of peace) so they can practice their faith in their space… house, church, etc. But this is BYU’s house. I would not DARE go to a Sikh school and demand I get to wear, or groom the way I want. If for instance, if they demanded I not wear my garments, I would simply bow out. It’s their school. Their rules. But here is the difference between you and I. If you setup our arguments as a maxim, you COULD get into trouble when some student wants to do something more egregious than wearing a beard in the name of religion. My argument always allows the administration to do as they please, which is well within their right.

    John, perhaps you have a more neocon perspective, when I take a more libertarian view, which is fine. I don’t know. I see the point you are advocating, but I don’t agree with you. And I do not see any relevance with Rex’s work and this issue… apples and oranges. As I alluded to in my initial post, my position is with Kevin and his staff… and always will as long as the Prophet keeps him in office.

  166. mormonbachelorette says:

    Last one is from me, Steve.

  167. I happen to know Kevin Worthen and can say you are way off base with that comment. There is no way that President Worthen is behind the lack of a religious exemption to the no-beard rule or that he would EVER sanction forcing a devout Sikh to violate a lifelong sacred covenant by shaving his beard in order to comply with the purely cultural expectation (which has NOTHING to do with our religion) that has grown up around the “honor code’s” no-beard rule. President Worthen is far too smart, equitable, and independent-minded to slavishly apply the no beard rule to force a Sikh to shave. He would not condone something so irrational, abusive, and damaging to BYU’s values and reputation.

    The particular examples with Sikhs being denied a religious exemption and forced to violate their sacred covenants by shaving or having to get a bogus medical exemption to avoid shaving happened long before President Worthen was President of BYU or even the VP. He was a law professor in the law school at the time. Some of those examples even happened before he was dean of the law school.

    Nope, you are going to need to look elsewhere than President Worthen for the source of this practice of denying a religious exemption to the beard rule for people who are adherents of religions that require their members not to shave.

  168. That’s not the point John. The rule is there today under his tenure… so Its supported by the office, else it would be taken down. Call up Kevin and ask him… this should be good…. And if it wasn’t Kevin, then name the President. Name the supposed bigot. Shall I list the names so you can point them out? “That’s the guy… that’s the rebel rouser.” Or else its just some rouge administrator making stupid rules in some back room? What the scenario? Point is, there is a reason for all of this. If its all that bad as you suggest, then Kevin will change it. We both can agree that he is a good guy. Let him do his job.

  169. Here’s an irony – I spent this evening with our missionaries in my English town with a large Sikh population visiting the home of an investigator with strongly committed Sikh parents. He was not in but his Mother welcomed us in, fed us and invited us to a meal when we return to meet with her son. I am a teacher of Art and religion and philosophy in a local high school and we teach our 12 year old pupils about Sikhism and Christianity. Sikhs who are initiated into the Kalsa, which is like being baptised and endowed for Mormons, wear 5 ‘K’s’ as symbols of their commitment including uncut beard and long hair tied neatly with a comb and turban and an undergarment very similar to ours. It is a fundamental Sikh principle symbolised by wearing a small knife to be prepared to fight for your own and others’ religious freedom, and to reflect this Sikh scriptures include Hindu and Moslem writings, and some of the most celebrated actions of their historical gurus were to fight defending the rights of other oppressed religious groups. We have so much in common in our values and doctrines of religious tolerance and respect for others’ religious freedom it is utterly shameful and embarrassing that the Church’s university where my parents studied and I was born would consider for a moment not respecting those rights and values for anyone and everyone. They need to watch their own film about respecting outward religious symbols and clothing in which they are quite happy to claim equivalence to our temple clothing with those of other faiths. I have been disgusted by France’s legal actions to ban moslem head coverings in public and Sikh turbans in schools, and now I find my Church is doing the same things in its educational institutions. We really do seem to be heading for a cultural showdown between the Mormon Christians and Mormon Pharisees who are become more controlling and entrenched in their insistence on observing utterly irrelevant policies like little girls wearing sleeves and becoming more intolerant and …well I wanted to say Victorian about beards, but of course the Victorians loved them and weren’t so stupid.
    We haven’t a hope of converting the world when this is how leading authorities enact policy and regard how to judge the value of a child of God, and it doesn’t take long reading the Bible or Book of Mormon to realise very quickly how utterly contradictory these obsessions are to everything Christ was about. The crass ineptitude and hypocrisy of things like this make it so tempting to despair. The ‘viper’ Pharisees will lose, but it doesn’t happen by itself. They have to be taken on, challenged and defeated with reason and truth just as Jesus showed us in his perfect example, so it is heartening that so many members are up for the fight rather than giving up and leaving. Debating and challenging Pharisees is literally Christ-like, not perpetuating additional rules and regulations that are not part of the spirit of the law or gospel, yet we find ourselves dealing with an LDS culture that has turned that into reverse. We live in exciting times as the balance of power shifts from a few senior people who get some of the policy and cultural tone terribly wrong rather too often to the common-sense consensus of the general membership…by common consent I suppose :)…who communicate with each other online and prompt the journalists to ask the direct questions that force the leadership to wake up to issues and get their act together. Hardly heartwarmingly ideal as a process, but it’s opening the floodgates for urgently needed reforms and hopefully the GA’s will face the realities of the LDS place in the 21st century enough to start getting ahead of the curve again.

  170. Peter, Just for clarification who are the “few senior people.” Can you list off some of their names please so we know who you are referring to?

  171. Steve, cut it out. This isn’t a post about what Worthen may or may not support. And if you’re going to allege that he actively supports the policy, you’ll need something more than the fact that he hasn’t yet changed it. BYU is a large, bureaucratic organization like any large university, and it does a disservice to the administration to assume that they must whole-heartedly support every policy that exists at the school. And it does a bigger disservice to Worthen to assume that he cares not at all about others’ religious liberty.

    Look, you’ve made it clear that you support forcing others to violate their religious obligations if those obligations conflict with any BYU policies. You’ve further made it clear that you believe that BYU’s policies are attributable to Pres. Monson himself. The first view is unconscionable the second wrong, and if you don’t have anything else productive to add, thanks for participating.

  172. I have written a letter to President Worthen, but I couldn’t find an e-mail address for him, so it is going snail mail. I find it upsetting that there people commenting here who see nothing wrong with forcing people to betray their commitments to God.

  173. Sam, so I guess from my deleted comment, you’re done with me. Fair enough. I was probably too heavy handed and for that, I apologize.

  174. To be specific, the ‘senior people’ I mean would be whoever is senior enough to have the authority to insist that students at the Church’s flagship university break their harmless and entirely non-offensive religious covenants in order to study there, and in a sense those I refer to as Pharisees. The thing about the Pharisees in Jesus’ time is that they were a faction that arose within Judaism, not a separate religion, and we all need to struggle with overly legalistic Pharisaism within our Church and within ourselves. It is the tendency to think we can force other people to be better by giving them extra rules to follow rather than Christ’s focus which was on teaching correct principles – the spirit of the law – and letting them govern themselves as guided by the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the only way to stop being religious infants and grow up to our potential to be more independently glorious like God without being babysat the whole time. Some GA’s are great at both – I sustain them and appreciate them when they get it right, and when like all of us they sometimes seem to contradict Jesus’ core values I take it with a pinch of salt….hopefully from Jesus’ metaphor of being salt to the world making things better rather than worse rather than self-righteousness. The arcane details of what goes on in Utah have a global impact as I hope I made clear by pointing out that I am literally this week in the living rooms of Sikhs with the missionaries and working with Sikh colleagues in multicultural England trying to build bridges of friendship, and that community values tolerance and education above all else. They will find out about a Sikh being forced to shave to get an education and be rightfully horrified. This stuff matters to the global LDS community.

  175. One of the more difficult things about being a Mormon is its occasional need to compel us to defend the indefensible. It’s a grim thing to feel the need to set aside reason, civility, good manners, and basic principles of Christian charity in order to defend something that deep down you know to be wrong. (Not the same as defending something you know to be right but which is unpopular. That is an honourable thing to do.)

    Sam, John, and others have articulated a position here that only the most stubborn defenders of the church’s infallibility could possible fail to accept. Steve and others would immediately change their minds about beards if the Honor Code office were to change its mind, and I suspect they would be glad to do so.

    That is such a depressing example of amoral relativism and a refusal to take personal ownership of one’s own ethical principles. I want the church to grow and to thrive, but to sacrifice charity in favour of an unwavering support for mid-level bureaucrats is to exhibit the kind of cultish behaviour of which we are accused and which often makes the church so unattractive to normal people.

  176. RJH, that’s true of being a parent, being a Republican, being Jewish, being Irish, being a Socialist, being a Broncos fan…


    They all compel people to “defend the indefensible.”

    Let’s not overdramatize this.

  177. quote: “… …

    “Researchers from the University of New South Wales found that when test subjects were shown a succession of clean-shaven men followed by individuals sporting anything from light stubble to Charles Darwin-style face-clouds, it was the second group that rated more attractive.

    “However, the opposite was also true, and when the test subjects (comprising of 1,453 heterosexual or bisexual women and 213 heterosexual men) were shown a succession of photos of men with facial hear, it was the un-bearded individuals that were deemed better looking. Novelty, it seems, is a key determinant in the attractiveness of beards.
    “… …”

    –The Independent

  178. “…. You can have facial hair in almost any industry these days, said Allan D. Peterkin, co-author of “The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face,” and also a psychiatrist in Toronto. But there are a few exceptions, he said, and one of them is finance. (Another is politics.) …” –7 Dec 2013 NYT

  179. Finance, politics, U.S. military, those directly studying at institutions affil. with or working for the LDS church (bankers/accountants/politicians/American soldiers/Mormon missionaries: “Trust me….”?)

  180. Bollocks, Seth. Defending the indefensible in the name of God is particularly grim territory.

  181. Actually, I can think of a lot of defending the indefensible that is worse than the fate of some stupid beard code.

  182. Actually the study I read was that women found more masculine faces more attractive when they were ovulating, but found more smooth and feminine features more attractive in general.

  183. I’m pretty sure that Roman Catholic students (and members of other Christian faiths, for that matter) were permitted to take Communion/Eucharistic wine while I was there (2001-2005). December 2003, I’ll never forget my new Mormon husband refusing to kiss me because I’d just taken wine during the Eucharist at an Anglican Christmas Eve service. (Yes, that’s right, he was an ass back then, too.)

    What makes this whole thing even more ridiculous is that BYU’s namesake had a sizeable beard, and all Mormon artwork of Jesus depicts him with a beard. I can just see Jesus telling the Sikhs, “That’s okay, guys. BYU won’t allow me there, either.”

  184. Seth, I am an old lady, well beyond my ovulating years, but I’ll take a bearded man over clean-shaven any time. Well, actually, it depends on the man , but I think beards make a man sexier. Maybe that’s why they don’t want them at BYU. :-)

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