There are many strict requirements when it comes to following the Mormon faith, also known as the Church of the Latter-day Saints. But, what are the guidelines when it comes to facial hair?
Although there is no written law forbidding beards, the expectation for a Mormon man in today’s church is to be clean-shaven.
Since Daniel O. McKay in 1951, every prophet and leader of the Latter-day Saints has had no facial hair, and as members looked up to their prophet, they followed suit.
This hasn’t always been the case over the church’s history, and the Mormon Church may even grow out of this tradition in the years to come.
Keep reading as we look into the changing face of beards in the Mormon church’s past, present, and future.
The History of Mormon Beards
In the early 1900s, beards were in vogue in the Mormon church. In fact, instead of being frowned upon, they were actively encouraged!
Missionaries, especially those from Britain and Europe were also expected to have facial hair to help them in their work. Back then, beards were seen as “dignified”!
By the 1950s and 60s, the outlook on facial hair in the Mormon church had changed. Beards were no longer seen as the sign of a civilized man but a rebellious one.
The 1960s was the time of the hippie revolution after all, and the church was very keen on steering clear of any association.
As a result, the face of the church would become smooth and hair-free for decades to come.
The Current Viewpoint
These days, if you want to work in a Mormon temple, not a whisker can be seen. All workers, no matter where they come from, must be clean-shaven, especially if they wish to climb through the ranks.
The church has also done a u-turn when it comes to the faces of its missionaries, too. Beards aren’t seen as a sign of dignity anymore but instead are seen to be exactly the opposite.
Even those attending Brigham Young University, the higher education provision for Latter-day Saints, have strict guidelines to follow to maintain their “Personal Honor”.
You can only be excused from a daily date with the shaver if you have a medical condition, or need a beard for an acting role!
What Does the Scripture Say?
Although a ban on beards isn’t explicitly mentioned within holy scripture, there are references to the topic of facial hair in the Bible which could indicate why modern Mormons opt for a shaven face.
For example, it says in Leviticus 19:27: “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”
Grooming or shaping your beard was a sign of idolatry and a distraction from worship.
It could be argued that by doing away with facial hair entirely and conforming to this rule, Mormons are shedding any temptation for grooming or preening. It’s safe to say the Mormon Church isn’t metrosexual!
Facial Hair of the Future
Over time, the attitude towards beards among Mormon men has become more relaxed.
For example, at a meeting of Latter-day Saint leaders, one of the Bishops proudly sported a beard. No one seemed to bat an eyelid, including the apostle chairing the meet, Quentin L. Cook.
Dallin H. Oaks, a former president of BYU and now a senior apostle, recognized the need to change with the times and said in 1971 that if the beard policy changed in the future, he wouldn’t be shocked.
Although the preference for a clean-shaven face has not changed 50 years on from Oaks’ speech, perhaps change will still come from its younger members.
As attendees of BYU represent the next generation of the faith, (maybe even the next prophet), it wouldn’t be surprising if a wider acceptance of facial hair in the Mormon Faith is seen in the future.
Although it is still fairly rare, we are seeing more and more Mormons sporting facial hair in the midwest, so we reckon this will become acceptable in the next decades.