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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : To shave or not to shave, is that the question? » To shave or not to shave, is that the question?

To shave or not to shave, is that the question?

Don - June 7, 2005

In priesthood meeting we were discussing various “doctrine” when facial hair came up….again.

Just three weeks ago the Stake President gave a talk at the Single Ward’s conference telling them that they were to be clean shaven. Something to the effect that just because they are home from their missions didn’t mean they were to change or let down their standards. It has been the policy in some Stakes at least to not allow men with facial hair to serve in certain callings. (I guess women with facial hair, it’s ok).

A member of the Stake high council from our ward was in our priesthood meeting. He told us that our Stake President just receive a letter from Salt Lake telling them that facial hair is ok. They are not to keep someone from serving because of facial hair.

Sometimes well intentioned Stake Presidents – Bishops etc. prove the divinity of D&C 121. Every once and a while the Brethern have to step in and straighten things out.

I for one, say it’s about time!


  1. I hope this letter from the First Presidency actually exists and that it is sent to all Stake Presidencies. My stake president here in Twin Falls refers to being clean shaven as “looking like a Priesthood man” and expects men serving in any kind of presidency to shave their beard. Mustaches, apparently, are okay for “Priesthood men” but not goatees or full beards. (So, in other words, Magnum P.I. could ask me about my Home Teaching numbers but not Brigham Young.) As ever I walk the fine line between maintaining a sense of humor about things and making light of the Lord’s annointed — every time I hear him say, “I want you bretheren to look like a Priesthood man” I want to say, “I do look like a Priesthood man — Heber J. Grant.”

    Comment by Mark Brown — June 23, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

  2. It always amazes me that facial hair is a central issue in some member’s minds. I’m a recent BYU graduate, and understand that the PRINCIPLE behind the honor code’s shaving guidelines is that we don’t look like Grizzly Adams, and come to church with bugs in our matted beard.

    The principle here is cleanliness and presentability. It’s easier for some church leaders to say “to heck with all facial hair!” rather than to let the individual decide whether he’s keeping himself groomed or not.

    All in all: You’re one of the Lord’s chosen, so act and dress the part. How you do that should be left up to you.
    Joe | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 2:04 pm | #

    This is definately one that I will have to get a copy of. Thanks!
    J. Stapley | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 2:27 pm | #

    No way!

    I definitely need a copy of this letter.

    Is it being sent out to all bishops and stake presidents?
    Kim Siever | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 2:28 pm | #

    Amen brother.

    I have maintained a beard (short, well-groomed) pretty consistently since I moved to Brooklyn two years ago. Maybe it’s because here in Brooklyn we have larger fish to fry, but the beard issue hasn’t ever been brought up. I was just called into the bishopric and STILL nobody has said anything to me (except when prodded, my former bishop said it was his policy that his counselors were clean shaven, which I promptly jested, “it’s a good thing you’re not the bishop anymore!”).

    Like my good friend in High School, Eric Bischoff, always said (in defense of his long hair), “I’m only trying to be more like Jesus.”
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 2:37 pm | #

    Don: Please get a copy of the letter. I hope they send it to Temple Presidencies also. The DC Temple requires _all_ veil workers to be clean shaven.
    lyle stamps | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 2:46 pm | #

    Anybody with facial hair, man or woman, is permitted to serve here.
    Mark B. | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 4:51 pm | #

    Wow. This post is coming from the father who constantly threatened his sons to shave clean or be kicked out from under his roof? What gives, Pops?

    Rusty — that sounds just like Eric.

    I really like Joe’s comment on the “principle” idea behind it all. I wonder, though, why it is that NO ONE in the conference Ensign centerfold has ANY facial hair. According to the SLC letter, one shouldn’t be kept from serving because of facial hair, yet those called to such visible positions as General Authorities are careful to present themselves a certain way.

    Why, if it doesn’t matter? Or does it?
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 5:33 pm | #


    I wonder if Eric Bischof is my uncle Eric, with siblings Rudy, Laura, and Bryant.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 5:48 pm | #


    While serving in regular callings is not prohibited by facial hair, I know that there is another recent letter (within the last 5 years) which prohibits temple workers from having facial hair. I remember because it upset my father-in-law who always wears a very well-groomed beard.
    Jordan | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 5:50 pm | #

    I am cleanly shaven, mostly because I am attending BYU. It’s not that big of a deal for me to get up every morning and shave my face, its part of my routine. It bothers me though when I am told that it is a “standard” or some sort of “moral obligation” to shave my face. Everytime I hear this kind of talk I think of when the Savior spoke to the scribes and pharisee’s saying:
    23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
    24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
    25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
    26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
    27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

    (New Testament | Matthew 23:23 – 27)

    I’ll avoid quoting the rest of the scripture because it gets pretty ugly after that. We give lip service to such doctrines as “Jesus changes men from the inside-out” and yet try ourselves to change men from the outside-in. Having said that, I think even those men who are changed on the inside, I do not think that they may necessarily shave their face, because having a beard is not an immoral act, or a sign of immoral behavior. Nearly half of the presidents of our church have had beards! I think we should stop giving mearly lip service to the “inside-out” doctrine and start living it.
    Craig Atkinson | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 6:32 pm | #

    I’ll shave my beard, but I’m keeping the dreadlocks.
    Susan M | Email | Homepage | 06.07.05 – 11:04 pm | #

    My dad has served as first counselor in the bishopric while having a beard. He is now a high councilman and, yes, still has a beard. And about 13 years ago or so, the first counselor in my ward, though he didn’t have any facial hair, had slightly long hair (about shoulder length in back). And this is all taking place in the heart of Salt Lake City, people!

    I myself, at the young age of 26, have been wearing a hopefully-well-trimmed beard for a few years now. I think it rather suits me, so here’s hoping I can still get into the CK!
    Benny K | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 2:41 am | #

    Some people need to either have facial hair or to gain weight to look older and more mature.

    But …
    Stephen M (Ethesis) | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 5:08 am | #

    Mark B., I’m very glad to hear that those with facial hair can serve where you are.
    Logan | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 7:25 am | #

    Thanks for the temple update re: beards.

    So, does this mean that God & Jesus must be shaving now days? It is ‘their’ house after all.
    lyle stamps | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 8:47 am | #

    That’s funny. I know you meant that question as a joke, but it’s not a bad question. I mean, if Christ actually appears to President Hinckley, does He have a beard? And if so, is He saying, “Make sure to tell everyone that works in my house to not have a beard.”?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 9:09 am | #

    yeah, strange things happen when you apply logical deduction to just about anything; esp. religious ideas.

    although it wasn’t entirely a joke; as my understanding was that veil workers were a type of proxy for deity; which would disqualify deity from serving as a veil worker if they didn’t shave.
    lyle stamps | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 11:04 am | #

    Did God and Jesus ever have beards?
    Kim Siever | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 11:10 am | #

    Good question Kim. I guess you would have to ask those that have seen them. Are there any such descriptions in scripture? If not, are we left to rely upon cultural implications (i.e. Jewish men all wore beards in the era of Jesus) or that Latter-day Prophets have sanctioned art depicting beards? Hm…
    lyle stamps | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 12:23 pm | #

    Actually there is a reference in Isaiah about Chirst’s beard being plucked off – maybe the reason the guys on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Him.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 12:57 pm | #

    Sometimes well intentioned Stake Presidents – Bishops etc. prove the divinity of D&C 121. Every once and a while the Brethern have to step in and straighten things out.

    I for one, say it’s about time!
    Hear! Hear! I can’t agree more. Now who is going to step in and straighten out the silly no more than one earring rule for women?
    thummim | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 12:58 pm | #

    When I left on my mission, one of the bishop’s councilors had a shaved head. That hair style was not as common then as now. When I got home he was the bishop. He told me he was told when he was called to be bishop that shaving his head was an extreme grooming habit and that he needed to let his hair grow out.

    My wife was extremely displeased when I tried to leave for a High Council speaking assignment wearing a bow tie. It makes me look more like Joseph Smith!!!
    Floyd the Wonderdog | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 1:28 pm | #

    My husband recently went from clean shaven from the neck up (including all head hair) to having a full head of hair and beard. He was having skin problems aggravated by shaving. Most people just seem bewildered that he, who can grow a lovely full head of curly hair, was shaving it all off and being bald *on purpose.*

    He is currently serving as eqp in our ward, by the way. There haven’t been any comments from other leaders indicating that he should be clean shaven. And he was called when he had the extreme grooming habit of the bic-razored head.

    Maybe we’re just laid back in California.
    Ana | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 1:53 pm | #


    I have maintained a beard (short, well-groomed) pretty consistently since I moved to Brooklyn two years ago.

    Is that what that is? A beard? Really?

    I was just called into the bishopric and STILL nobody has said anything to me (except when prodded, my former bishop said it was his policy that his counselors were clean shaven, which I promptly jested, “it’s a good thing you’re not the bishop anymore!”).

    You make it sound more formal than it was. The policy was really more along the lines of, “if you’re not going to have a beard, then shave before you come to church on Sunday morning.” That weekend growth thing may be cool if you work in SoHo, but it didn’t fly with me. But the only punishment anyone ever got from me was a little ridicule, some derision, and, when possible, some weak attempts at public embarrassment.
    Chris Williams | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 2:19 pm | #

    Can anyone obtain and post the text of this mysterious but wonderful letter?
    JWL | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 2:24 pm | #

    I haven’t heard anything about this letter yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t a larger trend in church policy – in my YSA ward half the young men have actually been instructed by our church leaders to grow beards…

    (Okay, so it’s for a movie the church is filming in a few months on Joseph Smith, but still.)
    Hanna | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 2:34 pm | #

    So what constitutes “clean shaven” or “beard” anyway? I was thinking of growing some extra long chops for my sideburns and wondered how long they can get without being a “beard.” Although I’ll have to shave them back up to my ear once school starts again.
    That’s another thing I don’t understand. BYUI says growing a mustache is ok but anything else, well groomed or not, is forbidden. I think mustaches (for the most part) look worse then a well groomed beard or goatee. This church needs to get with the times on this one!
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 7:27 pm | #

    Okay, lowly SBCer here again, but um… what’s the deal with beards being bad? Now, the SBC doesn’t have actual ‘rules’ about things like this, more like strong moral urgings from church leaders, and we’re not urged to be clean shaven all the time, so I don’t really understand. The D&C has a rule against facial hair? Does it give a specific reason for this? I know plenty of guys with facial hair who look very presentable to the public and wouldn’t be ashamed of showing themselves in church, so I’m a little confused.

    And I also was under the assumption that Christ had a beard and long hair… didn’t all Jewish men of His time? So, if it was good enough for God, then it’s good enough for us, right? I don’t mean to sound harsh if I am, I just don’t understand the reasoning. I don’t know, was there a problem at the time the D&C was written of men looking extremely unkempt at church, ’cause then I could understand that rule. But it just sounds odd to me if it was created just for fun or controlling aspects.

    P.S.~ Did anyone notice that Joseph Smith was on the list of Discovery Channel’s 100 Greatest Americans? He was somewhere in the 30s. He beat out a lot of people, and they showed the same pictures everyone always shows of him getting his visions from the angels in the woods, and the temple in SLC. But they didn’t say anything much about him. I just thought it was interesting and wondered if anyone else had seen it.
    Annie | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 10:11 pm | #

    Um, if no one can produce this letter, I think we have to assume that it doesn’t exist. I can’t see a letter like that going out. Maybe a phone call, but not a letter.
    Steve | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 10:50 pm | #

    No, it wasn’t a revelation (not in the D&C) nor is it a commandment or even “rule” for the general membership. I think the idea is that the leadership of the Church wants the members to be clean and well-groomed as representatives of God, therefore in certain capacities there are some policies in which the men are urged to shave. What Don is suggesting is that in the past there have been leaders who take this idea a bit too far, so supposedly there is this letter from the leadership of the Church that says otherwise.

    Steve asks a good question: where is this letter? I think we should give Don until next Monday to produce this letter, otherwise he will be put in blog prison for spreading rumors and lies.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 06.08.05 – 11:11 pm | #

    My advisor at the Y gets away with Biccing his full head of hair, so it can’t be that extreme. I bicced mine one Hallowe’en as a parody of him and it felt great. As a curly-headed fellowbiccer with Ana’s husband, let me say that if my wife would permit it, I’d go cueball again in a heartbeat.

    As it is now, I wear a well trimmed beard. My former bishop asked me once when it was coming in if I was growing one, and I told him yes. I’ve been a ward missionary for coming up three years, so I guess it’s not that big a deal out here. (Of course, being a ward missionary for so long may be my penance…)
    Justin H | Email | Homepage | 06.09.05 – 12:35 am | #

    Thummin: Given that it was the Living Prophet who instituted the 1 earing per ear advice…

    Do you have to even ask that question? Duh…
    lyle stamps | Email | Homepage | 06.09.05 – 11:42 am | #

    I don’t know the age range of most readers here, but my dad (now in his late 50′s) was once talking about the issue of facial hair with our home teachers (who are also a little bit older). They seeemed to agree that the facial hair “taboo” really came about in the 1960′s, and they presumed it was to avoid any association with the rising counterculture of the time. Now it’s just stuck. Anyway, that’s a third-hand opinion for ya, but does anyone else agree?
    Benny K | Email | Homepage | 06.09.05 – 1:05 pm | #

    Benny K,
    Yes, I totally agree. I think that also goes along with my dealy on mustaches at church universities. Those were considered well groomed at the time while other facial hair then was all wily and mostly unkempt.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 06.09.05 – 7:00 pm | #

    I’ve heard the same thing, Benny & Bret (Benny & the Brets?–sorry).

    Once a practice becomes entrenched at the Y, it’s hard to shake it.
    Justin H | Email | Homepage | 06.09.05 – 10:50 pm | #

    I must say when I saw the title of this post, I thought it was going to be about a completely differen part of the body. Needless to say I was disappointed by the actual content.
    Eric | Email | Homepage | 06.13.05 – 3:29 pm | #

    “Given that it was the Living Prophet who instituted the 1 earing per ear advice…”
    Actually, I believe it was an official position by the first presidency and quorum of the 12.
    I add my voice to the call for the letter, though I think there is a very real possibility this could change in the relatively near future, even at church schools–not that I have any inside information, just my view of the signs. I think things would change more quickly at church institutions if students would stick to the current standards. I can certainly see how it would be a problem if people began to think that disobeying the rules was a good way to get them changed. Still, facial hair has chagned as a cultural indicator, and policy is bound to eventually change as well.
    On a side note, I’d often thought that there might be something in the beard ting related to popular evangelical depictions of Jesus as having a very modern, well trimmed beard and a desire not to have people think we’re trying to look especially jesus-like in this particular way. Yes, if it’s good enough for God, it shoudl be good enough for us, but Jesus was dealing with a different cultural millieux, and beards (any sort of beard now), robes (usually modernized as well, if that makes sense for robes), and sandals are the current iconography of Jesus in art. Perhaps someo f these policies are out of a respect for that image? Just an idea.
    Steve H | Email | Homepage | 06.20.05 – 3:56 am | #



    Comment: ?

    Commenting by HaloScan.com

    Comment by Comment Restore — November 28, 2005 @ 1:32 am

  3. Since it’s been nearly a year, I wonder if anyone else is able to confirm this letter.

    Comment by Kim Siever — May 18, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

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