This past week, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote an excellent article entitled ”How Beards Became Barred Among Top Mormon Leaders.” I encourage you to read it. In the end, I have nothing more to add to it than the personal observations that sre very near and dear to my face.
I grew my beard during a trip to Hawaii in 1976 just because my friend and I decided not to shave during our trip. I think I already had a mustache, which I grew right after high school. I grew it primarily to hide the scar on my lip from the repaired birth defect I was born with. It just made me more comfortable.
Upon my return, with the great tan and the 10 days beard growth, I was able to walk right past my mom who came to pick us up at the airport. She didn’t recognize me. That’s it, I thought, the beard stays. As a Jewish kid, the beard was pretty much part of the tradition and among much more orthodox members, a requirement.
So, since that time, I have had a beard. With one small time period of exception.
I joined the Church with a beard, I was ordained to the Priesthood with a beard and I blessed my first child with a beard.
In late 1983, I was called as the Ward Mission Leader and Seventies Group Leader, a mere year and a half after joining the Church. I was asked to shave off my beard, but not my mustache. When I enquired as to why, like Peggy’s article, I cited the many Church Presidents with a beard, I was told, “When you become Church President, you can have a beard.”
So, I shaved it off. And left it off for the next 18 months or so. In early 1985, we moved, so I was released and became a Stake Missionary in our new Ward. After a while, I grew back the beard. No one said a word about it.
I went on to serve as an Elder’s Quorum President, Bishop’s Counselor and, eventually High Councilman, all with a beard. When one of the Apostles came to Stake Conference and challenged us to become Temple veil workers, I did that too. I served for 5 years in the Oakland Temple with a beard. Again, no one said a word.
When we moved to Colorado, I asked at the Denver Temple about becoming a veil worker since I have been one in Oakland. Sorry, I was told, you’d have to shave your face. Ok, thanks anyway. I was told that President Hinckley made the rule. Sorry, but I kind of doubted it.
Fast forward to last year, one of the Temple Presidency came to speak in our ward and I asked him again. Yes, he said the rule still applies and alluded to the fact it was in the Temple President’s Handbook.
So, here we are more than 30 years later, still with a beard. Most of my kids have never seen me without one and the ones that did were too little to remember. The Church has allowed me to serve in my callings, take my tithing money, give me a Temple Recommend, and allow me to worship in the Temple, but not work there. Sure I guess I could shave it off, if I wanted to do so badly enough. But, for now I have chosen not to.
My wife and I look forward to serving a mission in the next 6 or 7 years, so I suppose I have resigned myself to shave it then.
But, perhaps now is the time to create AllowBeards.com to get the Church leaders to change their minds about beards.