There has been a lot of discussion about BYU’s no-facial hair policy, including my personal favorite, and the policy that male leaders also must be clean-shaven in some wards and in the highest offices in the church. What’s your opinion?
In the case of BYU…it’s a private institution; so I support the standard. In the case of ward leaders’ having to be clean shaven…pure and unadulterated HORSE CRAP…and that is putting it POLITELY!!
PS…that’s about when I’d start growing my beard…right when they told me that it wasn’t the “right look”…
The church is also a private institution?!?!?
I wish we could put two answers, because it’s both (1) It’s a holdover from the anti-hippie sentiments of the early 1970s, and (2) To distance ourselves from our polygamous forebears, all of whom sported beards.
So glad my kids don’t go to BYU
I could see BYU re-instituting the religious exemption for beards, but not the beard ban. These types of restrictions are always much easier to institute than to remove in conservative religious institutions like the church. Also, I think a certain faction of the leadership likes the beard ban for a couple reasons. First, it teaches a spirit of obedience. Students learn to follow rules even when they don’t have reasonable justifications, and they see that as a virtue (exactness in small things leads to exactness in large things, etc.). Second, it’s important to have some less-important issues for the students to push back against. It allows the more rebelious students to test the boundaries on a relatively trivial matter, and so they won’t end up testing the boundaries on significant issues. I don’t agree with it, but I think those are the two main justifications and reasons why the rules won’t change.
Interesting comments Joel. I like them. Oh wait – I like that you are articulating something I DON’T like 🙂
I fully support facial hair at all times and in all things and in all places. I am trying to be strategic because if BYU actually changes their beard ban, Rexburg will retrench even further. As Provo is seen as worldly compared to us here at the church’s “(devotional) disciple training center.” Clark’s response to anklegate was that it shows how the world will attack goodness and he was even more convinced of his position than before. I think the cold, high altitude air is affecting our brain functions – wasn’t there a scientific breakthrough about that lately?
Joel says in #6, First, it teaches a spirit of obedience. Students learn to follow rules even when they don’t have reasonable justifications, and they see that as a virtue (exactness in small things leads to exactness in large things, etc.).
My first reaction was that this is a truly ridiculous statement. Then I thought that Joel and many others probably honestly believe that there is virtue in this, and I realized that my reaction was an emotional reaction and that I might be more effective simply pointing out why this viewpoint is so completely, tragically, awfully wrong.
We were given intelligence for a reason. We are taught that intelligence – light and truth – is the glory of God himself, that we ourselves are organized from it. We are given to understand in innumerable statements of modern and ancient prophets that we are to seek out words of wisdom from the best books, that we are to seek knowledge and learn for ourselves, that we are to prove God in all things, that we are to search Scripture and seek the confirmation of the Holy Ghost.
Further, we are clearly taught the concept of spiritual progression, for each of us as individuals and for the Lord’s people and the world as a whole. Thus, ancient Israel was given specific and rigorous laws to train them in the ways of obedience – not because mindless obedience is a divine principle, but because they were being prepared for greater light and truth, and prepared to take greater responsibility for themselves. We have been given a significant measure of that greater light, truth, and responsibility.
And yet there are still those who would propose that pointless obedience to pointless, petty, useless rules somehow teaches some great principle. It does not. It teaches contempt for rules and for rule-givers, contempt that is often not warranted, but is understandable the more otherwise rational men try to convince a thoughtful people why facial hair should be forbidden for temple workers and college students. Those petty rules may not be the hill most of us want to die on, but they create two kinds of saints – the kind which is unwilling to do the thinking on their own, and the kind who, consciously or unconsciously, start to question other rules. If we insist on obedience in silly things, we will get pushback when it comes to obedience in important things.
Free people – God’s people – do not think that way. They have their eyes open. They act on faith, and they often step into the dark without knowing what will come next, but they don’t try to find virtue in the trivial or make excuses for cultural preferences masquerading as mandates from on high.
New Iconoclast – I was presenting the justification, not saying that I agree with it. My personal views are much closer to yours.
That said, there are probably organizational efficiencies to everyone following the rules, even when some of them are pointless or harmful, rather than everyone questioning and demanding justification of every rule. But you sacrifice individuality, creativity, autonomy, and freedom, which bring their own organizational benefits.
1) Naturally BYU is PRIVATE and may impose whatever conditions it wishes upon the student body as long as it doesn’t violate the law of the land. And THAT law of the land ought to be little, if anything, as typically college students are adults, VOLUNTARILY attending a university sponsored by a Church run by ADULTS (and I’ve confidence the leaders act like adults) whose membership joined and participates VOLUNTARILY.
2) The Brethren have an understandable concern about the image of the Church as reflected in the conduct of the faculty, staff and students of the BYU campuses.
3) That having been said, I see no reason for mustaches and beards to be prohibited, as long as they are clean and groomed. The “standard” is difficult to define in absolute terms as cultural values change over times. I recall stories, well before my time and membership in the Church, wherein missionaries were required to wear hats after they’d passed out of everyday style for men to wear. I’d say it should be that grooming and attire, including a choice for men to sport beards and/or mustaches, should reflect well upon them as members and Priesthood holders. If called into a bishopric or the High Council, I’ll wear my facial hair however I like unless specifically requested by the Stake President or Bishop to be clean-shaven. In that case, whether I agreed that it was necessary to be clean-shaven or not, and I’d not consider it insubordinate to point it out, I’d then shave anyway b/c it’s more important to humble oneself to duly constituted authority than to portray an attitude of rebellion.
Joel, I apologize for seeming to lump you in with the locksteppers. It wasn’t clear from your remark whether you were there or not.
I agree, certainly, about organizational efficiency. In fact, I think that’s one of the big drivers behind correlation and its attendant problems – the Church is simply too big to be run as a Spirit-filled bunch of Joseph’s close associates meeting in the back room of the Whitney Store anymore. It has to be immensely frustrating for Church leaders to see areas blossom and then descend into disaster, which has happened, because they’re too remote from help and experience when an unseasoned local leader gets an unusual idea.
But, oh, how it chafes – how many useful babies are thrown out with the bathwater! How many people come to welcome the yoke and think of it as normal and natural for all of us, and question those who question, and think, and learn!
The BYU beard ban was a Vietnam-era thing. Pegging it to the 1970s is ten years to late.
Also, the church leader grooming thing comes from different roots than the beard ban. Mormon apostles have been largely beardless since the 1940s. (I believe J.A. Widsoe and G.A. Smith were the last holdouts, and they died in 1951 and ’52). This latter de-facto beard ban predates the hippie movement by s full generation, and has it’s origins in (1)changing post-WWI style trends, when the clean shaven look necessary for a airtight gas mask seal became associated with the youth, patriotism, and “Christian Manhood” of the returning soldiers, and (2)the invention of the safety razor and the related ease of shaving every day, (incidentally, women’s smooth legs and aarmpits trace to this same era, for this same reason).
“Christian Manhood”? Oy vey! Saints preserve us.
And . . . BYU beard ban retrenchment:
The Church and the church schools just look stupid when an obvious reprisal occurs and spokespeople utter blatantly disingenuous things like this:
It is a silly rule and standard, but I don't mind it being enforced on LDS students attending the universities. If it is not beards, it will be some other arbitrary ideal. That's just what we do.
It bothers me when it goes further than that. There should be religious exemptions. They also need to leave it on campus.
I can confirm what Kristine A days about BYU-I and rules like the beard ban. Only twice have I been confronted about my beard in a temple. Both times in Rexburg. Both times I was confronted in the dressing room by young guys who most likely couldn't grow anything thicker than fuzz, if they were even allowed to try. Both times I was informed it was disrespectful and diminished the spirit of the place, and I should be more worthy. Both times they could have been reading from the same script, it was very déjà vu. Except for the fact that the second time the brother reminding me of my sins went on to include what few visible tattoos were peaking out from under my white shirt and the holes in my ears, I would have thought it was a rerun episode of some wannabe-ironic sitcom.
Seriously, leave it on campus BYU-I students.
#14 Hawkgrrl: I use the term academically, and it didn’t originate with me. It’s a term associated with the early 20th Century movement that led to the creation of the YMCA, Boy Scouts, and a basketball court in every LDS chapel.
Google “christian manhood” and “progressive era”
“This latter de-facto beard ban predates the hippie movement by s full generation, and has it’s origins in (1)changing post-WWI style trends, when the clean shaven look necessary for a airtight gas mask seal became associated with the youth, patriotism, and “Christian Manhood” of the returning soldiers, and (2)the invention of the safety razor”
Interesting, since the mid-19C fashion for big beards came out of the crimean war, and the harsh cold winters. A wish to avoid tetanus from razor cuts from the first safety razors was also a contributory factor, so that must be the new-improved safety razor (Gillette disposable) you are referring to.
Don’t judge the rule so you can be upset by it. Just do it. The Sikh student, like many others signed the papers knowing that was the rule. If they don’t like the rule then why don’t they just go somewhere else? Why do they prefer being a liar instead?
Just DO it and stop griping.
Rich: Your attitude is both ignorant and uncharitable. Five minutes of research would reveal to you that the Sikh student entered the university with a religious exemption for his beard (which was always the policy at BYU). While he was enrolled, the university decided to drop the religious exemption. IOW, they bait & switched him, and his graduation (including all the time and money he had invested) hung in the balance. He had an unthinkable choice: forsake his religious vow or give up his hard-won education. That he chose the latter is understandable. That a university that claims to care about religious freedom forced this choice on him is unconscionable.
Rich, to extend Hawkgrrrl’s comment, turn this around. Say your LDS son was allowed to go to Notre Dame and he signed the papers saying he needed to do communion with actual wine. He was told that was something he could get a waiver from that due to his religion. Then 3 years in they decided everyone MUST take communion – including drinking wine. That is what I see is a mirror of this situation.
I don’t agree with the ban in general as I don’t think they are seen the same way they were 30 or 40 years ago, but that is quite different than dropping all religious exceptions for the BYU beard band because it was being “abused”. I want my tithing money being spend better than fighting legal battles to force people to shave.