To Beard or Not to Beard? The Question on Latter-day Saint Faces

Here are some snippets about growing and shaving beards in LDS Church history.

Reflecting on the beards of Brigham Young and numerous other past leaders, some current members may wonder why the Church encourages its male members to be clean-shaven.

Questions are especially prevalent among some at Brigham Young University. In September 2014, a group of BYU students held a rally and signed a petition to remove the school’s Honor Code regulations against facial hair. BYU’s administration made no action to lift the beard ban.

In an article titled “Joseph F. Smith’s Beard and the Public Image of the Latter-day Saints,” Justin R. Bray, a coordinator of the James Moyle Oral History Program in the Church History Department, explores the cycle of facial fashion in Church history and the growing and shaving of beards among Church leadership.

In the United States, the golden age of beards rose because of Abraham Lincoln but began to decline by the 1890s. At this point, cartoonists of the time often caricatured Mormon men by showing them with distinctively long and outdated beards, such as that worn by President Joseph F. Smith.

As fashion continued to lean toward a hairless face, most Church members did as well.
As fashion continued to lean toward a hairless face, most Church members did as well. But because of continually evolving fashion trends, beards are now coming back in style, especially among young men. Although much of society considers beards to be fashionable today, facial hair is still somewhat stigmatized in the LDS Church.

Bray’s article does not offer an explicit answer for the current scarcity of beards in the Church, but its commentary on beard history offers clarity to the discussion.

Read Justin R. Bray’s full article, “Joseph F. Smith’s Beard and the Public Image of the Latter-day Saints.”

Source: Religious Studies Center

—Sarah Perkins, Mormon Insights

feature image by margot pandone

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9 Comments

  1. I loved this. I haven’t seen an article on beards and Mormons before this. This was unique and intriguing. I really appreciated the timeline, and I had never really thought of the history of beards and why they would cause questions at BYU. It was neat to find out some background information.

  2. Hi, I totally agree with you that there some men who are still confused that why the Church encourages its male members to be clean-shaven. Though clean shave gives a decent gentleman personality but wearing a trendy beard not only makes a man look stylish and hot rather it also shows his masculinity.

  3. Indeed… I didn’t know much about it… thanks for sharing.. that would be the must booked article I refer back to!

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