Mormon Leaders and Beards

Many early leaders of the church had beards. Most of the prophets up to Joseph F. Smith had beards, as did many of the apostles. Joseph F. Smith and Lorenzo Snow had wonderful beards. They looked like the guys from ZZ Top!

A quick look at current church leadership will show a complete absence of beards. If I am not mistaken, I do not think you will find so much as a well trimmed mustache among the General Authorities. Instead of looking like members of ZZ Top, they look like sharp dressed men!

The company I work for has an interesting policy - no beards except during November. This policy supports those who hunt during this month. I am going to make an attempt at growing a beard this month. A friend of mine at work, who happens to be a branch president, said he would like to try but he can't. I asked why, and he said it was because he is a branch president.

Why is it that current Mormon leadership, apparently down to the bishopric/branch president level can not have a beard - or even a mustache? Is this strictly the case? I do not think it is scriptural, and I have not seen it in any manual. I am not sure if it made Boyd K. Packer's Unwritten Order of Things talk.

I also wonder this - When Christ returns, will he have a beard?



At 11/01/2006, Blogger Rusty said...

It doesn't go down to the bishopric level, at least not ours. I've had a beard since I've been in the bishopric and (year and a half) and nobody has ever once said a thing (including the stake presidency). Of course I live in New York and not the west. We're not as righteous out here.

And for the record, I hope Christ has a beard when he comes, then it will make the facial-hair nazis feel dumb.

At 11/01/2006, Blogger Stephen said...

Of course Christ has a beard, since God has a beard and they look alike ;)

We've had a number of bishopric members with beards. One of them needed one in order to look more mature. I grew one my senior year of college and I give it credit for my getting the departmental honor.

I had to either grow a beard, gain weight or gain twenty years when I started practice in order not to look like a kid.

Now I'm fifty, I don't need the beard or the fat any more, though I grow one on vacations because my wife likes it.

Fun post.

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...


Thanks for your comment. It is interesting that some bishoprics think this is a strict policy and others do not. And I agree that it will be interesting to see what the facial hair situation is when Christ returns.


You have an interesting take here. I am turning 40 this month, but most people would probably guess I was about 32 or so. It will be interesting to see if I feel different or if I am treated differently with a beard.

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Justin B. said...

I looked through the Church Almanac listings of General Authorities for signs of facial hair, and it appears that the holdouts died in the early 1950s (e.g., George Albert Smith, John A. Widtsoe).

Here's something that Harold B. Lee said in 1973 about following the prophets:

"Now may I make a personal reference, which I'll try to treat in such a way as to preserve the confidentiality. It involved a beautiful young wife and mother from a prominent family. She had gone away from her home and was now in the East. She had gone out into an area where she and her husband had taken up with those in the ghetto, and she wrote me a rather interesting letter, and I quote only a paragraph: 'Tomorrow my husband will shave off his long, full beard because of the request of the stake president and your direction in the Priesthood Bulletin. I have wept anguished tears; the faces of Moses and Jacob were bearded, and to me the wisdom and spirituality of the old prophets reflected from the face of my own spiritual husband. It was like cutting out for me a symbol of the good things my generation has learned.' Then the letter concluded with a challenge to me: 'We are prepared for clear, specific, hard-line direction as youth. Wishy-washy implications are not heard very well here. We look to you to tell it straight.'

I don't know whether she knew just what she was asking for when she asked me to tell it straight, but these are some things I wrote to her: 'In your letter you address me as 'Dear President Lee,' and in your first sentence you refer to me as the Lord's prophet. Now, in your letter you tell me that you are saddened because with the shaving off of the beard and the cutting of the hair, which, to you, made your husband appear as the prophets Moses and Jacob, he would no longer bear that resemblance. I wonder if you might not be wiser to think of following the appearance of the prophets of today. President David O. McKay had no beard or long hair, neither did President Joseph Fielding Smith, and neither does your humble servant whom you have acknowledged as the Lord's prophet.

The inconsistency in your letter has made me reflect upon an experience that I had in the mission field when, in company with some missionaries and the mission president, we were at Carthage Jail, where the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum took place. In that meeting there were recounted the events that led up to their martyrdom. Then the mission president made some significant comments. He said, 'When the Prophet Joseph Smith died there were many who died spiritually with Joseph.' Likewise there were many who died spiritually with Brigham Young, and so with others of the Presidents of the Church, because they chose to follow the man who had passed on, rather than giving allegiance to his successor upon whom the mantle of leadership had been given by the Lord's appointment." And then I asked her, 'Are you following, in looks, prophets who lived hundreds of years ago? Are you really true to your faith as a member of the Church in failing to look to those who preside in the Church today? Why is it that you want your husband to look like Moses and Jacob, rather than to look like the modern prophets to whom you are expressing allegiance? If you will give this sober thought, your tears will dry, and you'll begin to have some new thoughts.'

My final advice to you lovely girls who are present, perhaps likewise struggling for answers to difficult questions: Accept this word of counsel and apply it to yourselves, you girls, and you young men. Keep your eye upon those who preside in the Church today, or tomorrow, and pattern your life after them rather than to dwell upon how ancient prophets may have looked or thought or spoken, because if you really believe what you say, you will honor the one who presides today as a prophet, seer, and revelator. For the Lord gives to His leaders in their own dispensation and their own time the things that He would have given to His church for the guidance of His people in this present day. This is the thing that makes this church strong. God isn't an absentee father. Jesus is the head of this church. This church is founded upon Apostles and prophets, but Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the chief cornerstone. He reveals His mind and will by the power of the Holy Ghost to those who preside, as each President of the Church can testify. Today we see the evidence of His direction as we are seeing His work going forward day by day in our time" ("Be Loyal to the Royal Within You." 11 September 1973. In Speeches of the Year, 1973. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1974).

At 11/02/2006, Anonymous C Jones said...

Sorry, but ZZ Top beards are icky!

I don't think that I am a facial hair Nazi, and I have my own little cherished list of minor rebellions, but the "no beards, only one earring" type of guidelines are so easy to follow with so little angst, I say- Why not?

At 11/02/2006, Anonymous C Jones said...

Ha! I am imagining a guy with no beard, but ONE earring!
I meant to say "one pair of earrings"...

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...

Justin B:

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

Your quote is fantastic. But what if President Hinkley were to decide to grow a beard this winter? Should we then all grow beards as well? I'm being a little sarcastic here.

C. Jones:

You are right. These types of things are pretty easy to follow. But is the instruction clear and consistent? And how important are some of these things?

At 11/02/2006, Anonymous C Jones said...

My husband has had a mustache ever since I have known him. He kept it while serving as a bishop, and no one ever said anything to him about it.

But a good friend who had a nicely trimmed beard was called to be in the stake presidency of our same stake and he was asked to shave.

We liked our friend, bearded or no, and it usually doesn't cross my mind to personally judge someone about something like that- like I said, I have my own issues.

But these seemingly small issues do have personal meaning to me in that they teach me something about myself. The pattern of my obedience or of my rationalization in small things tends to play out in similar ways in bigger ones.

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Hayes said...

In my experience, usually the "beard, or no beard" policy will be left unsaid, or the "pray about it, and you will know what to do" advice is given.

Our Bishop was just asked to shave his mustache (he said it was a temple policy, and he is a veil worker).

I generally wear bow ties to church (old Southern habit), and was counseled once by a member of the High Council (when I was EQP) to pray about it, and whether or not it detracted from my calling.

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...


Interesting stories. Just to be clear, I do not feel I am going against any counsel myself here. I'm just a lowly Teachers Quorum advisor. We are pretty much left alone. I'm simply trying one out for a month, then it has to come off for work if nothing else. I doubt I would have a beard long term whether I was allowed to or not.

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...


Thanks for your comment.

I have never worn a bow tie. I think I would admire a church leader who wore one. I think it makes one look likeable. I would like a bishop with a bow tie!

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...

As a side note, I live in Amish country. As I understand it the Amish (bible believing christian folk) men must have a beard after they are married. Whether they want one or not. Interesting twist.

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Capt. Obsidian said...

Our Stake President (in Salt Lake) has asked members of Bishoprics (and stake positions) to be clean shaven. While acknowledging that facial hair does not affect temple worthiness, he would like for the leaders (especially those specifically involved with the youth) in the stake to "set an example for the young men as they prepare for missions."

At 11/02/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...


Thanks for your comment.

I think that your Stake President is typical in the church. This is pretty near universal from what I have seen, with only a few exceptions.

At 11/06/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I generally wear bow ties to church (old Southern habit), and was counseled once by a member of the High Council (when I was EQP) to pray about it, and whether or not it detracted from my calling."

When I was called as a counselor in a stake presidency I quit wearing bow ties to church. (Well, except on the occasional day when I wear one to work without anticipating a later church visit.) My reason: I didn't think I could be as effective if I were known as "the counselor who wears bow ties." It might be a distraction for some. so I stick with my Escher ties -- with patterns that you can't discern from the beyond the front row....

At 11/08/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here in Tucson AZ "the heart of the old west" beards are forebidden if you are in the Bishopric or Stake Presidency. In fact at a Priesthood Leadership meeting all men present were "invited/challenged" to be groomed as a full time missionary would be groomed for a period of two months. I was the ward mission leader at the time, and it was the first time my wife had seen me without a mustache, gotee, beard, etc. I can honestly say other than feeling obedient I did't feel any more spiritual with less hair.

My two cents...God made it possible for men to grow facial hair so that we could grow facial hair, but if I end up in a Bishopric someday and and they tell me to shave it off then it will come off...in fact I may even try out the bald look.


At 11/08/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...

Hey Bret!

Thanks for stopping by. I am not sure my beard will last all month. I sure am drawing a lot of attention to myself.

At 2/22/2009, Anonymous David B. said...

Christ and Heavenly Father have to return with a beard. They are immortal and an unchanging. If it were not so, they would not be Gods. Joseph Smith clearly describes the beings, and if Jesus were to any return differently, we would be deceived.

(note, I'm being a bit sarcastic, but it should get the point across -- it doesn't matter if you have a beard. It's a personal decision. It may affect the callings you receive, the job you get, the lady you find, and many other things -- but it's still your decision, and you won't go to heaven or hell because of it).

At 5/18/2010, Blogger Thierry said...

The General Authorities made a point of not having a beard in the 70' at a time when growing a beard really meant something not so good.
As a local leader I remember asking a mission president about a specific mission rule that caused some problems in the work. He paused and said "well i gave that rule a long time ago"...
I wonder if the first presidency really wants us today to have no beard at all or if some are just keeping old rules that were for a specific time...?
It is interesting to notice that today only in specific circumstances are people asked to shave. In the 70' it was asked publicly and for all. So if the first presidency still thinks that way, at least they don't give it the importance that it was given before.

At 12/26/2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to a ward today and the bishop looked like Brigham Young! You thought you stepped back in time. Weird?

At 4/13/2011, Anonymous Rodster said...

Dallin H Oaks on subject:
Best read in full context on the link.
Here's an excerpt of the Dec 1971 New Era piece publishing then BYU President's remarks:
"The rule against beards and long hair for men stands on a different footing. I am weary of having young people tell me how most of our Church leaders in earlier times wore beards and long hair, which shows that these are not inherently evil. Others argue that beards cannot be evil because they see bearded men enjoying the privileges of the temple. To me, this proposition seems so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning. Unlike modesty, which is an eternal value in the sense of rightness or wrongness in the eyes of God, our rules against beards and long hair are contemporary and pragmatic. They are responsive to conditions and attitudes in our own society at this particular point in time. Historical precedents are worthless in this area. The rules are subject to change, and I would be surprised if they were not changed at some time in the future. But the rules are with us now, and it is therefore important to understand the reasoning behind them.

There is nothing inherently wrong about long hair or beards, any more than there is anything inherently wrong with possessing an empty liquor bottle. But a person with a beard or an empty liquor bottle is susceptible of being misunderstood. Either of these articles may reduce a person’s effectiveness and promote misunderstanding because of what people may reasonably conclude when they view them in proximity to what these articles stand for in our society today.

In the minds of most people at this time, the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards or long hair, whether they desire it or not, may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent. In addition, unkemptness—which is often (though not always) associated with beards and long hair—is a mark of indifference toward the best in life."

At 4/14/2011, Blogger Thierry said...

It is interesting that the comment by pdt (of BYU) Oaks, was given in 1971. That was really the time for such a comment !!!
Using the reasoning of that comment,
"I would be surprised if they were not changed at some time in the future. But the rules are with us now"
i suppose that during the recent decades, instead of the beard, the focus could have been given to shaved heads, and more recently to very strange hair cut that look like japanese violent cartoons. Notice that pdt Hinckley spoke of piercings. I don't recall hearing him about beards.
Has someone an authoritative comment by an the first pdcy on beards that is really contemporary?
A friend just shaved his beard because the temple pdt asked him. Does someone know if a rule is in vigor about temple worker?
I don't have a beard myself but i find it very upsetting that some leaders may impose rules that are not real.
And please don't serve me the usual "all leaders may be inspired" (which i nevertheless believe). Year after year we listen to general authorities trying to correct leadership behavior and errors.

At 10/18/2011, Blogger Sean said...

This is strictly opinion here--and may not hold water with some! I have no objection to beards and mustaches whatsoever. But the clean shaven face seems to be the norm, especially in the business world. It is the conservative, accepted business look. The church I'm sure wants to shed any tie to provincialism, or being compared to the Amish, etc., and wants a modern, up to date "mainstream acceptance". This is NOT a bad thing. Perhaps in a hundred years, beards etc. will become "respected" again. Not to say that I don't think a beard isn't respectable, and certainly suits men of distinction and character.


Post a Comment

<< Home

link to MA