Can someone explain to me where an aversion to beards might have originated?

Usually, when the Church issues a guideline on appearance, its meaning is obvious from the culture at large.

For example, long hair (for men) was associated with hippies in the 60’s. Tattoos and too many earrings (and any earrings for men) are associated with counter-culture attitudes and rebellion against authority. Modesty stems from obvious attitudes about the importance of covering certain parts of the body, and the ungodly feelings of “lust” that can be stirred by inappropriate clothing.

But I’ve never, ever heard of any negative cultural attitudes towards beards. As long as the beard is well kept, I’ve never heard of anyone being looked down on, or thought badly of. I’ve never heard that the skin of a man’s face is supposed to be shown to the world and not covered by hair.

Styles and trends come and go, and beards seem to be in less fashion these days than in times past, but this is true for many things and the Church seems able to not formulate policies based on such whims of culture.

If the Church had no policy on beards and you were to go to the Temple and saw one male officiator with a beard and one male officiator without, would you think any less or differently of the one with the beard? If not, what possible reason could there be for a Church policy on the issue?


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3 Responses to Beards

  1. Chris has some interesting insights.

    By the early twentieth century beards began a slow decline in popularity. Although retained by some prominent figures who were young men in the Victorian period (like Sigmund Freud), most men who retained facial hair during the 1920s and 1930s limited themselves to a moustache or a goatee (such as with Marcel Proust, Albert Einstein, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin). In America, meanwhile, popular movies portrayed heroes with clean shaven faces and “crew cuts”. Concurrently, the psychological mass marketing of Madison Avenue was becoming prevalent. The Gillette Safety Razor Company was one of these marketers’ early clients. These events conspired to popularize short hair and clean shaven faces as the only acceptable style for decades to come. The few men who wore the beard or portions of the beard during this period were frequently either old, Central Europeans; members of a religious sect that required it; or in academia.

  2. Sophocles

    I think it comes from corporate culture in America. One of my mission presidents used to tell us that the modern missionary program was modeled after the legendary postwar IBM sales force. I don’t know if that’s entirely accurate, but you can see the similarities.
    Corporate America values Company Men, if not Yes Men, and wearing a beard conveys an individuality that could be at odds with the professional, corporate image. When I see someone at the temple wearing a beard, I don’t think less of his character, but I might assume that he is more independent-minded than the clean-shaven guy next to him. Maybe he is an artist or a writer, or maybe he just subscribes to Sunstone.
    In BKP parlance, being clean-shaven is an outward indication of “which way you face.”

  3. bikeemikey

    Hey Cinepro: Always enjoyed your posts on the now MomonDialogue site. Stumbled across this Blog of yours.

    The aversions to beards as far as I can tell seems to mimic the dress sensibilities of American corporate business. The migration away from the acceptability of beards in began in the mid 50’s and then we had our first Prophet with a University education, coincidentally also our first beardless prophet since Joseph.

    By the late 50’s American corporate dress code was quite beardless, as were our prophets.

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