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?

Interesting…..

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40 Responses to “Mormon Leaders and Beards”


  1. 1 Rusty November 1, 2006 at 10:51 pm

    Eric,
    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.

  2. 3 Stephen November 1, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    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.

  3. 4 Eric Nielson November 2, 2006 at 6:57 am

    Rusty:

    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.

    Stephen:

    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.

  4. 5 Justin B. November 2, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    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).

  5. 6 C Jones November 2, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    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?

  6. 7 C Jones November 2, 2006 at 1:51 pm

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

  7. 8 Eric Nielson November 2, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    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?

  8. 9 C Jones November 2, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    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.

  9. 10 Hayes November 2, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    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.

  10. 11 Eric Nielson November 2, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    CJones:

    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.

  11. 12 Eric Nielson November 2, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    Hayes:

    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!

  12. 13 Eric Nielson November 2, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    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.

  13. 14 Capt. Obsidian November 2, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    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.”

  14. 15 Eric Nielson November 2, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Captain:

    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.

  15. 16 Anonymous November 6, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    “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….

  16. 17 Anonymous November 8, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Eric,

    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.

    Bret

  17. 18 Eric Nielson November 8, 2006 at 11:39 am

    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.

  18. 19 jim November 11, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    Well, i am a member of the church in Holland(Europe)and there is some
    arguing here about beards and wearing with shirts but know this,when you want to ban beards in Church in fact you are insulting the old apostles and even Christ!If God did not want us to have beards, we would be born without it. All this fuzz is coming from the culture
    of the fifties and sixties when the current leaders where young and had to conform to the (business) standards of those days, meaning, clean shaving and a white shirt. So we are talking about culture and not about revalations or prohecies. In fact the people who wants us to
    force us to shave our beards or wear white shirts, well, to me they
    are looking like the old farizers where Christ had to deal with.
    Is it not great to have diversity in people in church,like flowers
    with all kind of colours? Accept your brother and sister like they are,
    and be glad he is with you on the road to eternal life, with or without
    beard or white shirt. Greetings to all.

    • 20 Follower October 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      So your reasoning that if God did not want men to have beards, they would be born without them is so short-sighted on many levels. To try to be obedient without always “agreeing” is an opportunity for growth. Abraham obeyed when he went to sacrifice Isaac. If God wanted women to wear earrings, would we have been born with pierced ears? Is it wrong to use makeup because God did not give us long eyelashes and colorful eyelids? Is it wrong to wear short hair because God made our hair grow? We have many opportunities to decide how we will groom, but more importantly, we have the opportunity to obey God through following His servants. And then to love everyone, no matter where they are on the path back home to Heaven.

  19. 21 beardguy September 19, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    in my stake (Warrensburg Missouri), it is the official policy. the stake president came to our ward and read the policy from the pulpit. my bishop specifically told me that the stake president’s policy is that men with beards cannot have callings.

    when i asked why i can’t find any conference talks where general authorities have stated this as church wide doctrine, i was told that our area authority supports the policy as well.

    however, my brother lives in Oklahoma and is the executive secretary and has a beard. my uncle in the stake just north of us, is the branch clerk and has a beard. my brother in law lives in georgia and was 2nd councilor of his ward and wears a beard

    it is really really bothering me that this issue is left up to local leaders. it should either be a church wide doctrine/policy issued by the first presidency or it should be left to the individual to decide

  20. 23 Matt W. September 19, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Wow Beardguy, that’s crazy. I’d write Church Headquarters. That’s Crazy!

  21. 24 ji September 30, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    C. S. Lewis, in describing a different topic, wrote that “[t]he Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of . . . propriety” and “while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes.”* I think this is the same with grooming practices, and we mustn’t confuse grooming practices with worthiness or cleanliness.

    I think in Brigham Young’s day, men were expected to have beards. In the late 1960′s, perhaps in consequence of social upheavals, the prophet of the day preferred that men not have beards. But in these last forty years, not a word has been said on the subject from the pulpit in SLC. Maybe people who still cling to it are making the mistake against which Lewis cautioned.

    One day, I believe we’re going to have to give up our expectation that women’s pantsuits are improper. Right now today, we have members who believe a pantsuit worn to a sacrament meeting is a sacrilege — but I tend to believe that if a questioner pinned down the current president of the Church or any of his brethren, he (or they) might say they tend to prefer dresses but pantsuits are welcome. Society changes. Propriety changes. Brigham Young and all his people would be appalled to see girls and ladies today showing their legs and arms. Today, some men come to shirt in just a shirt without a coat — can you believe it? And some men don’t wear hats outside!

    If this were 1970, I would feel duty-bound to respect the prophet’s teachings — but he’s a dead prophet now, and those times are passed, and that counsel hasn’t been incorporated into current Church handbooks and curriculum. But if a stake president chooses to call only clean-shaven men to callings, that’s his privilege — but this doesn’t mean every man in the stake has to be clean shaven. He (the stake president) is limiting the pool of men among whom he can share the work.

    * Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 5.

  22. 25 velska November 1, 2008 at 6:37 am

    I am coming very late to this discussion, but I find it interesting. There are, IMO, two separate things here.

    One is that if my stake president tells me that I should shave (I’m currently clean shaven because I’m a missionary), I may think he is perhaps being a bit of a zealot, but I do it. I have had ward/branch and stake/district leadership callings and have been an ordained temple worker, all with a full (well-trimmed) beard. Without a peep from anyone. If someone had raised the issue, I just would have applied the razor.

    The other is that in creating a pressure to conform to dress and grooming standards appropriate in some cultures, we are running the risk of alienating people from other cultures – and also of putting form over substance. While I support what pres. Hinckley said about tattoos and piercings, I still don’t see how all members should look like General Authorities or members of auxiliary General Boards.

    That said, I have never had any problems wearing a white shirt on Sundays. I just don’t care enough about dress and groom issues for it to become a stumbling block for me.

  23. 26 Eric Nielson November 3, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Your last sentence is right on the money.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  24. 27 matt March 3, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    if you cant grow facial hair it means you are homosexual in many cases. Homosexuality is not random it is hereditary.

  25. 29 jg May 15, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    ive had a beard off and on since 86 simply because i like beards. no rebelliousness intended. its been on more than off (probably less than a year off). while years ago i could hold callings in eqp this is no longer. not even youth associated callings. i even heard thru a very reliable grapevine that it had been said of me from bishop to eqp “dont extend any calling to him because of the beard.” im not one who grows a beard because christ or anyone else had one. could care less about that. whoever had or has a beard simply does that. i no longer attend for this and other reasons that ive simply come to say…i dont need that aggravation anymore. i find it interesting how these decrees can come from people who cant see their belts or toes and nothing is ever said of that. theyre still good honorable, righteous leaders.

  26. 30 Gary January 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I have facial hair for the last 5 years. Over the past 20 years it has disappeared and reappeared. I’ve been in bishoprics, a high councilman for about 7 years, in the YM organization off and on and am currently the HP group leader in our ward. We live north of Atlanta.

    Although I have it, I don’t think about facial hair to much. One of my favorite portraits was of George F. Richards that used to hang in LeGrand Richards (his son’s) office. He had a beautiful trimmed beard and it was LeGrand’s favorite.

    What’s interesting to me is the dress standard for men has not changed in the last 100 years. Are we still going to be required to wear neckties for the next 100 years…..now that’s torture! I like to wear bow ties, but my wife doesn’t like them…so no bow tie…and the neckties remain.

    That said, I don’t sweat the small stuff. Let others angst over it. If a leader says he’s inspired to ask me to cut it off. No big deal. Off it comes. I’ll love him regardless.

    Though, it may reappear when he’s gone or I move again….

    Stay great……

  27. 32 Mikey February 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

    So I was looking for the website below when I stumbled into this thread here. I thought y’all could use this too. Its about the BYU beard rule with quotes from Dallin H. Oaks.

    http://www.fearnobeard.org/3/post/2011/01/where-the-b-doesnt-stand-for-beard-by-gunther.html

  28. 34 David Chapman April 25, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I have had a beard for probably 30 years now, and a member of the church for 9 years. I was egp and HP counselor and am now a financial clerk. Just this past saturday, my ward was responsible for taking care of the tours etc at the Atlanta Temple. All men were instructed to remove all facial hair. I shaved out of obedience but was upset about it. I did my 4 hour shift and have already started growing the beard back! I am not sure we are giving the general public the right message. I think it would have helped the general public to see folks with beards.

    • 36 David Chapman April 28, 2011 at 8:27 am

      Yes they do. LOL! I am on my way to looking like I have for 30 years. Hmmmm. My Dad always said..”Why would you grow something on your face that grows wild on your rear end (he used a different word here)”

  29. 37 ed wilson June 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    I got a small chuckle from the Post stating that Gays can’t grow beards and homosexuality is inherited since..’cause…. um… the chances of procreation seem a bit limited at best… The selective pressure decidedly leaning towards weeding out the alleged “gay genes”.

    As to beards, When I was at BYU in the mid 60s there was a pretty strict policy against beards in the student body. I had a returned missionary friend who was a doctoral candidate. BYU would not allow him to defend his dissertation or get his Phd unless and until he shaved. It seemed a tempest in a teapot to me.

    As to my growing a beard.. I look like a dumpster diver with a full beard.. Can’t make it look like any of the cool beards we’ve seen. I just look like a dissipated unmade bed. So I just shave and shave and… ..

  30. 38 cohiba cigars December 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm

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  31. 39 George Franklin March 13, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Back in the late 1940′s and 1950′s, when most of the top church leaders were required to conform with WWII military appearance standards on the job (but not at church) including white shirts, dark suits and ties, all facial hair was taboo – in fact crew cuts or oiled down hair were in style. These men, who are now top church leaders, adopted this as an unwritten church doctrine. No scriptural reason, just conformity.

    I’m just so glad that crew cuts aren’t mandatory today, since they looked awful even in the 50′s.

    Sisters, be glad that RS leaders don’t feel the need to continue the fashions of their youth. The 1950′s were the days when women had to wear girdles at all times outside the house and driving a car was considered “unladylike.”


  1. 1 2010 in review « Small and Simple Trackback on January 12, 2011 at 8:13 am

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