The church is famous for strongly pressuring members to follow a dress and grooming standards and whenever possible requiring it. They suggest that members follow the grooming standards but require every volunteer missionary who are paying their own way (or at least their parents are in many cases), every volunteer temple worker, and every student at church run school in the BYU family of schools in Provo, Idaho and Hawaii.
If you serve as a missionary you must be clean shaven and have your hair cut according to the regulations. This in turn qualifies you for the spirit? More like this in turn portrays the members of the church as “clean cut” good people. Just like all the best marketing gurus from the 1960s would tell you. Is it still the case?
Dress and Grooming
Appropriate dress and grooming will help you earn respect and trust. Your appearance is often the first message others receive, and it should support what you say. Therefore, wear conservative, professional clothing that is consistent with your sacred calling.
Be neat and clean. Bathe daily, if possible. Use deodorant. Keep your clothes clean, mended, and wrinkle-free. Never allow your appearance or your behavior to draw attention away from your message or your calling.
Suits. Suits should be of a traditional business style in dark, conservative colors. Always wear a white shirt with a tie that is conservative in color, pattern, width, and length. If you are allowed to work without a jacket, wear dress slacks with a white shirt and tie.
Shoes. Shoes should be black, dark brown, or cordovan. They should be made of material that can be polished. Keep them clean and polished. Socks should be a solid, dark color that matches the slacks. Do not wear boots unless your mission president authorizes them.
Hair. Keep your hair relatively short (not clipped too close) and evenly tapered. Extreme or faddish styles— including spiked, permed, or bleached hair or a shaved head—are not appropriate. Sideburns should reach no lower than the middle of the ear. (See the pictures of a missionary haircut included with your call packet.) Elders should shave each day.
Jewelry. Do not wear earrings, necklaces, or any kind of bracelets (except those with a medical purpose). Tattoos, nose rings, other body piercings, or toe rings are not acceptable.
Modesty. Maintain a high standard of modesty. Wear clothing that:
• Is neither too tight nor too loose.
• Is not transparent or revealing in any way, such as sheer, tight, or stretch fabrics.
• Does not draw attention to any part of the body.
• Is not casual, wrinkled, sloppy, or faddish.
• Clothing should be professional in style and present a clean, well-groomed appearance.
Outfits. Outfits should consist of suits, skirt-and-blouse combinations, skirt-and-jacket combinations, dresses, or jumpers. They should be tailored to fit well and be conservative in style and color. Skirts should reach mid-calf or longer; if there is a slit, it should not reach above the knee. T-shirts, sweatshirts, golf-style shirts, or other casual shirts, pants, and pantsuits are inappropriate.
Shoes. Shoes should be practical, comfortable, and attractive. Flat-soled shoes or shoes with low heels are best. Avoid boot-style, bulky footwear unless your mission president authorizes it.
Accessories. Jewelry and other accessories should be simple and should not attract attention. Do not wear more than one earring in each ear. Tattoos, nose rings, other body piercings, or toe rings are not acceptable.
Hair and Makeup. Wash your hair frequently. The style and length of your hair should be easy to manage and should not call attention to itself. Makeup also should not call attention to itself.https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/missionary-handbook/missionary-conduct?lang=eng
Here is the requirements from the school policy.
Dress and Grooming Standards
The dress and grooming of both men and women should always be modest, neat, and clean, consistent with the dignity adherent to representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any of its institutions of higher education.
Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church. Members of the BYU community commit themselves to observe the following standards, which reflect the direction of the Board of Trustees and the Church publication For the Strength of Youth. The Dress and Grooming Standards are as follows:
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles or colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=231
Ironic that looking at church history we find that this is by no means an eternal principle or doctrine. But they sure do make a big fuss about it. Seems they care much more if you are clean shaven than if you are a kind person. They care more that you have a single ear piercing than that you love you neighbors. Partly because this is something they can track, but also because it is an outward symbol or common yardstick to measure worthiness. Church leaders must know this and want to make members show how obedient they are outwardly, how much members conform is an indicator of how far they can be controlled.
If they lived today, nearly half of the LDS Church’s presidents — from Brigham Young through George Albert Smith — would be forbidden from serving in the faith’s temples worldwide.How beards became barred among top Mormon leaders, Peggy Fletcher Stack The Salt Lake Tribune
The irony though, that we are told to be in the world but not of the world! Yet these grooming standards are in direct pushback to the hippie generation of long hair and facial hair and protesting war. The church wanted to make sure they kept their people from looking like that crowd, so they made rules, they reverted their own traditional grooming standards to become clean shaven. They can change history, but they can’t redo the photos, all the early church leaders are men with a full beard.
So why all these beard wearing men leading a church that is known to forbid beards today? What changed? Styles changed, and church leaders followed them, until they didn’t. Joseph Smith didn’t have a beard in his portraits, but we do have recorded instances of him having a beard a few times in his life. During his day beards weren’t fashionable. In fact Abraham Lincoln is credited for making facial hair fashionable during his Presidency. Which fits the timing, as all the church presidents following Lincoln in the 1860s sported fashionable beards. Though, when the fashion changed and being clean shaven was in style, the church followed suit again. There was a string of church presidents with no beard. As they do, fashions changed again, and this time it was the 1960s when facial hair became the hippie thing to do. During this era the church leaders felt they had to make a stand on their conservative side rather than allow members (and leaders) to make their own fashion choices. Let’s make sure the members and missionaries and BYU crowd can’t align with the movement of peace and love. That just wouldn’t do. It was marketing and salesmanship really, they wanted to make sure they upheld an image of FBI agents basically, since they believed investigators would trust young, clean-shaven, suit-wearing, all-american looking
salesmen, eh, I mean, missionaries. They didn’t want to look like counter-culture hippies, they wanted to control the members to appear more like draftees in the army, with short cropped hair and no beards. This is exactly what the church leaders think, they know it’s not a sin to have a beard, but they fear that allowing members to grow facial hair, they will be associated with “protest, revolution and rebellion against authority”. Maybe it’s because the authority is saying that facial hair is forbidden…
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.Talk of the Month: Standards of Dress and Grooming, New ERA, Dec 1971, Dallin H Oaks (As President of BYU)
Why make such a big deal over grooming? It’s a distraction. It’s really the church that makes it a such big deal. Conforming to church grooming standards is an outward indicator of personal obedience. The church is high-demand and asks a lot of it’s members, along with paying 10% as tithing and giving your time and talents, it also requires conformity in so many ways. Grooming is just one of them. We’re not allowed to have tattoos or piercings, need to live a health code, need to look the part, speak the part and act the part too! It’s about showing to our social circles that we are in line, that we obey our leaders and can thus be trusted to tow the line. Have a beard? That’s not allowed, you must be a sinner and not really belong in the tribe. With this distraction to these virtue signaling indicators the church leaders make us focus on outward appearances and judging those around us by the length of their shorts or heaven forbid the exposure of their shoulders rather than the fibers of their heart. They claim that if your heart is in the right place, you can go along with all these church rules since they really don’t matter anyways, but it’s all part of the control! They are making them a big deal, while no one else in the world does. Certainly not something Jesus worried about.
Jesus did many things in the scriptures that don’t fit todays “standards”. He turned water into wine, but of course we explain that away by saying it was more like grape juice than wine today… Really? He had long hair, and a beard, but that was just cultural. He wouldn’t be respected as a jewish leader if he didn’t. The story is that Jesus conforms to his culture so much that he cares what they would think about his appearances? Not quite. He flips tables and throws the money changers out of the temple… But today, what is in the mormon temples if not money changers and tithing requirements to enter.
Be more like Jesus they said? What about sitting with sinners and leaving the ninety and nine to comfort and help the one lost soul. What about his disdain and contempt for the pharisees? The hypocritical leaders of his day which he called a “generation of vipers“. They were the church leaders and authority of the day! Would Jesus sit today in his office building looking over reports of his amassed $100B+ from Ensign Peak and hire lawyers to protect sexual perpetrators in order to not sully the “good name of the church”? Would Jesus watch his people like a hawk for any handbook grooming standards violations and refuse a diploma? Would he call us lazy learners? Would he tell us not to research? Would he ask for a break? Would he point the finger at those struggling to hold onto belief as playing church history whack-a-mole of compare them to ungrateful spoiled children? Would he vilify doubt? Would he tell us how offended he is when his church is referenced by the book in which it calls the keystone of the religion? The church does not represent the Jesus I grew to love and respect.
The grooming standards, while small, is an example of the church’s obsession with obedience over understanding and actual good works. They want to interpret everything for us, like how to understand the gospel and what we are “allowed” to do and not do. They want to tell us how to live and claim that God gave them the authority to tell us these things. That God wants them to tell us. This is control like the pharisees had and wanted over the people. Dictating every little minute detail of life rather than trusting people to do what is right for them. That is the rub though, if the church leaders could trust members to make their own decisions, they wouldn’t have authority over them anymore and they know it.