What's the deal with Mormons and earrings?

In a recent (2000) talk, the president of the LDS church, Gordon B. Hinckley, made some comments about youth getting tattoos and body piercings.

Some LDS members have interpreted the piercing counsel to mean: "Thus saith the Lord thou shalt have but singly-pierced ears." BYU's dress code, for example, was modified to prevent women from having double-pierced ears. I disagree with those members, and believe that Pres. Hinckley's sermon doesn't say that at all.

First, let me quote Hinckley's actual comments.

from the Fall 2000 Relief society conference:

___begin Hinckley

[Mothers] Teach them [your children] to respect their bodies. The practice is growing among young people of tattooing and piercing their bodies. The time will come when they will regret it, but it will then be too late. The scriptures unequivocally declare:

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

"If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

It is sad and regrettable that some young men and women have their bodies tattooed. What do they hope to gain by this painful process? Is there "anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy" (A of F 1:13) in having unseemly so-called art impregnated into the skin to be carried throughout life, all the way down to old age and death? They must be counseled to shun it. They must be warned to avoid it. The time will come that they will regret it but will have no escape from the constant reminder of their foolishness except through another costly and painful procedure.

I submit that it is an uncomely thing, and yet a common thing, to see young men with ears pierced for earrings, not for one pair only, but for several.

They have no respect for their appearance. Do they think it clever or attractive to so adorn themselves?

I submit it is not adornment. It is making ugly that which was attractive. Not only are ears pierced, but other parts of the body as well, even the tongue. It is absurd.

We--the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve--have taken the position, and I quote, that "the Church discourages tattoos. It also discourages the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes, although it takes no position on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings."

___end Hinckley



from the Fall 2000 General Priesthood meeting:

___begin Hinckley

[Fathers] Teach your children self-respect. Teach them that their bodies are the creation of the Almighty. What a miraculous, wonderful, and beautiful thing is the human body.

As has been said here tonight, Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, declared: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

"If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

Now comes the craze of tattooing one's body. I cannot understand why any young man--or young woman, for that matter--would wish to undergo the painful process of disfiguring the skin with various multicolored representations of people, animals, and various symbols. With tattoos, the process is permanent, unless there is another painful and costly undertaking to remove it. Fathers, caution your sons against having their bodies tattooed. They may resist your talk now, but the time will come when they will thank you. A tattoo is graffiti on the temple of the body.

Likewise the piercing of the body for multiple rings in the ears, in the nose, even in the tongue. Can they possibly think that is beautiful? It is a passing fancy, but its effects can be permanent. Some have gone to such extremes that the ring had to be removed by surgery. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have declared that we discourage tattoos and also "the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes." We do not, however, take any position "on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings"--one pair.

___end Hinckley

Now for my own thoughts:

1. These comments were placed in the context of counseling *parents* what to teach their *children*. For example, other things mentioned in both talks included teach your children to develop good friendships, the importance of education, to stay away from drugs, to pray, to stay honest and virtuous, etc. So, "Tattoos are bad. Body piercings and double pierced ears are bad" was not the main thrust of Pres. Hinckley's talks.

2. Notice that the comments were specifically about the behavior of children, not adults (although some of the principles involved are the same for adults, no doubt).

3. The decision to talk about this is the RS and Priesthood sessions seems to indicate that he is talking specifically to members of the church, rather than saying to all people, "Thou shalt not double-pierce".

4. From the context, it seems like there were a couple of major reasons why he gave this counsel to the parents. Things that stood out to me were that (a) these types of things will affect the rest of the kids' lives (and they may well regret their choice later), and (b) your body is a temple which should not be defiled. Those seem to be the two guiding principles which we should keep in mind when applying Pres. Hinckley's remarks. The particular applications of these principles may be society-dependent, but the principles themselves are not. The principles certainly apply to adults as well.

5. He did not say that "one earring is good, two is bad". Rather he said that the church has not taken a position on single earrings, which seems a little different to me. Take that for what it's worth.