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I have read in a few places the LDS Church has at least a general practice, if not an official teaching, that prohibits men from growing facial hair--at least for men in any position of leadership. Apparently, Joseph Smith was "clean shaving", but many of the other prophets and leaders in times past did have significant beards and moustaches.

So, my question concerns what the basis is for this teaching and when that basis came about. Is it an official church teaching or an unwritten policy, and is there any reason given for why facial hair, which God seems to have intended for men in some way, is inappropriate or wrong?

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I may be splitting hairs here, but the church does not prohibit facial hair. The church associated universities do. As a devout member, I have only heard of this prohibition in association with church owned universities. –  Cory Klein Jul 31 '13 at 21:52
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Short version: The rule is about appearing nice, clean-cut, and respectable in line with current cultural norms. It's a matter of practicality - just look nice, in order to better represent the Church and therefore, God.

From an address President Dallin H. Oaks gave to the 25,000 students of Brigham Young University.

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.

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.

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Thanks, David. This does appear to be a bit of a cultural norm in America today. Does this standard apply in other cultures, too, where the cultural norms are very different? –  Narnian Jul 10 '13 at 12:11
    
@Narnian - I need to leave for work and it'll be hours before I can come back and find actual references, but from what I remember, yes, it applies to other cultures as well, at least for missionaries. Arguments for include that it represent the main Church's practices, and that in many countries, beards are for married men (hence the prohibition for missionaries, which are single.) I also failed to address when the standard originated. I'm going to guess that someone else will give a more thorough answer before I can get back, which is OK. –  David Stratton Jul 10 '13 at 12:29
    
after taking a look at the Oaks reference, it makes me grateful not to be a Morman. (the other "M" folks, the Mennonites, from which i come from, have had their historical issues about dress and modesty, but i think that most have gotten past it. thank God.) –  robert bristow-johnson Apr 10 at 1:27
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I wrote an article on this a while ago.

http://michaelahickman.blogspot.com/2013/03/iron-beards-and-leave-me-alona-beards.html

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I read the article, and it's quite good and well-researched. But this answer has been flagged by the system as being of low quality, because on StackExchange sites we prefer for the question to be answered in the answer, and not simply to consist of a link to some page that answers the question, but which, for all we know, might not be there tomorrow. Could you edit your answer and provide excerpts of the most relevant points in addition to the link? Thanks, and welcome to Christianity.SE. :) –  Mason Wheeler Apr 6 at 19:01
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Agreed, this is an awesome comment, but poor answer. –  The Freemason Apr 7 at 1:27
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Please flesh this out into a direct answer to the question. You may use your article for reference and direct people to it for further reading, but the answer here will need to fully answer the question in-situ or it will be removed. –  Caleb Apr 7 at 7:14
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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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