A Prophet by Any Other Beard?

by: Stephen Carter

April 13, 2014

I gave a presentation at Saturday’s Association for Mormon Letters conference (brought to you by the letters U, V, and U) about the history of Book of Mormon comic books. I included the classics: “Lessons from the Life of Nephi” (George Reynolds and C.C.A. Christensen), “Stories from the Book of Mormon” (John Philip Dalby), The Golden Plates (Mike Allred), From the Dust (Michael Mercer), and iPlates (Jett Atwood and myself).

But my favorite part of the presentation was the comparisons between the 1978 version and the 1997 version of Book of Mormon Stories (the Book of Mormon comic book produced by the LDS Church).

Though there were many interesting changes, the one I found most fascinating was how many prophets lost their beards between one version and the next. Take a look:


For some reason the beard I mourned the most was Abinadi’s. (Note also the addition of a tunic to his muscular frame.)


Then there’s Alma the Elder’s beard. It guess he grabbed some razors while running for his life out of King Noah’s palace.


As you can see, when Alma the Younger lost his beard, he also lost his ability to put his cape on straight.


Amulek lost his beard as well. But he also turned blond and learned to color coordinate with Alma, so I guess not all was lost.


I don’t know, would you follow beardless Helaman into battle? His stripling warriors look a little unsure themselves.


Which Captain Moroni do you think would get a radio talk show first?


Even the mighty Ammaron could not escape shearing.


One of the downsides of being the last Nephite on the continent was that Moroni had to be his own barber. But razors were apparently abundant in the wilderness.


Interestingly, one prophet actually gained a beard: the Jaredite prophet Ether.


One beard was retained between the two versions: the Brother of Jared’s. But, as you can see, the later beard was a little less geometrical.


The 1997 version of Book of Mormon Stories has 60 more pages than the 1978 version. Thus a lot of stories were added, including the adventures of the later Nephi and Lehi. It looks like Lehi was blessed with a beard. But maybe that’s because . . .


. . . we all would have been livid if Book of Mormon Stories had taken away Father Lehi’s beard. In Mormon culture, the word Lehi means “beard.”


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12 Responses to A Prophet by Any Other Beard?

  1. Howard on April 13, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    It seems contradictory given the litteral truth claim requirements, was a Gillette razor found in the ruins of Zarahemla?

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  2. Roger on April 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Fun comparison!! There are 140+ Moroni statues worldwide. Only one has a beard– the statue atop the Hill Cumorah in New York, dedicated by Heber J. Grant (who had a beard). With the exception of the Salt Lake temple all other depictions were put in place by beardless leadership, including the original Nauvoo temple, dedicated by Orson Hyde.

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  3. lemuel on April 13, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Not sure why Lehi is portrayed as being so old. His children apparently aren’t old enough to be married when he leaves, and he’s (or his wife is) still young enough to bear children.

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  4. Frank Pellett on April 13, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    I noted with this version that even though Lehi is unchanged (he’s pretty iconic, even if appearing too old), Laman and Lemuel seem to look more Arabic. Nephi & Sam, clean shaven, such nice boys. Those two older ones, though, with their full beards and head gear, well, they look like trouble.

    I also dislike that they put in “Jesus” everywhere the scripture talks about “God”. Also, they decide the angel in Nephi’s vision is Jesus. I tell ya, kids these days, with their new “translations”. We should have never left reformed Egyptian.

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  5. Kristine A on April 13, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    this is a sore spot for me, my husband got a job at BYUI and can no longer have facial hair. sad for me. sad for marriage; sad for this post. thanks a lot. :)

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  6. Hedgehog on April 14, 2014 at 3:13 AM

    Great fun!
    I think you’ll find Alma’s the blonde one though not Amulek.
    Funny thing about the 1997 version. There are two artists, and they paint the characters slightly differently. It’s not clear in the book who painted which, but you can search for the individual chapters published separately in pre 1997 Friend magazines, and the artists for that chapter will be listed.
    The whole style of dress changed between the two books as well, becoming more Egyptian (with the skirts and shirts) and less Roman (especially the armour), to my mind. I don’t know if the loss of beards goes along with that whole change of look. Egyptians tend to be portrayed as clean shaven.

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  7. Nlocnil on April 14, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    I’ve always had an issue with the depiction of clean shaven BOM prophets. Then I realized that Nephi descended through Ephraim whose mother was Egyptian. These ancients are generally depicted as beardless (the pharaonic beard being an affectation). So the beardless trait could be in his blood. But then again how is it the bad boyz, Laman and Lemuel, are always bearded?

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  8. Randy on April 15, 2014 at 4:31 AM

    Alma the Younger’s cape is not crooked! It’s jaunty. Shows he’s Bad.

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  9. Jeff Spector on April 15, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    Everyone knows where I stand here. Obviously, David O. McKay changed the Church in many ways including this one. How long will it be before Heavenly Father and Jesus lose their beards?????

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  10. […] Stephen Carter. A Prophet by Any Other Beard? AML presentation on images of prophets in Book of Mormon illustrated books. […]

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  11. […] I was sorry that I couldn’t attend the final two lectures given by James Goldberg and Stephen Carter. They looked very interesting. James Goldberg is the author of The Five Books of Jesus. Besides being the editor of Sunstone, Stephen Carter is a comic book artist and an essayist. He has published iPlates and What of the Night?. Their presentations were titled “Why the Church is Boring but Our Covenants Are Not” and “A Brief History of Book of Mormon Comic Books: From 1891 to 2014,” respectively. You can sample an interesting phenomena with beards here. […]

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  12. […] incorporate information from a couple AML presentations (James Goldberg on The Garden of Enid, Stephen Carter on Book of Mormon comics), and the Kickstarter campaigns for iPlates and From the Dust. Mike Homer will give his […]

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