If I Were In Charge: Ignore Tattoos

by: Mike S

May 15, 2011

In my field of medicine, I often see people in various states of undress depending on why they are there.  I may see someone’s leg or shoulder or arm or back.  And a lot of people have tattoos (even here in Utah).  Over the years, I’ve come to truly appreciate tattoos.  I almost always ask about someone’s tattoo, particularly if it’s interesting or really well done.  And in the vast majority of cases, there is a very specific reason WHY the person chose that tattoo.  People love talking about their tattoos because their tattoos have meaning to them.

Sometimes a tattoo is tied to a memory of a trip.  Sometimes it reminds them of something of spiritual significance.  Sometimes the tattoo is to remember and honor a family member or friend who has died.  I often see children’s names and/or birthdays – especially among people who might be divorced and don’t see their kids as much as they like.  Sometimes the tattoo is from a favorite band or an image from childhood, although that’s pretty rare.  The stories differ, but there’s ALWAYS a story behind a tattoo.  (Granted, it’s occasionally a story that the person would just as soon forget, but it’s still a story).

(DISCLAIMER: I actually do NOT have any tattoos, though I think it would be cool to get one.  I just don’t know what I’d get)

A few facts about tattoos, which I’ve also seen in talking to people about them:

  1. Age: Tattoos are very generational.  Around 40% of people in the US between ages 18-40 have one or more tattoos.  In people over 65, this is less than 9%.  This bears out in what I see.  A lot of younger people in my office have a tattoo.  It is extremely uncommon in older people.
  2. Regrets:  Most people (84%) with a tattoo do NOT regret getting it.  As mentioned above, most tattoos really meant something to the person when they got it, and they still do.  Very occasionally, I see someone who doesn’t like their tattoo any more, like the lady with a big picture of Robert Smith from The Cure on her calf.  She said she doesn’t like the band as much as she did in college.
  3. Impression: Nearly 1/3 of people without a tattoo feel that someone with a tattoo is more likely to do something “deviant”.  Of people who actually have a tattoo, this number is around 10%.  I’ve seen this in my own children who somehow picked up that someone with a tattoo is “bad” from church.  I’ve worked on correcting this.

So, what does this have to do with religion?  Not anything, really.

However, in the LDS Church, not having a tattoo has been added to the list of things that make you a “good” Mormon.  In October 2000, President Hinckely gave a talk entitled “Great Shall Be The Peace of Thy Children“.  In it, he stated:

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.

Like in the previous post about earrings, this wasn’t stated as a commandment from God.  It wasn’t added to our canon as a revelation.  It was President Hinckley’s opinion.  And, to be honest, it was probably the opinion of 95+% of the people his age.  But it has been made into a policy in the Church.  Some even see it as a “pseudo-doctrine”, where if someone is non-compliant, they are seen as in apostasy.  But it’s not apostasy – it’s generational.

And given the recent concern about inactivity rates among the younger generation of the Church, having a non-doctrinal policy like this can be quite counterproductive.  So, if I were in charge, I would Ignore Tattoos.

As far as discussion on this, I thought it was fun how Jeff Lindsay addressed it.  On his site, he had a post about tattoos, and encouraged people to write about them using haiku.  In case your memory of high school English is a little rusty, it is a 3-line poem with unrhymed syllables following a 5-7-5 count.  (That’s not technically correct given differences between Japanese and English, and there are other aspects of haiku, but it’s good enough for this post.) Most of the posts there ironically used the art form of haiku to denigrate the art form of tattoos, but in his defense, that does mirror the “official Church policy”.

I came up with a few different “tattoo haiku” that explore WHY people actually get tattoos as well as their generational nature.  Here they are:

Brother back to God
Too soon.  Forever mem’ry:
The ink on my arm.

—–

Old traditions fade –
But culture lives in my heart
And in my designs.

—–

My grandpa and jazz
My dad and bell-bottom jeans
Me and my tattoo

—–

As your child I say:
Thank you for my skin and life
And trusting my choice

—–

Don’t like my tattoo
Don’t like your white shirt and tie
Still – brothers in Christ

Given all of the things we have to worry about in life and in the Church, I would consider tattoos a non-issue if I were in charge.  I wouldn’t care if someone had one.  I wouldn’t care if someone didn’t have one.  The issue has nothing to do with the essence of the Church.  And as per the whole point of this post, if our non-doctrinal policy on tattoos causes even one person not to consider the beautiful truths of the gospel, it is counter-productive.

For some people, tattoos are a “Sacred Molehill”.  I would ignore them.

Questions:

  • Do you have a tattoo?  If so, do you regret it?  If not, have you ever thought of getting one?
  • How do you feel about tattoos personally?  How about other people with tattoos?
  • Do you think worrying about tattoos should or shouldn’t be a Church policy?
  • Can you support President Hinckley as a prophet, yet still disagree with his opinion on tattoos?

NOTE: Comments do NOT have to be in haiku, but if you’re feeling adventurous and want “bonus points” towards great prizes from our Wheat & Tares catalog, give “tattoo haiku” a try.  It’s kind of fun and no one will judge your efforts if you don’t get it perfect.

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86 Responses to If I Were In Charge: Ignore Tattoos

  1. Dan on May 15, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    don’t have a tattoo and don’t care if someone has a tattoo. if you cremate the body, the tattoo disappears too and will not be a part of the resurrected body, so it is silly to even be worried about a tattoo.

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  2. Ben on May 15, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    In the future, we may be narrowing down the potential investigator pool by 50% if half of our age group has tattoos……

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  3. Kari on May 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    I’ve wanted a very specific tattoo for a long time. Unfortunately, my spouse doesn’t like tattoos, so I don’t have it. Yet.

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  4. Will on May 15, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    To me tattoos are a sign if the beast.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 8

  5. Mike S on May 15, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Will:

    I can’t tell if that is a serious or joking comment.

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  6. Will on May 15, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    Mike,

    Sorry, typo “it is a sign OF the beast”.

    Ben,

    “In the future, we may be narrowing down the potential investigator pool by 50% if half of our age group has tattoos……”

    Good.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 3

  7. CatherineWO on May 15, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    Amen to all you said, Mike. Tatoos are very personal, too personal for them to be anyone else’s business, especially a church or its members. And yes, it is generational. I’m almost 60 and I would never have even thought to get a tatoo when I was a young adult, but my daughter and her husband and a daughter-in-law, all active LDS, have tatoos. My daughter’s is particularly beautiful and recalls a scene from her childhood. I love it. I also loved President Hinckely, but recognize that much of what he said was his opinion, formed from his experience. We put our church leaders in a precarious and unfair situation when take everything they say as the word of God and try to apply to every person alive.

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  8. shenpa warrior on May 15, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    Can I just say, I enjoy Will’s comments.

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  9. Dan on May 15, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    To me tattoos are a sign of the beast

    So if I put a tattoo on me of the temple, that would be a sign of the beast eh…

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  10. alice on May 15, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    I’m over 60 so Mike has rightly predicted that I view tattoos with a jaundiced eye (despite the fact that my beloved grandfather had numerous WWII era tattoos that I used to sit on his lap and trace with my fingers). Even so, I’m appalled at such a judgmental statement as #4.

    One of the tattoos that stands out in my memory is one that looked like a garland of flowers wrapped around a young woman’s neck and falling abundantly over the front of her torso. This was a young woman who had had breast cancer and a radical mastectomy. She chose the distinctive and quite beautiful tattoo over breast reconstruction. It spoke of her creativity, her bravery and it did the job of distracting from the absence of breasts. If you ask me life-threatening disease is the mark of a beast and that tattoo was the mark of courageous defiance against it and a raging embrace of life.

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  11. Will on May 15, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    “So if I put a tattoo on me of the temple, that would be a sign of the beast eh…”

    Yes

    “Even so, I’m appalled at such a judgmental statement as #4.”

    It is the view of various church leaders. Actually, I heard that from a man who had served as a Patriarch for the past 40 years.

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  12. Dan on May 15, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    so much for searing God into our hearts.

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  13. Will on May 15, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    “searing God into our hearts”

    That would be having his image in your countenance, not some filthy tattoo. All I can say is if my daughter came home a guy with tattoo’s, it would be the last time he came to my house.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 1

  14. Eric on May 15, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    I’d rather see the emphasis be on the principle of respecting our bodies — and let people govern themselves as to how they’ll follow that principle.

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  15. Mike S on May 15, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Will: I’d like to see where a church leader has said that a tattoo is the mark of the beast. Show me a single quote anything close to that.

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  16. Aaron L on May 15, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    My wife used to do outside sales for a staffing company. One day she said a man came into her office looking for a job with the most intricate, detailed, and beautiful tattoo she had ever seen on his thigh. His tattoo was a portrait of Pres. Hinckely. Apparently this man was not aware of Hinckely’s stance on tattoos and thought the artwork on his leg was a nice way to pay tribute to the prophet.

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  17. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    A few things. I don’t personally like tattoos. But, I have been quite impressed with some I’ve seen. I find that it is a very self-indulgent thing to do and many people that have them have to show them off. And that is a different issue.

    I suppose it is also my Jewish upbringing since Judaism forbids the defacing of the body.

    On the other hand, even if members shouldn’t get them, there are going to be converts that have them that want to join the Church. So, even if the counsel is against getting them, we would have folks who had them simply due to converts.

    So, we may as well get used to it and everyone, including me will have to learn to live with it.

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  18. Mike S on May 15, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    Anyone adventurous enough to try a response in the form of haiku? Focus the essence down into 13 syllables. It doesn’t even have to rhyme.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on May 15, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    “It is the view of various church leaders. Actually, I heard that from a man who had served as a Patriarch for the past 40 years.” If that’s your authoritative source, I rest my case.

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  20. Will on May 15, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Mike,

    As I said, the church leader that expressed this belief was a Stake Patriarch. He had also served as a Bishop, Stake President and Mission President. When he said it, it struck true. As a matter of common sense, if the Tattoo magazines sit behind the shelf with the porno magazines, they are of the same class, or lack thereof.

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  21. Mike S on May 15, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    Here’s an example of haiku in the comments:

    Tattoo mark of beast?
    Or comment perhaps mark of
    Undisciplined mind

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  22. BeansDude on May 15, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    That inky ‘mote’ is
    Easily seen, even with
    A Beam in the way.

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  23. hawkgrrrl on May 15, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    Not sure the location of tatoo mags has anything to do with it. I suppose, Will, you are saying that tatoos are seedy in the US and a “back alley” activity like abortions when they were illegal. If your objection is just snobbery (like saying NASCAR lacks class) – then I guess I’m OK with that elitist attitude.

    But that’s the US. There are many other cultures where tatoos are a part of rites of passage or are considered more upscale than in the US. There’s a whole world out there.

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  24. Stan on May 15, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    My Dad’s a WWII vet. He still has a tattoo on his arm. I’ve always thought it was cool.

    On another note, don’t some depictions in shows at the Polynesian cultural center or other Polynesian shows sponsored by the Church include tattoos? Shouldn’t those images be correlated out of the Polynesian culture in the Church? It’s so unfair… if you’re Polynesian it’s okay to wear cool dresses (flowered, not white) to church (even men!) and yell “Alooooooha!” during sacrament. :)

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  25. Jeff Spector on May 15, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    “On another note, don’t some depictions in shows at the Polynesian cultural center or other Polynesian shows sponsored by the Church include tattoos?”

    that’s one of those contradictions. Polynesians get tattooed as part of their culture. So it’s OK. ;)

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  26. LovelyLauren on May 15, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I think ink’s alright
    Old culture turned revelation
    Dictates law these days

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  27. Jeff G on May 16, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    I can’t help but roll my eyes when people ask how I would feel if somebody put graffiti all over the temple. I usually respond by asking how they would feel if somebody were to put artistic representations of intimate and meaningful experiences and beliefs all over the temple?

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  28. Dan on May 16, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    Mike,

    Will: I’d like to see where a church leader has said that a tattoo is the mark of the beast. Show me a single quote anything close to that.

    Will is being a troll here. He’s just trying to rile you up.

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  29. Will on May 16, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    Hawkgrrl,

    Mock that source all you want, I tend to agree with Elder Packer on his description of Patriarch’s — the most spiritual in the church. A special class. Having been a local leader it was my view and the view of several of my peers.

    Dan,

    You should know me better than that by now. I don’t play games, I just tell it how I see it.

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  30. Chibby on May 16, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    One of the most fun conversations I ever had with my Mission Pres. was my final interview, where I revealed that during my mission I got a tattoo. I was chronically depressed at the time, and perhaps would not have done it if I was in better mental health at the time. I don’t regret it. Although I am sad it has now gone that horrible green colour of old tattoos, (my Mission was 20 years ago) and feel like I probably shouldn’t refresh it given I am giving my children the For the Strength of Youth hand out…

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  31. DB on May 16, 2011 at 6:55 AM

    If I, an active member of the church, were to get a tatoo, what would happen to my status in the church? Would I loose my calling? Would I loose my temple recommend? Would I be unable to participate in priesthood ordinances? Would I no longer be allowed to give prayers or talks in church? Nothing, nope, nope, nope, and nope (unfortunately on that last one).

    Alma 42:17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?

    If no punishment
    There’s no rule against tattoos
    So say the scriptures

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  32. DB on May 16, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    What exactly is meant by “tatoos are a sign of the beast”? That needs a little more explanation. And who are the various church leaders (elders quorum counseler, sunday school president, ward mission leader?) who have stated that? (Honestly, I could see a counseler in an elders quorum saying something like that.)

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  33. Mike S on May 16, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    You want me to join
    But say I have mark of beast?
    No thanks – move along.

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  34. Paul on May 16, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    Mike, this is a fascinating post, and I expect the tattoo issue is seen differently depending on geography.

    We have one son who has multiple tattoos. I hate his choice of images and that he has them, but I love him, and we don’t discuss the tattoos. (His mother drew the line when he planned to put her name in a tattoo and asked him not to; she did not want to be remembered in that way. He honored her wish.)

    It’s one thing to advise young people not to get tattoos when they are impressionable teens who don’t recognize their own mortality. It’s quite another to assume that investigators who were tattooed prior to learning of the gospel are somehow less fit for the kingdom.

    I’m happy to live in a ward where the second does not happen. We have investigators with tattoos all the time, and people treat them warmly and with affection just as they would anyone else.

    #13 Will: Nice hyperbole. I assume that if your daughter loved a young man with a tattoo you’d find a way to her (and him) in your family circle.

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  35. Will on May 16, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    DB,

    Asked and answered (see #29). what difference does it make? If you quote a prophet, this crowd will just caulk it up as an opinion. This post is perfect evidence. It quotes the Prophet. The mouth piece of God. When it is not what you want to hear, it is tagged as an opinion. How convenient.

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  36. Kari on May 16, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    Mock that source all you want, I tend to agree with Elder Packer on his description of Patriarch’s — the most spiritual in the church. A special class. Having been a local leader it was my view and the view of several of my peers. -Will #29

    The Patriarch in the stake of my youth sexually molested his daughters and grand-daughters during the 20 years he spent as patriarch. A very special class indeed.

    DB (#31) – Unfortunately the answers to your question in my ward are: participation restricted; depends on the calling; yes; yes; yes.

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  37. Kari on May 16, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Punishment by leaders
    Capricious and erratic
    Choose ward carefully

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  38. Kari on May 16, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    Bad Haiku on my part — first line too many syllables. Sorry.

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  39. Mike S on May 16, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    #35: Will

    You have two choices: Either you accept that EVERYTHING that a prophet/apostle says is as the “mouth piece of God”, OR you accept that sometimes they speak their opinion as men.

    If you accept the former (which it appears you do), how do you explain things such as:
    – Joseph Fielding Smith saying in 1961 that man would never set foot on the moon and that we could “write that in our books”
    – JS and BY talking about the inhabitants of the moon and sun and what it would be like when we sent missionaries there
    – BRM emphatically teaching that blacks would NEVER have the priesthood, then later saying he “was wrong”
    – Etc.

    Some people make a big deal out of things like this, saying that a “prophet can never be wrong” and that because these men were wrong, the LDS Church is therefore fraudulent. I, instead, accept the second of the two choices above. I accept the fact that prophets and apostles are entitled to their opinion, just like you or me.

    So, when President Hinckley says he doesn’t like tattoos or doesn’t think earrings in guys is “manly”, I have no problem with that. He doesn’t like them. Neither does anyone else of his generation. It was never presented as a revelation. It was never presented as a doctrine. It was never voted on by the Quorum of Twelve or the membership of the Church. He expressed his opinion – nothing more, nothing less.

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  40. Mike S on May 16, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    #37/38 Kari:

    Just change first line to:

    Punished by leaders

    and it will work. All good.

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  41. bbell on May 16, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    I do not see tattoo’s as a big issue in the church. Some people have them most do not.

    Tattoo’s are usually pretty ugly after about a decade of fading in my view.

    Guy I baptized post mission had multiple tattoo’s and has served in multiple high profile callings in large wards since.

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  42. CatherineWO on May 16, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    I am of an older generation, but I don’t have a problem with tatoos. They are very common here in Montana in all age groups of adults. Also, my son-in-law, who has multiple tatoos, some very visable on his arms, is a high priest and serves as Sunday School president in his Utah Valley ward. His wife (my daughter) also has a large tatoo (albeit out of sight on her back) and serves as a counselor in the ward Primary presidency. My daughter-in-law, who has a very visable tatoo on her ankle, recently served as stake YW secretary and now serves as Webelos leader in her ward here in Montana.
    I think tatoos fall into that category of things which are not age appropriate behavior for children and teenagers, but are not inherently evil and are appropriate for adults, who presumably have a better understanding of long range consequences and have enough experience to make decisions for themselves. I would include on that list things like drinking caffenated sodas, watching certain movies and getting married (which includes having sex).

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  43. Will on May 16, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Mike,

    There is a fundamental difference – an enormous difference. The incidences you cited were church leaders speaking with the robe down. The latter was a Prophet of God speaking at General Conference. President Hinckley and all other modern day prophets understand the significance of their role as a Prophet. They understand when they speak at General Conference most active members take their words to be the words of God. They study the topic for months. They fast and pray about their message. They consult with the Lord in the Temple and in prayer. They consult with their spouse, counselors and other Apostles. They choose their words very carefully. JS or BY making a flippant comment in the course of conversation, or in a book expressing their personal opinion is just that – a flippant comment or personal opinion. A Prophet speaking in conference as a Prophet is just that – a Prophet communicating the will of the Lord.

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  44. DB on May 16, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Will,

    So, considering that President Hinckley spoke out against getting tattoos during General Conference, what does that mean? Does the church have an official rule or policy prohibiting tattoos now? Are tattoos included in worthiness interviews now? Would I be barred from the temple and taking the sacriment if I were to get a tattoo now? What does it mean that President Hinckley said it during General Conference? You can quote anyone you want about whether or not members of the church should get tattoos but so what if they do?

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  45. Will on May 16, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    DB,

    It means a Prophet spoke and you can choose to follow or not. Like any other directive from the Lord, you are free to make the choice, but will not be free of the consequences.

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  46. CRW on May 16, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Will @13:
    “All I can say is if my daughter came home [with] a guy with tattoo’s, it would be the last time he came to my house.”

    What would you do if it was your daughter who came home with the tattoo? Speaking as a parent of adult children, a tattoo falls on the “mild” end of possible things to come home with.

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  47. DB on May 16, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Will,

    That’s exactly what I’m asking – what are the consequences?

    In section 89 of the D&C, the Lord said to not eat too much meat. What are the consequesces if we do? Would you not let your daughter date a boy who eats steak everyday? Remember, this is coming directly from the Lord, not just a prophet.

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  48. Will on May 16, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    CRW

    ‘…daughter’
    That is why God gave us plastic surgeons. Oh, and she would pay for it out of her account.

    DB

    Whatever the punishment is for defiling a temple!

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  49. Gomes on May 16, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Will:

    It’s unfortunate that you give to others that which they never ask for. I know of no leader of the church who states that whatever is spoken in GC is scripture and the “official” word of the Lord in every whit. Perhaps you have. I posted the following quotes on another thread that you never responded to. Since it appears that you’re at least responding to people, please tell me how you reconcile the following with your beliefs:

    Comment 1:

    “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, 162).”

    Comment 2:

    “My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them…. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. (Joseph Fielding Smith (as President of the Church), Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203)

    And, there’s this:

    “Joseph Fielding McConkie (son of Bruce R. McConkie) once said that to claim that anything taught in general conference is official doctrine “makes the place where something is said rather than what is said the standard of truth. Nor is something doctrine simply because it was said by someone who holds a particular office or position. Truth is not an office or a position to which one is ordained” (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, 213-214).”

    So, do you disagree with these (and many other similar comments) in spite of what they say, or do we grant the leaders the right to be wrong even when they are talking in an “official” capacity? Is “truth” an office to which one is appointed when you are called as an apostle/prophet?

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  50. DB on May 16, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    I’ve never understood how tattooing became associated with defiling a temple. Or, how getting a tattoo is analogous to someone spraypainting graffiti on a temple which is a common analogy used in church talks. Since a person getting a tattoo hires a tattoo artist to tattoo some type of art onto their skin, a more accurate analogy would be the church hiring an artist to paint some type of art work on the temple walls. I have no idea how that’s defamation. And I still have no idea what Paul’s writings about defiling temples has to do with tattooing. That’s clearly not what he’s writing about.

    Will, any thoughts on those defilers of the word of wisdom?

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  51. Gomes on May 16, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Will:

    “All I can say is if my daughter came home [with] a guy with tattoo’s, it would be the last time he came to my house.”

    Response:

    “…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

    Good thing we have those tattoos to help us judge righteousness. Sheesh, can you imagine if we had to start judging people based on their heart? That’s a sucky world and church to be a part of. I, for one, appreciate the “easy” judgment factors…like tattoos, earrings, facial hair and grooming standards.

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  52. Dan on May 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    guys, Will is being a troll on this. ignore him.

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  53. Rigel Hawthorne on May 16, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Don’t have tatoos. Greatly admire high profile people who demonstrate that skin without tatoos is just as cool as skin with. Will encourage my children to appreciate their skin in that way. Don’t have anything against those who choose to tatoo, but believe President Hinckley’s advice in general…if not necessarily ‘the will of the Lord’…has a great chance of bringing individuals peace and happiness if they respond to it with humility.

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  54. Will on May 16, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    DB..

    “I’ve never understood how tattooing became associated with defiling a temple……”

    You’ll have to take this one up with President Hinckley that is where I got it from.

    Gomes,

    So, let’s apply your logic to pornography, drug use, and shoplifting (hey, they may have needed it), stealing, vandalism, etc… God has had do and don’t since the beginning of time.

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  55. Jeff Spector on May 16, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    If someone chooses to heed a Prophet’s counsel, they shouldn’t have to make excuses for it because you choose to see it as advice.

    Lighten up.

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  56. JB on May 16, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    I hate reading the comments from an online article from the sltribune because the comments go from the article and very quickly move to some far left and/or right diatribes. This comment string has taken the same path, which is unfortunate.
    On tattoo’s I have a similar opinion as drinking coke. I don’t like the taste of coke, I do like dr. Pepper, but there is nothing in a temple recommend that asks me about drinking coke or having a tattoo. I don’t have a tattoo nordo I ever plan on getting one. They have no appeal to me. I have wanted one in the past but grew out of the urge.
    I think the central question isn’t whether the church’s policy will limit the amount of converts or whether people’s judgmental feelings and actions deter people from jointing the church. When the church adds questions about tattoos or earrings to an interview for baptism or a temple recommend interview, then the real question is “how Christlike are we as a church?” I hope we can answer honestly and say we will not limit someone’s participation in church activities based on an arbitrarily enforced rule regarding tattoo’s.

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  57. Gomes on May 16, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Will:

    Your response makes no sense to me.

    Please, for my sake, review the quotes I posted in #49 and let me know how you reconcile those with what you’ve previously written – namely, ” A Prophet speaking in conference as a Prophet is just that – a Prophet communicating the will of the Lord.”

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  58. BeansDude on May 16, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    All are welcome here
    Diverse thoughts and beliefs, but
    Please don’t feed the Troll

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  59. will on May 16, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Some are welcome here
    As long as they share my thoughts
    Label them when they disagree

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  60. Latter-day Guy on May 16, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    guys, Will is being a troll on this. ignore him.

    Come on… Will is hardly being a troll. Judgmental and ridiculous? Yes, as per usual––but not a troll, methinks.

    Also,

    Label them when they disagree

    isn’t even close. Remember, 5 – 7 – 5, not 5 – 7 – 8.

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  61. Douglas on May 16, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    The late Pres Hinckley was prefectly right to state his “opinion” on tatoos in GC. What, pray tell, is wrong with our then prophet dispensing some fatherly advice and common sense? It doesn’t mean that we hold disciplinary councils on members that get inked. It does mean that we don’t identify with ever freaky fad that comes along, especially the marking up of our bodies.
    Now, having said that, I see nothing greatly amiss with a “modest” tatoo. For example, what would be wrong with a sailor or Marine getting a service-related emblem (USMC logo or Marine bulldog, for example) on his bicep?
    We also have to understand that converts will bring their ‘baggage’ with them and it’s the height of rudeness to judge and/or make snide remarks. A good lady friend of mine got a lower back tatoo (aka, “tramp stamp”) in her early 30’s which, since she has favored wearing low back swim attire or midriff-baring summer wear, is quite visible. When first interest in baptism about eight years ago, the WML actually inquired if her tatoos and piercings disqualified her! Folks, we LDS do need to lighten up!
    Now, I see no reason to get inked, but I’m still going to get with a friend in my previous ward to get the ear piercing. I’ll be sure it ain’t the “gay” side. As for whether it’s “manly”, a colleague of mine, in his early 50’s, PHD, and Captain in the US Naval Reserve, wears his ear stud on occasion. (Ala “Jules Winfield” from Pulp Fiction…) call HIM “effeminate”..I dare ya! I double-dare ya! (LOL)

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  62. Mommie Dearest on May 17, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    Amazing how my
    Compassion for the tattooed
    Grows from reading Will.

    (P.S. I once won a haiku contest.)

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  63. John Mansfield on May 17, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    “My wife used to do outside sales for a staffing company. One day she said a man came into her office looking for a job with the most intricate, detailed, and beautiful tattoo she had ever seen on his thigh.”–Aaron L on May 15, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    This experience cited by Aaron L highlights one of the problematic aspects of tattoos. They are often on personal parts of the body that others wouldn’t usually see, but now there’s art of a sort there that the bearer wants to share. I have a hard time imagining someone displaying his/her thigh in the course of a job interview, but apparently having a tattoo on the thigh made it seem like something to do in the case above. I recall a woman at work who for a couple of weeks wanted to show everyone the new tattoo on her torso.

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  64. Mike S on May 17, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    I think this issue as well as the resulting discussion is emblematic of one of the problems in the Church – or in any organization, really.

    Some people feel tattoos are bad – others appreciate them as art. Neither viewpoint is right or wrong, as it’s a personal decision.

    However, how people express this in the Church makes a world of difference. People WITHOUT tattoos tend judge people WITH tattoos to a great extent. This is shown in the statistics in the original post. And it has been shown in the comments to a great degree – where some people absolutely won’t accept someone with a tattoo.

    The converse, however, is much different. Someone WITH a tattoo is generally never going to say anything to someone WITHOUT a tattoo, as they just don’t care. They are generally much more tolerant.

    Given this, the vocal minority tend to overshadow others in the Church. They tend to take a non-doctrinal opinion expressed by some leader and latch on to that as if it were doctrine. They then tend to use it as a yardstick to judge others.

    There are many examples besides tattoos:
    – R movies
    – Coke
    – Bikinis
    – Multiple earrings
    – Etc.

    None of these are doctrinal issues. The goal of this whole series is to point out these things that might drive someone away from the Church, or cause them to not investigate. We are surely shooting ourselves in the foot if we make the 40% of young people who have a tattoo unwelcome in the Church of Jesus Christ by our prejudices.

    And in my opinion, we are surely NOT being Christ-like.

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  65. The Other Clark on May 17, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Tattoo proscription
    More than a century old.
    Moses started ban.

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  66. The Other Clark on May 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    By the way, the Biblical source on that last haiku is Deut 14:1. Many leaders in the 20th Century counseled strongly against tattoos, including Joseph F. Smith (Sr. and Jr.) Hugh B. Brown, David O. McKay, and Bruce R. McKonkie, so it’s not like Pres. Hinckley was declaring some new doctrine.

    BUT, even Elder McConkie noted in his hard-line essay on the topic in Mormon Doctrine, “Persons who are tattooed are not denied the ordinances and blessings of the temples…”

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  67. Bouc on May 17, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Clark:

    ” 1Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.”

    Not exactly a stinging proscription against tattoos… is that the verse you really meant to reference?

    And, to take Mike’s analogy a little further, every person you noted is of a generation (or two) removed from tattoos… to them, it was discouraged. To them, it was evil. There’s a societal and cultural side to tattoos that we can’t just explain away…

    I just re-watched Walk the Line last night – great show – and it sort of reminds me how music was viewed in the 50s-60s and beyond. It’s always been viewed as the devil’s music, as you’re selling your soul to sing what you sing… and people discourage it, discourage listening to a lot of it, but that doesn’t make it bad. There are a LOT of songs that have beats/rhythms that many in the older generation don’t like – and they therefore classify them as devil music – but nevertheless have thought provoking messages. (Not all, but many, IMO).

    And, are the tattoo teachings “doctrine,” or something else?

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  68. Rebecca J on May 17, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Personally, I don’t like tattoos. I don’t usually have feelings or opinions about other people’s tattoos, unless their tattoos are really ugly or somehow offensive. I am in favor of ignoring them. I think it is mostly a matter of taste.

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  69. DRC on May 17, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    I like tattoos. Don’t have one, but I would actually think about getting one that was meaningful. I would probably keep it small and unobtrusive.

    I respect leaders opinions. However, sometimes their ‘opinions’ are really outdated when it comes to things like tattoos, white shirts and earrings. When they were younger, those societal standards were the norm in the business world and polite company. The truths of the gospel are timeless, but commentary on social norms has an expiration date.

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  70. Christina on May 17, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    My husband has a number of tattoos. When we first met, that’s pretty much the only thing I noticed. He was simply The Man With the Tattoos and I really couldn’t get past that for months.

    These days, I actually like them. I think they look cool. I understand what they mean and it helps me remember things that are important to him. And I feel like his tattoos make him an amazing missionary because when people find out he’s Mormon they find it really difficult not to say, “What? You’re Mormon?” and demand an explanation.

    I agree with the comments suggesting that tattooing should be an adult choice. Most people I know end up not liking their first tattoos as much – i.e. symbols from bands they no longer love, a tribute to their mother that their mom hates, the cheesy butterfly tramp stamp, the Disney cartoon figures, etc. Sometimes they got them in a rash of youthful rebellion or angst and didn’t think it through. My husband admits that he got his first tattoos largely because he was insecure and felt they would define him.

    Another reason to hold off is that pregnancy and growth spurts can wreak havoc with tattoos. Good ones require research and money. So if my kids start asking to have tattoos like Dad, I’m going to explain the pros and cons and tell them they should wait.

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  71. Badger on May 17, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    Seven heads arise
    with blasphemous tattoos.
    Beware! It’s the beast!

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  72. BeansDude on May 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    I would like to know how those who are against tattoos feel about elective cosmetic surgery? Just curious.

    It seems to me that this is one area of inconsistency in LDS culture. Tattoos are generally looked upon as unfavorable by LDS, yet I don’t see the same response towards elective cosmetic surgery. Nobody is comparing a tummy-tuck or a breast augmentation to graffiti on a temple, but these procedures are probably purchased among members more often than tattoos are. If the argument is that tattoos ‘defile’ our bodies as temples, wouldn’t sticking a couple bags of silicone in a women’s chest constitute the same thing?

    Personally, I don’t have any tattoos nor have received elective cosmetic surgery, and I don’t have any issues with people choosing to have either. I’m also not referring here to people who have deformity, injury, or other circumstances where cosmetic surgery is needed.

    It could be argued that although it’s more culturally acceptable in the church, cutting into and manipulating our bodies (Temples) for the only purpose of becoming more physically attractive to the world could be worse than placing an image on our skin as a symbolic reminder of something with significant meaning to the individual.

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  73. Mike S on May 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    BeansDude:

    Interesting point. Here along the Wasatch Front, cosmetic surgery is quite popular in the LDS culture. It’s obviously not a scientific sampling, but I would bet that something like a breast augmentation is more common than not.

    The ironic thing is that many of these people will get up in a youth class and teach against tattoos. They will quote President Hinckley’s opinion that he doesn’t like tattoos. They will echo his opinion that earrings in guys aren’t “manly”.

    Yet even here they are picking and choosing about which prophet and apostle they will follow. In October 2005 General Conference, which some people here have suggested has the same weight as scripture, Elder Holland said the following:

    In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.”

    So, like many other things, it really comes down to picking and choosing which opinions you like. Some opinions, like tattoos, people treat in a pseudo-doctrinal fashion. Other opinions, like elective plastic surgery, people ignore.

    Imagine BYU, where a woman with 2 sets of earrings is not allowed to be a student or even attend EFY. Now imagine if they banned everyone who has had plastic surgery from campus as well.

    Hmmmmm.

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  74. Jenkins on May 20, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Remember the story John Bytheway would tell the youth (I think it was him) about how when we’re in the spirit world and they hear that we lived in the days of Gordon B. Hinkley there would be a hush and everyone would kneel because they were in the presence of someone so special that they lived in these latter days.

    I always joked that I’d get a big tattoo of Gordon’s face right on my chest. That way when anyone asks (in the spirit world) I could just rip open my white robe and show them my tattoo of Gordon B. Hinkley.

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  75. Mike S on May 20, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    This generation are the kids and grandkids of the “Saturday’s Warrior” generation, which came out in 1973

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  76. Hank on May 20, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Or, heaven forbid, at BYU where a woman with 2 sets of earrings is not allowed to be a student or even attend EFY, but the woman with one set of earrings and some well done plastic surgery is.

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  77. Matthew R. Lee on May 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    (I have not proof read this post. I apologize in advance for spelling or grammatical errors.)

    Q. Do you have a tattoo?
    A. No.

    Q. If so, do you regret it?
    A. No, I do not regret not having a tattoo.

    Q. If not, have you ever thought of getting one?
    A. No, I have not considered getting a tattoo.

    Q. How do you feel about tattoos personally?
    A. I appreciate the natural beauty of the human body. From my perspective, a tattoo is a distraction from that beauty. I feel tattoos diminish physical beauty rather than add to it.

    Q. How about other people with tattoos?
    A. A tattoo is a permeate fashion choice. You cannot take a tattoo off and hang it in the closet like a pair of bell-bottoms. The number of people in the United States getting tattoos during the past 15 years has shot through the roof. It’s no longer a sign of an alternative life style, it is approaching mainstream acceptance.

    For those who get tattoos, for them I think it is an exciting choice. There is a sense of both uniqueness and collective identity associated with tattoos. Whether it be gang related or other cultural influences, tattoos are a portable and visible sign of identity. Like bumper stickers for the body.

    I think tattoos can limit a person’s employment opportunities and their credibility. For example, a waitress in a local restaurant has a Playboy bunny tattooed on the back of her neck. As I see it she has marked herself for exploitation and ill treatment. It’s a permanent sign of poor judgment.

    Tattoos are popular in Atlanta. I see tattoos on the upper arms and upper chest among young black women, the lower back and the back of the shoulder among young white women, and randomly in various locations on men. Women also have them on their hips. You see a lot of skin in metro Atlanta without having to look for it. I have a friend who has sleeves on both arms, meaning full tattoos from his shoulders down to his wrists.

    In my experience, those involved in regular religious worship, among the white 20 to 40 crowd, are less likely to have tattoos. There are exceptions. I don’t see many Asian men with tattoos. I see some tattoos on young southeast Asian women but not many.

    Q. Do you think worrying about tattoos should or shouldn’t be a Church policy?
    A. I don’t think the First Presidency worries about tattoos. “Worrying” is not the best word. There is no policy asking members of the Church to ‘worry’ over tattoos. The First Presidency asks members of the Church:

    “Not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings (“Dress and Appearance,” For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God, 2001).

    For some it’s a not issue. They have no interest in getting tattoos. For others it’s only an issue because the First Presidency has made a statement on it. They take issue with anything perceived as an encroachment on personal choice and tend to see the cultural experiences of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency as limitations rather than part of a divine order.

    For others it’s a serious choice. The statement puts them at a crossroad. To get a tattoo or not to get a tattoo? If nothing else it simply a matter of self-restraint?

    Once someone has a tattoo their is no since in giving them grief about it. They can’t take it back to the store.

    Q. Can you support President Hinckley as a prophet, yet still disagree with his opinion on tattoos?
    A. This question assumes that the counsel against tattoos is solely an opinion. Meaning, he and the Council or the Twelve and the First Presidency made the decision to share the opinion with the world without divine approval. I don’t think there is enough evidence to accept that conclusion. I believe things take a turn from merely opinion to something far more significant when the President of the Church counsels for or against a matter to a worldwide audience and then includes that counsel in official Church publications.

    So can I support the President of the Church and disagree with some of his counsel? It’s one thing to disagree with counsel; it’s another to act against that counsel. I believe a person can disagree yet still support and sustain. It’s the choice to act in opposition that undermines supporting and sustaining. We don’t have to understand all things to follow the counsel of the prophets. Understanding can bring us comfort intellectually, but it’s not necessary. The choice of submission is a choice to be meek. Of all the things we could be asked to do, refraining from getting a tattoo seems like a small request.

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  78. Viki on May 21, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    I appreciate this post, though I don’t agree with 100% of it…I agree with most of it. Ironically enough, I just posted an article on my blog about tattoos, so my friend sent me a link to this one. I do NOT live in Utah, but I am a proud mormon indeed. I do NOT have a tattoo, but I have WANTED one in the past. I agree with the last comment on here about disagreeing with counsel but still acting on it. I entered the MTC to serve my mission with 5 earrings, and when asked to remove some of them I did it without any problem. Would I like to wear more earrings sometimes, or maybe get a tiny tattoo, but I am CHOOSING not to do it precisely because of the council of the prophets. I figure it is such a small deal to ask of me, when there are so many other blessings that I receive from following their councils!! Thanks.

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  79. Stephen Marsh on May 24, 2011 at 6:55 AM

    Well, I have to toss in “permanent” make-up achieved by tattoos. I know people who have that and do not consider them the same, which I found interesting.

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  80. Matthew R. Lee on May 24, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    I know some with their eye liner tattooed on. I never looked close enough but my wife said she could tell the difference. She said it didn’t look the same as real eye liner.

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  81. The Other Clark on May 24, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    The thought of tattooing my eyelids is too painful to think about!

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  82. Mike S on May 24, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Viki (and others):

    Thanks for sharing. I actually think it’s admirable that you (and many other to be honest) align your actions with what the prophet says, whether doctrine or opinion. As I mentioned, I don’t have a tattoo or any earrings.

    The point of this post, however, is that this is an issue for some people (and probably only a minority of people in the Church). But since it really doesn’t have anything to do with official doctrine, and since there are people stigmatized by this, perhaps we should just ignore the issue all together.

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  83. Matthew R. Lee on May 24, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    (Again, no proof reading of this post. Just a rapid fire response.)

    Outside of our own lives and that of our children, our only option is to ignore. I agree with that statement. It will do no good to treat someone with tattoos differently. In youth programs, we teach the standards for dress and behavior. It’s taught from time to time in adult classes, but once someone has a tattoo, it’s done. At that point, in most circumstances, ignoring it is the only answer. You can obviously come to private decisions about what getting a tattoo may or may not say about the person, but to mention it would lead to trouble.

    When people do things that we make perceive as unwise, even destructive, in most cases, they must feel that our affection for them has not changed. That places the burden on us. It’s one of the reasons why I prefer not to do business with members of the Church before I have a solid understanding of the quality of their work. No matter how it turns out, I’ll be taking the sacrament with them each Sunday. I recognize my limits and I have enough to work on as a Christian without adding additional challenges.

    I’ve never had the elders quorum help us move. If a brother in the quorum damages something, I have no recourse. I have to let it go. It’s a free service. A man is coming to my home to serve. If he breaks my wife’s great-great-grandmother’s rocking chair, now we have a broken chair and a lot of frustration and a self-inflected call to raise the bar on our own level of forgiveness.

    I have enough to deal with so we hire a moving company. If something is damaged it’s part of the contract. It’s covered and all is well. Plus, they a professionals. They know what they are doing.

    So back to tattoos. Giving people feedback on something they are powerless to do anything about leads to frustration. If you tell me that I should be seven feet tall, and if I actually believe that I should, it’s only going to add to my frustration that I’m not. I don’t have the power to be seven feet tall. If you tell someone with a tattoo that they shouldn’t have it, and if they believe you, all they get is confusion and frustration. It’s that same reason you can’t tell someone they’re obese no matter how my you feel it is hurting you. They know it and either they like it or they don’t. You telling them isn’t going to cause them to say to themselves “Wow. I hadn’t thought of that. I’m 5’ 4” with a 44” waste. Wow! Thanks for pointing it out.” At best, you’ve lost trust and influence with them. At worse, now they have to deal with their angry feelings towards you and increased self-hate.

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  84. BeansDude on May 24, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    #79

    Good point Mr. Marsh. When I was in high school, our seminary teacher for a couple years was a 30 something sister from our ward. She decided to get the permeant ‘make-up’ tattooed on her face (as well as have other surgical ‘enhancements’ done). The tattooed shading looked nice, and it seemed practical to me. However, when the lessons that mentioned tattoos and piercings came around, even my young understanding could clearly see the conflict. I remember feeling confused as to why one kind of body alteration was bad, while others were perfectly ok.

    I guess I’m still wondering the same thing.

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  85. CJ Wilkes on September 20, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Some tats are really ugly and some are really beautiful. Personally, I think the type of tattoo that you put on your body makes or breaks it. They are personal and really have everything to do with the person getting the art on them – it is a statement or decoration and should be seen as such. We put all types or jewelery and clothing on us – tattoos are just permanent.
    If a religion is going to make it an issue they should make the issue about the type of content that is chosen to be put on the body and not the fact that it is permanent. (After all – many men/women dye their hair and that has not been vetoed!!!)

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  86. [...] Sacred Molehill: Tattoos – Tattoos are a generational and cultural thing.  They have been made into a de facto doctrinal thing.  This post also includes some haiku if you want to try your hand at writing some. [...]

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