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Tatoos and Body Piercing

by W. John Walsh

The Church teaches that tattoos and body piercing are a desecration of the human body and should be avoided.  However, those with such defilation are still eligible for baptism into the Church and a temple recommend.   Some relevant quotes from Church leaders on this subject are as follows:

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

Teach [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." (See "Your Greatest Challenge, Mother" in October 2000 General Conference)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

Tattoos are permanent marks or designs made on the skin by puncturing it and filling the punctures with indelible ink. The practice is a desecration of the human body and should not be permitted, unless all that is involved is the placing of a blood type or an identification number in an obscure place. (Deut. 14:1.) Latter-day Saint servicemen in particular are counseled to avoid the pitfalls of tattooing. Persons who are tattooed are not, however, denied the ordinances and blessings of the temples. (Mormon Doctrine, p.775)

President Boyd K. Packer taught:

You would not paint a temple with dark pictures or symbols or graffiti or even initials. Do not do so with your body. (See "Ye Are the Temple of God" in October 2000 General Conference)

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone taught:

Aren't you proud that the Church teaches us the truth? We don't have to wonder about earrings for boys and men, tattoos, spiked hair, the four-letter words, and obscene gestures. We have prophets who model the standards.  (See "One Link Still Holds" in October 1999 General Conference)

(See Daily Living home page; Attitudes Toward Health, Medicine, and Fitness home page)

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