Things to know

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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Boyfriend with the Tattoo

Dear Bro Jo,

So you were right, as always, and everything is still going good with this guy :) He is actually getting baptized this Saturday! What my question is about is his tattoo. He got a tattoo on his chest when he was 18 in the shape of a cross to remind him of all that he has been through, he nearly died a few times and was saved, and the tattoo is to remind him to thank God everyday for his life. Now that he is 21 and getting baptized I’m just curious to know what the church policy is about tattoos. I know being a member they are not allowed but what about people that get them before they join?

Thanks a bunch for all the advice so far!


Dear Butterfly,

I wouldn't say that there's a Church "policy", but there have been many talks and articles about what a bad idea it is to get a tattoo (you can find them easily by going to the Church website,, and typing "tattoo"), and the scriptures often give counsel against marking and tattooing yourself.  (If one is going to apply for a mission, any tattoos need to be disclosed, potentially visible tattoos need to be documented, and visible tattoos can preclude any opportunity to serve.)

One of the best points I've seen made about tattoos is that, in addition to defiling the body, they're a trend that is, unlike other fads, permanent and risky. (And I'll never understand why someone who can't keep the same haircut or color, who is constantly changing their image and their style, would want something so permanent.)  I just read an article where a famous man is having his children witness his tattoo removals. He wants the pain, expense and remorse he's enduring to teach them not to get tattoos.

Getting a tattoo is a huge mistake, and it could be considered sinful insomuch as it defiles the temple in which our spirit lives. In that regard I suspect that it would be treated like any other sin, and like other sins would be washed clean with baptism.

Sister Jo and I can’t help but laugh – in a sad way – and wonder how all of these young people are going to feel when their grandchildren and great grandchildren notice the smeared ink blotch (very few people understand that tattoos need to be redone often because of fading, smearing, and time) that used to be a “tramp stamp” or some “art” on grandma or question why grandpa has huge holes in the middle of his ear lobes. Ridiculous!

Ours is not to judge the sinfulness or worthiness of others, but to accept all as fellow children of Heavenly Father.

The bottom line?

Don’t get a tattoo, they're dumb.

Avoid excessive and extreme piercings. Also dumb.

BUT . . . if you meet someone who has already made those mistakes, leave them alone about them!

ALL of us do dumb stuff.

Sure, not all of us do them to our face, arms, or back, but no one should be comfortable if their mistakes were hung out there for all to see, so let’s give everyone as much courtesy and kindness as possible.

Life is more about where you're going than where you've been or how close you are to your destination.

- Bro Jo


Anonymous said...

I always think of older veterans who served when nearly everyone in the armed forces got a tattoo. Do they deserve unfair judgment? Of course not, they served our country and it was a really different culture then.

Bottom line: don't get a tattoo, but don't bother someone who does have one about it.

I would also add that it's a poor choice professionally. It's much harder to get a job with visible tattoos.

(And Bro Jo, it's "they're" not "their.")

Dave Johnston said...

Thank you for catching my grammatical error!

- Bro Jo

Anonymous said...

I read about a YW group that did henna tattoos for a fundraiser that ok to do since it isn't permanent? Or was it a poor activity choice?

Dave Johnston said...

I like that henna isn't permanent, I respect its use in certain cultures (just as I respect certain cultural tattooing for what it is, even though I still wouldn't recommend it).

I think the activity you mentioned was a very poor choice. Like lick-and-stick tattoos I think it sends a mixed message. Its like saying it would be okay for LDS girls to wear bikinis at a car-wash fundraiser (or guys in Spedos for that matter) because its "just one time".

Standards are something we should strive to hold on to and live up to, not something we should be making excuses for and exceptions to.

And I think, particularly as Latter-Day Saints, that we need to be a little more cautious about "the appearance of evil".

- Bro Jo

Bro Jo said...

Now, Dear Readers, please understand that I am NOT saying that simply having a tattoo makes one a bad person.

Quite the contrary.

I believe it's right to hold two standards: one for those who didn't know not to but did; and one for those who clearly knew not to, but did anyway.

I think that's fair.

Now go love everyone!

- Bro Jo