Brigham Young has banned the beard for decades. Could a new petition change its position?

At Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, beards have been banned on campus since the rise of the counter-culture movement , when it w...


At Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, beards have been banned on campus since the rise of the counter-culture movement, when it was thought to be associated with the hippies and the anti-war sentiments that many young people expressed in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Men are supposed to be clean shaven; beards are not acceptable ”, dress and grooming standards State.

Sideburns are allowed, but they “must not extend below the earlobe or over the cheek”. Whiskers should be ‘neatly trimmed and should not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth’. These styles, the Standards advise, are “consistent with the dignity that adheres to the representation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and one of its institutions of higher learning.”

Every few years a group of students come together to try to change this, for personal expression or for religious reasons. Now Warner Woodworth, Professor Emeritus at Brigham Young University, has taken charge. What is new in Mr. Woodworth’s approach is his argument.

“Beards are clearly prophetic,” he wrote in a Change.org petition. “They have been used by righteous men since Adam down through the ages. Having a beard can show righteousness, he wrote – plus “millions of men around the world” wear them.

He added that “if Joseph Smith” – the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – “could not grow a full beard, most of his leading brethren could and did. . Almost all of the prophets, apostles, and others did so with righteousness and pride.

The college beard ban may never have been intended to be permanent. “Our rules against beards and long hair are contemporary and pragmatic,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in a 1971 article. address to students, when he was president of Brigham Young University. (He is now the first counselor in the first presidency, or the highest governing body, of the church.)

In the same speech, Mr. Oaks added that the beards read “protest, revolution and rebellion against authority” and called them “symbols of hippie culture and drugs”.

But he understood that maybe that wasn’t always the case. “The rules are subject to change, and I would be surprised if they weren’t changed at some point in the future,” he said.

Over the years, the policy has relaxed as a result of pressure from students. In 2015, the school started to allow exceptions for religious reasons.

This decision follows a to study by Brigham Young University professors Ray L. Huntington and Shon D. Hopkin, in which Muslim students on campus were interviewed to understand their views while attending school.

Two Muslim male students said they “struggled to reconcile BYU’s beard ban with their own cultural expectations for facial hair, but still followed the rules and were clean-shaven “the researchers wrote. (Some practicing Muslims take a religious vow never to completely shave their beards, and culturally, Muslim men with facial hair are seen as more enlightened and respected.)

The university also now allows exceptions for those playing a role in theatrical productions as well as for students with pseudofolliculitis barbae or lumps caused by ingrown hairs.

But the process of getting a beard waiver is tedious, and there can be financial hurdles.

“I had really bad ingrown hairs from shaving, so I was finally like, ‘OK. I’m done with this. Let’s see how easy it is to get this waiver, ”said Ethan Walker, currently a graduate student at Brigham Young University.

Last fall Mr Walker said he had to go to the student health center and shave every day for three consecutive days to prove he had the disease. He was unable to get a note from his own doctor and was billed around $ 70, after insurance. “There are a lot of hoops for something that’s small, but also boring and painful,” he said.

The beard ban has other unintended, albeit less serious, consequences. “Being clean-shaven is sort of a hallmark of a BYU student. But then after they left, a lot of my students let their facial hair grow, ”said Kevin John, professor at Brigham Young’s School of Communications. “A beard then becomes a hallmark of a BYU graduate, because they couldn’t do it before.”

Mr John said he thought the “negative stigma” of the beard was really gone. Now, said Mr. John, beards have “a little air of distinction about them.” I think they have a bit of professionalism.

During his nearly 40 years of teaching at Brigham Young, Mr. Woodworth has served on several occasions as an advisor to unofficial student beard clubs.

“Every five to seven years a group of students would come to me and tell me that we want to change the culture on campus,” said Woodworth. “I would meet them every now and then, encourage them and listen to them describe their wishes, interests or passions for facial hair on this campus.”

Over the past few months, Mr. Woodworth has noticed that many of the men in the congregation at church meetings have beards. Several home teachers had also started growing their facial hair. “I finally said ‘OK, I’m going to start a petition,’” Mr Woodworth said.

He was always the type to stand up for what he believed in – even if that meant clashing in college – so it wasn’t a big surprise to many of Mr Woodworth’s colleagues that he got the ball rolling this time around. -this. “Beards are just one part of a bigger issue of campus openness,” he said.

The professor is a longtime advocate for cultural and racial diversity on campus. Earlier this year he released a opinion piece in favor of a critical theory of race, in a state where legislators were organizing to ban it.

In 2007 he publicly questioned the choice of Dick Cheney as the keynote speaker, and as a student of Brigham Young in the 1960s, Mr. Woodworth participated in marches against the Vietnam War.

“We have successfully launched several campaigns against various American interventions, including Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, GHW Bush attacking Panama and young Bush, whom we have called ‘W’, regarding his invasion of Iraq, which we have dismissed as a threat to innocent societies, “he said.

Regarding the anti-war rallies on campus, said Mr. Woodworth, “unlike most American universities where huge protests are held in academic cultures, BYU has mainly suffered from opposition to any criticism. national level of its teachers and / or students. “

“Now if we can still change the beard policy, maybe I can stop being a disruptor,” he said.

A month ago, his petition was posted online: “Prayers and appeals to restore the beauty of men’s beards have accelerated at Brigham Young University,” he said.

“Fortunately, the LDS manual and the church newsroom don’t have negative guidelines for facial hair,” he says. “Leaders have long known that becoming a world church involves many cultures, realizing that a beard has different meanings around the world.”

Brigham Young University spokesperson Carri Jenkins said in an email in response to the petition: “The dress and grooming standards, which describe how BYU has chosen to represent itself, reflect the highest standards. of the university and the Church. Everyone who comes to BYU makes a voluntary commitment to uphold these standards for the sake of personal integrity and respect for the university and those who make it happen.

The question remains: are beards prophetic?

A prophet is defined as a person considered to be an inspired teacher or a publisher of the will of God. Technically, this designation could be appreciated by a person of any gender.

But as with other religions, all of the prophets in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were men.

“The LDS Church is a patriarchal church, and it has been run by men throughout its history,” said Quincy Newell, professor of religious studies at Hamilton College. And “as something that only men are usually able to do,” said Dr Newell, beards are associated with masculinity.

In religions where gender is viewed differently, the beard may not have the same symbolic value. “The Shakers, founded by Ann Lee, saw the genre very differently, and I think, wouldn’t say beards are prophetic,” Dr. Newell said. “They had a board of directors made up of both men and women, so women had a much bigger say in the movement.”

Of course, most Mormons probably don’t try to wear a beard to look like a prophet. They probably just love them.

Today, there is an effort to be more mainstream within the church, according to Michael E. Nielsen, professor of psychology and religion at Georgia Southern University. “There is this tension between being part of society but not too much,” he said.

This tension is particularly acute for some Mormon women. For example, BYU women struggled to wear pants in the 1970s and today some Mormon women push for better-fitting, more comfortable sacred underwear.

But the rules can extend to more arbitrary things: In 2017, caffeinated soda was finally cleared for sale on the BYU campus after more than a half-century of a sale ban.

Beards may not have enough respect to be fought or accepted as the norm. But ‘if we wait another two years and a bunch of new students come onto campus and say’ we want to do this ‘I will try again and I am sure that one day the change will happen,’ said Mr Woodworth. . . “This is just one more attempt.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Brigham Young has banned the beard for decades. Could a new petition change its position?
Brigham Young has banned the beard for decades. Could a new petition change its position?
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