Long the preferred form of facial grooming for hippies, communists, and early Mormon leaders, beards are back in fashion even though they haven’t been allowed at Brigham Young University since the 1960s. Prior to that time (which coincided with the start of the Correlation era), well-groomed beards were acceptable at the Lord’s University. But as they came to be associated with counterculture, they stoked fear in the heart of Joseph Fielding Smith. And probably some others. Like Harold B. Lee. Maybe also Ezra Taft Benson.
Now, in response to BYU recently lifting the “it wasn’t a ban” on caffeinated beverages sold on campus, an enterprising BYU alumnus has created a Change.org petition to bring beards back to BYU.
According to the Daily Herald, Skyler Thiot, a 2013 grad, started the petition in late September 2017 because, “You can have a beard as a temple patron, you just can’t have a beard if you are at BYU.” His petition had nearly 3,600 signatures at the time of writing, on its way to 5,000 or more.
BYU’s honor code currently states:
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
The only exception to the beard ban is the famed “beard card,” which a male student can possess if he can’t shave for medical reasons or because of an appearance in a play or film. But they are very much the exception. Thiot himself said he once volunteered as a background actor just so he could grow a beard during the summer. (The Honor Code applies so long as one is enrolled at BYU, regardless of whether a term is in session.)
This, of course, has led to a number of male BYU students have creepy-as-all-get-out mustaches. Beards provide instance
sex righteous appeal to the ladies. Want to increase the marriage rate at a university suffering from an undersupply of men, which screws up the dating pool? Beards > Mustaches.
“But wait,” you say, “we can’t petition to change something that was dictated through revelation!” Yes and no. Beards are a policy, not a doctrine. This isn’t agitating on Temple Square for women to receive the priesthood. Besides, BYU itself said the turnaround on caffeine was the result of “consumer preferences.” Is a grooming preference much different from a consumer one?
Time will tell if there is any response to the petition, which has a very strong chance of going nowhere. Either way, look how great President Kevin J. Worthen looks with a beard. I already trust him more. Implicitly.
Full disclosure: we’re longtime, proud beard wearers here at TWiM, so we certainly have a bias.