My Story (Read in Order)

Seek ye out of the best books (D&C 88:118)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Stumbling Over My Beard

Recently, some have asked if they could have access to some of the letters that I shared a couple of years ago chronicling and encapsulating my family’s conversion to the Lord and subsequent departure from institutionalized religion.  This, along with a renewed desire to experience and testify of His grace, is why I am re-posting this and a few other letters.  Some of the writing has been edited to remove references to specific people, while still maintaining the integrity of the original message.  It is my hope and prayer that this may be of some help to others who may be struggling to put their own experiences and thoughts into words.  Please feel free to use and share as the Spirit guides...  -Rex Pettingill

11 March, 2017

Other letters in this series: 

"The Gospel, According to Yoda" (10.22.2014 letter to family)
"Stumbling Over My Beard" (2014 un-delivered letter to Pres. XXXX regarding a Doctrine of Men)
"Walking on Water" (3.16.2015 first public "Coming-Out" letter to friends and family)
"Enjoying the Promised Feast" (5.11.2015 testimony letter to friends and family)
"Moroni's Weakness" (5.18.2015 letter to the Bishop)
"Names Upon the Altar" (5.19.2015 letter to the Bishop)
"Got Wisdom?" (11.18.2015 post/email about the fruits of repentance and need for rebaptism)

(This is a letter written sometime late 2014, but never delivered.  It was, nonetheless a very therapeutic endeavor.  It illustrates once again just how much the members of the LDS Church are programmed to follow a strong man, worship the arm of flesh…)

President XXXX:
I need to stand up for all of the selfish, half-committed brethren out there (i.e. those with beards, and, by association, long hair).
I was shocked and concerned by the comments you made this morning in Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting.  Regardless of how you attempted to frame the topic, the story you told to illustrate the point created a fatal flaw in your message.  We must be very careful not to use the comments made by some visiting authority during an informal Q&A session from the pulpit as the basis for doctrinal discourse.  The suggestion (or outright assertion, as was the case) that a good man is guilty of keeping the work from moving forward simply because he has a mustache is, to me, preposterous.  You will find much greater doctrinal support for claiming that a man is guilty of keeping the work from moving forward when he looks at another man’s mustache and thinks (or worse, SAYS in in front of a congregation) “You are keeping the work from progressing because you do not look like me.  Emulate my appearance.”  Regardless of the overall principle being taught this morning – that we need to commit more fully to the Lord and eliminate those things from our lives that are keeping us from doing that – the specific vignette you used to illustrate the point was, in my opinion, flawed and in no way based upon eternal truth.
I am sickened by the attitude that so many of the older members of the church have and continue to perpetuate concerning beards and long hair.  These people are viewing the world through a prism that is nearly half a century old.  Where is the stigma now, in 2014, that used to be associated with beards and long hair in the 1970’s?  It is all but gone – except in the minds and hearts of those who may have lived through and experienced a culture where such things were associated with dissent, revolt, rebellion, and so forth – or in the hearts and minds of those who have been taught that these things are wrong and to judge others regardless of the absence of any cultural stigma associated with the behavior.    There is likely a reason that there is no specific, detailed policy in the Church Handbook of Instructions (or, most importantly, the scriptures) regarding beard and hair grooming.  
“Unlike modesty, which is an eternal value in the sense of rightness or wrongness in the eyes of God, our rules against beards and long hair are contemporary and pragmatic. They are responsive to conditions and attitudes in our own society at this particular point in time. Historical precedents are worthless in this area. The rules are subject to change, and I would be surprised if they were not changed at some time in the future. But the rules are with us now, and it is therefore important to understand the reasoning behind them.
There is nothing inherently wrong about long hair or beards, any more than there is anything inherently wrong with possessing an empty liquor bottle. But a person with a beard or an empty liquor bottle is susceptible of being misunderstood. Either of these articles may reduce a person’s effectiveness and promote misunderstanding because of what people may reasonably conclude when they view them in proximity to what these articles stand for in our society today.
In the minds of most people at this time, the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards or long hair, whether they desire it or not, may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent.”  
-Dallin H. Oaks, President of Brigham Young University, December, 1971 (emphasis added)
To suggest that those with facial hair and long hair are withholding from the Lord by retaining for themselves a small piece of their individuality is wrong.  Is individuality evil?  Would the Lord have us all dress the same, look the same, and even act the same?  I do not think so.  I believe that the Lord blesses us each with unique gifts, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and experiences so that we may better bless the lives of those around us, and add to the diversity and beauty of God’s creations.  If this were not the case, we would all be genetically identical.  
Sadly, this problem is not limited to goatees and mullets.  I wish it were.  So many LDS people practice a religion and lifestyle that has become convoluted with culture and tradition - the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.  

-Rex Pettingill

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