An Overview of the Mormon Church's Views on Tattoos

Tattoos Are Strongly Discouraged in the LDS Faith

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Cook, Krista. "An Overview of the Mormon Church's Views on Tattoos." ThoughtCo, May. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-do-mormons-feel-about-tattoos-2158973. Cook, Krista. (2017, May 2). An Overview of the Mormon Church's Views on Tattoos. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-do-mormons-feel-about-tattoos-2158973 Cook, Krista. "An Overview of the Mormon Church's Views on Tattoos." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-do-mormons-feel-about-tattoos-2158973 (accessed October 22, 2017).
Cook Islander with tattoos
Peroni Apera, Cook Islander and crew member of the traditional Vaka (boat). Kirklandphotos / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Body art can be a way to express yourself and your personality. It can even be a way to express your faith.

Other faiths may allow tattooing or take no official position. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS/Mormon strongly discourages tattoos. Words such as disfigurement, mutilation and defilement are all used to condemn this practice.

Where is Tattooing Addressed in Scripture?

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Paul describes our physical bodies as being temples and temples are considered sacred.

Temples should never be defiled.

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.

Where is Tattooing Addressed in Other Guidance?

Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, built on what Paul advised the Corinthian members.

Did you ever think that your body is holy? You are a child of God. Your body is His creation. Would you disfigure that creation with portrayals of people, animals, and words painted into your skin?
I promise you that the time will come, if you have tattoos, that you will regret your actions.

Hinckley also referred to tattoos as graffiti.

True to the Faith is a guidebook for all LDS members. Its guidance on tattoos is brief and to the point.

Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the tattooing of the body. Those who disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God. . . . If you have a tattoo, you wear a constant reminder of a mistake you have made. You might consider having it removed.

For the Strength of Youth is a guidebook for all LDS youth. Its guidance is also strong:

Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings.

How are Tattoos Viewed by Other LDS Members?

Since most LDS members know what the Church teaches about tattoos, having one is generally considered a mark of rebellion or defiance.

More importantly, it suggests the member is not willing to follow church leaders' counsel.

If a person got the tattoo before becoming a member of the Church, then the situation is viewed differently. In that case, the member has nothing to be ashamed of; even though the tattoo's presence may initially raise eyebrows.

Tattooing is viewed differently by some South Pacific cultures and the Church is strong in those areas. In some of those cultures tattoos do not indicate stigma, but status. Pediatrician, Dr. Ray Thomas had this to say:

"When I was in medical school I had the assignment to surgically remove tattoos of any young people who came through the county hospital and wanted them removed. Almost universally, it seemed, they got them as a whim. I found that within three years of getting a tattoo, people universally wanted them off. The exception was people in the Cook Islands, where I served my mission. There it was a symbol that the chiefs had put on."

Would Having a Tattoo Prevent Me From Doing Something in the Church?

The answer is a resounding, "Yes!" Tattoos can prevent you from serving a mission for the Church. It may not, but it can. You will have to disclose any tattoos on your missionary application.

You may be asked to describe where and when you got it and why. Where it is on your body may also be an issue.

If the tattoo can be covered by clothing, you may be sent to a colder climate mission to insure that your tattoo is not visible. In addition, your tattoo could prevent you from being eligible to serve in an area where the tattoo may offend cultural norms.