Thursday, March 21, 2013

Righteousness never was attractiveness

I have a lot of LDS friends on Facebook. So when some article comes out saying that BYU is #1 for hots and smarts, it gets reposted 6 bajillion times. (Or just 6).

The article is here. Enjoy. Also, a shout out to BYU Idaho, who rank somewhere. 

Of course, this is annoying, and LDS people frequently need to get over BYU. (That is an issue that has been addressed by Amen Already here. Definitely go check it out because she's pretty funny.) But what bothers me the most is this: 
"Everyone at BYU is very attractive; I've yet to see an ugly person here. Thanks to the honor code, every guy is clean shaven and well groomed (no super long hair) and every girl is dressed modestly (not too much skin). Everyone is very friendly, and it's not uncommon to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger. BYU is famous for beginning long-lasting relationships and marriages, so dating is greatly encouraged."
Read more:

So everyone at BYU is attractive because they follow the honor code - because they are clean-shaven and don't show too much skin? (You can tell that this was written by BYU students, because very few people in the "secular" world would think not showing skin is attractive.)

Which comes to another idea prevalent in the LDS culture: Being righteous and obedient makes you more attractive.

I'm serious. People really believe this. It's somewhat addressed in another blog post I did on how femininity is viewed in Mormonism (here).

It is perpetuated in this famous story (here):

I recently recalled a historic meeting in Jerusalem about 17 years ago. It was regarding the lease for the land on which the Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies was later built. Before this lease could be signed, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, agreed with the Israeli government on behalf of the Church and the university not to proselyte in Israel. You might wonder why we agreed not to proselyte. We were required to do so in order to get the building permit to build that magnificent building which stands in the historic city of Jerusalem. To our knowledge the Church and BYU have scrupulously and honorably kept that nonproselyting commitment. After the lease had been signed, one of our friends insightfully remarked, “Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light that is in their eyes?” He was referring to our students who were studying in Israel.
What was that light in their eyes which was so obvious to our friend? The Lord Himself gives the answer: “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings.” Where did that light come from? Again the Lord gives the answer: “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The Lord is the true light, “and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.” This light shows in our countenances as well as in our eyes.
I've never seen such a light. (The idea of it "showing in our countenance" sounds Biblical poetry to me.)  For a while, I believed that I can tell Mormons apart from non-Mormons. And to some degree, you can. But being in Utah means everyone adopts the same basic fashion choices, so unless you're tattooed with a neon green mohawk and showing cleavage, it's really not that easy to tell.

As great as being righteous or obedient is, it does not translate into attractiveness. Someone may find them to be attractive traits in another person (especially at BYU!), but that doesn't mean that being righteous or obedient makes you attractive.

I think the problem with this misconception is the shallowness of it all. As Christians, we are not supposed to be concerned with outward appearance as much as we are. It is especially manipulative to constantly be telling young teenagers and college students that they will be attractive if only they are righteous and obedient. Not fair, in my books.

This phenomenon also gives us permission to judge each other. Do you have enough light in your eyes? Are you attractive? No? Then you must also be a disobedient apostate.

It often turns out that this cultural aspect mainly affects women. Sure, you have here that clean-shaved men are more attractive than their bearded counterparts. But there's nothing in our culture that says not having a beard is righteous the same was being modest is. Facial hair does not reflect one's virtue the way modesty supposedly does. This is definitely obvious if you go read my post on femininity!!! Because, as lowly RMs all the way up to lofty apostles have said, a woman is only attractive if she is righteous and doing exactly what the Church culture tells her to do.


  1. I love your comments. I think a huge part of the idea that righteousness=attractiveness is rooted in the aspect that modesty culture that says that female bodies are supposed to be hidden and covered up. I know far too many people that imply women are supposed to be shapeless blobs. So if you can see an attractive figure, then they're obviously not following the Mormon dress code.

    Then we've been pounded with the cultural ideas of "Modest is Hottest" and "Sexy Modest". These ideas are super damaging because it creates one more way to judge individuals based off how they look. It's the other side of the spectrum of making fat jokes or mocking someone who is overweight.

    Also, it damages people who, let's face it, aren't attractive. If they're not getting dates or have many friends because they're not the ideal body image and they're pounded with the righteousness=attractiveness dogma, then they automatically think that they are unattractive because they are sinning.

    How can people not see how damaging that is?

    1. Thank you for your comments! That's absolutely true. Modesty does play a huge part in this aspect of LDS culture. I would say people refuse to see it as damaging because they reinforce their own ideas. People see the person who is standing out in physical appearance as the "sinner," and then shun them. That person stops coming to Church (or whatever) because no one's been friendly to him/her. Self-fulfilling prophecy. At least, that's one explanation.