Cowley: LDS Plastic Surgery Craze is Hypocritical


Kevin Cody

Local Mormon church near Foothill Drive on Sunday, July 11, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Elle Cowley, Multimedia Managing Editor


Up until recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not allow their members to get tattoos or any piercings other than a single lobe piercing. Still, there remains a heavy stigma against tattoos and body modification. From the church’s website, “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.” But ironically, in Salt Lake you can’t go two blocks without seeing a billboard advertising plastic surgery. I see advertisements daily for lip-fillers, liposuction and Botox. The emphasis on physical appearance is dialed up to an 11 here, and I’ve never experienced anything like it living in Oregon.

The disdain against tattoos and piercings is hypocritical and self-destructive, considering we foster an environment normalizing plastic surgery and body modification.

The Plastic Surgery Industry

Utah has a bustling plastic surgery industry. According to a report by the Utah Women & Leadership project, Salt Lake City has the second-highest plastic surgeon per capita rate in the country, “second only to Miami and ahead of Los Angeles.” Two-thirds of Utah LDS women admit to knowing someone who has had plastic surgery, which may come as a surprise to tourists, but there are 6 plastic surgeons for every 100,000 people in Utah. Surgery here is also much cheaper than the national average, enabling more people to get work done.

Plastic surgery and its Utah industry feed into the toxic mentality of LDS culture where one must strive to always be perfect. The church can be a space of community, but also heavy scrutiny.

LDS Plastic Culture

Having experience with LDS culture can give an idea of the scrutiny church members are under at any given moment — the culture of toxic perfectionism runs rampant throughout the church. The pressure to always be perfect takes an extreme toll on their members. Purity culture in the church is a major part of LDS upbringing, as girls are expected to dress modestly and save their “virtue” for marriage, which puts massive restrictions on members. LDS members are also not allowed to consume certain substances, including coffee and alcohol. If someone does not live up to the church’s exact standards, they’re considered inferior and can be ostracized completely. Church members hold an “us vs. them” mentality that is incredibly prevalent in the Salt Lake area.

Your Body, Your Choice

It’s an individual person’s right to do whatever they want with their body. If they choose to get plastic surgery, it’s not mine nor anyone else’s place to judge them. Same goes for anyone that may get a tattoo or piercing.

Everyone knows what’s best for their own body. My problem is with the hypocritical view of body modification that Utah’s LDS culture perpetuates. In the eyes of many church members, it is ok to get Botox, but not ok to get an extra piercing — which doesn’t sit right with me. If a practice or hobby is against your religion, it is more than ok to abstain from it. The problem lies in shaming others about the choices that they have made with their body. Purity culture practices seem to give some religious people an inflated sense of superiority over the people who do not participate.

At the end of the day, it is nobody’s business what you decide to do with your body but your own. We are all just people. The LDS attitude towards body modification is nothing more than blatant hypocrisy. Who cares if someone gets something done to their body? I sleep just fine at night knowing there are people with nose jobs.

Everyone comes from different walks of life. Not everyone needs to live up to individual and personal standards of perfection. What we need is to mind our own business. I don’t judge people for the plastic surgery that they elect to have, and I expect them to extend the same courtesy towards me if they see my tattoos and gauges.


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