I have a confession to make.  I didn’t think any topic would generate any interest this close to Christmas, so I was tempted to bag the whole idea of a column and give myself a happy vacation.  But apparently, once again, I was wrong.  People get pretty excited about the subject of Mormons and plastic surgery — even to the point that many of them set aside their Advent calendars and Christmas lists long enough to answer Blonde in California’s observations on the subject

To my surprise, I haven’t gotten any letters in favor of plastic surgery — yet.  Maybe next week.  Until then, here’s what our readers have to say:

I can understand having plastic surgery if you’re in a terrible accident that ruins your face or body. I don’t agree with getting plastic surgery just because of a wrinkle.  I think plastic surgery falls in with tattoos. Don’t do it!  I look at Michael Jackson and see someone who was too obsessed with his looks and had so many surgeries done that he ended up looking like a freak. 

 

Our bodies are a gift from God, and Satan is totally jealous that he won’t ever have one. I think it saddens Heavenly Father when we try to change what He gave us as a wonderful gift.  Now, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t take care of out bodies the best we can. We should do all we can to keep them healthy and strong.

The obsession with making our bodies look better than someone else’s falls into the sin of pride.  Remember the talk given by President Benson?  To read his talk, click here. We were reminded of it by President Uchtdorf in the October General Conference.  He spoke about it in the priesthood session and thank heavens for the Ensign so that we sisters can read it.  We need to study this talk and take an honest look at ourselves to see with pride’s ugly head is poking out in our lives.

Here’s to all of us gaining in humility and coming closer to our Savior.

Wendy

Mesa, Arizona 

You’re right, Wendy.  Plastic surgery can change you into a being that God never intended.

Clark recently sent out our Christmas letter.  In it he recounted an incident I had forgotten — that a wedding buffet we attended in March was crashed by a famous movie star.  The first response to our Christmas letter was, “I don’t know how you recognized her, with all the plastic surgery she’s had.”  My honest reply was, “I didn’t recognize her.  People had to point her out to me, and even then she looked nothing like the person from the movies.” 

How sad, that people will do so much to retain the image of beauty.  That experience made me glad once again that I never had it, because the adulation that comes to beautiful people would be a gift that would be hard to lose.

My husband got a job transfer to Utah, and our little family lived in Farmington for six years. I was born in southern California, where I thought everyone was stuck up and rich. I was poor and came from a less-active broken home, but in California I managed to hang on to my testimony despite the naysayers.  After living in Utah there is no way I would have survived my childhood if I had gone through all that there! The working out, the surgeries, the debt (keeping up with the Joneses) was almost more than I could handle even as an adult.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of mornings I look in the mirror and wonder where that cute little girl went. But I wouldn’t replace the wisdom of 15 years of marriage and four great kids and the great callings and trials and losses that have brought me here today.

I do get to watch my kids enjoy their youthful bodies as I once did. Everyone gets a turn. I want wisdom more than smooth skin. I want reassurance that Father in Heaven approves of my work more than rock-hard abs. I want the Spirit’s guidance with me minute by minute more than I want my stretch-marks to fade.

All of these things — stretch-marks and wrinkles and veins that world deems unsightly — were earned as I brought life into this world, and I would do it again.

Women who have children and then hide the fact they have them are the same women who also have houses that show no signs of having children in them either.

Ask Audrey Hepburn for her beauty tips. She made them famous.

For long silky hair, let a child run their fingers through.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For moist lips, kiss babies.

I’m sure there is more but that’s all I can remember. I’m 5’5′ I weigh 140 lbs. I have four kids and I am probably average in everything I do, in the way I look and in intelligence. But I do know this. Father in Heaven loves me and my family and the only altering anyone should do is of the spiritual kind.

Augment That! 

What a great concept, Augment, to do surgery on our spiritual innards rather than our faces.

And here’s the full list of “Audrey Hepburn” beauty tips.  (The actual list was a poem that was written by humorist Sam Levenson to his grandchild, but Audrey Hepburn is indeed the one who made it famous because she quoted it many times.)  This would be a great gift to any young girl or woman on your gift list:

 

Time Tested Beauty Tips
by Sam Levenson

                       
For attractive lips,
Speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes,
Seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure,
Share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair,
Let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise,
Walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored,
renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed;
Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
you’ll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands;
one for helping yourself,
the other for helping others.

Satan will do everything he can to make the women of the church feel inadequate. Causing us to be so self-centered that we’re obsessed with falsely achieving the “perfect” bust size or hair or whatever is just one of his clever tactics.

I can’t imagine spending money on changing the body the Lord so marvelously provided for me just to match some shallow image put forward by the media, when that money could be far better spent on helping millions of our brothers and sisters who don’t even have running water. I’ve heard the argument that “we can afford it,” but I believe the Lord gives us excess to see if we will serve him, not our vanity. I fear we fail a great test when we justify spending money on ourselves rather than our fellow men.


I feel so bad when I see my young married nieces bleaching their hair blond and working out their bodies to such excess that they struggle to conceive babies, all in the name of looking “good.” If our bodies are to look like our spirits, I wonder if their spirits — with beautiful brown and black hair — ever get confused by the harsh bleaching job their physical hair is forced to endure, and wonder if they are in the wrong body.

At the bottom of it all, I’m afraid it’s our self-centeredness that fuels this obsession with our bodies. And that is completely counter to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re to lose ourselves in his service, not lose ourselves to ourselves.

Mom of 8 in Utah

Thanks for your thoughts, Mom of 8.  Your second paragraph (the one on our stewardship of money) is something I think about often.  Just this week I read Jacob 2:17, which says, “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.” It really brought home to me that the wealth we receive is given to us in order to be shared not because the government forcibly takes it away, but because we see the needs of others and freely give.
     UAdd a Note  

I live in the land of plastic surgery, West Los Angeles.  When I play Bridge sometimes I think I am seeing Michael Jackson.  At the same time one of my friends has just had a bit of work done and knew when to stop; she looks very good.  The strangest thing is if you are around it enough, it starts to seem normal. 

The most shocking incident was a teenage girl at a Young Women stake function who was talking about getting a breast reduction because her agent wanted her to be smaller.  My daughter said no one made a peep about how crazy this was.

I think this will all pass with our economic downturn, and it is about time.  People have way too much time and money on their hands when teenage plastic surgery is considered in any way normal or healthy (with the obvious exception of reconstruction).  I have no problem with adults deciding to spend their own money to mutilate themselves if it makes them happy, but helping kids to do this is just crazy.  Where my cousins went to school (Scarsdale, New York) they told me about half of every high school class gets a nose job; it is a rite of passage there.  This was before the plastic surgery boom.

The saddest part to me is that these women look very unattractive, but can’t see it.  Women who age gracefully are gorgeous.  Fitness and good health are beauty enough.

I don’t think plastic surgery is the crisis.  The real problem is how women view themselves.  If we could heal our insides, we would not be so concerned with our outsides.

Liz in Los Angeles (who can now spot plastic surger from a mile off)

It’s sad, to think of a nose job as a rite of passage.  I wonder, when we’re resurrected, if we’re going to be restored to the way God designed us, to the way our plastic surgeons recreated us, or to some other visage altogether. 

I don’t live in Utah, although I went through there on a bus once and drove there once to attend a wedding at the Salt Lake Temple.  I guess I didn’t notice any billboards at the time. I am from New York originally, spent many years in Michigan, spent close to ten years living and travelling in an RV with my husband, and currently live along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I guess I don’t hang out in the “right” circles.  I’m not sure that I even know anyone who’s had plastic surgery, and I really can’t imagine why anyone would want it.  Well, that’s not true.  I can think of circumstances where it may be desired such as a burn victim, or an accident victim or perhaps someone who’s lost a couple hundred pounds and has lots of loose skin to get rid of.  Things like that.  Or perhaps if you had some type of defect and surgery would bring more normalcy and less staring. 

But then, I can’t even understand why people spend a fortune wearing makeup and using anti-aging skin products, either.  You’re born, you grow old, and you die.  It’s all natural.  Does anyone beside you care that much about how you look in the process? 

I think it’s appropriate to be neat, clean and well-groomed (for the lack of a better word), but beyond that I think it’s vanity and a waste of time.  We’re living in the last days.  I think there are very likely a few things a tad more important than plastic surgery.

On the other hand, I’m certainly not going to sit in judgment of anyone who chooses that route —as long as it’s not paid out of my tax dollars!  If someone has earned the money, or bought the insurance and desires to use it in that manner, I guess that’s between them and God to determine the best use of their “talents.”  But, I think you pose a few interesting questions.  I think God wants us pure and useful and our spirits beautiful more than he wants our bodies beautiful and us focused on worldly things.

Elizabeth in Texas

I totally agreed with you about the vanity, Elizabeth.  The only point where I think you may be missing the mark is when you wondered if anyone besides you cares how you look.  Alas, there are far too many spouses who trade in their wives (or even their husbands) for a new model once the age starts to show.  I hope men in the Church are more mature than to want trophy wives, but there must be a lot of women who fear being tossed aside, or there wouldn’t be such a panic about getting (and looking) older.

Time after time in The Book of Mormon we read about people who are successful and prosperous and who were feeding and clothing the poor and working with them to build their self-esteem.  Then something snaps and these good people start wearing “costly apparel” and soon the whole system is corrupt.  Vanity is just a minor form of violation of the first commandment. We need to be thankful for the wrinkles and gray hair… we earned them honestly. 

Charlie S   

North Dakota

If I had worked half as hard to make money as I apparently have to acquire wrinkles and gray hair, I’d be a rich woman, Charlie.  I guess I should be thankful for the wrinkles and the gray hair.

One of my daughters moved to an affluent area of Mesa, Arizona.  She was appalled to see the emphasis on physical beauty along with the plastic surgery.

Grandma

I guess plastic surgery is one of those things that come with affluence, Grandma.  I’m not sure why.  I’m waiting for my own affluence, so I could show myself how virtuously I’d use it.


  Whether it’s plastic surgery or something else, I think a lot of us would be surprised to see how we’d spend a little extra money.

Each of us has something we wish we could change about our physical bodies.  I’ve always been very tall.  Now, as I get older, my hair (what’s left of it) is gray and I’m not so skinny anymore.  Still, this is the way the Lord made me.  He must have a reason for giving me the genes for the things I can’t change.  The rest (the not-so-skinny part) is up to me.

Plastic surgery to correct birth defects, scarring from accidents or injuries from accidents is a terrific way to use the blessings and knowledge of medical science.  The pursuit of beauty for its own sake can be damaging to the spirit.  We all know someone whom we admire for their beautiful spirit but whose body falls short of that inner beauty. 

Age and the deterioration of the body come to most of us.  If our view of our individual worth is too focused on the exterior, we can suffer when our physical body gives in to mortality. As the mother of four daughters, I hope I have given them the confidence to look their best, but also the ability to be their best.  Beauty comes not from a mirror but from the eyes of our loved ones and friends. 

Julia Kaze

I like what you wrote, Julia, about the damage to the spirit one can get by pursuing beauty for its own sake.  In my own case, I was proud and obnoxious when I had normal looks.  Losing those looks squashed pride like a bug, and I’m a much better person for it.

As a teacher of high school students and the parent of a 17-year-old girl, I hear a lot about fashion and beauty and such.  One thing that is too often misunderstood is the fact that makeup and plastic can make a person look different, but the only thing that can make a person more beautiful is to follow the Savior and then let His light radiate from within us. 

Beauty ideals change from one era to the next and from one culture to another, and so to be beautiful is only a product of the time of year and your geographical location unless the beauty comes from within.  That kind of beauty can be seen in every place at every time and by every person. 

If a woman truly wants to be more beautiful, she needs to be more humbly righteous.  There is no other substitute.  Having said that, please don’t misunderstand nor underestimate the importance of caring for our bodies to the best of our ability.  Again, that is a commandment, section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, that allows our true beauty to shine from within and those who have eyes to see will surely see it.

Mike Davidson, seminary teacher

Montpelier, Idaho

I liked what you said about beauty ideals changing, Mike.  Whenever I see tattoos and other permanent “art,” I wonder what the wearers are going to think when they’re sixty-year-old little old ladies, all pushed out of shape by time, still sporting the tattoos (which are also going to be pushed out of shape).  Do you really want to be a grandma and have a dragon sitting atop your back?  Ick!

I have seen individuals with obvious facial deformities who carry on with their lives accepting their physical appearance and loving life.  If they are self-conscious about it, one would never know because of their beautiful countenance and attitude.  When I am around them I feel guilty for the times I feel self-conscious about my thin lips or almost most no hips or too much middle.  But I also am grateful for my many great physical attributes and am so grateful that I have been blessed with them.

It is easy to find fault with others and their choices, but we cannot judge them.  I too think of the unnecessary plastic surgeries.  Is it an emotional need or a physical one?  I guess the best thing to do about this subject is to ask myself, “What emotional needs do I have that could/should be put into proper perspective so I can better use my time, energy and resources?”  

We must rejoice that we have the earthly body we have and remember it is a temple and care for and use it respectfully and appropriately.  As for me and my temple/body, I will pass on plastic surgery (unless at a future date it is needed to repair an injury or illness). 

62 Years and Aging in Utah

Thanks for pointing out, 62, that even though people may make different choices from the ones we make, it’s important to refrain from passing judgment.  As you so succinctly pointed out, people have emotional needs that others cannot fathom.  For all we know, the girl or woman whose face and body are being constantly redefined by plastic surgery could be the victim of a parent or husband or peers who constantly told her she wasn’t pretty enough.  The last thing we need to do is to add to the pain of others.

Wow, it’s hard enough just getting through the days, without worrying how blonde/brunette/grey I am. We are a small branch, and getting to the temple is my biggest thrill. I don’t look in the mirror to see if my face is the best. I think my face is plain, but at least I have a face and a brain.

I am sitting here reading about your daughters wanting to be the thinnest, blondest whatevers in their ward.

Today, I face the prospect of taking my 42-year-old Down Syndrome daughter for tests (including X-ray, CT scan and biopsy for suspected breast cancer), and you’re worrying about pretty?

She is the most beautiful person in the world to me, except of course for my son, younger daughter and grandchildren. Yes, I am biased.

I am Relief Society president for my branch, which has between eight and twelve active sisters.  We lost one beautiful 95-year-old sister during the year, and we average thirty-five at sacrament meetings. I am also branch historian, so I write all this down. If you have spare time and money, surely there are volunteering positions around?

Do you really think the surgically enhanced version of yourself goes to Heaven? how will Heavenly Father know you? He knows His own handiwork.

I may be sorry I sent this, because it is a very sensitive time for me, but you are all so fortunate and have so much, but you still are not happy. Instead of competing, why not do things in secret, and stand back and enjoy. Watch the movie Pay it Forward, if you don’t know what I mean.

Marilyn Craig

Gladstone Branch, Rockhampton District

Brisbane Australia Mission

I can’t think of a better way to end this week’s column than with your letter, Marilyn.  When we consider the problems that other people are facing, the straightness of our noses or the saddlebags on our thighs gains a different perspective.

Okay, readers, I have a few more responses in my email box on this topic.  If you’d like to add your two cents, send your letter to <a href="mailto:[email protected]


<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a>com”>[email protected].  Put something in the subject line to let me know your letter isn’t spam.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Until next time — Kathy

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”

Kalil Gibran