I was hoping to get at least one letter in defense of plastic surgery, so we could all look at the topic from both sides.  We finally got two of them this week — one from a lady who had reconstructive surgery and one from a doctor — and I’m excited to run them.  But first let’s look at what other readers have to say on the subject:

Lots of food for thought on today’s subject.  But perhaps we should refer to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Savior.  Will we reject him because we don’t like his “looks?”  Look at Isaiah 53:2-3:

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


Thanks for your comments, PJ.  I have to admit that I can’t understand much of Isaiah, but those two verses have given me comfort over the years because if I have been criticized for my own lack of beauty, at least I am in the best possible company. 

In the next life what’s going to be important is who we are inside.  In this life, however, it seems as though the wrapping on the package is often the only thing that people consider.  In one week I actually got two letters from readers telling me I needed to update my picture because the one I was using was old, and they couldn’t possibly put any credence in anything I wrote if they didn’t know what I looked like.  I’m sure once those readers saw the vile picture that’s on my column now, they immediately stopped reading.  Nobody who looks like that could possibly have anything worthwhile to say!

I live in Utah and I don’t know anyone who has had plastic surgery so I don’t think you can say it’s “everywhere” in Utah. It may be important in some areas of Salt Lake and Utah Valley but not everywhere there. Maybe it’s just that my generation doesn’t care so I don’t hear about it.

In thinking about this topic, though, I think that most people who turn to plastic surgery are people who have low self-esteem and feel uncomfortable with their looks. They are letting the world determine how they should look and feel about themselves. I hope that we as women will always make an effort to let our children know that we accept them as they are and they don’t have to look perfect to have our love or others acceptance.

And as far as the criticisms that are made in church on how others dress, I think that kind of behavior has been around forever. All we can do about it is to try and be a good example and say things that are complimentary. We should all remember to “judge not, that ye be not judged” and that advice is for both people who choose to have surgery and those who don’t.

Valerie S


Great observations, Valerie.  I especially liked your advice that we shouldn’t judge people who have the surgery.  We have no idea what’s going through their minds that inspired them to alter their looks.  If we were in their position, we might have made the same choice.

My comments are mostly directed at breast augmentation.  The only time I see it as appropriate is in the case of cancer or major disfigurement.  Although there are many physical reasons to avoid breast augmentation I would like to address three spiritual reasons it doesn’t seem appropriate in any other circumstances. 

  1. There are general conference talks that clearly discourage it (especially Elder Holland’s talk in October 2005 . When we understand the principle that we are literally children of God, we appreciate the body the Lord has given to us.  On resurrection day, can you imagine telling the Lord he didn’t give you a good enough body so you had to add something to it?
  2. If we truly listen and ponder the initiatory ordinance in the temple, it seems clear that our bodies are sacred and the Lord wouldn’t be pleased with us getting plastic surgery.
  3. Family relationships.  When we are confident and happy (or fake it) with the body we have, this carries to our daughters’ perspectives of themselves.  We can confidently answer their questions without shame or hypocrisy.  Of equal importance but often overlooked, is what our sons quietly discern from a mother and her attitude about her body.  Shouldn’t our sons have natural ideas and expectations of what a woman should look like?   

If a woman voices insecurities about her body to her spouse, perhaps I would go so far to say it is a priesthood responsibility for a husband to reassure and cherish his wife the way she is.  If he hesitates, criticizes, or encourages thought and action on getting a breast augmentation, he degrades his wife.  The spiritual aspect of sexual intimacy is lowered to a worldly level.   
Salt Lake City

You wrote a thought-provoking letter, Lana.  I hadn’t thought about the message we send to our children when we choose to augment our bodies.  I know a woman whose husband was shocked after her wedding to see her natural body.  He didn’t have sisters and had never seen the naked female form except in purloined girlie magazines, and he was shocked that real women were not airbrushed.  Yes, that’s a true story.

In the course of looking up Elder Holland’s talk to provide a link to it, I found that he and Young Women General President Susan W. Tanner actually wrote a book on the subject.  The name of the book is Modesty, Makeovers, and the Pursuit of Physical Beauty:  What Mothers and Daughters Need to Know.  You can purchase a copy by clicking here.

Wow, I’m shocked to hear that Utah ranks up there in plastic surgery. Plastic surgery can be for many things though, and not just vanity. I know that maybe our humanitarian deeds might include helping children or adults from other countries who have impediments like a cleft palate or something like that. I would hope that this is the case and not a California disease that has spread to Utah. Inner beauty means so much more than being super-thin or blonde or sculpting the body.
I hate to think about young women in Utah damaging their bodies to impress their friends. Plastic surgery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think it’s downright dangerous. The person has to be put to sleep, which entails drugs in the body, and then to be cut on, which can cause infection. Also the surgery may not turn out right. Instead of wanting to have a lot of friends because of being friendly, people are more worried about what they look like.

I read that you said people at church were making comments about how they dress.  Well, that must be a Utah thing. I’m in Texas and we have people coming to church in pants.

I don’t approve of this but they are new to the Church and some are rebellious young women.
I don’t see the plastic surgery happening with the saints in other towns or states, so it must be a Utah thing that is a disease that was caught from California. The doctors in Utah giving a gift to their wives of plastic surgery — what is that?  I can’t believe it.

The only time plastic surgery is needed is when it’s truly needed for medical reasons. I need a little but it’s for medical reasons. I more than likely won’t ever have it because my husband isn’t a doctor and we can’t afford it. I had a hysterectomy bikini cut, which I didn’t want and asked the surgeon not to do. It was done anyway and is causing me problems and needs to be fixed in order to relieve pain. I feel sad for those that feel they need plastic surgery or that are giving it as a gift. It’s so shallow — where is the spirituality in it? 

I wonder what the medicine is for this disease.  Maybe it’s finding one’s way back on the path where the iron rod is and holding on fast —- not looking up at the large spacious building.

Vickie Cloud 

I got a real laugh, Vickie, about plastic surgery being a “California disease that has spread to Utah.”  I don’t know about the truth of that, but I can tell you that the preoccupation of how people dress for church is definitely not a Utah thing.  I live in Virginia, and the concept of judging people based on how they dress is alive and well here. 

Some people have not caught the spirit of Doctrine and Covenants 38:27 (“I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine”).  Judging people based on the way they look or dress is a way to divide the Saints, not unite them.  And the people doing the judging are always the ones who believe they are the ones who have it right.

I am a sister living in Scotland, and I had heard a rumour that our sisters in Utah were going for plastic surgery in a big way. But, I thought that it was only a rumour.  That was until I read the article in Meridian Magazine.

As daughters of our Heavenly Father, we know that although we were created in His image, but we are all individuals, that no two of us are alike (unless we are identical twins), and that we each have our own individual beauty. So why are our sisters trying to look like each other? Have they no self esteem? Are they not converted to the gospel enough to believe in their own worth? Do they not realise that they are putting their lives at risk every time they go under the knife, and that they are setting a bad example for their daughters and the YW of the Church, the new generation?

Have any of these sisters thought about these issues? If they have too much money there are so many deserving people in need. The money spent on surgery could be given to a charity that would help those who need. I myself work on the beauty inside, which is the only beauty you can take with you when you leave this mortal experience. Please, my dear sisters, rethink if you have decided to have plastic surgery.


Well put, Mary.  I, too, am working on the beauty inside.  That’s enough to preoccupy a person for a lifetime. 

Okay, readers, we’ve heard from the people who are against plastic surgery.  This next letter comes from a doctor, and the one after that comes from a lady who has submitted herself to the knife.  Let’s see what they have to say.

I’m going to be a little frank.

We encourage women to value themselves, regard their body as their temple, and have as many children as appropriate for their individual and family circumstances*.

For some women, pregnancy and childbirth can basically “spoil” three main areas of their bodies.  This is by no means universal, but one or more of these areas is very frequently affected.

1)  The breasts.  Almost every woman with breasts of any size gets stretch marks on them as a teen, so I’m not talking about stretch marks on the breasts per se. Sagging and “emptying” are another matter.  All breasts of any size sag a little (except for maybe during that “prime” that most women enjoy for about 15 minutes during their teens or early 20’s).  We call it ptosis when something sags, and mammoptosis when the breasts do.  A little ptosis is quite acceptable, a natural part of not just pregnancy but also of aging. 

The difficult cases are where the woman, prior to childbearing, had “normal” or larger than normal breasts, which pregnancy and lactation have left with what one of my patients called the “empty sandwich bag syndrome.” Her statement: “I had nice breasts. The skin is still there, but now they look like a couple of empty sandwich bags hanging on my chest.”  These women, I believe, deserve the appropriate cosmetic surgery (augmentation and/or lift) after they’ve weaned their last child.

2)  The belly.  Stretch makes can be spectacular.  We occasionally see them all over the body, pretty much with a “modesty” distribution (i.e., every bit of skin that is supposed to be always covered up by modest women — upper arms and shoulders to knees, front and back).  There is, at present, not much to do about these, although promising research is going on.  Whoever successfully develops and markets a true cure for stretch marks, or even a safe preventative system (neither exists today, in spite of all of the ads and recommendations you’re exposed to) will become richer than Bill Gates or Warren Buffett!

Sagging (another form of ptosis) can be spectacular here.  I’m not talking about a little paunch.  One patient described it to me (and showed me) as follows: “I can take my hanging belly skin, tie it in a knot and sling it over my shoulder.” She was exaggerating a little, but not by much!  Cosmetic surgeons can be fantastically successful in correcting these (it continues to amaze me the results they often get) after a woman’s last baby.

There is a whole list of hernias that can occur, and most of these can be quite satisfactorily fixed.

3)  The vagina and its area.  Some women deliver large infants with no apparent damage to the vaginal and surrounding structures.  Some of these complete their lives with no childbirth-damage-related problems.  Many, if not most, however, experience bladder and or bowel problems later in life, usually starting in mid- or late-middle age, often requiring surgical correction. Some of this surgical correction could be called plastic or cosmetic.

The area between the vagina and the anus (the perineum) can suffer severe damage.  Some of this causes only down-the-line problems later in life.  Sometimes problems, including bowel, bladder and sexual-function problems, are more immediate.  These are often amenable to surgical correction or to other therapies.

The above list is by no means inclusive or exhaustive, but my point is: Don’t many of these women deserve help when it is available?

This brings to mind another of my pet peeves: How many children a couple chooses to have (if they even have a choice in this matter — look at all of the tragic infertility cases) is between the husband, the wife and the Lord. This must be decided with study, discussion, love, and much prayer and fasting. It is nobody else’s business — not their family’s, not their friends’, not their bishop’s, Relief Society president’s,  or stake president’s, and certainly not their visiting teachers’.

Clifford J. Goodman, Jr., M.D., FACOG

Chandler, Arizona

Thanks for a very informative letter, Dr. Goodman.  I believe that most of the procedures you mentioned would fall under the category of legitimate medical treatments in anybody’s book, but the bottom line of your letter is worth reiterating because we really can’t judge someone’s motives unless we’re in the exact same situation — which is almost never the case.

Readers, in case you’re wondering, FACOG stands for “Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

I had a breast augmentation 4+ years ago, when I was 36, and I’m OK with that decision. Sorry if others are not. I pondered long and hard about my decision before even mentioning it to my husband.  Then I thought about it some more — lots more.

Over the time I was considering the surgery, we lived near a very affluent area. It was not uncommon to go to the city center shopping area and see middle-aged (or older) women in short tennis skirts with deep v-necked shirts displaying their overblown chests.  This gave me pause for almost two years. I did not want to get my breasts done to be able to dress like “that.” And I wasn’t planning on posing for Playboy, either! I just wanted to put back what once was there, nothing more.

Yes, I will admit, childbearing was emotionally hard on me. I love my kiddos, they are from heaven, but I did not like what happened to my body afterwards. I once was very, very physically active. Gaining the weight (forty-five pounds twice on a very short frame) of childbirth didn’t do much for my self-image. Even getting back to working out didn’t help my sad chest. Sorry if I failed to see the greater eternal beauty of empty, drooping mammaries.

I’m sure we could go into a myriad of questions about my spiritual and emotion well being, the money that could have been better spent, and so on, ad nauseum. Nevertheless, with the support of my close friends (many LDS) and husband, I went “under the knife.” Since then, I have met about a dozen other sisters who have had the same surgery or are planning it. Most feel like they need to go away into some convoluted witness protection program or keep it hush, hush for fear of being ostracized. Ridiculous!

Before I got to the point of considering surgery, I thought all such surgery was pure vanity, and certainly there is a great deal of that in our society. But I am not and did not go over board a la Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers or Pamela Anderson. I like myself a lot, and I know my Heavenly Father loves me. I just wanted to put back what he gave me in the first place.
At the time of my surgery, a friend quipped up, “You know you won’t come back with those in the resurrection!” My reply: “I started out in high school as almost a D (I’m short, I hated it!); exercised my way to a B; then nursed down to barely an A. I’m now a medium C.  At which point along the “Breast-Size Continuum” will I come back?” I guess I will have to wait to find out, but something tells me I won’t really care when that time comes.

There was much talk about “the beautiful body God gave us” in last week’s letters. I wonder, who of those women were given extra-large sized busts, you know, the kind that kill your back? What of those with large hairy moles on the end of their noses? What of those born with crooked teeth? Fully functioning teeth, mind you, but just a bit crooked? Do those get straightened? Orthodontia can cost thousands more than my simple saline implants, yet it is much more common. People are “given” all sorts of things down here that require nothing more than gratitude to accept, right? But some things are OK to be “corrected,” and others are not? Hmmmm.

For those who feel the need to stand in judgment, I’d love to know what you waste money on in this life and where your vanity points are. I’d be curious at how much make-up you wear. I know women who won’t step out the door without their “game-face” on (I wear none most days). How much do you spend on clothes to look just right (I’m a cheap jeans & t-shirt gal most of the time); the tanning bed (I’m pasty white), the sculpted nails ($0), the big house with the media room, formals, and more. Did you know our grandparents raised their broods in homes with one bathroom and no dishwasher? Isn’t anything more than that “excess” or vanity? Do you buy new cars with all the bells and whistles? We buy/drive only well-used. No long, expensive trips either or fine furnishings (unless Ikea and World Market fall into that category).

Are you in debt to pay for your vanities? I paid for mine in cash, all while serving others, paying my tithing and a generous fast offering. Today, I do a good bit of service work, donating time and money, in the community every month, well outside of anything the Church may provide the opportunity for me to do.  I home school my youngest, and am temple modest in my attire. In other words, my chest hasn’t gotten in the way of my good deeds or the way I present myself to the world. It does, however, make me feel just a little bit better about my body. Am I still condemned to Outer Darkness? I guess God will be the judge of that.

P.S. My house (and hips) definitely shows signs of children, even if my chest tells a different story.

Implanted in Texas

Great letter, Implanted.  You’ve given us all something to think about.  I, for one, appreciated what you had to say.

Okay, people, that’s it for this topic.  Next week we’re going to begin the year with a topic that you who are grandparents (or who have parents who are grandparents) aren’t going to want to miss.  See you then.

Until next time — Kathy

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time

to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

Miss Piggy