I don’t understand why the church is okay with surgical body modification but not tatooing. To me, the vanity and rejection of the body God has given us involved in plastic surgery seems a much greater defilement of our temples than a skin-deep procedure that can commemorate important life moments or deep meaning for the recipient. If you can help me understand this better that’d be great.
I think the difficulty lies in the fact that plastic surgery is a very broad topic. I assume you are talking about plastic surgery in the terms of what is elective and would be considered for “vanity purposes” only. But plastic surgery, generally speaking also includes fixing cleft plates, and third degree burns and other trauma.
It appears this is an issue where the Lord expects us to “not be commanded in all things”. But we have been given some guidance to consider from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
“Frankly, the world has been brutal with you in this regard. You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress is reported to have said recently: “We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. … I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] … pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can’t get off of it.] … It’s really insane … what society is doing to women.”
In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers” as Lehi saw, because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough.”
So I think the best advice is to prayerfully consider any proposed body changes. Some, like repairing third degree burns, are a blessing, while others may be “spiritually destructive”. As always, the Holy Ghost is your best guide.