My teenage son has started painting his fingernails and toes black. He’s not gay. Apparently it’s a fashion trend. I’m a 49 year old parent, so I don’t feel as though I’m THAT “old-fashioned” when it comes to knowing when I should pick my battles and when it’s a wise idea to counsel my kids about something important. My question: because my son wears his black nail polish on a regular basis, should he take it off while blessing the sacrament?
I can hear your love and concern for your son in your question and commend you for it. I can tell you’ve spoken with him and tried to understand his taste in style.
A number of counter-cultures and subcultures use black nail polish as a defining fashion, including goth and emo among others. I encourage you to continue your discussions with him and let him guide you through the subculture he’s embraced so you can better understand it. Elder William K. Jackson recently observed that in “most man-made cultures, there is found both good and bad, constructive and destructive.” That means you need to understand your son’s subculture well enough that you can mentor him through the difficult task of embracing the good and constructive while leaving behind the bad and destructive elements. And those fashions and elements of the culture that are passing fads like zoot suits and bellbottoms can be safely ignored. Even our founding prophet admits that as an older teen he “frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature” but that what he needed at this time was for “those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, … if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me.”
When your son blesses the sacrament he should follow the direction of the bishop. The sacrament is an authorized ordinance. This means that the ordinance is only performed under the direction of the bishop, and only with the approval of the bishop. You can see examples of this with the rules local bishops have given with respect to home worship. In those places and circumstances where bishops have authorized priesthood holders to administer the sacrament at home they may do so. But if no such authorization has been given then the ordinance is not performed. Additionally, if the bishop has given such authorization he has probably included some brief information on how to administer it (frequently a reference to the General Handbook of Instruction I have linked).
What this means for your son is that your son should ask the bishop whether or not the bishop is comfortable with your son blessing the sacrament with painted nails. The bishop will direct him in any changes he needs to make in his dress and grooming. It’s also possible that if you are currently administering the sacrament in your home, the bishop may delegate this decision to you and your husband. If he does, make it a subject of prayer for both you and your son.