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Dear Gramps,
I was wondering about the issue of long hair on men, and why in these days is it discouraged in the church when (in every picture I’ve seen) the Savior himself had lovely long hair and a great big beard?
James, from Ireland

Dear James,
The pictures that you have seen of the Savior with long hair were painted by artists who lived in a time when long hair was in vogue. No one knows whether the Savior’s hair was long or short, except those who have seen Him, and they tend to talk about his message rather than his appearance. However, there is one scriptural passage that does mention the color of the Savior’s hair—

The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened. We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying: I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father. Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice (Doctrine & Covenants 110:1-5).

Up until about three generations ago, long hair and beards for men was the socially accepted norm. This was the result of the relative difficulty of shaving and cutting hair. I still have the straight razor that my father used to shave with. Along with the razor was a “strop.” The razor would be stoked back and forth along the leather trap to sharpen it. Then after washing the face with a washcloth wetted with VERY hot water in order to soften the beard, the face would be lathered with a shaving cream applied with a shaving brush. Then the person would shave his beard. Unless the razor was held against the face at just the right angle and stroked with the proper pressure, the skin would be easily cut. Each person had in his bathroom cabinet a styptic pencil, which when applied to the cut, would tend to stop the bleeding–if the cut were not too deep.
Now with the invention of electric razors, shaving is a brief chore, accomplished with no hazards. So the norm today is to appear clean shaven. Some people, however wear beards for a number of reasons, some of which are quite legitimate. However, there is a segment of society that wears long facial hair in order to make a statement of non-conformity, or of rebellion against the social norm. Thus, the Mormon Church discourages the wearing of beards in today’s society. But that could change as the social norms change.

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