Be Ye Therefore Perfect: Saints and Cosmetic Surgery

“So, what would you have done?” Conversing with some of the least vain people I know, the question surprised me. However, with the growing incidence of teenagers going under the knife , Sister Tanner and Elder Holland’s talks at the last General Conference, and the $12.4 billion Americans spent on cosmetic surgery in 2005, can it really be that surprising? How far are we going to achieve perfection?

We are all commanded to be perfect. And we all fail. It’s part of the human experience. Most LDS that I know tend to break the enormous responsibility into bite-sized, manageable pieces, like being perfect in paying tithing, weekly church attendance, keeping the Word of Wisdom, etc etc. However, these are rather discreet ways of being perfect … talking about them exudes a distasteful and ostentatious air reminiscent of the Rich Man in the parable of the Widow’s Mite.

So, when did the search for perfection become public? Even with the Book of Job in the Old Testament, why is the law of the harvest so insidiously entrenched? Why do we associate wealth, abundance and beauty with righteousness, and poverty and the absence of physical beauty with unrighteousness? In the Lord’s name, Samuel passed over seven of Jesse’s sons, “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart (1Sam 16:7),” and chose David. Coincidentally, David was “withal of a beautiful countenance and goodly to look at,” but maybe that was just spiritually. Or maybe not. Somehow, humanity cannot get past the idea that what looks good must be good.

Cosmetic surgery is becoming more acceptable to the American public; and with better technology and financing, it’s becoming more common than I ever believed.

“More and more, Americans are coming to accept and embrace the tremendous benefits of cosmetic surgery. According to a study, appearing in the March 2005 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, nearly fifty percent of all young women would consider plastic surgery by middle age and forty percent would consider it in the near future. According to an AARP survey, 60 percent of women and 35 percent of men say they would undergo plastic surgery if it could be done safely and effectively. It seems the majority of Americans see plastic surgery in a favorable light (”

When I was a little girl, I longed fair skin, red hair and green eyes. Back then it was impossible, but with skin lighteners, hair color and colored contacts, my childhood fantasy is within reach. Yes, I would probably look like a freak, but so does Joan Rivers, and she makes a fortune and gets to mock celebrities to their faces.

In the LDS singles scene, women are haunted by the specter of Barbie … tall, buxom, blonde, blue-eyed, with very low FP (or Fat Potential, as a guy friend once disgustingly put it). In a community with limited resources (righteous, active, single men), how can consumers (women) hope to get a competitive edge? Apparently, cosmetic surgery has been one tool that’s blossomed in the Deseret. Utah boasts one of the highest per capita incidence of cosmetic surgery in the nation. We could try to pin it on the non-member granola types who tend to gravitate to Utah, but that theory just doesn’t hold water. We are the ones searching for perfection and happiness in all the wrong places.

In the Last General Conference, Elder Holland stated, “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.”

In the same General Conference, Sister Susan W. Tanner eloquently stated the
right places to look search for joy.

“Happiness comes from accepting the bodies we have been given as divine gifts and enhancing our natural attributes, not from remaking our bodies after the image of the world. The Lord wants us to be made over—but in His image, not in the image of the world, by receiving His image in our countenances.”

To this end, I’d like to restate the complete scripture, with one little addition. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father (and Mother) which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)

As an Asian-American, I can never hope to (uncosmetically) fit the Barbie mentality that represents the Northern American, and particularly mormon, standard of beauty. That isn’t to say that I don’t still struggle in the beauty wars, because I occasionally do (as evidenced by how fantastic my hair is going to look after I get it cut this afternoon). However, the larger (and more complete and beautiful) picture is that I am vying for spiritual perfection. Yes, I have to break them down into manageable, bit-sized pieces, but I intend to savor each of the courses offered at the celestial feast. Care to join me?

And, to answer the first question, our anonymous answers were: hair plugs, lipo and nothing at all.

Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is


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