The jest of the beard card

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Most people outside of BYU, or people who aren’t members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, laugh when they hear about the coveted beard card and its purpose as a license for a BYU student to have a beard.

For the entirety of my attendance at BYU, I’ve wondered the same thing. Why aren’t beards permitted? I understand there are many underlying reasons behind the rule requiring men to be clean-shaven. I understand the university wants men to stand out from among the crowd and be examples to other schools nationwide that allow men to wear their hair and beards so long they could touch the ground. I completely agree; men who are clean shaven look more professional than do those who’ve just let go.

A general consensus from most people I know, men and women, say full beards aren’t attractive, and I agree. I, however, don’t understand a few things when it comes to the stipulations within this rule. Men cannot have beards, but they can have, as the Honor Code states, moustaches which “may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth.”

When was the last time you saw someone who could wear a moustache well? Tom Selleck, Geraldo Rivera and the guy off “Mythbusters” are the only ones that come to mind. I have very disturbing memories from last November when moustaches flooded campus and most men looked like those creepy movie stars with thin, wiry patches of fur over their lips.

Beards are too much, moustaches are too creepy, but what about the middle ground? What about the guys who forget to shave one day and five o’ clock shadow graces their faces? What about those, like me, who can’t shave daily without irritating their sensitive skin? Or what about, heaven forbid, goatees?

I understand there is letter of the law and spirit of the law. There are some instances when spirit of the law should be heeded and when letter of the law should be heeded. In my opinion, it’s the spirit of the law when it comes to my facial hair. I don’t think having five o’ clock shadow affects my ability to do well on a test. My study habits are what reflect on my testing ability.

When Elder Dallin H. Oaks was president of BYU, his first address to the student body established the dress and grooming standards. Beards and long hair were obviously addressed, and Elder Oaks said he was well aware that there are temple recommend holders and past prophets and apostles who’ve had beards. He even said beards are not inherently evil.

Elder Oaks said the standard of asking men to be clean shaven was “contemporary and pragmatic.”

He gave this devotional in 1971. The ’70s are no longer contemporary. Times have changed since then. The recent announcement that changed the age at which worthy men and women can serve missions is an example of that. This is the beauty of our Church; constant revelation.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in the press conference following the announcement in October that there was a lot of fasting and prayer that went into this change. Can the same thing not be done to redefine what is acceptable as a grooming standard? Fasting and prayer can be used in any situation with any question. Standards aren’t set in stone; they can be adjusted just as the standard age for missionary service was.

I dislike full beards. Most guys look like they’re homeless when they wear them (case in point, Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables”).

But I think more wiggle room should be allowed. A guy with five o’ clock shadow is just as capable of taking a test as a guy with a baby face who never needs to shave. Guys can look presentable and professional with goatees. I’ve seen it; it can be done. There is middle ground between a full beard and a bare face, and I believe it is tolerable.

When the standards of dress and grooming were addressed by Elder Oaks, jeans and pants were outlawed for women. And that standard has changed for today’s world. How hard is it to imagine a campus where girls can’t wear jeans? The standard changed once; it can be changed again.

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