Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I have been thinking about getting a tattoo. Is there anything wrong with having a tattoo?

New Era

The world is a diverse place with many cultures that regard things differently. In some Pacific Island societies, for example, tattoos have special meanings having to do with leadership roles in those societies. But you are most likely asking about tattoos that have no purpose other than as a fashion statement.

Yes, there is something wrong with getting a tattoo. Right now, tattoos are a fad. But the thing that makes tattoos a bigger consideration than most fads is that they are permanent. The consequences of trying to be fashionable with a tattoo is a lifetime of trying to hide or get rid of it. You shouldn’t choose to permanently scar or mark your body just because your peers think it looks “cool.”

The Lord has given some instruction to his children concerning how they should treat their bodies. We have the Word of Wisdom giving us instruction on the things we should avoid consuming. We have been encouraged to feed our minds by reading “out of the best books” (D&C 109:7). We have been instructed to care for our bodies and to remain morally clean. Our bodies are a gift from our Heavenly Father to house our spirits. The scriptures teach, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16–17).

General Authorities of the Church have also advised against tattoos. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “The practice is a desecration of the human body and should not be permitted. … Latter-day Saint servicemen in particular are counseled to avoid the pitfalls of tattooing. Persons who are tattooed are not, however, denied the ordinances and blessings of the temples” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 775).

Your leaders and parents who may be advising you against getting a tattoo have your best interests at heart. They love you and would like to help make your life easier. Although a tattoo may be a small thing, they know that someday it may cause you some pain and regret. They would love to help you avoid the problems of your life, and this is such an easy one to avoid.

Also the process of tattooing can be dangerous. Getting a tattoo may place you at risk for diseases transmitted by a needle. And the possibility of infection is very real. Although methods have been developed to remove tattoos, they are expensive, painful, and can leave scars.

Soon the tattooing fad will pass, and you will be glad you didn’t participate.

Readers

Have you ever seen a building, a fence, or some other structure which has been vandalized by graffiti? How did it make you feel? Imagine how you might feel if you saw that one of our Lord’s sacred temples had been vandalized in this manner. We’ve been told on several occasions that our bodies are temples, created in the image of God. By getting a tattoo, we desecrate the precious temples our Father in Heaven has given us.

Justin Hyer, 15 Nampa, Idaho

One of the most exciting events of turning 18 was being allowed to get a tattoo. I was deciding what I should get and where I should get one. Then a thought occurred to me, “Would I feel comfortable entering the temple with a tattoo on my body? Do I want a permanent mark in my skin reminding me of the standards of the world?” I am so grateful that I didn’t get one!

Haley Adams, 18 Liberty, Missouri

The Lord tells us in this scripture not to mark (or tattoo) ourselves. In Leviticus 19:28 [Lev. 19:28] it reads, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

Sally Jones, 16 Purdy, Missouri

Having a tattoo is something that has crossed many of my friends’ minds. I finally came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t go and spray-paint colorful pictures, no matter how beautiful they are, on the walls of the temple just as we wouldn’t go put pictures on our body. We must remember that our bodies are temples, and they belong to our Heavenly Father. We don’t have the right to do whatever we please with them.

Melissa Bridges, 15 Warrenton, Virginia

Your body is a temple of the Lord. When we take good care of this temple we honor the God who created it. And we make ourselves more fit for his service.

Samuel Richards, 18 Kalispell, Montana

Remember our Heavenly Father created us in his own image without a tattoo. Having a tattoo on our body is like trying to spoil God’s beautiful creation.

Julius Francis Musa, 19 Freetown, Sierra Leone

When I was 14, I went through a rebellious stage in my life. I did a lot of things I knew my parents and friends wouldn’t approve of. One of them was getting a tattoo. At first I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. But the novelty wore off and I didn’t like it anymore. Since then, I have completely changed my life, and I’m back on my path to the temple and eternal happiness. But I still have that tattoo, and it’s a constant reminder of my “bad girl” days. I’m ashamed of it. It’s going to be very expensive and painful to have it removed. Remember in 1 Corinthians 3:17 [1 Cor. 3:17], it says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

Name Withheld Utah

[photo] Photography by Steve Bunderson; posed by model

[illustration] Repeatedly in the scriptures, our bodies are compared to temples, sacred structures that should be treated with respect and kept pure and clean. The Lord gave us our bodies. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 [1 Cor. 6:19], it says, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (Artist’s rendering of the new Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple.)