Think before You Ink

By David A. Edwards

Church Magazines

Listen Download Print Share

Vandalizing your temple isn’t cool.

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh … nor print any marks upon you” (Leviticus 19:28).

girl getting tattoo

Photo illustration by Matthew Reier

Tattoos seem to be getting more and more popular, almost mainstream. Most noticeably, more and more celebrities seem to have them. Sometimes these people even talk about what the tattoos represent and why they got them. They make them seem so cool.

So, why do Church leaders counsel us against tattoos (see For the Strength of Youth [2011], 6–7)? Is it just a generational thing—older people wishing that younger people would be more like them?

No. That’s not it. Not even close.

As with so many things in the Church, the answer is tied to a basic truth. Your body is a temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16–17), and as President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) said, “A tattoo is graffiti on the temple of the body” (“‘Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,’” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 52).

Whether you run marathons or drive a wheelchair, your body is a gift from God, a blessing you have received because you “kept your first estate” as a spirit before coming to this world (see Abraham 3:22–28). This means that you “accepted [Heavenly Father’s] plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and … eternal life” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129).

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “Because a physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, we should not be surprised that Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly” (“Things as They Really Are,” Ensign, June 2010, 18).

Most people who have tattoos say they got them in order to express themselves or show their individuality. They see them as a sign of independence. How ironic, then, that the moment the needle pierces the skin to apply the pigment, they’re stuck with it permanently, regardless of how they may feel about it later—unless they opt to have a costly and complicated procedure to remove it. The fact that tattoos are a permanent defacement of your skin (and not simply cool-looking “body art”) is one of the reasons prophets discourage them. “If you have a tattoo, you wear a constant reminder of a mistake you have made” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 167).

Knowing what your body represents—a blessing, a gift, a temple—helps you know how you should treat it. And just as with our temple buildings, showing respect for it is a whole lot cooler than vandalizing it.