A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column in which I wondered whether plastic surgery was a practice compatible with LDS principles. After describing a recent dinner conversation that had made me question whether it was truly a black-and-white issue, I asked for your thoughts:
"The answer, I suppose, lies in moderation," I wrote. "But rather than wrapping up my column with a neat and tidy call for temperance, I'd like to invite you to weigh in. I'm sure there are angles of this issue I haven't considered, so send me an e-mail if you like. If I get some worthwhile responses, maybe I'll write another column on this topic in the future."
I received several well-argued, thoughtful e-mails from readers. I can't say I've come to any sort of conclusion on this increasingly relevant cultural issue in our church, but I can say without a doubt that your responses have caused me to think.
Below, I've included excerpts from some of your e-mails, lightly edited for spelling and grammar. Read them, discuss them (when appropriate, obviously) and make up your mind for yourself. Ultimately, this is a very private decision. But it is tied to important principles that we would all do well to consider as Latter-day Saints.
(Note: Due to the obviously sensitive topic, the names of the letter-writers have all been withheld.)
"I think many LDS would be surprised if they stopped to consider all the cosmetic procedures they have either had or have considered. These procedures include LASIK surgery to lose their glasses or contacts, eyelid surgery to improve sight and appearance as we live longer, or even an unsightly mole removal.
"Even those who don't go under the knife of a medical doctor might be surprised to consider how many cosmetic procedures they do on their own quite often: eyebrow plucking, teeth whitening, even getting a hair cut — could all be considered cosmetic surgeries.
"The line has been terribly blurred between health and cosmetics. In fact, most people exercise for a cosmetic reason (to look good) and only see the health benefit as secondary.
"And is there an important component to doing what you can for your emotional health as well?
"Yes, there is truth to: "look good, feel good." We believe in being a clean, delightsome people."
"It seems to me that Utahns are becoming obsessed with cosmetic surgery for vanity reasons. It amazes me every time I visit Utah the number of billboards for cosmetic surgery and liposuction, which I think is indicative of the obsession. I live in a large city (on the East Coast) … and actually started watching for them here thinking maybe I had become so used to them I didn't see them. Nope. WAY fewer! Actually about 10 to 1.
"My daughter-in-law and I recently drove from SLC to Atlanta and decided we would watch for this in every large town we went through and kept a count. SLC won (or lost) hands down significantly."
"I realize, like you, that there are reasons for some of these surgeries. My sister-in-law recently had the stomach stapling because of metabolic problems, and a youth in our ward had burns on her face that needed surgery. I even had a friend in high school who had huge ears (really, they came down to her mid neck) and I understood that. Remember, the adversary takes good things and tweaks them to his uses."
"If we think plastic surgery is OK then we should say so. If we don't think it is OK then explain why not without pushing our beliefs on someone else. In other words, let's accept people, all people, and not worry who got what plastic surgery. Does it really matter if they did or not? Will that make a difference if we love them or not? I'm sure the Lord doesn't expect us to gossip or talk about those that do either."
"I, too, feel that many women in this world seek plastic surgery to 'fix' some problem they may have, only to realize it didn't really fix it at all, mostly because it is their own interpretation of the problem. Then they have other surgeries and more and more and it becomes consuming. I feel this is not what we should be doing …
"But … what about the woman (who), through no fault of her own, has gained 100-plus pounds, say, for example, because she has been on medication that makes her gain weight, or maybe her thyroid is out of whack. Then years later she loses weight and she is flabby. Which in some way can be construed (as a) problem (that) is her own fault? Not a birth defect or anything like that."
"Regarding plastic surgery, my 22 years of marriage have taught me that when a wife raises that topic to her husband, mostly what she is looking for is reassurance that she is now and ever will be the most beautiful woman the husband has ever laid his eyes on. She is not looking for mere acceptance but adoration (both spouses should adore each other). I find that words like, 'You are always beautiful to me' work better than listing clinical reasons why plastic surgery might be a bad idea. It is also worth noting that if a wife seems especially persistent about it then the husband needs to avoid falling into the trap of agreeing, thinking that he is being supportive of her wants. That will likely quickly paint the husband into a corner. ('So you don't think I'm attractive as I am now?')
"I am now 50, and with each new annoying 'trick' my body develops I become more convinced that old age is just a way to help us appreciate the resurrection when it comes. Speaking of resurrection, I am also not inclined to spend a boat load of money to accomplish what the resurrection will give (and then some!) to all of us for free."
"We have LDS friends who have had plastic surgery and we don't begrudge them at all. These are superficial matters and there are so many more things out there that are more important to worry about that have far greater consequences to our ultimate goal of eternal salvation."