Our bodies are temples

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Recently, I was having a conversation with a Mormon I know regarding tattoos. She has a tattoo and recently saw another one she would like to have. Having come back to church after a long absence, she thought getting a tattoo was “against the rules”.

I told her it wasn’t against the rules (whatever that means), and two other members joined our conversation saying it was. One of them said not getting a tattoo is treating our bodies as temples for the spirit.

That phrase comes from 1 Cor 6:19:

What? 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?

I have to wonder how on track that interpretation is. After all, when we go to the temple, is what the outside of the temple looks like what makes us feel the Spirit?

Consider also 1 Corinthians 3:16–17, where Paul says:

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.

Sure if people start with the premise that tattooing is defiling the body, then they are going to see how this scripture supports the stance that tattooing is wrong.

But what if defilement refers to something entirely different.

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Perhaps what Paul was referring to was that we must use our bodies for the purposes God intended for them. Perhaps we should use our bodies for accomplishing good, for bettering others, and for improving the world. Perhaps there are more important things we should be worrying about than whether we have a tattoo.

Consider 1 Sam 16:7:

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Does Jesus really concern himself with whether someone gets a tattoo? Would he consider having a tattoo to be a greater sin (if a sin at all) than the judgement doled out by other Mormons toward my friend for having a tattoo in the first place.

How can any good Christian read Matthew 7 then feel justified in judging the actions of others? What we need in this world are more Christians and fewer Mormons.

11 thoughts on “Our bodies are temples

  1. I didn’t say it was only Corinthians. I used that only because of the similarity in phrasing between the verse and what the other person said.

    That being said, because President Hinckley said it doesn’t change the intent of the post. If your local temple had graffiti, would it change what happens inside?

  2. If I was the one who put the graffiti on the temple, would I likely have much respect for it or what happens inside it?

  3. The analogy has fallen apart. If you are the temple, how can you also be the person spray painting the temple?

    Regardless, my point still stands that what is most important is what is on the inside. The Lord has told us he looks upon the heart, not on outward appearance. Likewise, what we speak is more important than what we consume.

    Having a tattoo has as much effect on one’s personal righteousness as having long hair and a beard, and the discouragement of tattoos by church leaders has less to do with being subject to God’s will and more to do with maintaining the public, outward image of the church and its members.

  4. I completely agree that a tattoo on the outside of the body does not necessarily defile the temple inside our body. I still have to agree that in order to follow the leaders of the church and the intent of their direction we should refrain from adorning the outside of the body with permanent markings. The way we treat our bodies whether inside or out does make a difference to our attitude about ourselves and God. I would not however condemn someone for tattooing their body nor presume that it shows any indication of their spirituality.

    I do agree that if we judge someone for their personal choices or for any reason whatsoever we are the one with the greater sin. I feel that if the church has improvements to make we could take a lesson from the Pharisees and reduce our dependence on rules of law and increase our focus on the saviour and spirituality. In an effort to sound extremely hypocritical we need to stop being so judgemental of each other and increase our love and encouragement of all our fellow beings.

  5. I feel that if the church has improvements to make we could take a lesson from the Pharisees and reduce our dependence on rules of law and increase our focus on the saviour and spirituality.

    Exactly. We need fewer rules (especially the petty ones) and more focus on personal spirituality.

    I am glad our stake presidency has encouraged all bishoprics to announce that testimony meetings need to be about personal testimonies of the Saviour. Yesterday was a great testimony meeting.

    Oh, and for the record, I am guilty of judging others, of seeing others’ motes despite my own beams.

  6. The current LDS stance on tattoos is good advice but should be considered morally neutral. How we choose to adorn our bodies is a personal decision to be negotiated between God and the individual.

  7. Kim, when I read your post I was ready to fight you because I believe that the counsel against tattoos is merely the extension of sound doctrine. The body is a temple being the doctrine and the application being don’t defile sacred things. It is pretty hard to choose your opinion over Gordon B. Hinckley’s opinion.

    It wasn’t till the end of the post when I saw your motivation and intention. We could all be a little kinder, and less judgmental.

    Your post does raise a question with me however. One of your replies spoke of Pharisees. We are all hypocrites to some degree or another. When does hypocrisy move beyond simply human nature to becoming the deadly spiritual state the Savior lashed out so strongly against?

    You say “Exactly. We need fewer rules (especially the petty ones) and more focus on personal spirituality”. I would say that the brethren are trying to lead us in this direction but we are slow to follow. How many times have please to reduce, simplify gone unheeded. The new handbook is simplified. The discussions have been changed to be more from the heart. But we love to hang on to the past.

    The simple way requires more spirituality and faith. According to Elder Eyring the church is getting better and it will continue to get better.

    PS I hope your job search is going well.

  8. The funny thing, anonymous, is that I bet it’s mostly the members who want the rules. How many of us are slothful servants for needing to be commanded in all things? How many of us need to be told to have only one pair of earings because we don’t police our own modesty?

  9. Kim, I think your post is spot-on.

    “Rules”, even if they aren’t official ones, even if they’re only part of the “unwritten order of things” (ugh) like the tattoo/earing/beard/flip-flop/white shirt stuff actually hurt the church.

    When the church becomes the end in and of itself, rather than the means to a much more noble end, there’s a problem.

    And there IS a problem.

  10. There must be some rules in every organization to promote order. Jesus chided the Pharisees for inventing their own rules. Rules that were not even the letter of the law but counter to the intent of the law. For example :

    Mark 7
    10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
    11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
    12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
    13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

    From my point of view there is a certain culture in the church that is toxic. I do not call this the gospel but perhaps “Mormon Culture”. I think many of us that have been in the church for generations have perhaps picked this up. It seems to be more prevalent in North America and especially the Mountain West and Alberta.

    One example that particularly gets my goat is putting all the less active on a DNC list and then calling your home teaching 100%. The focus being on statistics and not people.

    Another is the cliquishness of many wards. How can we be a Zion people, with one heart and one mind if we divide into cliques. But it is easy to associate with those like yourself.

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