Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone . . .
Dem bones is a catchy tune from childhood that most children are familiar with in some version. While this song didn’t help me in my college Anatomy & Physiology course, it did teach me a fun way to remember that body parts are interconnected. The one thing I didn’t learn from this song––the beard is somehow connected to the heart.
Yes, our Mormon friends are in the news again. This time it is not for multiple wives, celestial planets, or sacred undergarments. It’s not even a news flash telling us of the changing fashion trends of your favorite Mormon missionary on two wheels. It is a brouhaha over facial hair choices often associated with No Shave November.
A growing group of BYU students are petitioning to have the beard-ban lifted on campus. What’s wrong with beard glory, you ask? Well, from the 1970s onward, the beard is a spiritual faux pas since it is identified with hippies, protesters, revolution, immodest fashion trends, and lack of spiritual cleanliness.
While the battle of the beard wages on the BYU campus, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the beard is not to be feared. Mormons too often try and cozy up to Christianity, but the beard ban is just another example of the incongruity between these two worldviews.
Jesus is concerned with the heart first, and then a changed life in keeping with a new identity and kingdom citizenship. It is what comes out of the heart that defiles a person (Matt 15:18), and the heart is to be guarded because it is the wellspring of life (Prov 4:23).
Most of the audience reading this post would agree that equating a beard-free face with spiritual cleanliness is the epitome of legalism. Yes, there is a deeper conversation about legalism here. A nuanced conversation about culture and contextualization is also a valuable one, but I want to boil it down to questions of discipleship and fulfilling the Great Commission:
How do you evangelize and disciple in a context that substitutes external, works-based righteousness for spiritual cleanliness?
If the Lord called you to go and reach Mormons, would you give up “No Shave November” and beard glory?
Does your heart for the nations stop at your comfort and preferences?
While facial hair is only skin deep, how connected is it to your heart?
. . . Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.
Now hear the word of the Lord.