Question Box: Plastic Surgery

February 6, 2011

Q: How do Mormons feel about plastic surgery?

I am unaware of any church statement on using cosmetic plastic surgery simply to “improve” one’s appearance.  I am certain, that there are a multitude of opinions from Mormons for and against cosmetic plastic surgery, but let it be understood that these are simply their own opinions.  However, I don’t know if undergoing a breast enlargement, or having a face lift simply to attract more people’s attention is the most appropriate thing to do.

We do not shun the use of modern medical technologies, including plastic surgery.  There are definitely circumstance where plastic surgery is appropriate.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a now deceased leader of our church, used the example of a young man undergoing nine plastic surgeries on his disfigured lips “so that others can hear the gospel from his lips, undistracted.”  Obviously, Elder Maxwell,  thought this was an appropriate use of plastic surgery.

In addition, there are  plastic surgeons who are Mormon.  At one time in medical school, I was contemplating a career in plastic surgery myself, but for whatever reason, I didn’t feel it was the right thing for me.  Plastic surgery is a enormous blessing for some people–those that have been disfigured due to disease, cancer, and all form of accidents.  It can restore their confidence in themselves and reduces the “stare” that they often receive while in public.   I know that I would definitely want to be making a visit to a plastic surgeon if I found myself in such a situation.

Thanks for your question!

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6 Responses to “Question Box: Plastic Surgery”

  1. Kramer

    Evidently Mormons love plastic surgery. All three sister in the Young Women’s Presidency in my Queen’s Creek Arizona ward got breast enlargements.

  2. There was a “shot across the bow” about cosmetic surgery just for vanity’s sake – I highlighted it here:

  3. Thaddeus

    Ben, this was a great article. It is good to recognize that not all plastic surgery is vain.

    Vanity is the sin, not plastic surgery.

  4. Ben

    @Mormon Man, thanks for pointing us to your own post and commenting on Elder Holland’s talk, parts of which dealt very directly with cosmetic plastic surgery. Here is the link and quote of what Elder Holland (leader of our church) said about cosmetic plastic surgery for vane reasons:

    “In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress is reported to have said recently: “We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. … I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] … pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can’t get off of it.] … It’s really insane … what society is doing to women.”

    In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers” as Lehi saw, because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough.”

    @Thaddeus: thanks for saying what I was trying to say.

  5. Peg B.

    It was my understanding (I am not a Mormon) that since the body is considered a Temple, that it should not be tampered with; i.e. tattoos, plastic surgery, etc. If that is the case, then why are so many getting this surgery. Certainly I understand for certain medical reasons, but to have it strictly for turning back the clock doesn’t sound so “Mormon”. Not trying to be crass, just trying to figure out how the two coexist.

  6. Ben

    Thanks for the question. As I said, there is no official church statement on cosmetic surgery to “turn back the clock”, but I agree with you. I don’t have a good answer about how some people in our faith view cosmetic surgery as perfectly acceptable. Perhaps to answer your question in the best way I can, although it may seem vague at the same time, Joseph Smith said “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are taught that the body is a temple and it should not be defiled. It is then left up to each individual to decide how to treat their body as a temple. It would be my hope that people would really stop and think about what they do to their body and how they can take care of it in a way that would be acceptable to God, even if that means letting those wrinkles show.