Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a faith often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church) live by conservative dress and presentation standards. One of the trends that Mormons avoid is tattoos. The doctrine behind this stance relates to the sacred nature of the body and to our willingness to demonstrate to God our love for Him.
Your Body as a Temple
In 1 Corinthians we learn that our bodies are as sacred as God’s own temples: “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.” Our bodies have been given to us from a loving Heavenly Father and are a crucial part of His eternal plan for us. We must treat them accordingly and avoid doing anything that would willfully harm them. Treating our bodies in a holy way means avoiding harmful substances as well as refraining from getting tattoos.
Prophets Counsel Against Tattoos
Latter-day prophets have counseled us to not tattoo our bodies. In the standards pamphlet published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet), the First Presidency (the president of the church and his two counselors) call tattoos a “disfigurement” and candidly tell us to not mar our bodies with them.
Some people may say that they get tattoos to express themselves and that they choose designs that are personally meaningful to them. While tattoos may be meaningful to many people, that authenticity does not eclipse the importance of heeding the counsel of our prophet. In 1 Corinthians after Paul teaches that our bodies are temples, he continues to say, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” Our prophets know the dangers present in our day and they are prompt to warn us and to give us the direction we need to stay on the path to eternal life. Tattoos may not seem like a big deal in the long run, but willfully getting a tattoo and going against prophetic counsel shows disrespect to one’s body and to God Himself.
Members with Tattoos Are Loved
Just because one has a tattoo does not mean that he or she will be prevented from being baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ. Those church members who do have tattoos can be in full fellowship as long as they are living God’s commandments, just like any other church member. Some members were tattooed before their baptism into the church, and some members may have gotten tattoos during a time of inactivity in the church. God loves all of His children, regardless of what they look like, and if they come to Him repentant, tattoos will not prevent one from serving in the kingdom of God.
The greatest consequence of tattoos is most often the personal regret felt; in some cases however, the willful disobedience to God’s commandments leads to the breaking of other more serious laws. By keeping the small commandments, we make it easier to heed the big ones.
God gives us counsel and commandments because He loves us. He gave us our bodies so that we may become more like Him. Tattoos defile the body and are painful and expensive to remove. Gordon B. Hinckley, a late prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, said, “I promise that the time will come, if you have tattoos, that you will regret your actions.”  Our bodies are beautiful gifts from God, and we need to treat them that way. Treating our bodies with holy respect help demonstrate our love to ourselves and our love to God.
- The exception to this is those young men and young women who desire to serve missions. Tattoos don’t necessarily prevent one from serving a full-time mission, but they may limit where one can serve and in some cases, may prevent service at all. The presentation standards for missionaries are conservative and strict. Missionaries are full-time representatives of Jesus Christ and are required to dress and present themselves accordingly. Tattoos that can’t be covered up or are inappropriate could compromise one’s service as a missionary. These cases are handled individually by the church’s missionary department.
- “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Gordon B. Hinckley