Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “It is not true that the beard makes a man look like a bear or a monkey”
 


“It is not true that the beard makes a man look like a bear or a monkey”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 23, 2012

With the exception of the first of the following clips, I don’t think any of these were written specifically by Mormons – they were tucked into odd corners of the Millennial Star by a staff who seemed extraordinarily focused on whiskers in 1859, and who apparently culled support from whatever sources crossed their desks. Nevertheless, they come from a Mormon source! They were all presumably endorsed by an apostolic editor! They are expressions of Mormon morality!

Let us know how well they play with that stake president who wants you to shave, O, bearded ’ninnies.

p. 208:

Emigration. – “Good morning, brother G.! How are you? Emigration is the spirit of the times just now. How do you feel about it? Are you going to start and push Zionward next spring?”

“I would like to do it, but I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Can’t! Such a word is not in the ‘Mormon’ vocabulary, when the Priesthood say, ‘Do!’ I am really ashamed of you, brother G.! Just look at yourself in the glass and see the stout, burly, big-whiskered mortal who has so little faith in his own energies as to believe that he can’t raise means enough in another year to emigrate!”

p. 212:

Fashion verus Nature. – It is ordained among the laws of nature that hair shall grow upon the chin and upper lip of man; but Englishmen for the last 150 years have declared that this hair is a disfigurement and a nuisance, that Nature made a mistake in putting it there, and that they will diligently cut if off! Query: have they any reasonable and sufficient ground for thus attempting to contravene one of the laws of their existence? There can be no mistake as to Nature’s intention with respect to the beard. No law of hers was ever more distinctly uttered than that which ordains that hair shall grow upon the lips of man; and when Fashion presumes to contravene that law, and to require of man that he shall engage in a laborious contest with Nature, ending only when the coffin-lid is nailed over his shaven face, she is beyond her sphere, and has no authority on which to claim obedience. Englishmen have waged this war with Nature for a century-and-a-half, but they have not gained in all those years one inch of ground. nature still utters her protest unceasingly, though in silence, and will utter it to the end of time. the beard still grows as vigorously as it did five generations back, in spite of all our efforts to extirpate it. And the very fact (well known to those precocious boys who shave their downy lips in order to entice the hair to sprout,) that it grows only the more vigorously after the application of the razor, should be to us convincing proof that Nature rebels against this nudity, and strives earnestly to restore the true order of things which our folly has disturbed.

p. 228:

Use of the Beard. – The delicate and complicated mechanism of the throat can have no surer protection than the beard; and if man will cut this off, no artificial envelopes of silk, linen, or wool shall preserve him from cough, stiff neck, sore throat, and miserable hoarseness, without at the same time destroying all free movement of the head. Let the beard grow, and any other covering which is required may be of the simplest and most comfortable kind. The beneficial action of the moustache as a natural respirator, in all the changes of this variable climate, has been practically proved by numbers of persons who have adopted it, and may easily be imagined by those who have not. Who shall say how much of that English and American plague – consumption, which is still on the increase, has been originated, in the male sex at all events, by our shaven chins?

p. 244:

Shaving. – Any one who has had the misfortune to scrape his upper lip with a dull razor, or without having sufficiently moistened the bristly stubble before hand, must be painfully conscious, from the smarting and watering produced in the eyes, that there is a close connection of some kind between the two parts. It is a fact well worthy of investigation; and it would be interesting to know whether diseases of the eye are most common among those who are accustomed to shave the upper lip.

p. 260:

The Human Beard. – While writing about clothing for men, it may not be amiss to mention that, if they will suffer her, nature will provide them with clothing for the face and throat, that will prove most useful during the journey across the Plains. I think the beard eminently useful, and to most persons ornamental also. Lock up your razors, and try to believe that you cannot improve God’s greatest work. It is not true that the beard makes a man look like a bear or a monkey. On the contrary, the fact is, that there is not an animal in existence that is provided by nature with the moustache and beard like man. then, while on the Plains at least, allow your great characteristic to remain; and at the end of the journey you will thank me for my advice, and be very much tempted to advocate the total abolition of razors. – From the “Illustrated Route,” &c.

p. 372:

Shaving. – It is a frequent reply of the shavers to those who make objection to the practice as unnatural, that it is in every way a similar operation to the cutting of the hair or the pairing of the nails, and that if we are to let the beard grow because nature bids it, we ought to leave the hair and the nails alone for the same reason. There is a sophism in this argument which it is not very difficult to expose. Is the cutting down of a tree at the root a similar operation to the pruning of its dead or broken branches? Is it equally justifiable in man to pare a horse’s hoof, for the convenience of shoeing him, and to cut the hoof off altogether for the gratification of some morbid fancy These instances are not perfectly analogous to the case in question, but they are sufficiently so to indicate the kind of difference which exists between the two operations. Nature everywhere asks for man’s assistance. She gives the germ and leaves the cultivation to his skill and taste. But he is not, therefore, entitled to set his judgment above hers, or to contradict what she emphatically asserts. he is at perfect liberty, as far as the present argument is concerned, to arrange and cut his beard according to his particular taste and pleasure; but in removing it altogether he entirely prevents the purpose for which Nature has especially ordained it, whatever that purpose may be, and places himself in a position of antagonism to Nature which must inevitably result in defeat and damage to himself. In trimming the hair and nails, we are obeying a natural law as much as in allowing them to grow; for it is ordained that, if we omit to do this, both hair and nails, by splitting and withering at the ends, shall gradually trim themselves, although after that rough, uneven fashion in which Nature usually performs the work of disintegration.



19 Comments »

  1. Can I nominate this for a Niblet? Do those still exist? And if not, can I just say thanks for this awesome post, Ardis? Thank you. What a wonderful way to start my week.

    I’m going to ask for this gem to be crocheted on a pillow for my birthday:

    ‎”I think the beard eminently useful, and to most persons ornamental also. Lock up your razors, and try to believe that you cannot improve God’s greatest work. It is not true that the beard makes a man look like a bear or a monkey. On the contrary, the fact is, that there is not an animal in existence that is provided by nature with the moustache and beard like man.”

    Comment by Christopher — April 23, 2012 @ 7:01 am

  2. Ardis, words can’t express how thankful I am for this. I’m printing it out, laminating it, and tucking it away in my scriptures.

    Comment by Ben P — April 23, 2012 @ 7:03 am

  3. I’m printing it out, laminating it, and tucking it away in my scriptures.

    Pseudo-canonizing pseudo-scientific defense of beards? I like it!

    Comment by Christopher — April 23, 2012 @ 7:05 am

  4. You are heartily welcome, gentlemen. Keepa is dedicated to bringing you the finest expressions of the sublimest thoughts in the Mormon past.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 23, 2012 @ 7:13 am

  5. Alas, I have no clothing for my face and throat!

    Comment by Mina — April 23, 2012 @ 7:28 am

  6. I particularly love the claim that no law of nature “was ever more distinctly uttered than that which ordains that hair shall grow upon the lips of man.” Bold. Totally bold.

    Let the beard grow, and any other covering which is required may be of the simplest and most comfortable kind.

    Has there ever been a stronger apologia for the beard?

    And the eye disease connection really deserves more attentive scientific research even today.

    Wonderful post, wonderful post.

    Comment by BHodges — April 23, 2012 @ 7:42 am

  7. Woot!

    I did shave my beard off a few months back. That condition lasted for all of six weeks or so, which is the usual time I go beardless before I decide I’ve had enough of scraping my upper lip and chin and grow it back. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — April 23, 2012 @ 8:52 am

  8. Lovely post, Ardis.

    Comment by Paul — April 23, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  9. Mina, just what do you suppose all the gentleman commenters on this thread have in common? Hmm?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 23, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  10. *blushes*

    Comment by Mina — April 23, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  11. Truly a Keepa classic!

    Having had a beard at a couple of times in my life, and a mustache for over thirty years non-stop (including my time as a bishop), I have some sympathy for this. It really was nice not to have to shave every day when I had it. However, my beard appears to be just as gray (or white) as my hair these days, and I just can’t bring myself to let it grow out and provide even more evidence that I have crossed the threshold into “advanced middle age.”

    I should point out that I grew the mustache at age 18, and then shaved it off 30+ years later, for the same reason: it made me look older.

    Comment by kevinf — April 23, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  12. I was told of this post in this blog, so I came as fast as some mouse clicks allowed.

    I join the rest in thanking Ardis for the post. Laminated into the scriptures it goes!

    What a blessing it is to have someone like Ardis uncovering these things, bringing them back to light and sending them on a journey through cyberspace!

    Comment by Manuel — April 23, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  13. I fell in love with my husband fifty-two years ago because of his red (now gray) beard, and whenever I see a guy with a nice beard, I have to restrain myself from patting it or resting my cheek against it.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — April 23, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

  14. This is awesomeness wrapped in wonder and delight. You’re amazing, Ardis!

    Comment by Ray — April 23, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

  15. I became attracted, took a ballroom dance class (I was the college intern arranging the classes; so knew he had signed up but still didn’t have a partner – called him and suggested myself.) with the cute guy now sporting a beard. He looked especially viral with facial hair on a ouple cross country ski days with our friends. I found I was even more attracted to a guy with a beard dressed for thep back country.
    My only case of cold feet came when he shaved his face prior to goings through the temple. I was convinced I was marrying a stranger. I didn’t know him at all without his beard.

    Comment by Diane Peel — April 24, 2012 @ 1:15 am

  16. Great post, and one I can appreciate! I have only been beardless once in over 30 years, exactly 20 years ago this weekend. It saved my face from serious injury, and I started growing it back while still in the hospital. My Bishop told me I should keep it, and I always will! It is part of who I am.

    Comment by Glen — April 24, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  17. Glen, I want to hear how it saved your face. Sounds adventurous.

    Comment by Carol — April 25, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  18. I can tell that, in case Glen doesn’t continue to follow this –

    He used to make gunpowder for a living. One day just as he put a batch in the oven, the factory exploded. The flash melted his beard rather than his face — that beard and his glasses saved his face, although there were massive burns elsewhere.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 25, 2012 @ 10:06 am

  19. I didn’t know a beard could protect that way. Cool. I thought it might be that Glen. He does have a spectacular beard.

    Comment by Carol — April 25, 2012 @ 10:34 am

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