Some Utahns may be surprised to learn a 2010 statistic that Cathy Carmode Lim of KSL News found declaring that Utah was number eight on the list of the highest plastic surgeons per capita in the U.S. Nearly half of Utah’s population consists of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a conservative religion that teaches about divine nature and inner-beauty. Yet the Utahn plastic surgeons Lim interviewed say that they have a strong patient population. How has this happened? How have members of the Church forgotten their eternal worth and instead focused on the temporal one?
Plastic Surgery in Utah
An article on totalbeauty.com notes the numerous billboards along Utah’s I-15 for teeth whitening, breast augmentation, lipo-suction, and others forms of plastic surgery and beauty enhancements. I myself have noticed these billboards when driving to work. Why does the population of Utah have so many plastic surgeries going on? There are several factors that point towards the answer to this question. In Lim’s interview with Dr. Brian Browski, he claims that the high birth rate is a major factor because women wanted the body they had before pregnancy.
Another factor points towards self-esteem issues among LDS women in Utah. Cathy Carmode Lim wrote in a previous KSL News article that “researchers who provide counseling to Latter-day Saints have indicated that there is a high prevalence of conditional self-worth among the community, meaning that individuals base their self-esteem on ‘arbitrary external conditions or requirements being met.’ ”
This deals with the ideals of perfection. Often, members of the Church feel the need to try to be perfect, and when they fail to reach perfection, they have self-esteem issues. The same article mentions a 2007 Brigham Young University study finding that even though most LDS, college-aged females had a more positive body image that non-LDS females, LDS females living outside of Utah had a better body image that those living within. This is probably due to the large LDS community living in Utah. The pressures of perfection feel even more intense when surrounded by one’s peers.
The plastic surgeons that Lim interviewed seemed to think that it was okay for so many people to get plastic surgery. Dr. Grant Fairbanks, president of the Utah State Plastic Surgery Society, says that “[m]ost of my patients are fairly well educated. . . They’re really trying to ‘refine’ themselves.” Browski claims that the reasons for so many plastic surgeries in Utah is not due to vanity, “I think it fits in with the (culture’s idea of) taking care of yourself. . . They’re doing it for appropriate reasons, not for some vulgar type of motivation.”
Your Body is a Temple Already
I am strongly inclined to disagree with those statements from the surgeons. Of course it is vanity, that is what elective plastic surgery is all about. I don’t feel people should try to “refine” themselves. Their body is a gift from God, and I’m sure the Lord does not want his precious daughters to all turn into Barbie look-alikes.
Inner-beauty is a very real thing. It should be nurtured and cherished above all types of temporal beauty, which are shallow and carry no worthwhile importance. We are taught that our “body is [a] temple” (1 Corinthians 6:19) and should not be disfigured by tattoos and piercings. I feel plastic surgery should be included in this category, because our body is also a gift from God, and when we alter that gift for vain purposes, then we decrease the value of the gift and our appreciation of it.
When we give into vanity, we forget that we are a child of God. In LDS.org’s Guide to the Scriptures it says that “[v]ain and vanity can also mean empty or without value.” I feel this is a good description of the satisfaction one gains when they give themselves over to temporal desires of beauty. There is no satisfaction. It is nothing but emptiness because beauty is not what is important in our lives.
For those who feel sorrow because they cannot reach standards of perfection, I plead with you to remember God’s everlasting love. You are his daughter, and he knows you are human. No one can reach perfection; we strive to do our best to be good. Though we cannot reach perfection, we must not feel bad about ourselves. We must take joy in cultivating our spiritual beauty. It is more precious than gold and more everlasting that the values of the world. Spiritual beauty is what gives us happiness and allows us to share our light with others.
1 Samuel 16:7 says that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” The Lord does not care about that mole, the numbers on the scale, or the size of a nose. The Lord cares about you. He cares about your spirit, virtue, and good heart. He knows that temporal beauty will not make you happy whereas spiritual beauty will.
In Lynn G. Robbins New Era article “True Beauty” he says that “A young woman whose countenance is aglow with both happiness and virtue radiates inner beauty. . . The virtuous smile is truly beautiful as it radiates in a totally natural way. This true beauty can’t be painted on but is a gift of the Spirit.” Our countenance, our spiritual glow so to speak, is what makes us truly beautiful to others and it lasts into the eternities.
Elaine S. Dalton shares her experience in finding “Deep Beauty.”