Double earrings? No. Tattoos? No. Large fake boobs? Si!

June 9, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 3:05 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

Alright I know posting on something like this is a cheap way to drive traffic and comments, but a recent conversation Kristen and I had with an LDS friend inspired me to post on the elephant (or two) in the room. What is the deal with so many Mormon women getting plastic surgery which normally includes but is not limited to adding big fake boobs? (Which they of course cover ever so modestly thereafter…)

I wish we had some data on this subject. What I don’t know is if Mormon women are more likely or less likely than their socio-economic counterparts to join in the plastic surgery trend. My guess is that income and region are far greater predictors of plastic surgery participation than religion. If that is true the question is: Should we be surprised about that?

One could argue that if wearing too many earrings or getting tattoos is disrespectful to our “temple” (physical body) then slicing and dicing to look more buxom is even more so. Of course I suppose the counter argument might be that even temples get upgrades from time to time…

I am actually not particularly for or against this widespread practice. It at least seems to be relatively safe these days. I hear it is somewhat expensive but apparently not out-of-reach expensive in many cases or it would not be so common now. So I am not interested in wagging my finger at anyone over the subject. I just figured we could discuss it here. Anyone want to step up and play the role of prophet and declare the mind of the Lord on the morality of plastic surgery?

My prediction is that the trend of breast enlargements/retrofitting, tummy tucks, liposuction, etc will continue to grow in the world and among Mormons as well –particularly as we Americans continue to get fatter and fatter with our horrible eating habits. The thing I am not able to predict is if the President of the Church will ever try to put the kibosh on the the practice among our people.

Any thoughts? Are you surprised that the big fake boobs thing is so common among Mormon women? Do you speculate that the practice is more common among Mormons than their non Mormon counterparts, less so, or about even?


  1. I’m not sure eating habits has a whole lot to do with it. Tummy tuck and boob job are in many cases the only ways to undo what happens to the body with multiple pregnancies. I’m skinny as a rail and always have been, but, um, let’s just say I could use both of those.

    So I think having several children, while very young, probably has a lot to do with it. Women are dealing with a 4-child body at an age (30-35) when a lot of their peers are still childless and have perfect no-pregnancy bodies. They’re done having children and still young enough that they could have a nice body, and young enough to enjoy it, why not go for the surgery?

    I dunno, I’m just explaining possible rationales, not taking a position. I have to say it’s tempting but the expense is so daunting for something so frivolous. I don’t think I could justify it to myself.

    Comment by sister blah 2 — June 9, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  2. Good point SB2. I believe I have seen figures somewhere that confirm the intuitive notion that Mormon women do have more children than average and start younger than average too. With plastic surgery fairly safe and ubiquitous now the post-multiple-baby reconstruction issue could very well come into play.

    I suspect that the lack of an overt social stigma against it helps too. If a substantial number of your friends have already participated it is not nearly as hard to jump in too. I assume there must be some crowd effect in Mormon circles that comes into play.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

  3. Preach brother! I think it probably has something to do with the cultural tendency toward the appearance of perfection. In other words, they get boob jobs for reasons not that dissimilar from those behind why they do and and don’t dress some ways. They are trying to look how they think they are “supposed” to look.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 9, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

  4. Honestly I don’t know any Mormons with big fake boobs, so I’m surprised by your post. My wife was recently trying to tell me about someone who used to be in our ward and I couldn’t remember the person. Finally she said “the one you said has fake boobs,” which I had no recollection of at the time. I finally remembered who it was and she did look like she had big fake boobs, but my wife assures me she has it on good authority that they’re real, so there it is.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 9, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  5. You probably know a lot more Mormon women with fake boobs than you realize Jacob. Our LDS propensity toward modestly (especially at church) sometimes makes the enhancements less obvious. Your wife will probably be able to name some for you though.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  6. If it are any, then it are a lot more than I realize. I will report back after checking with my wife.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 9, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  7. Jeff,

    I expected to get some of those sorts of speculations about Mormon culture driving the trend but I am highly skeptical.

    My anecdotal observations of the parents that show up at the local elementary school carnivals and whatnot lead me to believe that non-Mormon women are getting enhanced at least as often as the Mormons. The primary difference in those settings is that the non Mormon ladies tend to show off the purchases more blatantly than the Mormons.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  8. I was just talking with a friend last night about my perceived differences between the women of California (and Arizona by extension) and the women of New York. I made the point that to me it seems women out there exert more effort on their bodies/faces/hair and the women here in the city exert their efforts on their fashion, or their clothing/shoes/accessories/bags. Which leads me to say that I don’t know a single Mormon woman in my stake that has fake boobs. I may be overlooking a couple people, but again, it’s not so much about the tan/boobs/lips out here, it’s more about the manolos.

    And I think if there is a trend it is much more likely the reasons Sister Blah 2 outlines than what Jeff G is suggesting. My MiL got boobs, but she got them 20 years after she had her last (4th) child and they were flat as pancakes. And she only had them enhanced to where (I imagine) they originally were, they’re by no means big.

    Did I just talk about the size of my mother-in-law’s boobs?

    Comment by Rusty — June 9, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  9. Did I just talk about the size of my mother-in-law’s boobs?

    I think so but I can’t verify it because my eyes melted…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  10. I have lived in California, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico and now Arizona. I didn’t know anyone with BIG fake boobs till I moved to Arizona. Now I know dozens.

    Comment by PamJorg — June 9, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  11. Getting back to your main point Rusty: I would not at all be surprised if there were a lot of regional differences with this. My guess is that the popularity of these kinds of enhancements is highly correlated to the region in which one resides as well as with with income levels (or at least access to credit). So my guess is it is now really trendy in the Southwest (at least) and Mormons are not resisting the trend in any significant way.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  12. Yeah Pam, it was not that popular where we lived in San Diego six years ago either. But then again it seems like a fairly new trend here in AZ too. So I suspect the trend is spreading to lots of parts of the country in the last few years. The more people that get the surgeries the lower the social stigma becomes (and the higher the social pressure to keep up with the Jones’s increases).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

  13. There are quite a few women in my ward here in So Cal who have been surgically “enhanced.” I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a regional phenomenon.

    Comment by Jacob B. — June 9, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

  14. I am with you guys on it being a regional trend. I live in NY state now, but am a frequent visitor in MD and VA, too. I don’t know anyone in my stake who has had cosmetic surgery, although odds are, someone has. I am just saying that it is not a thing here.

    I have heard people from CA, UT, and AZ talk about it, though.

    My guess is that it is somewhat contagious. While it seems outrageous and vain and frivolous when no one with your values has done it, I bet that once Sister S and Sister D and Sister V, all lovely, reasonable ladies, have indulged, it becomes radically easier to justify for yourself and within your budget.

    I seem to recall that FLDS ladies have talked about how important it is within their communities for the ladies to be thin, and that it is a cause of some stress to them. I thought that was so odd, considering the other aspects of beauty they eschew. Maybe LDS ladies are afraid of the competition in our culture (a la the unreasonable expectations thread) you know, that plethora of young singler LDS girls ever available if you let yourself go.

    Comment by ESO — June 9, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

  15. I think you have some good points ESO, except I still am not convinced this is a Mormon-specific trend here in the Southwest. So if competition is to blame it is regional competition among all women.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  16. You probably know a lot more Mormon women with fake boobs than you realize Jacob. Our LDS propensity toward modestly (especially at church) sometimes makes the enhancements less obvious. Your wife will probably be able to name some for you though.

    Geoff, my first impulse on reading such statements is to inquire how on earth you become aware that someone’s had an “enhancement.” On second thought, however, I don’t actually want to know how you know.

    For the record, I’m a lifelong Mormon and I’ve never known a Mormon woman who’s had one. Then again, I’ve never known a non-Mormon woman who’s had one. I’m sure I’ve met both without being aware of the fact, but evidently I’m the sort of person in whom one does not confide one’s plastic surgery experiences. Praise be.

    Comment by ZD Eve — June 9, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  17. Hehe. Well Eve in some cases the enhancements are well advertised or at least poorly hidden. But in many cases the women-folk gossip grapevine provides KJ with info and I find out through her. It is quite prevalent in AZ so I assumed it was becoming similarly popular all over the US.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  18. My wife recently had the first of what will be three trips to the cosmetic surgeon. Two of the three procedures were motivated by what sister blah describes while the other (rhinoplasty) is something she’s wanted to correct since she she was a pre-teen. My wife was originally embarrassed to mention it to anybody but then she spilled the beans to someone with whom she worked and discovered that a number of her colleagues had made improvements as well. Then on the big day someone from work commented on my wife’s Facebook page effectively spilling the beans to nearly everyone in our ward– at which point my wife learned that a number of other women, similarly situated, in the ward were members of the same club. Now, my wife openly talks with others about her next two procedures and compares notes with women at work and in the ward.

    My wife is smokin’ hot by any standard. Whenever we go out dancing she gets all sorts of attention from both genders. She really doesn’t need the work but she wants to be able to slip into a swimsuit without worrying about the “girls” slipping out the sides if she spins around too quickly. I’m OK funding the enterprise for more than just my own selfish reasons– she’s given birth to four wonderful kids and sacrificed her body for that endeavor. If she wants to reclaim her youth (and we can afford it) why would I balk.

    We live in NW Arkansas– a region typified by two distinctive features. First, there are a LOT of moneyed individuals here. Second, are a LOT of Mormons (seriously, it’s Provo East). Given our own anecdotal experience I think socioeconomic status plays a primary role in deciding to actually have cosmetic surgery but given that most of the Mormons in our area also belong to the “moneyed” category I’m not sure what extent Mormonism plays in the same decisions.

    Comment by PaulM — June 9, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  19. Geoff, not in this part of the US, anyway.

    I’m somewhat ambivalent about plastic surgery, generally uncomfortable with it but all too aware of the immense social pressure to be young and beautiful women who have it are navigating. But it does seem very unfortunate that we would consider a pre-pregnancy body a “perfect” body. (At least I suppose it doesn’t look as strange as facial plastic surgery, which I think tends to make people just look freakish, when their faces are twenty or thirty years younger than their necks and hands. Eeek. I’ll grow old at a constant rate, thank you.)

    Comment by ZD Eve — June 9, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  20. Huh. Odd. The only plastic surgery I’m aware of is *reduction* surgery. I don’t know of anyone who’s had ’em up-sized. I do know quite a few who’ve done reductions. Most women’s boobs are too big, anyway.

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 9, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  21. PaulM,
    Where in NW Arkansas? My wife grew up in Gravette. Of course, if you live in a “moneyed” area I’m assuming your occupation has something to do with either Walmart or Tyson and that you don’t live anywhere near my wife’s former digs.

    Comment by Rusty — June 9, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  22. I’ll buy the regional thing, mostly because I don’t know of any members in New York or Chicago who have fake boobs, although there could well be somebody.

    That said, I’ll totally buy it as a trend. Mormon culture tends to lag American culture by what, 10 or 20 years? And there are reports that there’s a backlash in Hollywood against plastic surgery. Sounds like just our time to get into it.

    Comment by Sam B. — June 9, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

  23. Rusty:

    I live in Bentonville and, yes, I work for “Big (now Light) Blue”. Gravette is only a 20 minute drive from the WMT home office so we actually considered living there when we first moved to the area. Depending on how long ago it was that your wife “grew up” the entire area may be quite different than she remembers. The county has more than doubled it’s population since 2000 and most of the newcomers are Mormon. WMT recruits heavily at BYU and UofU and seemingly every LDS MBA grad from Booth, Kellogg, Olin, Owen, and Darden chooses to come work for the Bentonville Behemoth.

    Comment by PaulM — June 9, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

  24. I’m somewhat surprised that people are so surprised, particularly concerning how someone might know about who’s had the work done. No secret is safe from most of the Relief Societies I’ve been familiar with. Within a month of moving into our ward, my wife learned (without inquiring or even caring) about every woman in the ward who had done it.

    In Utah there are various billboards along I-15 that advertise for it. I don’t have any hard numbers off hand, but I’ve heard that it’s quite popular there (though I don’t think there’s any numbers on specifically Mormon women that have done it, and know of none personally). Even so, here in So Cal, my wife and I have never seen so many women who obviously have had it done. Probably no surprise for those familiar with this region.

    Comment by Jacob B. — June 9, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

  25. I doubt most men would consciously experience an acquaintance’s enhanced boobs as “big.” Our baseline idea of nomal has adjusted to account for a sizable fraction of the population being enhanced. It’s the new normal, so of course you wouldn’t realize it. Just like our idea of the normal range of tooth shades has skewed into the unnaturally white. Sure there are a tiny number of people so freakishly white that you notice, but you would hardly be keeping a mental catalog of everyone you encounter with whitened teeth because it is the new normal.

    Comment by sister blah 2 — June 9, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

  26. PaulM,

    Interesting comment. I am beginning to wonder if rather than being a regional thing this plastic surgery deal might be just a common practice wherever a lot of upper middle class married couples in their 30s and 40s live in the US…

    Also, I agree that the stigma of such practices is almost non existent in such circles. I think people see it as being tantamount to teeth straightening now days.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

  27. Coffinberry,

    Enhancements, reductions, liposuction, tucks — it seems to me that they are considered all part of the same basic practice.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  28. SB2 (#25),


    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  29. Here in a Seattle suburb, I don’t know anyone in our ward who has had a tummy tuck or breast enhancement. I know of one person in the stake who did both.
    I think it is regional because I don’t see a lot of women around me with obvious cosmetic surgery here, or hear non-mo or mormon women discussing it like they were considering it.
    It makes me a little angry that (Utah/SW?) Mormon women are caving to this kind of disfigurement. Each woman that does it to make themselves feel better makes our society expect something more from women.
    Why can’t I grow old and have children and feel like my body is normal?
    Sometimes I watch an older movie and it is noticible. Movies from the 80s where women had normal size breasts (ones that look kinda small nowadays).
    I don’t even know what normal lips look like anymore. All women lips in Hollywood look not quite right. All aging women look odd on TV. Is it because of cosmetic surgery, or is it normal aging on an actress I knew when she was younger. I don’t know but it seems like it is unnatural weirdness of facelifts. My kids will never see normal aging on an actress ever… messed up is that. My kids will never see actresses with below average size breasts. How messed up is that?
    I am sure there are a few people who really need cosmetic surgery and I hate to begrudge them that. That is why the church doesn’t go around saying it is a sin because for some people it is recontructive and needed to wear clothes properly after a few c-sections, or they are completely flat-chested and would like to have something that resembles breasts.
    I understand why they avoid saying too much, because of these certain cases where it is necessary. But I wish they would because I believe most of it is as harmful to our society as other things they speak out about.
    My friend and I have both independently realized that our 12 year old girls have what our society considers a perfect body. 12! How messed up is that.
    Why on earth should I have to have surgery and try to make my body look like it did when I was 12 or 16 or 21, and every woman who does is ruining it for others.
    Nobody cares though. Our actions affect others around us, but nobody seems to care. Enhanced women or their husbands don’t care about the effect his wife’s surgery will have on their daughters and when they will have cosmetic surgery (some of them might not even wait until after the kids are born), or their son’s expectations or their wives and their wives and when they will feel pressure to have cosmetic surgery.
    Usually I can shrug off petty little cultural things and defend little cultural foibles in Utah or California. But this? This is messed up. Wards full of “richer” women with boob jobs and tummy tucks. What a twisted Zion.
    Wow, I usually don’t get this worked up. I usually try to be empathetic.

    Comment by jks — June 9, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  30. Geoff, I checked with my wife and she is not aware of any boob jobs in our stake. She is in the RS presidency, so she is fairly connected.

    jks, despite all the Hollywood cosmetic surgery, there are still a lot of actresses with natural medium and small breasts, so your kids will be okay. I am with you on the lip thing, what is up with actresses ruining their lips with odd injections that always end up looking bizarre. Stop with the lip injections people, please. Meg Ryan used to be cute.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 9, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

  31. Hehe. Apparently the social stigma remains strong enough in your area that people aren’t telling still Jacob.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  32. jks:

    Just going to the phone book there are just as many listing for cosmetic surgery practices in Seattle (64) as there are for Minneapolis (62). Having lived recently in MSP I know that the incidence of cosmetic surgery is quite high for my socioeconomic class there and the MSP metro area is the same size as Seattle’s. I would bet that you’re just unaware of the amount of renovation being done.

    You seem to be painting with a pretty broad brush and characterizing women who get work done as either pathetically shallow or pressured. I don’t know what motivates most women to undergo cosmetic surgery but I do know what motivated my wife and my baby sister. Beginning at age 22 my wife gave birth to four kids over an 11 year period and during that time she helped me build and sell a business and then supported the family while I got an advanced degree. When we married she was a size 6. By the time child #4 reached 2 years old my wife had grown to a size 8/10 and she didn’t feel healthy. So she started exercising and over six months she shrunk down to a size 2 but in the process her size 38DDs shrunk to 34C and even though she lost a lot of weight the skin that held back the flab just didn’t go away. She put in a lot of work and now she wants the outside of her body to reflect how her musculature feels (plus see my prior comment about swimsuit season). Is that vain? Yeah, but no more vain that spending $50k on a degree in history, English, women’s studies, etc (my wife has a degree capable of actually paying the bills on a regular basis if called upon). My wife does not spend time fretting over how good she looks compared to her peers or Hollywood. She knows how she wants to look and defines that on her own terms. Her next surgery will be a breast enhancement (note I said enhancement and not augmentation). She’s actually happier with her smaller bosom and so is just looking to firm it up. My sister was also a naturally thin though well-endowed woman who at the tender age of 23, and prior to getting married, had a breast reduction. That action seems to be the exact opposite of your speculation on motives.

    Our 13yo daughter knows my wife is having work done. She’s confident enough in herself that she ribs my wife. When asked what she thought about the whole thing she replied that she is just glad she is already perfect– but that may change 20 years and 4 kids later.

    You are free to age in whatever manner you choose and to help raise children to appreciate and respect their own bodies. Don’t disparage others choices by ascribing motives of your choosing. If you don’t like the practice just say so but don’t try and apply a morality based on assigned motives.

    Comment by PaulM — June 9, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  33. Here are some stats that confirm that cosmetic surgeries are popular in the US west of the Rockies. (Although it would be nice to know the procedures per thousand residents numbers or something since the West region is pretty huge in those figures.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2010 @ 11:55 pm

  34. It is hard to beat some areas in Texas for density of plastic surgeons. One gets free lifestyle magazines delivered to the door regularly that are basically advertisements for plastic and bariatric surgeons.

    Comment by Win Marsh — June 10, 2010 @ 5:04 am

  35. Oops, that was me, just realized my wife had been on this computer again and autofill on forms put her name in. I’ll note we have one computer per person, mine is the cheapest, yet seems to be the one everyone ends up on.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — June 10, 2010 @ 5:05 am

  36. IMNSHO, breast augmentation should primarily be for reconstructive surgery after mastectomies or other like events.

    Sadly, the plasticity of today’s world is largely due to how women view themselves today, and how men view them as sex objects.

    Women’s magazines are full of plastic surgery icons, who seek to still look 25 into their 60s. Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers should be major warning signs for anyone who thinks they make themselves look beautiful by going under the knife.

    We live in a world that promotes the seductive flesh. Maybe fewer LDS women would feel tempted to change their appearance if we LDS men were to tell them how truly beautiful they are in all ways.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 10, 2010 @ 5:20 am

  37. Geoff (33),
    The west is way overrepresented, with. Using population data here, I figured out what percentage of the population lived in each of the regions in the document you linked to. Region 1 had about 19%, Region 2, 21%, Region 3, 20%, Region 4, 18%, and Region 5, 22%. On the other hand, Region 5 (Mountain West and Pacific, basically) had 28% of the total cosmetic procedures listed, and 31% of the surgical procedures. Oh, and 37% of the breast augmentations.

    I agree that procedures per 1,000 people would be interesting, but I’ve wasted enough of my morning playing with Excel that I can’t justify any more. (I will note that my numbers are probably slightly off, because the census data I used was from 10 years ago, but my feeling is that, if anything, the West has an even larger percentage of the U.S. population today.)

    Comment by Sam B. — June 10, 2010 @ 5:33 am

  38. a common practice wherever a lot of upper middle class married couples in their 30s and 40s live in the US

    I don’t think the comments on this thread reflect this. There are LOTS of wealthy places that do not indulge in this trend.

    Comment by ESO — June 10, 2010 @ 5:46 am

  39. Okay, even in the West, about 1.7 people per 1,000 had a boob job in 2009. Everywhere else, the numbers would have been less than half that. That doesn’t tell us what percentage of the population has had one, but if 2009’s figures are accurate, the percentage of people in the West who’ve had a boob job is probably in the single digits (over 10 years, 1.7% of the population of the West would have had a boob job; assuming the percentage has stayed steady over 20 years, you’d still have less than 4 in 100 people out West who have had had boob jobs.)

    Comment by Sam B. — June 10, 2010 @ 6:06 am

  40. E. Holland said this at a recent conference.

    “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.”

    That this was said at GC I would be surprised if the CHI which is coming out this November does not have a similar ‘policy’ which counsels people to avoid such practices and to discuss it with Local leaders.

    The dress and earring examples are easier to be clearer on because they are easier to fix. How do you repent for having a boob-job? That is costly and painful.

    Comment by Aaron R. — June 10, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  41. I live in Texas. Boob jobs are really common here amongst the general population. I suspect that they are less common amongst TX LDS but I could be wrong. There is one person in our ward with a boob job. It gets commented about a lot by the sisters amongst themselves. Usually in the negative.

    Comment by bbell — June 10, 2010 @ 7:10 am

  42. I live in Utah (SL Valley). I wouldn’t know, but my wife says probably 1/3 the members in our ward have had a boob job. Fairly common.

    Comment by Mike S — June 10, 2010 @ 7:21 am

  43. RE: #42

    Probably 1/3 the WOMEN – not all members. I don’t know any men that have had one.

    Comment by Mike S — June 10, 2010 @ 7:21 am

  44. Plastic surgery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Check out for real views of what Hollywood looks like in person.

    Comment by Ben — June 10, 2010 @ 8:26 am

  45. If you think you’re in a ward where you don’t know anyone who has had plastic surgery, it’s most likely because they’ve simply kept it a secret. Our RS president recently got nearly head to toe liposuction, and I would never have known if she had not confided in me. Which of course doesn’t speak well of the thousands this already slim woman spent on the surgery!

    I was recently in Utah for a few days and truly shocked by the billboards along the highway between Provo and SLC. It seemed like every other billboard was for weight loss/plastic surgery/teeth whitening. I had never seen that kind of concentration of beauty ads in any other place.

    Comment by Katie M. — June 10, 2010 @ 8:46 am

  46. My SIL had a boob job after her 3rd child. She and her husband have a modest income, but they live in L.A. (Lower Alabama). I have no idea how many other members in L.A. have also done it, but knowing my SIL, there’s no way she was the first, second, third etc.

    Comment by rbc — June 10, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  47. Sam B — Thanks for the little additional numbers crunching. The population of the West has increased this decade but based on these numbers it seems pretty clear that the cosmetic surgery trend is somewhat more popular West of the Rockies than elsewhere in the US.

    ESO — I am afraid I think Katie M in #45 is right. I don’t buy the claim that there are lots of wealthy pockets in the US where people aren’t getting these kinds of surgeries. Rather I suspect there are places where people are keeping it more secret than others.

    Aaron R — If the policy changed what would there be to repent of for the procedures that have already occured? It is certainly not considered a sin to get a tummy tuck now so implying that some kind of repentance would be needed is misguided.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2010 @ 9:26 am

  48. Rameumptom: Sadly, the plasticity of today’s world is largely due to how women view themselves today, and how men view them as sex objects.

    I am always a little confused by these “sex object” comments (although I see them a lot). We are mammals. Therefore men and women are indeed sex objects at least to some degree. Now I assume you mean that women are playing that part of themselves up too much which is a judgment call that you certainly could make.

    The problem with these arguments over cosmetic procedures is that the acceptability lines are completely subjective. I mean it is not like we preach “stay exactly how God made you”. How many people here wore braces to fix their teeth? If so we don’t really believe is staying how God made us. So then the question is when have we crossed the line?

    One measure is the level of danger. But with advances in modern technology these procedures are quite safe now. Another measure is costs — but is it really a morally superior to buy a new Escalade (or new Camry for that matter) than to get a tummy tuck if you have the money?

    This is why I won’t join in on the finger wagging. The morality behind this subject is not clear at all to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2010 @ 9:37 am

  49. Haven’t seen it much in the Southeastern U.S., if at all. Know of a few women who had breast-reduction surgery, however.

    Comment by Peter — June 10, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  50. Peter,

    I am considering all of these cosmetic surgeries as basically equal in this conversation. The point is that these procedures are becoming very common.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2010 @ 10:20 am

  51. Geoff J–I am not saying it doesn’t happen, I am saying I think it is much more pervasive in some places than it is in others. Once it becomes socially acceptable to do it, it is a normalized behavior that people wouldn’t think of in a sin/not a sin way. You need that environment + wealth to have it become a thing to do. The wealth alone does not make it automatic.

    BTW–if someone got head to toe lipo and you couldn’t tell, doesn’t that make it a failed procedure? Shouldn’t there have been a visible difference?

    Comment by ESO — June 10, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  52. Hehe. That is an interesting question about a “failed procedure” ESO. I suppose such a procedure would only be a failure if the goal was to look so different that even casual acquaintances would notice in fully clothed situations.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  53. Like a few people here, I assumed this wasn’t a big deal in my ward. After talking to my wife it turns out I was oblivious. She says it really took off about four years ago when our then Bishop left his wife for his dental assistant. Then the Bishop’s wife got implants, and after that it was open season. Now my wife says there are at least ten women that have them in our ward, and those are only the ones that will admit to it. I assumed the non-implant women in the ward would be pretty negative toward it, but I guess it’s rarely talked about in a negative way.

    As for my wife, she says she’d never go for the implants, but now that we’re done having kids she wouldn’t mind a tummy tuck so it would be easier to find flattering clothes.

    I’m not sure how I never noticed all of these women around me changing. The smart thing would be to say it’s because I’m such an upstanding priesthood holder, but it’s more likely that the normal church attire in our area doesn’t really show the enhancements off..

    Comment by jjohnsen — June 10, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  54. I am not buying this theory that everyone is doing it but in some regions it is being kept secret. There, now we’re even.

    if someone got head to toe lipo and you couldn’t tell, doesn’t that make it a failed procedure?

    If no one could tell then it was a failed procedure for sure. But I am still stuck on the idea of toe lipo. That seems unnecessary.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 10, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  55. Geoff, I am not saying that people need to repent but I am saying that the earring and the modesty issues are situated in terms of repentance. I think that there is enough evidence of the way that these types of issues become policy from past GC statements.

    Comment by Aaron R. — June 10, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  56. On a semi-related subject, two people recently pointed out to me that a seemingly large proportion of the women in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had extremely blonde hair-dye jobs, so much so that when pointed out to me, it looked extremely unusual. As I think about it, back in the 60’s, there was some stigma about dying your hair, but it gradually seems to have been completely acceptable. The opinions of general authorities on the matter on the issues, though, are not, in my humble opinion, to be considered as doctrine. Good advice in most circumstances, yes, but certainly not doctrine. Doctrine is not delineated in the Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI) as someone seemed to be alluding to in earlier comments here. Policy is in the CHI, and it often is accompanied by doctrinal scriptures, but the scriptures are the canon of the church. Granted, there are some unsual scriptures on adorning and limits thereof for women, but we must realize the context of the time. I’m in Washington State, eastern side, and “boob jobs” don’t seem to be prevalent in our relatively high economic status stake. Thankfully, emphasis by women seems to be more on healthy living and exercise. I’m especially grateful our young women’s presidency in the ward seems to be mindful of health and exercise and are doing it by example.

    Comment by kevinr — June 10, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  57. I’m not sure if you were refering to my comment about doctrine in the CHI. I did not allude to the doctrinal status of the CHI, though I would say that the distinction is not so easily separated as you seem to suggest.

    However, policy is frequently derived from previous GC addresses therefore I suggest that it is fairly likely that this type of council could quickly become ‘canonical’ or at the very least explicit policy in the near future.

    Comment by Aaron R. — June 10, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  58. GST and I (we used to live in the same ward in SoCal) once agreed on an estimate of about 60% of the boobs in our ward being altered in one way or another. My wife told me that 60% was too low of a guess, in her opinion.

    It’s SoCal, but there you go.

    Comment by Scott B. — June 10, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  59. Where I live (TX) there is an extreme social stigma against plastic surgery, also, my ward is pretty poor for our area, so I can confidently say there is no plastic surgery among the active members. The best we have are a few mastectomies for cancer. So I’d go with the regional thing.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 11, 2010 @ 7:22 am

  60. Where in TX? TX is the home to breast augmentation. Perhaps the ladies are a bit more discreet, but I know its going on, and I have lived and visited most of the state.

    Comment by scw — June 11, 2010 @ 8:30 am

  61. My wife and i were chatting about this and she commented (which was my thought), “I dont mind people getting plastic surgery, its the billboards that bug me.”
    We live in SLC and there are a number of breast enhancement billboards as one drives through town, all through the valley. i’ll grant that its more complicated on the whole, and each case is different, but (personally, i find) implicit is the message that “youre body isnt good enough”. that bothers me more than anything (and the thought that occurred to me reading SB2 in comment 1, that a pre-pregnancy body is prefect and a post-pregnancy body isnt. perhaps women view it that way, perhaps they dont).
    it just seems odd/sad that a region populated by professing Christians would buy into such a message as “youre body isnt good enough”

    Comment by andrew — June 12, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  62. PaulM, you can decide your wife and your sister have all the best motives. You just can’t deny that when one person does something, it affects everyone else.
    That is how society is. So if you decide that you need to spend all your money on a huge house….houses in our society get bigger and bigger. If you decide to spend your time on watching a TV show it does affect others.
    My 6th grader wants a cell phone. Is it because we have cellphones? No, it is because all her peers have cellphones. Kids get phones younger and younger. When you give your kid a cellphone, it isn’t just about your kid. It is also changing the culture and the expectations.
    We can be good examples too. If your kid does his homework, obeys the rules, listens to the teacher, says something kind, et c.
    So……I’m saying that I am angry at our society for hating aging. I think it is very wrong.
    My breasts might be a little different at age 39 than they were at 21. They were also different at 11. Why do we have to pressure women to think of themselves as being in their prime at age 14?
    So your wife has her reasons and she thinks they are worth it. But I don’t think it is fair for her or you to ignore the result of it. The result of her actions along with everyone else who does the same thing. Making women feel like their aging body is something to be ashamed of and to be fixed.
    Maybe it will eventually be that women will either not have children or have surgery to fix them afterwards. I don’t know.
    But it isn’t JUST about having kids. Women who don’t have kids also have difficulty adjusting to their aging body……they just can’t blame it on pregnancies and nursing.
    Sometimes I can shrug things off as cultural. But when you are from a different culture (here in SEATTLE we don’t bleach our hair like Utahns and Californians do) Sure, we have a few blondes, but they are mixed in with everything else. You go to some places in the US and it is scary/weird (for us) to see all that fake blonde hair or fake tanning stuff.
    Go to NYC and you don’t see a lot of blondes either.
    I’m sure there are plenty of people in Seattle who get work done. I’m just saying there is no one in my WARD who is doing it. Could be our finances. Could be our age (we had a lot of really old people, a lot of young people, not a lot of age 35-45 like me who are maybe the prime age target of fix-your-body-after-you’ve-had-all-your-kids?
    I was a 36DD and am now 34C. But like I said, I’m also different than I was at age 11 or 14 or 25 or 30. Why exactly do I surgically change my body to make it the same as a previous age.
    If everyone who ages tells everyone around them that it sucks to look like that, we just keep making the situation worse. I just think that Mormons ought to be a little more aware of how harmful this culture is to ourselves and our future generations.

    You say “Our 13yo daughter knows my wife is having work done. She’s confident enough in herself that she ribs my wife. When asked what she thought about the whole thing she replied that she is just glad she is already perfect– but that may change 20 years and 4 kids later.” I have a 12 year old daughter and my friend and I both notice that our 12-13 year old daughters seem to have a Hollywood perfect body. They have breasts but puberty hasn’t given them all the other body fat that mother nature puts on women in the hip area (if you look at a BMI curve for adolescents, average BMI will keep going up and up for our daughters until about age 18-20).


    I won’t back down from this statement. Your wife is telling everyone that her 40 year old body should look like a 13 year old. Someday, your 13 year old will have a 40 year old body and she will want to make it look like it did when it was “perfect”……when it was 13.
    I feel a little bad that this is so personal. It is just that I am just like your wife. Our daughters are the same. I don’t have the cash (well, I could but I prefer to save for retirement or go on a vacation). I don’t live in the same culture (yet). I don’t want that culture here in my ward but everyone like your family (your wife and someday your daughter) will push this culture and I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s not like my comment is going to change your mind, your wife’s mind, or your daughter’s future actions either. You are content with normalizing it.

    Comment by jks — June 12, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  63. So, I still feel bad that it is so personal because I don’t mean to sound so critical. I admit that these choices are difficult to make….at least if one takes the time to see all the consequences of it.
    For instance, I dye my hair. On one side I realize that it is a completely personal choice about what color hair I want to have. But now that I am old enough that I might start getting gray, I have to wonder if I really want to cover up my gray hair? That is a bigger statement that just wanting a different hair color. I hate the idea that I’m perpetuating the anti-aging culture for others around me.
    Which reminds me of the African ancestry hair situation in our country. Really sad. I’d like women to not have to do that just to fit in, but can I blame them if it makes their individual life better even though it perpetuates the culture that African hair is bad?
    I also realize that when I buy something big, or go on a vacation, that others around me might want the same thing. That I might contribute to their spending more than they can, or being less satisfied with what they’ve got because I am normalizing extravagant spending.
    Perhaps I am overly concerned about this? I remember once when I let my son wear a mask to an LDS outside trunk or treat because they always seem to let it slide because there are kids from 2 wards and possible visitors. But afterwards I felt guilty because I saw kids whose parents didn’t let them wear their masks. I felt bad because I realized that those kids might go home and complain that they hadn’t been able to wear a mask but other kids (like my son) wear allowed. I don’t want to be that kind of parent.
    When I recently let my daughter get a facebook account, I wondered how this would affect other parents whose children go home and claim “everyone else has a facebook.” I hate the parents who let their kids date in 6th grade.
    So, like I said, perhaps I view the world differently than other people. Moving from place to place I saw how different places were. Cultures were totally different. So I saw how people are affected by their local culture. Perhaps that affected my view on my own responsibility and perhaps it made me see when I was caving in to what was really important in one place, but not important in another. I once almost bought a $100 in 1987 dollars because everyone else had them…..even though I thought they were ugly, I came so close to doing it just to fit in. One high school everyone had backpacks but I simply couldn’t cave in to that because no one did backpacks at my previous two high schools.
    Anyway, I know that showing up late to sacrament meeting doesn’t help the overall group, yet I am willing to do it. I weigh the pros and cons and sometimes my own benefit outweighs the group benefit in my mind and I make my decision. I’ll try to stop posting about this now.

    Comment by jks — June 12, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  64. Because Mormon women are supposed to be ‘perfect’, and too many Mormon men still buy into the porn/hollywood star body type.

    Comment by Olive — June 12, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  65. too many Mormon men still buy into the porn/hollywood star body type.

    As opposed to Presbyterian men? I don’t know about Hollywood stars, but “porn” stars are some of the most atrocious looking people on the planet, and I would be very surprised if Mormon men were unusually attracted to them.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 13, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  66. Mark is right. Plus Olive seems to be pulling these accusations out of his/her… ummm… ear.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 13, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  67. Olive, I wish I could get into the “long haired, no makeup, pioneer dress polygamy look” but so far I’m still carnal.

    Comment by Riley — June 13, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  68. I’m a plastic surgery resident in Ohio. Before having children, both my wife and I thought plastic surgery was, in general, vain. Our feelings have changed somewhat after having kids. She has a great body to me, but wants a mastopexy/aug after she’s done having kids, to restore some perkiness to her post-lactating ptotic breasts. What changed my opinion the most about this is simply her unselfishness in other aspects of her life – having 3 babies, being a stay-at-home mom, running our family. She worked her tail off through med school, grad school, and now during residency. She doesn’t seem to compare her body to anyone elses, but just wants to achieve some restoration of pre-baby shape that she can’t do with exercise alone. I have a hard time arguing with anyone in these circumstances. I don’t plan on making aesthetic surgery a focus of my career – plastic surgery has many aspects beyond boobs and facelifts. But I have been surprised by the responses by most of our lds peers to my career choice – most assume I will be doing cosmetic surgery, and express a sentiment similar to my wife’s. I don’t know anyone in my ward who’s had a breast aug or abdominoplasty, but our’s is a ward with a bunch of poor students, but I have met quite a few who plan on it after having kids.

    Comment by Totipocincy — June 13, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

  69. When I was a kid a good friend of our family left neurosurgery for plastics, mostly reconstructing harelips, burn victim work, etc. He said it was one of the most fulfilling changes he ever made, making a real difference for real people.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — June 13, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  70. I had braces. It was pretty prevalent in the junior high I went to in Utah.

    Comment by Mathew — June 14, 2010 @ 5:45 am

  71. For all the talk about cosmetic plastic surgery, I haven’t seen anyone address the OP’s question head on: what is it about tattoos or body piercing that makes them qualitatively different from cosmetic plastic surgery? Are two piercings per ear really bad, but a B to D breast augmentation isn’t?

    Why not?

    What principle is there that allows us to distinguish between the two?

    Comment by Mark B. — June 14, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  72. I haven’t seen anyone address the OP’s question head on

    Okay, I’ll take a whack.

    What is it about tattoos or body piercing that makes them qualitatively different from cosmetic plastic surgery?

    Nothing, they are not qualitatively different. It is entirely a matter of social norms and the perceived level of subversiveness associated with the procedure. A breast reduction will never been seen as subversive or troubling in the way that huge balloon breast might be simply because it is generally done for back pain reasons as opposed to being done to become more sexually enticing (with is subversive given our culture which condemns looking on a woman to lust after her). A tattoo on your toe will never been seen as subversive in the way that a face tattoo will be simply because one is further out on the limb of social acceptance. To the extent that body piercings send a different message in society and have a different level of social acceptance than cosmetic plastic surgery, that is the extent to which they are different.

    Are two piercings per ear really bad, but a B to D breast augmentation isn’t?

    No, neither are necessarily really bad. I will add that a good ear piercing is much cheaper than a good B to D augmentation. Please don’t skimp on the price here, remember: you are remodeling your temple.

    What principle is there that allows us to distinguish between the two?


    Comment by Jacob J — June 14, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  73. Jacob: It is entirely a matter of social norms and the perceived level of subversiveness associated with the procedure

    Yeah I think this is probably the case.

    In fact I suspect that the guiding principle behind the current guidelines is that the more subversive the procedure is generally considered the more it is frowned upon.

    Also, leaders of the church tend to be much more concerned about subversive youth culture trends (like tattoos and piercings) than yuppie culture trends. Cosmetic surgeries are clearly in the latter category.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  74. Yes, good point about youth vs. yuppies.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 14, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  75. scw, I live in San Antonio, and confirmed with the wife, none in our ward. However, our neighbor ward has some reductions. I don’t know if that goes in the same boat as augmentations…

    Comment by Matt W. — June 14, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  76. I went from a 34aa to a 38c (barely). I’ve padded my bust since adolescence. Surgery simply made a transition from padding the outside to padding the inside. My spouse supported the decision. We had the money to spend, partly due to the fact that I don’t spend money on makeup, hair dye, or even professional haircuts (I do my own and my family members’ haircuts). My surgery put some money into my local economy, providing half a day’s salary for a half-dozen nurses and techs. I had no complications. I keep my new figure modestly covered except for marital events. I do not discuss my surgery, not even with my sister, and the only person who suspects the change is my brother. How creepy is that?

    I actually do know a man who had a breast reduction. He had gynecomastia.

    Comment by JB — June 14, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  77. Thanks for the comment JB. The fact that not even family members know about your procedure is a fine example of why I am highly skeptical of these reports saying “not a single sister in our ward has had cosmetic surgery”. To me that just means not a single sister has revealed anything — not that the procedures have not occurred.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

  78. Geoff, c’mon, you are slowly changing the subject from “large fake boobs” to “cosmetic surgery” and then attributing statements to people earlier in the conversation that they didn’t make.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 15, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  79. Hold on there Jacob — large fake boobs were the hook but the subject was always cosmetic surgeries of any kind. Even in the first paragraph of the post I said:

    What is the deal with so many Mormon women getting plastic surgery which normally includes but is not limited to adding big fake boobs?

    I think I have been consistent with that throughout.

    I’m not sure what statements I falsely attributed to anyone though I may have done that unwittingly. Can you point an example out?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2010 @ 9:29 am

  80. When I read the first part of this thread I see a lot of discussion of large fake boobs. At any rate, when I said “Honestly I don’t know any Mormons with big fake boobs” I was referring to large fake boobs rather than cosmetic surgery. I think you were too when you responded “You probably know a lot more Mormon women with fake boobs than you realize Jacob.” My concern was that you just said you are skeptical of “these reports” saying “not a single sister in our ward has had cosmetic surgery.” I’ll assume you are referring to others (like ESO) but it seems to me most people have been considering large fake boobs in a different category than, say, breast reductions (notice this comes through linguistically as well since we call them fake *boobs*, but *breast* reductions), although both are cosmetic surgery.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 15, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  81. The problem is that using a term like “big fake boobs” is hooky enough to draw eyeballs to this post but also subjective enough to be a bit confusing. I have been talking about all types of cosmetic surgeries throughout this discussion.

    I feel like the comment by JB really bolsters the point I was trying to make earlier. She went from a AA to a C cup. That is a pretty significant change but nobody but her husband knows about it. I suspect that is pretty common and that is why I remain skeptical of reports claiming no one in my ward has had any cosmetic surgery.

    If you meant earlier “I asked my wife and she doesn’t know of any sisters in the ward who bought ridiculously large Pamela Anderson style breasts for themselves” then we were just misunderstanding each other because I have no trouble whatsoever believing that.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  82. Fair enough. For the record, I asked my wife about any enlargements, not just ridiculously large ones. I do know of reductions in our ward. It is certainly true that there could be C cups in our ward which started out AA and I would never know. I’ll keep my ear to the ground and my eyes pealed.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 15, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  83. Jacob: I’ll keep …my eyes pealed.

    Har! That strikes me as a bad idea in this case.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  84. Well I live in New England- and thankfully no pressure for this here. But I do see it in my travels west.

    I hear the I deserve it- argument alot. But personally i don’t get it. What you deserve some payback for choosing to be a mom? My body is not that same was it was before kids. I chose to have children, I’d gratefullly give up my 24″ in waist for them. I expect no owed due reward for that. For me being a mom is a trade off it mean giving some things up- including a little vanity. Aging and change are normal. I worry at the impact this has on girls growing up- when what they see is only an artificial normal.

    i have done alot of medical missions around the world providing free reconstructive surgeries and i wish more people would put ther resources into something like that!

    Comment by les — June 16, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  85. The “I deserve it” argument is pretty standard for any non-essential purchase — nice car, nice house, vacations, jewelry, etc. I think one would be hard pressed to explain why spending money on cosmetic surgery is significantly less moral than spending it on any of those other things.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  86. Amen Geoff J #81 and #85.

    Comment by sister blah 2 — June 16, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

  87. We hosted a foreign exchange student, a young woman, from Germany last year, for the entire school year. She was very intelligent and we had many conversations with her about what seemed to her as a Western US trait, a pre-occupation with boobs, orthodontics, and heavier make-up. She had lived for a short time in New York state and her observation was that, in the Intermountain West, it was true. She had never been around Mormons before her stay with us. She also noticed that there was much less healthy eating in the US and that clothing styles seemed to be very extreme. She had a very definite style of clothing she like, very limited palette of colors she would wear and very European in refined style. It was an interesting year with many political discussions and lots of debate about evolution and such. She was a delight to have and showed my three teenager daughters a very different way of looking at the world.

    Comment by kevinr — June 18, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  88. I take a couple of months break from the bloggernacle and I miss all the good posts… :(

    Oh well…

    Comment by Manuel — July 1, 2010 @ 10:09 pm