Paint your barns, ladies
“You beautiful girls – don’t wander around looking like men. Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming – it’s that simple. I don’t know why we make this whole process so hard.” -Elder M. Russell Ballard
This was the marriage advice Elder Ballard gave at a YSA devotional held in Provo, Utah on October 24, 2015. Interestingly enough, the devotional was recorded and published on LDS.org, but within 24 hours it was taken down from the site. You can still find the clip on YouTube.
A group of women and I were recently discussing this quote from Elder Ballard. I had completely forgotten about this talk until it was brought up a few days ago. I remember when this devotional was given because the above quote made its way through the usual rounds of outrage in progressive and/or ex Mormon circles. However, the tone of this recent conversation with my friends was different than the ones I participated in almost four years ago. The women, most of whom no longer identify as active LDS members, discussed the conflicting messages of church leaders that focused on their appearance and not on their actions as followers of the Gospel.
Many of the women were flabbergasted that this quote was from not only this century, but this decade. Especially since it’s similar to what either President David O. McKay or Spencer W. Kimball supposedly once said about women wearing makeup – “Even an old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint.”
One woman discussed how she was taught to never wear bright lipstick because it was too ostentatious and would distract boys and men from their priesthood duties. I guess that doesn’t count when you’re actively pursuing marriage. That’s the time to break out the man-catching lipstick. Another shared that talks like this worsened her eating disorder as a young adult because it reinforced to her that her physical appearance was the most important aspect of finding a righteous mate.
I have typical feminine facial features. Thanks to the curves I inherited from my mother, no one has ever confused me for being a man. And yet, I hardly ever wear lipstick except for special occasions. I find it messy, sticky, and annoying. I have to constantly worry about whether it looks good or if I have any on my teeth. I certainly wasn’t wearing any lipstick when I met my husband. How is telling women to just wear some lipstick constructive dating advice?
I don’t want to be told to wear lipstick by men who are supposed to have direct access to the Bat phone to Jesus, er, I mean are mouthpieces of the Lord. I want my spiritual leaders to teach me how to become a better Disciple of Christ. I don’t need to be instructed on how to become more physically attractive to attract a mate. I need to know how to love my neighbor better. I want to be taught how to emulate my life after His. Does Jesus care if my hair is curled or does He care that I am compassionate and notice those who are hurting and seek to ease their pain? Does He care if my foundation is blended if I am not also a loving person? Does Jesus care more about the man-catching shade of my lipstick more than He cares about if I’m forgiving, gentle, patient, humble, and kind?
I don’t think so. We know from 1 Samuel 16:7 that, “For the Lord sees not was man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Maybe its time our leaders taught us how to look at each other’s hearts, instead of worrying about lipstick.