On June 8th, 2015, the blog ‘Mission Geek‘ published an article about a convert to the Church who had his tattoos cut out in order to serve a mission. Over the next week, the article made the rounds online. LDS Living, and LDS.net both shared it, as did we here at LDS Missionaries.
Comments on our blog were minimal, but when we shared it on our Facebook page, the comments exploded. Some comments revealed concerns, criticisms, and disapproving thoughts on the story. The main concerns included: People thought that the stake president was doctrinally wrong—people serve with tattoos all the time; removing tattoos doesn’t make one a better person or more worthy to serve a mission; the Church is wrong and judgmental to ‘force’ him to remove his tattoos; removing them leaves a scar worse than the tattoo; a lot of converts have tattoos and this makes them feel unwelcome.
Obviously, we don’t share these criticisms of the events in Elder Haufano’s story. We wouldn’t have reblogged it if we had. We viewed the story when we published it and we still view it now as a story of a personal sacrifice willingly made in order to serve a mission. That is how the story was presented in the original article, and we have no reason to believe that Pasi Haufano feels or thinks otherwise.
Here are some of the comments that best address the issues brought up by the story.
From Kalolo Haufano on LDS Living’s Facebook post of the story:
“This guy is my brother and let me tell you, he is proud of this story. The church holds such high standards when it comes to having tattoos on your body and yes, I know that it is absolutely fine to have tattoos while serving a mission, however, his one was very visible on the neck. To serve as a full time missionary is not some casual experience. It is life changing. My brother knew that and was willing to not take no for an answer. He only felt worthless because he was 25, almost 26 and was about to reach the age limit. He took the counsel with enthusiasm but he was time bound. The lord blessed him to get a call a month before he turned 26. We also need to acknowledge that this guy has changed his life so much that I was on my mission when this all happened and when I came back, he was so different. A good GREAT DIFFERENT! The atonement has truly blessed him. Love my brother tonnes.”
Comment made by Jon Sharp on our Facebook page:
“This has nothing to do with worthiness. I keep seeing this comment over and over again. That the church has somehow judged him unworthy or unrighteous because of the tattoo. This is not true. This is plan and simply a dress and grooming standards issue. Just like missionaries aren’t allowed to wear whatever they want. They are expecting to wear a white shirt and a tie or a dark suit. There are many employers who wouldn’t hire him because of the tattoo. One of which is the United States Marines.”
Comment by Jennifer Hilsinger Altman
“I think what people are missing here is that he chose to have it removed, no one forced him to or even suggested it. He was denied bc of one visible tattoo, he had several others….he chose to have that one removed. If he didn’t want to, he could have chosen not to serve in that capacity. There are many ways to serve in the church, and tattoos are not going to prevent you from service. He wanted to serve a mission, so he chose to have the one tattoo removed. His choice and he doesn’t regret it, he said so himself. I found the story very inspiring”
Comment by Fiona Morrison Cox
“This is a great story of one man’s sacrifice to serve our Lord. Not a debate on church views or man’s views of tattoos. I applaud his decision.”
This next comment was very thoughtfully written by the LDS Missionaries Facebook page Founder and Chief Administrator, Dale Jeffery:
“WOW. What a lot of comments !
When we posted Thomas Swain’s article on Elder Haufano, we never expected such a response ! Of course, neither did we expect that this article + comments would turn into a referendum on tattoos. So let’s start there…
We should be reminded that God loves all people — tattooed or not.
Anyone who is trying to live the Gospel (succeeding or failing) can come to church. Anyone determined to follow His path can be a member of Christ’s church.
We have some relatively famous Mormons in our midst who have tats. Like Al Fox. –>https://www.facebook.com/SpreadTheSpirit
We have many thousands of others Tatted Mormons who are not so famous, but who still serve faithfully and with honor in their respective callings.
But NOT anyone who wishes to file the paperwork will be chosen to represent Christ as a full-time LDS missionary. Jesus, and his apostles, have both the right and the responsibility to set standards. They have the right, and the responsibility, to make allowances or exceptions.
As mentioned before, the Raising the Bar sets requirements and standards for weight, for health (both mental and physical), for sexual proclivities, for dress and grooming, and for other aspects of a candidate’s potential acceptance. All are important, and all exceptions must be approved. This includes the policy on “visible” tattoos, or those that would be seen despite normal Missionary attire..
In this case, standard missionary acceptance procedures were followed. Elder Haufano’s application was flagged by his local leaders for acceptance at a higher level, and was sent back by General Authorities in Salt Lake.
While the missionary made a choice regarding his tattoo that most in American would consider quite extreme, this was what the Elder wanted, and did, and sacrificed.
We applaud Elder Haufano, both for the courage to sacrifice, and for his willingness to tell his story.”