I remember staring in fascination at the left ear of the cashier at Kids-R-Us. Nearly her entire ear was covered in shiny, metal piercings.
Lucky for me, my mom, the cashier, and everyone else in the store, I bottled my fascination and curiosity until we were in the car.
I'm sure before this point I had seen people who had more than one piercing, but for some reason, this encounter fascinated my young brain and I just couldn't let it go. I was just thoroughly intrigued.
As we continued to talk about this woman's piercings, my mom mentioned she had more than one piercing herself.
My mom then explained she had gotten the piercing when she was younger, and when the prophet counseled Latter-day Saint women to only wear one pair of earrings, she took them out. When we got home, she showed me where the holes in her ears had been when she had her second piercings.
Looking back, that was actually a really good in-the-moment lesson about respecting the agency of others and following the prophet.
And as I've grown up, I've studied what the Church has said about body piercings and why it's important for Latter-day Saints to follow their counsel and refrain from judging those who don't.
In the October 2000 general Relief Society meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
"We—the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve—have taken the position, and I quote, that 'the Church discourages tattoos. It also discourages the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes, although it takes no position on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings'" (President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Your Greatest Challenge, Mother," October 2000 general conference).
True to the Faith also notes:
"Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the piercing of the body except for medical purposes. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings" ("Body Piercings," True to the Faith, p. 27).
In both statements, the use of piercings for medical reasons is excused. These medical reasons are not defined, but it is worth noting some body piercings are associated with medical benefits. For example, daith piercings (the piercing of the smallest fold of cartilage in the ear) are a nontraditional approach to treating migraines. Though there is no scientific literature about daith piercings, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, they are similar in nature to auricular acupuncture, which has been shown to help treat migraines (Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA, et al. "Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine," Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016).
It is also important to note body piercings can cause infections and scarring and there have been scientific studies on the potential harm of body piercings (Kátia Sheylla Malta Purim, Bernardo Augusto Rosario, Cristine Secco Rosario, and Ana Tereza Bittencourt Guimarães, "Piercings in medical students and their effects on the skin," An Bras Dermatol, 2014 Nov-Dec; 89).
As Church leaders have advised members about body piercings, they have also advised members about not judging others, including members, for looking differently. As Elder N. Eldon Tanner said in the April 1972 general conference:
"'Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.' (1 Sam. 16:7)
"The reason, therefore, that we cannot judge is obvious. We cannot see what is in the heart. We do not know motives, although we impute motives to every action we see. They may be pure while we think they are improper" (Elder N. Eldon Tanner, "'Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged,'" April 1972 general conference).
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has also said:
"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
"It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters" (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy," October 2012 general conference).
Though it is important that we obey the prophets in all things, including body piercings, it's also important to note that there are exceptions in some cases and we should always, always, always refrain from interpreting the outward appearance as a reflection of the true character of a person.
Lead image from Getty Images