What Does It Mean to “Look” Mormon?

My second-oldest son, Daniel, is home for the summer after his first year at BYU, working and preparing for his mission in August (he just got his mission call to the Nevada Las Vegas West mission – we’re very excited about this). As he started work, he mentioned to someone there that he had been at BYU. “Oh, I thought you were Mormon,” came the reply. “You look Mormon.”

Many of us have heard this before. Is there anything to it? I’ve often assumed the comment reflected a missionary stereotype of clean-cut, short-haired, cheerful white males, but that doesn’t cover all instances of the “you look Mormon” comment. I thought about that tonight as I was looking at photos of the dedication of the Accra, Ghana Temple. When I looked at this photo, my immediate reaction was “Wow, those women really look Mormon.” I don’t say that about every attractive person who smiles, so what is it? It doesn’t make much sense to me, but I’m curious about what others think.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

28 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to “Look” Mormon?

  1. I bet 90% of a typical ward consists of people who few would ever say that they “look Mormon.” But there are some that just seem to fit some subconscious image – perhaps shaped by the appearance of those very people and theor similarities to other Mormons – so we say that those people “look” LDS.

  2. My husband is a convert and looking at him, he would never be pegged as a mormon. Because he looks so different from what one would think a ‘mormon’looks like he has had some very cruel things said to him by other members, particularly leaders. Over the years I have overheard people say that he will change his appearance when he has becomes stronger in the church.
    I personally find it disturbing that we identify so strongly in the church with a certain appearance. It is a culture, and some people will never feel comfortable fitting into it. God says he looks on the heart and I believe that. If there were some real problem with my husband’s appearance, it should have been addressed, accompanied by a strong manifestation of the spirit when he was invited to be baptized.

  3. About 10 years ago the Prophet came to speak in Washington, D.C. which is where I lived at the time. The meeting was held in one of the huge stadiums in the area. As thousands of us streamed through the parking lot and into the building I looked around and laughed. “Yup, we’re Mormon!” I thought. While I would definitly say there there is something in each person’s countanence that could identify them as Mormons, I would also say that fasion has a huge roll in it as well. A ridiculous percentage of the women there were wearing long dresses (or skirts) with flower patterns and muted color schemes. Some young women wore sleeveless sundresses– with t-shirts underneath. I have never seen this particular fashion statement on anybody else. The men wore suits. Even the young men at least wore dress shirts and slacks.

    Looking at the ward I live in now and comparing it with my memories of my home ward and even the branch I attended when I lived in Japan, I’d say that there are some fashions that hold true in Mormons everywhere. We nearly always dress simply. We don’t wear a lot of jewelry, bright colors or loud patterns. For the most part men wear suits and women’s clothing adheres to temple standards, whether or not the woman in question has her endowments or not. (I assume this is where the t-shirt and sundress style came from: a compromise between standards and fashion.)

    There are, of course, exceptions to these “rules.” Being Mormon doesn’t mean you can’t be flamboyant. But I’ve found if you spot a person dressed in the way I’ve just described, very often you’ll find that they are Mormon.

  4. Yes, during travels in many countries, I can usually tell a Mormon, especially one from the Mountain West. However, we should be careful with appearances. My wife and I watched Angels in America, sometimes painfully and gritting our teeth, but were intrigued with the Mormon protagonist — a guy who really LOOKED Mormon. But none of the sundry, sometimes wretched characters received more scorn in the movie than this guy. Why? Because he was a hypocrit. He looked and talked Mormon, but inside was debauched, demeaned his wife and ignored a caring mother. He looked it all right, but it was really what was inside that mattered.

  5. Las Vegas West is where one of my four (soon to be three; one comes home next month) nephews is serving. He’s been there since December.

  6. Where I live (in the South) if you see a woman wearing a T-shirt or blouse with sleeves, and shorts that come down to her knees, there’s a very good chance she’s LDS. Especially if she has more than 2 kids with her.

  7. Everyone seems to have taken such a negative account of this, but perhaps you should open up your minds and consider that perhaps people look LDS (when they are) because they’ve received the image of Christ in their countenances, which provides a definite point of similarity.

    As for the actor who looked LDS, well.. plastic surgery goes a long way.

  8. How we dress can certainly contribute to the “Mormon appearance.” One area where I especially hope people will “look Mormon” is at proms. As today’s styles increasingly emphasize the slut factor, it’s refreshing to see a young woman bold enough to depart from the world and wear a modest dress. But it takes a lot of effort, I’m afraid, to find such things.

    And how about at the beach or swimming pool? Are there characteristic Mormon styles?

  9. At the beach is easy for me, simply because I see which teenage girls aren’t wearing two piece bathing suits, and those are the more than likely LDS ones.

    As the tshirt goes… “Modest is the Hottest (front) Guys Like a Little Mystery (back)”

  10. Some of the nicest and most humble people I have met in the church have not fit the Mormon “look”. One, in particular, worked long hours in the concrete business. He had long, gray hair and his skin looked worn from years of working in the hot Las Vegas sun. I first met him at a ward social the first weekend we moved into our ward. He could have been visiting or had been a recent convert. But, I knew, before even introducing myself that he was a faithful memeber of many years. He had a certain countenance about him. It radiated faithfulness. And I was correct in my supposition. He was (we have since moved again) one of the greatest examples of service and faith I have ever met. I suppose this is what is meant by “looking Mormon”. A countenance that shines no matter what the outward appearance.

    Also, your son will love Las Vegas. Talk about appearance vs. countenance! Sure, there may be some questionable activities associated with Vegas, but the members more than make up for it. Some of the greatest group of Saints I have ever met. Although the Las Vegas West mission is rather large, I’ll be sure to keep my eye out for Elder Lindsay in the coming months.

  11. How interesting that you ask this question. I was just wondering myself about the stereotypes of mormon appearance, especially as they pertain to women.

    I have noticed a kind of divide between those women who keep up with styles and take care of themselves physically and those who seem to just let it all go. Does anyone else notice this? What is the cause of it? Are we confusing modesty with unkempt unattractiveness?

    And those who do keep up with the styles and exercise/eat right to keep in shape — is this vanity and therefore a sin?

    What do you all think?

  12. Interestingly enough a large majority of the posted comments are focused on styles and sterotypical “Mormon” dress. I tend to believe that there is something that can be seen in the eyes and countenances of people who are living “after the manner of happiness” and that is what is identified as “looking Mormon”.

  13. “Pure and delightsome” is the phrase used in the Book of Mormon – 2 Nephi 30:6. And they look pretty pure and delightsome to me – you know, they look Mormon.

  14. I have to agree with the June 7th poster. As far as I’m concerned, though I have met Mormons of many races who dressed many, many different ways, I find that they all look alike in that they have the gospel and their love for it and testimony of it written on their face.
    That’s a ‘mormon’ look that everyone can see from a mile away. And it gives me great, great hope for the church.

  15. I am not of the Mormon faith but I do have quite a few cousins that are Mormon. I think why LDS people get “you look Mormon” is of the clean cut look and the nice atire (which usally is in fashion.) In the church it seems like there is a lot of pressure on dressing in style. My brother and I also get this comment a lot and we are not of the faith.

  16. My sense is that when one says,"You look Mormon", he means that Mormon facial features tend to look similar. I, too, have noticed this, to the point that Mormons appear to be their own race. Perhaps this is more true of Utah Mormons who historically grew from a smaller, more insular gene pool. With the expansion of the religion throughout the US and the world, I imagine that this similarity will wane.

  17. It means you look the same…high foreheads…is a physical feature that seems dominant in families that have been Morman for generations….. tend to have….eyes wider set. I agree that it must come from the small gene pool as a consequence of polygamy.

  18. This guy told me he thought I was Mormon because I look like the Mormons he'd seen in Utah so I've wondered what makes a person look Mormon too. So I know what Mormon guys look like but not women. I don't have a high forehead, wide-set eyes or a "brainwashed inbred look". I'm a 20ish female from Texas, not a mormon. I am very pale and anglo-looking, been told I'm attractive and don't look American. I'm assuming it's about the facial features not dress when someone says you look Mormon and you're not. Not sure if it's a compliment or more not.

  19. I am visiting SLC and noticing how Mormons do look similar. At least here they have a very northern Europen, almost Scandinavian look. Light complexion and heathy looking. I think they look great and this is a wonderful clean, pretty city. I'm not Mormon but they set a good example of heathy living and good looks

  20. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201211/whats-in-face?collection=116859
    This website shows how when people guess whether someone is Mormon or not has a 60% accuracy instead of a 50/50. They talk about how it seems to relate to the skin. The skin is well taken care of based off of how they have the encouragement that there is a God who loves them. The science behind the skin mainly seems to point towards things like the Word of Wisdom and the ask of no coffee, smoke, many drugs, and alcohol.

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