Tattoos in the Temple

draper utah temple

Recently I accompanied the youth of our ward to the Draper Utah Temple to perform baptisms for the dead. After changing clothes and moving into the chapel to wait our turn to enter the font, I had a few minutes to reflect on the beautiful surroundings.

My thoughts and appreciation were directed towards all those who were there that day, sacrificing their time and personal interests to serve in the temple.

After a few minutes of waiting, we moved into the baptismal area where I peered down into the font. My eyes went a little wide as I focused in on the man dressed in white who was performing the baptisms.

Very large and visible were the tattoos that covered his left arm.

At first I was taken off guard because the tattoos seemed so out of place. Trust me, seeing this man filled me with joy, but I just can’t recall seeing a ton of people in the temple with tattoos. After a few seconds,  this caused me to reflect on what it would be like if we could see our inward struggles on the outside.

(Before I continue, I am in no way trying to elude that having tattoos in an indication of being covered in sin. Nor that you can judge someone by a tattoo. What I am saying is that seeing this man’s tattoos made me imagine what it would be like if people could see more deeply who I am by looking at my outward appearance.)

I wondered what it would be like if people were aware of all of our struggles just by looking at our outward appearance  – as if it were as visible as this man’s tattoo. What if our troubles, sorrows, sins, and afflictions were marked on our skin?

Pornography Addict.

Liar.

Unemployed.

Gambler.

Struggling in Marriage.

Thief.

Hungry.

Heroin Addict.

Scared.

Adulterer.

Spouse Abuser.

Lonely.

Video Game Addict.

Losing my testimony.

Business Fraud.

Depressed.

Social Media Addict.

Smoker.

How would having the scars of your sins visible to world affect the way you lived?

An old Bishop told me his favorite thing on Sunday was when someone would enter the chapel covered in the smell of cigarette smoke. Why? Because it was the smell of change. It meant the person who came to worship that day wanted to make something better of themselves. It meant that they weren’t afraid to acknowledge their shortcomings before men and seek the help they so desperately needed. Those are the people that understand church is a place for the sick to be made whole.

I felt similarly to that Bishop when I saw this man in the temple – it was an awesome feeling. No judgment was made towards him regarding his past, there was just sheer joy in seeing him in the temple, the place where he was supposed to be.

Too often we seek to hide our sins from the world and from the Lord, but there is no healing that comes from hiding. As you consider ways that you can change for the better, be grateful for a loving Savior who provided you with the blessing of repentance and who promises that, to those who repent of their sins, He will “remember them no more.”

Also, let’s all be grateful that our weaknesses and sins aren’t etched on our skin – they are not permanent. “…Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” – Isaiah 1:18

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9 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    To clarify, I very much appreciate and love the sentiment of this article. The idea of turning inward to prefect ourselves rather than picking out the mote in our brother or sister’s eye is beautiful. However, I disagree with drawing connections between tattoos and sin. They are not sins, nor are they always mistakes. There’s a reason you can continue to get tattoos and hold a worthy temple recommend.

  • Ben Arkell says:

    I actually made no reference to tattoos and sin in the article, but did notice that the link of FB did imply there was a connection between tattoos and past mistakes. I’ve updated that on the backend of my article. I agree with you completely. Thanks for your comment!

  • Don says:

    I have 4 tats (only 1 of whch I don’t like). Each of the other 3 I got for personal reasons but none of them are in any way “evil”. Our body is a temple and temples have art in them.

  • April Cook says:

    It’s unfortunate that the man at the temple was so offended. I am grateful you were able to see beyond this man’s struggle to love without judgement. We are all on our journey and making choices and learning. We shouldn’t judge the place that any one is or has been in their journey. So, like the smoker trying to overcome cigarettes that man is at the temple and working to overcome judgement and lack of love. Eventually he will learn, if he opens his heart and allows learning in. How wonderful that he serves in the temple – that’s a step in the right direction. Judgement, offense, anger and contention are centered in pride. Love is the gospel’s message. Love is Christ’s life. We must learn to love to be like Him… Just love: love people of other faiths, on other paths, with different hair and skin color, with different educations and languages, with different opinions, with physical and emotional trials, love everyone. Just love.

  • Old New Convert says:

    Temple workers are human, too, so they come with their own set of challenges in life. I’m sorry you had to be on the receiving end of his challenge, but you seem to have faired well for it.

    I work in the Dallas Temple, and we see folks with tattoos all the time. No big deal. They are clearly worthy, so they’re where they should be. But, to be fair, I once turned around in our chapel to see a man in his late 20s covered with tattoos – prison tattoos – and my first reaction was “What is he doing here?” I was immediately corrected by the Spirit. As I got to know his and his background, I found a man struggling to repent for his past and to progress. The last time I saw him (a year or two ago) he was still struggling with life, but continuing to progress.

    As this article points out, we all have a history, but most of us have histories that don’t show….fortunately for us.

  • Anonymous says:

    This example is more closer to home for most people. You may not say it. But there’s only 2 choices. 1 go over or 2 not.

  • Kathy Thompson says:

    Hey, this Brother that judged you as unworthy to be in the temple and perform those baptisms– well, HE is the one who was obviously not worthy to be in the temple right then. Because he does not understand, the Lord look at on the heart and not the outward appearance.

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