There has been a good deal of discussion lately, even in scientific forums, about what makes Mormons (more accurately, Latter-day Saints—members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) stand out physically from other people. Some people are quite skeptical that this difference exists at all, but in the November/December 2012 issue of Psychology Today, the cover story (“What’s in a Face?” by Jena Pincott) referenced this issue. The story’s abstract said, “From spotting the ‘Mormon Glow’ to intuiting sexuality, criminality, and leadership ability, we make snap judgments about people that are remarkably accurate. It’s one of the brain’s oldest tricks –a matter of self-protection.”
Nicholas Rule, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, decided to put his experience in the study of judgments people make based on appearances to the test on this issue and was surprised when he found that Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) could pick out other Latter-day Saints from headshots more often than chance would allow. How could these people spot the “Mormon glow”?
Many scientists ascribe the physical difference of “Mormons” to the health code that is promoted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called the Word of Wisdom. To be a member of the Church in good standing, Mormons must not partake of alcohol, tobacco, or any other harmful drugs. They are encouraged to moderate the amount of meat they eat and to focus on eating healthful foods and living active lifestyles. It is obvious that if adhered to, this health code would make people healthier. However, there is more to it than that.
Quotes from two past church leaders help explain. Brigham Young said:
“Mormonism” keeps men and women young and handsome; and when they are full of the Spirit of God, there are none of them but what will have a glow upon their countenances; and that is what makes you and me young; for the Spirit of God is with us and within us. (Journal of Discourses, Volume 5, Discourse 34.)
More recently, President James E. Faust shared the following story in a General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I recently recalled a historic meeting in Jerusalem about 17 years ago. It was regarding the lease for the land on which the Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies was later built. Before this lease could be signed, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, agreed with the Israeli government on behalf of the Church and the university not to proselyte in Israel. . . . We were required to do so in order to get the building permit to build that magnificent building which stands in the historic city of Jerusalem. . . . After the lease had been signed, one of our friends insightfully remarked, “Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light that is in their eyes?” He was referring to our students who were studying in Israel.
What was that light in their eyes which was so obvious to our friend? The Lord Himself gives the answer: “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings” (D&C 88:11, emphasis added). Where did that light come from? Again the Lord gives the answer: “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2). The Lord is the true light, “and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit” (D&C 84:46). This light shows in our countenances as well as in our eyes. (James E. Faust, “The Light in Their Eyes,” Ensign, November 2005.)
The “Mormon glow” that makes Latter-day Saints so good looking is joy. This joy comes into people’s lives as they faithfully keep the commandments of God and see that these commandments are for their benefit. God’s commandments are given in love to protect His beloved children from mistakes that will cause them pain and anguish. Those who are doing their best to live God’s commandments and who are applying the healing and cleansing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives are free from many shackles which bind and weigh down those who continually turn their backs on God. The true message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is joy, and He invites all who wish to, to come and partake of milk and honey, without money and without price (2 Nephi 26:25).
This article was written by Doris White, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Doris White is a native of Oregon and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in Editing. She loves to talk with others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.