Last week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released two more essays to its online collection of controversial topic excuses explanations — Mother in Heaven, and Joseph Smith’s Teachings About Priesthood, Temple, and Women.

These essays are part of the Church’s initiative to be “more open” about church history. (Just like they became more open with the priesthood once society absolutely demanded it!)

Mormons are known for their patriarchy. We all know what happened to Kate Kelly when she campaigned for women in the church to receive the priesthood — the ability to serve in the same leadership positions male Mormons are able to serve in. But we can’t blame the brethren — they’re just exercising their power to excommunicate apostates. (Ignore the scriptural meaning of the word “apostate”. It actually means “defying church leaders who are called of God”. Naturally, this means you can never be excommunicated for defying the General Relief Society President. Just the men, k?)

Though Kate herself has described the new essays as disingenuous (a statement I completely agree with), some consider the new women-focused essays a positive step for the church. After all, they have to do something to help combat what Boyd K. Packer called “the dangers of the feminist movement”.

Last General Conference (Oct 2015) had more mansplaining than perhaps ever before. Russell M. Nelson’s talk, “A Plea to My Sisters” attempted to console those concerned about sexism in the church with statements such as this:

“My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils.”

Cool story, bro. Just not in the most important callings and not in a way that has any actual decision making power, eh?

However, we’ll cut Elder Nelson some slack for at least trying, with other statements like:

“We know that the culminating act of all creation was the creation of woman! We need your strength!”

Hey, just like you need multiple wives to get to the celestial kingdom, according to Brigham Young!

Anyway, with these (admittedly poor) new efforts of the church in mind, I was shocked to learn that Elder Ballard had made a sexist and unnecessary comment at a devotional to YSA in Utah County the other day.

You beautiful girls — don’t wander around looking like men. Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming — it’s that simple. I don’t know why we make this whole process so hard.”

No, this isn’t a quote from 50 years ago. It’s a quote from an alleged apostle of Jesus Christ in 2015. It’s the kind of thing I’d be fine with my grandfather saying, but not someone who claims to represent God himself to a bunch of people who hang on his every word. In the age of information, where everything a church leader says can be heard globally. At a time when the church has PR people and research groups and secret committees and goodness knows what else helping to do the job of their self-proclaimed prophets, seers, and revelators so that they can stand before the world and speak of only the most platitude-laden essential things.

(While we’re still talking about this quote, let’s also mention that Elder Ballard apparently doesn’t realize how few modern men actually like women to wear lipstick — so he may be giving young women counter-productive advice. Also, he’s apparently not inspired enough to know about the existence of lip stain. <– Shameless affiliate link to my favorite lip product, just in CASE you’re really concerned about making the most of your mouth’s appearance because AN APOSTLE SAID IT’S IMPORTANT. Or because you want to help Zelph on the Shelf with our #TakingBackTithing mission.)

I was genuinely amazed that Elder Ballard had the audacity to say something like this, though it’s not the first time he’s made sexist comments. It’s another crystal clear example of how out-of-touch these so called “inspired” old men are, not to mention how willing they are to disregard scriptures about painted faces! Clearly Elder Ballard has no grasp on real issues facing the world, much less women’s issues. 

His comment, which reduces the act of finding a spouse down to appearances, also stands in stark contrast to a wonderful quote from an Elder Holland talk that promotes a far healthier view of women:

“You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard.”

It appears that Ballard subscribes more to David O Mckay’s archaic and unnecessary statement on women:

“Even a barn door looks better when it’s painted.”

I can really just throw my hands up in the air with exasperation here. I don’t expect church leaders to always speak perfectly, but I expect church leaders not to be pharisaical and harmful to women with statements such as these. Ugh, who am I kidding? The LDS church has become increasingly pharisaical since day one, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Kamis Dewey

    But he didn’t say it in Conference so it’s all good.

  • Samantha, this is technically a misquote. Here’s the original source. The actual quote can be found around 1h 24m Although it’s essentially the same, I think the context is gone when it’s separated like this. Whether it was the right thing to say or not, I think it’s important that it wasn’t presented as actual counsel, It was said somewhat in jest. Still love you! <3

    • Zelph on the Shelf

      Yeah, we just heard the actual recording finally!
      My thoughts don’t change. He still said it, though the delivery was more grandfatherly than this article can convey with text. We’ll add in the clip. If my grandfather said that to me, I’d be totally fine about it. But not a man claiming to be an apostle of God who is divinely inspired to give counsel.

      It shows such a lack of understanding about ANYTHING going on in the world with people or women. “Don’t dress like a man” – that’s a pretty offensive thing to say. Also I know plenty of wonderful Mormons who are happily married and have never worn makeup in their lives. He has a responsibility, given that people hang on the leaders’ every word, and I think he really failed to live up to it with this.

      • Davin Walker

        Sigh…. I would venture that Mr. Ballard is 300x more informed about anything and everything than said blogger on some random site. Just because you found a copy of a quote doesn’t suddenly make you an expert. And there’s a bunch of talks in conference about getting offended, they would be good to read :).

        Ill say I don’t find ‘Don’t tress like a man’ offensive. Its actually quite true. Men and Women have their different roles, I like seeing a girl in a modest dress with long hair. I’d venture most men do. (back to the uninformed blog commentator 🙂 ). Please note I said ‘men’

        And yes, there’s plenty of wonderful Mormons would don’t wear makeup and are happily married. We live a on freaking planet with over 6 BILLION people on it. You don’t think there is any diversity there? Jeeze calm the freak down. It was funny, it was true, it was 100% not intended to offend.

        “President Brigham Young once said that he who takes offense when no offense was intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense was intended is usually a fool.”

        • Maddisen Tingey

          I find it humorous that you feel that you have grounds to comment on whether or not women should be offended by this comment, seeing as you are a man, and this comment made by Mr. Ballard was directed at women. I’d like to suggest that you don’t tell other people how to feel.

          • Davin Walker

            Fair enough! 🙂

            Though, I would also submit, that its a guy talking. So I generally have the feels for him :), and every other guy out there in the world that has said something that some woman took offense to, that he was shocked that she took offense to it.

            We guys are simple creatures, please don’t get mad at us 🙂

          • Maddisen Tingey

            Too late, old chap.(:

          • Davin Walker

            Aw, thats too bad. Please defer to my comment about taking offense when it isn’t meant comment/conference talk.

            or if you aren’t active lds, then no worries! cause you shouldn’t be worrying about what some old fodder from a religion you don’t care about says 🙂

          • Frida Patel

            You do realize you can offend someone without intending to do so, right? Just like you can accidentally step on someone’s toe without meaning to. If you say, “Sorry, I’ll get off your toe,” then it’s no big deal. But if you say, “Jeez, why is your toe getting so hurt? Did I hurt your precious fee fees? I didn’t mean to step on your toe, stop letting it hurt so much!”, then you’re a real jerk.

  • Tom

    I actually agree with all of this but Kate Kelly. She knew what she was doing. I left the church about a year ago, but I’ve never felt sympathy for her. Every part of what she did felt calculated and planned. No shit she was going to get ex’d. Everyone knew that from day one. If she legitimately wanted to stay in the church she would have. I have a thousand problems with the church, but hiding the system isn’t really one of them.

    All that being said, this article is spot on.

  • John

    Timeout. Elder Ballard is 87 years old. Let’s see how contemporary your views are when you’re that age. You will almost certainly have differences of opinion with people that are 60 years younger than you – on issues much more consequential than whether women should wear lipstick to attract men.

    My dad is 85 and expresses antiquated views all the time. I know my dad is a great guy despite his old-timey opinions, so I don’t get bent out of shape when he says stuff I disagree with. I suspect Elder Ballard is also a very good man. And even though he’s an Apostle, he’s still just a man, probably trying to do his best.

    Finally: the HuffoPo piece – you didn’t. You really need to read it again, the whole thing.

    • Victor Alfaro Gonzalez

      “Timeout. Elder Ballard is 87 years old. Let’s see how contemporary your views are when you’re that age..” — back in 1978, I used to hang out at Studio 54.. there was this nanogenarian lady there all the time, we used to call her Disco Granny… she was a hoot.. she would dance to Donna Summer and Grace Jones doing the disco bit flawlessly… for a chick her age, that is… She would snort coke and smoke joints, and she would climb all over the hunky shirtless waiters… so I became convinced that age is just a number… if you are a fun chick at 97 you were probably a fun chick at 17… conversely, if you are a mysoginist douche at 87, you were probably one at 17… so there…

      • John

        That’s one person, and you haven’t demonstrated that age and experience didn’t lead her to develop different views in other areas. Acting like a drunk college student around the waitstaff doesn’t mean she didn’t have different views than you on other subjects.

    • Man’s Ruin

      Your Dad is conflating his personal opinion with the word of Gawd in an organized religion in which he is a leader? No? Then you have done nothing but deliver a false analogy that serves to defend an indefensible status quo.

      • John

        If you asked Elder Ballard whether his advice about lipstick is doctrine, I’m confident he would say “no,” it’s just his opinion. I think you’re getting tripped up on the fact that he is an Apostle, so you’re taking everything he says as though he’s speaking doctrinally. Now, should Elder Ballard be careful about what he says because he’s an Apostle? Certainly.

        I would wager, though, that even the author of the original post has put on lipstick or lip stain or some cosmetic product to enhance her appearance for men. If not, she’s in the minority. You can look this up. There are all kinds of studies showing that (1) most women (something like 70%) wear makeup, (2) most women wear makeup, among other reasons, to enhance their attractiveness, and (3) most men find that at least some makeup does in fact enhance a woman’s attractiveness.

        On the third point, some of the reasons wearing makeup enhances a woman’s appearance to men are sociological and some are biological – meaning they’re genetically hard wired into our species. In other words, men have an actual biological response to certain types and styles of makeup. Our species is stuck with this fact until we can genetically engineer it away.

        So, essentially, the complaint in the original post is about Elder Ballard telling women to do what most women do already for the reason that Elder Ballard mentioned. Further, lots and lots and lots of women simply like the aesthetic enhancement that makeup provides and they’re just fine with the fact that men also like it.

        Funny thing is, we probably agree on about as much as we disagree on. Society is superficial and does place huge, damaging and demeaning expectations on women about how they look. I think that’s terrible. That said, it’s no crime to acknowledge the biological fact that most men find a little makeup attractive. If I were Elder Ballard, I probably would have gone out of my way to make the first point before making the second point.

        • I would believe you, except for the fact that “women should only wear one set of earrings” is not taken as the meandering opinion of an old man, but as the word of God communicated to the church through the prophet….

          • John

            To be honest, my first instinct is annoyance when church leaders make statements like that. There was once an idea in the church that it teaches correct principles and lets people govern themselves. This seems a wise policy to me and in apparent contradiction with advice to wear only one set of earrings. The more specific advice is, it’s less a principle than a rule. With more specificity, rules devolve into micro-management. I always saw the earring “rule” that way. Still, I don’t think there’s any official penalty for wearing more than one set of earrings (none that I’m aware of, at least), so it’s not much of a “rule” in that sense.

    • E Brown

      He was in his early forties when 2d wave feminism was at its peak. Age is no excuse.

      • John

        The problem is that you think you’ve cornered the market on truth and have no tolerance for differences of opinion. As it turns out, many, many, many women wear makeup specifically to attract men and the current state of affairs doesn’t bother them. The accusation against Ballard is silly.

  • Pink-lead

    Running this through my translator.
    Dear young single adults,
    Why do we have to keep pestering you about getting married? Now men, stop playing video games and masturbating and start asking girls out. Girls, men want to marry someone who looks good. Despite what others might find attractive (athletic etc), let me tell you how to really rope a man in based on my courting experience from 60 years ago. Put on a skirt and some lipstick. It’ll catch a man’s eye, he’ll fancy you and then you can get married. Just do it. Getting married is that simple. It worked for me.

  • Victor Alfaro Gonzalez

    Men can also look charming with a little lipstick on… remember Boy George? How about Caitlyn Jenner? Holly came from Miami, F.L.A. Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A. Plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs and then he was a she… she says, “hey,babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

  • Mark Hansen

    Don’t forget ladies, God, the creator of the universe, doesn’t want you to wear 2 sets of earrings.

    He doesn’t have time to explain to us about the BOA scrolls, kinderhook plates, Joseph’s polyandry, or anything else… but he sure has time to make sure you don’t sin by wearing 2 sets of earrings.

  • Bishop

    So are marriage rates down at BYU and BYUI? I suspect this may be the motive behind the lipstick comments.

  • Nancy

    If in all of the recent talks on women all you have to do is substitute the word dog (or your favorite pet) where you see woman and you will understand how Mormon leaders really view women.

    • Davin Walker

      I think you’d find, that Mormon leaders care more about the women in their lives, and those they preside over, than any other group of men collectively anywhere in the world.

      And I find that offensive leave my favorite pet out of this 🙂

      • Brent

        I think you are right, they really care about them a great deal. But they are never going to let them decide anything important, ever. Benevolent sexism.

        • Davin Walker

          Haha, you haven’t ever been in a ward council have you? 😀

          Its similar to your GF, you always have the last say 😉

          • Brent

            Yes, I was.

          • Davin Walker


    • Nancy

      My point is that however much women are cared about at the end of the day no important decision in the church has ever been made by a woman. We love our pets but we don’t give them any decision making powers. They are not views by us as equals.

  • Davin Walker

    Dear God,

    Please save me from a generation of idiots. Why do we get so offended at the smallest of things. I am 100% positive if you were talking to him in person, you would have a different perspective and understanding. And probably even agree :).

    “I was shocked to learn that Elder Ballard had made a sexist and unnecessary comment”

    Sigh…. The only thing that is sexist about this is how you interpret it. I am a guy, I have male genitals. If the barn door is painted or is wearing lipstick it will catch my eye. Then I will get to know said barn door, and discover its actually a diamond. But these things always start with attraction. We spend all of this time on dating apps, online dating, fretting over social media, posting uninformed opinions on blogs (including this one :), and by that I mean my comment and the post ), but when it really boils down to the dregs, its about whether or not you were attracted and have a connection.



    p.s. we’re ready for another flood, any time now.

    • Beth

      Sir, I have noticed several of your replies to posts on this blog… and now I say that you are both a heel and a dimwit. If you require a woman to have long hair, to be wearing a dress and be “painted” in order to notice her, then you are a man that no “diamond” of a woman will want, because you are an chauvinistic imbecile. We women do not “choose” to be offended by Elder Ballard’s words, and the comments made by all too many men like him (including yourself.) We have been walloped repeatedly for most of our lives by comments like this one, and told to just accept that each blow that hits us is another bit of proof of how much we are loved. Many of us simply refuse to stand for it any longer. You have no business speaking on a subject with which you have no experience, and for which you offer no unique or clever insight. Also, you can stop with the smiley-faces in your posts, no one believes that anything you say is kindly meant.

      • Davin Walker

        Well, I spent a lot of time deciding whether or not I would respond to this comment. And I still don’t want to :). But then I felt obligated to stick in another smiley face :). Ok, maybe two. But instead of directly responding, I simply want to compare real quick.

        Elder Ballard Comments: beautiful girls, ‘don’t … [look] like men’. Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming

        Ms. Beth Comments: heel, dimwit, ‘you are a man that no “diamond” of a woman will want’, chauvinistic imbecile, you offer no unique or clever insight, you can stop with the smiley-faces

        So instead of really responding, I’ll simply make the observation that it is interesting how people deem a simple comment about looking your best, worthy of vile nasty mob mentality.

        Therefore if you are capable of rationally discussing, i.e. aside from this name calling shenanigans, we can talk about my personality and how I inherently grin and put similes everywhere 🙂

        • Voltaire

          Hey, Davin, quotes from Brigham Young, the ultimate polygamist, are not going to help your case with women, nor is your reference to a generation of idiots. I do agree with you, however, that Ballard meant no offense, and what he said was not offensive to me as a woman. I am a wife and mother of grown sons, and I know it is true that a guy’s initial interest in a gal is sparked by visual attraction. Girls are foolish if they think otherwise or look down on a guy and think he is shallow for having this very natural and visceral reaction. Ballard was addressing the topic of marriage. From the way the audience laughed and nodded their heads, I think he was simply reminding them of what they already knew . . . that men must not get lazy about courting and paying attention to their wives, and women should not let their appearance deteriorate once married if they want to keep a spark of romance in their relationship. It may not be lipstick, but whatever attracts your man, keep doing it.

  • freba

    It’s only sexist and condescending if you take it as such.

  • Vor

    This guy clearly hates women:

    “Praising the contributions—small and large—of women throughout his life, Elder Ballard spoke of the powerful influence women have in homes, communities, schools, church, and professional settings. Not only do women influence society today; they have always been an essential part of history.” May 2015

    He also hates women making their own choices:

    ““Balancing everything among all of the available options [for women] can be a challenge,” he said. “In the end, most of us have to choose among competing options to determine what is best for us.” May 2015


  • ConcernedDiva

    I’ve been discussing some of my questions with tbm friends and whenever I mention something a prophet or apostle said, they say that they were speaking as a person, not a prophet. Which basically, is my friend giving these men free passes to be idiots! It’s so frustrating.

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