There are many reasons why an individual would choose to get a tattoo. It can be a form of self expression, a form of encouragement or motivation or even a keepsake, according to the Tatt2Away website.
“In Mormon culture, we’re raised to believe that tattoos are bad, that whoever has them must have had a sinful life,” said Adrien Vasquez, a freshman studying communication.
Justin Porter, a senior majoring in theatre studies, said when other students or Church members around him notice his tattoos, they usually don’t know how to react.
“Sometimes people are slightly uncomfortable around it, so they don’t know how to talk to me once they see it,” Porter said.
Austin Olson, a freshman studying biochemistry, said it can be difficult to know how to react when one student’s experiences differ from other students’.
“I don’t particularly care,” Olsen said. “I know that people change. It could be something that happened before they signed the honor code, so it’s not my position to judge.”
Diversity in backgrounds and life circumstances are welcome and essential to creating a positive atmosphere in the Church, according to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in a general conference address in October 2013.
“Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives,” President Uchtdorf said. “The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.”
In many cases, students who have tattoos have gotten them prior to joining the Church or during a rebellious phase.
“I don’t mind at all if people know I have tattoos and a rough past,” Porter said. “But as someone who has done things wrong in the past, I can warn people that it isn’t as fun as it seems.”
Jamie Sheeley, a junior studying business management, said having a rough past is not the reason she got her tattoos.
“People tend to think that because I have tattoos, I automatically fell away from the Church or went through a rebel phase,” Sheeley said. “Because of this, I’ve been able to share my testimony of the Church as well as being an individual and making my own choices.”
She said she enjoys having conversations about her tattoos, because seeing someone with tattoos is an uncommon occurrence at BYU-I, and it is fun to be able to expose other people to different opinions and lifestyles.
“I love proving that I’m not a horrible person because I have a couple tattoos,” Sheeley said.
Having a tattoo does not restrict any individual from enjoying the full blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to Elder Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine.
“Persons who are tattooed are not denied the ordinances and blessings of the temples,” Elder McConkie said.
Students attending any church school, including BYU-Idaho, are encouraged to be respectful to others. This includes being respectful of the opinions of others and not judging each other based on differences in lifestyle choices, according to the CES Honor Code.
“Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours,” Uchtdorf said in a October 2013 general conference.
“We will all become better as a result. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing.”
Despite it being a means of expressing yourself, getting a tattoo can have much heavier consequences than it seems, according to David A. Burton in the February 1999 Ensign.
“I would say that when it comes to any of the commandments, it is better to have lived them than it is to break them and try to fix things later,” Porter said.