In an evening of religion research, I come across the following make-up advice: “Blush adds color to your cheeks and helps define your cheekbones. To apply, smile naturally and dust the blush brush on the apples of your cheeks. Then blend a little more color up near your hairline and back down again.” I did not find this quote from a “study break” tab opened to various make-up blogs, but from the official site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The advice is for female missionaries from the LDS Church, and is listed with other topics: suggested hair styles for women, accessories for men, and guidelines for all aspects of bodily adornment. Presented with these specific guidelines, as official representatives of the LDS Church, missionary bodies provide an excellent case study to analyze Mary Douglas’ idea that “ideas about the cosmos are expressed through the medium of the body.” To examine how this idea is applied to missionary bodies, I will first analyze Talal Asad’s work, “Remarks on the Anthropology of the Body.” I will then apply Asad’s theory and Douglas’ quote to the bodies of missionaries from the LDS Church. My argument is that applying Douglas’ quote to missionary bodies through Asad’s theory allows for analysis that moves beyond a mind/body dualism that often exists in symbolic interpretations of bodies, and reveals a gendered theology and historical tensions between assimilation and exclusion in the LDS Church.


Religions; Religions -- Philosophy; Religions -- History


Relics, Remnants, and Religion: an Undergraduate Journal in Religious Studies

Publication Date




Publication Place

Tacoma, Washington


The University of Puget Sound