Former Mormon reveals the secrets signs for identifying Church members based on appearance

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published May 12, 2024 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Have you ever wondered why certain people look Mormon? That’s the question that seems to be on everyone’s lips ever since YouTuber and TikTok content creator Alyssa Grenfell, 31, posed it to her followers in a clip that has since gone viral.

In the TikTok video, Grenfell, who was raised in a devout Mormon family, attended Brigham Young University (BYU), served a full-time mission, and was married in the temple at 23, delves into the topic, attributing certain appearances to the strict marriage regulations within the religious community.

@robert_carpenter

Interviewing BYU students #byu #byuinterview #byuinterviews #brighamyounguniversity

♬ original sound - Robert Carpenter

A year after exiting her church, Grenfell moved to New York City and embarked on a journey of faith deconstruction. She’s now the author of How to Leave the Mormon Church: An Exmormon’s Guide to Rebuilding After Religion and has made a name for herself online for openly discussing everything Mormon-related. Here’s what she had to say about the “Mormon face.”

What is the Mormon face?

In a video titled ‘Explaining Mormon face’, which has since gained a staggering 1.8 million views on TikTok and 2.6 million views on YouTube, Grenfell dives into the intriguing theory of why members of her former church often bear a striking resemblance to one another.

@alyssadgrenfell

When marrying outside your own race is considered a sin and you spend a lot of time worrying about the straight and narrow, you might all end up looking exactly the same. 🧐 Also massive thank you to @Mormon Stories Podcast and @John Dehlin plus a donor for helping me get some amaxing new equipment! Very excited for making more videos using my new mic, lighting, and camera! 🥳 #utah #mormon #exmormon #exmo #lds #utahcheck

♬ original sound - Alyssa Grenfell

Grenfell offers a compelling explanation, delving into the strict marriage regulations within the Mormon community. With tongue firmly in cheek, she highlights the practice of Mormons predominantly marrying within their ranks—a phenomenon that has led to what she playfully dubs a “very small gene pool.”

The content creator goes on to shed light on how this insular approach to marriage has inadvertently shaped the physical appearance of many Mormons. With a nod to the past, she touches on historical attitudes towards interracial marriage within the Mormon faith, adding another layer to the discussion.

“Mormons really only marry other Mormons,” the creator states. “You can’t marry in a Mormon temple unless it’s two Mormons getting married. This, in large part, has made it so that the gene pool is actually very small—especially in a place like Utah, where Mormons fled and went to be able to practice polygamy in peace.”

Is Ryan Gosling Mormon?

Ryan Gosling was born and raised in a Mormon family, making him the perfect example of what people really mean when they describe the so-called Mormon face. And honestly, I’m starting to see it now.

@alyssadgrenfell

We all had a crush on @David Archuleta 🥰 I love hearing his experiences as a recent exmo #greenscreen #exmormon #exmo #utah #mormon #lds #celebrity #celebrities

♬ original sound - Alyssa Grenfell

Continuing her analysis, Grenfell explains that Mormons typically marry within their religious circle, as marriages outside the faith are prohibited in Mormon temples. This longstanding practice has contributed to a narrowed gene pool, especially in locations like Utah, where Mormons are over 60.68 per cent of the overall population.

Yet, beyond Grenfell’s humorous anecdotes lies some pretty surprising scientific evidence. In a 2010 research paper, psychology professor Nicholas Rule from the University of Toronto presented findings that support Grenfell’s observations. Rule’s study revealed that both Mormons and non-Mormons possess the ability to identify Mormons based on physical appearance, particularly focusing on “skin texture.”

To conduct the study, Rule gathered images of individuals aged 18 to 30, from both within the Mormon religion and outside, and from various major cities across the US. Participants were asked to distinguish between Mormons and non-Mormons solely based on their appearance, without any facial adornments such as piercings or glasses.

“We first took out the hair, then took away the shape of the face, then looked at different features: Is it the eyes, the mouth, the nose?” Rule stated. “We kept going until we got to having a face with very little left, and so the only thing that seemed reasonable was that it was skin texture,” the expert continued.

Interestingly, the results showed that non-Mormons could correctly identify Mormons 60 per cent of the time, while Mormons had an even higher success rate.

Nara Smith, Ballerina Farm, and the Mormon look

So, how do TikTok influencers Nara Smith and Ballerina Farm fit into all of this? Both women, who have a combined TikTok following of over 13 million people, may not appear to match the traditional mould of the “Mormon look,” but they’ve certainly made their mark, reshaping perceptions and establishing new ways to identify the so-called ‘Mormon lifestyle’.

Both Smith and Ballerina Farm have managed to make the lifestyle look so effortlessly chic, almost as if they’ve turned being Mormon into the latest fashion statement. And, beyond their style, their influence extends to expanding the Mormon community itself, attracting more individuals to join their faith and embrace their unique way of life.

@naraazizasmith

What’s your favorite sandwich? @Liquid I.V. #livfest #liquidivpartner #easyrecipe #homecooking #sandwich #fypツ

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@ballerinafarm

I’ve always liked to swoon Daniel with good cooking. And since this week is our 12 year anniversary I’ve been hip-deep in pans and dishes. 😎His favorite meal is chicken parmigiana, not a small ask. This year I upped the ante by rolling out homemade pasta, which made all the difference. Happy anniversary, @hogfathering 😘

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It seems that the notion of the “Mormon look” has evolved significantly in recent times. Rather than conforming to a traditional image associated with white Caucasian features, their influence has shifted perceptions, presenting Mormonism as a desirable and aspirational way of life. This trend suggests that the modern portrayal of Mormons emphasises a specific lifestyle embraced by a diverse range of individuals, characterised by health, beauty, and a sense of ease.

Both of these influencers’ content mainly focuses on marrying young, having children soon afterwards, having a job that keeps them at home, and perhaps most importantly, making Mormonism look not just normal but enviable.

Why are Mormons always so happy?

According to the author of How to Leave the Mormon Church: An Exmormon’s Guide to Rebuilding After Religion, the distinctive “Mormon look” is often accompanied by what they describe as a specific “Mormon vibe,” characterised by being super hyper-friendly.

“Mormons are taught to proselytise and share their religion,” Greenfell added: “I think that Mormon culture is very copycat.”

When Mormons initially settled in Utah in 1847 under Brigham Young’s leadership, the directive to “Beautify your gardens, your houses, your farms; beautify the city” reflected a foundational Mormon belief that continues to influence their attitudes today: the importance of outward appearances.

The guidance discourages tattoos and multiple piercings, with the LDS church website featuring a dedicated section on grooming and dress, including makeup tutorials. “You are not required to wear makeup; however, wearing makeup can help you look your best,” it advises. “To minimise the appearance of dark circles under your eyes, use a yellow- or pink-toned concealer lighter than your skin tone. Use your fingers to gently apply and blend the colour under your eyes, along the lash line,” the instructions continued.

Jen Atkin, a celebrity hairstylist raised in the LDS church and known for her association with the Kardashians, describes the Mormon aesthetic as “pretty, relatable beauty, with nothing too out of reach…though they really know how to put on a face of makeup!”

Interestingly, Grenfell pointed out in the video that beyond mere aesthetics, there appears to be an additional factor contributing to the widespread happiness often noticed within the Mormon community. Alongside prioritising appealing environments and personal presentation, there seems to be a deliberate endeavour to allure and bring in new members to the Mormon church, utilising the charm of both individuals and their surroundings.

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