*Disclaimer: As always on this blog, the views written here are not officially from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These were my own impressions after reading an article.*
Halloween is fast approaching, and if you have any friendly Mormon neighbors, they may invite you to a “Fall Festival” at their local church building. Every ward or branch I’ve been in has had one where the people get together and play games, eat food and lots o’ candy, and even have a Trunk or Treat. If you’re planning on going, though, you’ll probably be told not to wear a mask with your costume. When I’ve invited friends and told them the rule, they’ve asked why, and I’ve always been like, “Uh, I don’t know. Because they’re scary?” Seriously, I didn’t know. It was just one of those things that we did, and I didn’t really question it.
Now, here I am, nearly 30 years old, and I finally found a possible answer in this month’s issue of the Ensign–a magazine put out by our church. There was an article by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve Apostles called “Act Well Your Part.” It’s a really good article about being the best version of yourself and setting goals. But what does this have to do with Halloween and why we don’t wear masks?
“What counsel can I give you? First, you will face great pressure to act out of character–even to wear a mask–and become someone who doesn’t really reflect who you are or who you want to be.”
He then goes on to tell the tragic story of Joseph Smith being attacked by an angry mob with black-painted faces to hide their identity. They came into his home and stole him away as he was lying with his sick 11-month-old son. They beat him and threw tar on him, but the worst part was that his sick child had been exposed to the night air and died a few days later. Also, the people who killed Joseph Smith and his brother had painted faces to hide their identities.
Obviously, here he is not talking about wearing masks on Halloween, but as I read it, I understood why we’re asked not to at wear masks at church. When we hide our identities, when we become anonymous, it’s easier to do things we wouldn’t normally do if people knew who we were and were face to face. Does this mean people wearing masks on Halloween are going to tar and feather or murder people? Probably not, but they may do other things they normally wouldn’t.
Elder Cook continues on with this advice:
“In our day, when being anonymous is easier than ever, there are important principles involved in not wearing a mask and in being ‘true to the faith . . . for which martyrs have perished.’ One of your greatest protections against making bad choices is not to put on any mask of anonymity. If you ever find yourself wanting to do so, please know it is a serious sign of danger and one of the adversary’s tools to get you to do something you should not do.
“Any use of the Internet to bully, destroy a reputation, or place a person in a bad light is reprehensible. What we are seeing in society is that when people wear the mask of anonymity, they are more likely to engage in this kind of conduct, which is so destructive of civil discourse.”
These days it’s so easy to be anonymous. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people write hateful things online which they probably wouldn’t say in person. It’s easy to forget that there’s another living person with real feelings receiving that comment. Sometimes we may think that if we do something anonymously, then no one will know–the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mentality. And while we have that mask on, we can be whatever we want to be because no one knows it’s us.
But what happens when the mask comes off? Do those things we did really “stay in Vegas?” No, they’re with us always. The mask doesn’t make us forget.
There’s only one true way to be free–the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ suffered everything for everyone in Gethsemane. Every sorrow you’ve felt, every guilty feeling, he’s already felt it, so you don’t have to. If we take our problems to him and sincerely ask, he will free us. When he does, there will be no need to hide behind a mask because we will realize who we are–children of God–and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s fun to dress up for Halloween, and it’s one of my favorite holidays. Who doesn’t like pretending to be someone else for a night? (Oh, right, my husband. ha!) But if you do dress up this Halloween, don’t get so caught up in your character that you forget who YOU are–a Child of God.
**Edit: I changed one thing in this entry. I changed “the answer” to “possible answer” because I don’t want people to think that I’m stating this as a fact. I’ve had some people point out that there is also a safety issue with not wearing masks, and I agree. There is also nothing stated in the Church handbook as to why we’re not to wear masks. It just says don’t. This idea was just something I felt on my own. Thanks for reading and commenting!**