This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
No one could blame Mormon writer Jana Riess for presuming that women in her faith were going under the plastic surgery knife at a higher rate than others.
After all, every time Cincinnati-based Riess visited the Beehive State, she noted the many billboards advertising cosmetic surgery lining Interstate 15.
Then there was an article in Forbes magazine, saying that Utah's capital city has six plastic surgeons for every 100,000 residents, making it, so the piece said, the "vainest" city in the nation and asserting that was because of Mormons.
And there's plenty of anecdotal evidence from the city's wealthier neighborhoods and Mormon "corridor" in the West.
Though the LDS Church has no official stance on cosmetic surgery, in a 2005 speech, LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland condemned a "preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical" that is "more social than spiritual."
Holland specifically mentioned "tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled."
However, after doing her own survey of more than 1,100 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Riess concluded her fellow believers use plastic surgery at essentially the same rate as others.
"Mormons as a whole have almost the exact same rate of self-reported plastic surgery procedures as people in the general population, as measured in a 2016 Pew survey," Riess writes on her blog at Religion News Service.
"Among Mormon women, it's even lower than for women nationally," she says her survey found. "Moreover, Utah Mormons' rate of cosmetic surgery isn't outsized at all. Among all Utah Mormons, 3.7 percent have had plastic surgery, slightly less than the 4 percent national average for all Americans. For Utah women, it's 5.6 percent. That's also a little less than the national average for women, which is 7 percent."
Riess warns against drawing conclusions based on circumstantial evidence.
"Let's be careful about making broad, sweeping assumptions," she writes. "The numbers don't always back it up."
Peggy Fletcher Stack