“Beards are [now] a personal decision”

Ban on Beards Lifted
"After prayerful consideration ...
the Governing Body do not have
an issue with brothers wearing beards.
Why not?
Because the Scriptures do not condemn
the wearing of beards."
Written by Miss Usato, published December 15th, 2023 (Revised Dec 17th to include Anthony's Story)

On December 15th 2023, Governing Body Member Stephen Lett broadcasted a new announcement. In it, he stated that several branch offices around the world have written to them indicating that there continue to be questions about whether or not it is proper for a brother in an appointed position to wear a beard. 

“After prayerful consideration, the Governing Body has concluded that there is a need to clarify this matter. The Governing Body does not have an issue with brothers wearing beards. Why not? Because the Scriptures do not condemn the wearing of beards.”

Previously, in February 2018, Stephen Lett on JW Broadcasting contradicted this revised stance when he directed, “We would not want to insist on the right to have a beard if it were to stumble someone.”

The wearing of beards should never have been an issue in the first place. If the Governing Body is driven by holy spirit, and it governs followers by the scriptures, there is no scriptural basis for a man to shave his face.

Update as of 02/03/24:

The initial step in the beard decision involved requesting the Writing Department to discreetly feature a man with facial hair on the Love People brochure. The intention was to avoid drawing attention to it before a final decision was reached. Specific Bethelites were engaged in a covert “project,” growing beards privately and participating in a video that was subsequently included in the GB update. Since then, it has been leaked onto an Exjw Subreddit of Governing Body member Geoff Jackson was sporting a mustache and beard. Bethelites had already started growing facial hair before the announcement was made in December.

Who is growing a beard among the committees? 

It has come to our attention that since the announcement, the members of the Governing Body itself—Geoff Jackson, Dave Splane, Sam Herd, and Jeffery Winder—are experimenting with the idea of growing beards.

Among the list of helpers, individuals such as Bob Luccioni, Donald Gordon, Paul Gillies, Patrick LaFranca, Ralph Walls, Mark Noumair, Gene Smalley, Clive Martin, Leonard Myers, Seth Hyatt, Leon Weaver Jr., and Joel Dellinger are also beginning to cultivate facial hair.

“Thus, whether a brother wears a beard is a personal decision. A Brother’s qualifications to serve as an elder, or ministerial servant, is based on his spirituality, not on whether he chooses to wear a beard. This direction also applies to special full-time servants at Bethel, and those in the field including special pioneers, missionaries, and circuit overseers.” – Stephen Lett in 2023 Governing Body Update #8.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization is known for their strict standards, not only on the qualifications for baptism but, on how to be fashioned and labeled as a proper witness of Jehovah. Cleanliness and modesty is of utmost importance.

For women it is summed up as not being too loud in their ways of dress and grooming, down to how they style and color their hair, jewelry and bold statements in dress wear.

For men its the same. No flashy jewelry. They must dress in a clean suit and tie when conducting or attending religious functions/meetings, and no tight dress wear (Because, according to their statements in past articles, it promotes homosexuality).

Rather than there being a boldly stated rule of beards being a no-go, it has been more of a pressure of Witness norms and a rather verbal standard that witnesses have teetered back and forth with for years. This is also depending on the country they reside in. In some countries, the Organization does allow the men to wear beards. On multiple exJW forums, this has been a known issue of contention and discussion. Many male members have been asked or directed to shave their beards, to have a ‘modest, clean and dignifying’ look that the hierarchy consider approachable.

History of the beard

left to right- Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Franklin Rutherford

In the 2023 Governing Body Update #8, Steven Lett shows a short video on “The History of Beards”. Yet, there are a few points they have omitted that has changed this unwritten rule.

The first leader of the religous group, Charles Taze Russell, fashioned a full beard. However, when clean-shaven Rutherford took over as leader of the organization, he instituted a ban on beards. He abhorred facial hair and thus implemented this non-biblical rule. The Governing Body have now removed that ridiculous rule.

Russell had Watch Towers’ artwork accurately depict male Bible characters with beards. Yet when clean-shaven Rutherford took over the business clean shaven, he instructed the artwork department to depict bible characters without beards. 

It wasn’t until 1968 that Watch Tower’s publication artwork reintroduced beards for Bible characters. However, until now, no Governing Body member has sported a beard. And bets are being taken as to who will be the first to wear one.

In a September 2016 edition of The Watchtower it indicated that beards may be acceptable in some cultures.

Rather than the ban on beards being a biblical requirement, this was a personal preference of Rutherford’s who had an utter distaste for beards. His abhorrence of beards has lasted for over 100 years in the Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations and has forced men to shave their beard if they want to be considered a “spiritual man”.

This 2 minute and 22 second announcement ending the ban on beards reveals how pedantic and nonsensical many of the rules Jehovah’s Witnesses have to follow.

Different Depictions of Jesus with and without a beard by Watchtower artwork

Past references on beards

 The Watchtower May 1, 1968, p. 288

“In recent years in many lands a beard or long hair on a man attracts immediate notice and may, in the minds of the majority, classify such a person undesirably with extremists or as rebels against society. God’s ministers want to avoid making any impression that would take attention away from their ministry or hinder anyone from listening to the truth. They know that people are watching true Christians very critically and that to a great extent they judge the entire congregation and the good news by the minister’s appearance as a representative of the congregation.” 

Source: wol.jw.org

2009 Talk Outline

“Dress and Grooming
Those giving talks should wear suits. If your talk calls for an interview or a demonstration, please do not use any brother who wears a beard and make sure your participants are aware of the importance of good grooming and modest dress.” 


2002 “Zealous Kingdom Proclaimers” District Convention Drama “Stand Firm in Troublesome Times (Jeremiah)” booklet with the script and guideline’s

“beards should be prepared or obtained. It is not proper for brothers to grow their own beards.” 

Watchtower 08/15/1975 pg. 50

“Extreme hair styles can easily lead one into a trap of the Devil also, and cause others to stumble. For example, a young man in the United States – Not wanting to be responsible for even one person’s being stumbled so as to miss the way to everlasting life, this new Kingdom publisher shaved off his beard. Would you be willing to do the same or to make similar adjustments if your appearance gave the wrong impression in a certain community?” 

There are many more references regarding Beards found at JwFacts.com under this search topic.

Why change this rule on beards now?

Consider the case of Anthony. Anthony had stepped down as an elder and continued to pioneer. However, during the Covid-19 Pandemic, he decided to grow a beard. The elders of his congregation grew concerned that his facial hair would stumble “others” in the congregation. Using examples from Watchtower publications, Anthony reasoned that growing a beard was not a sin. However, the elders were not satisfied and informed their circuit overseer and sought clarification from the branch office.  The response from the branch office resulted in Anthony’s position becoming untenable. He resigned from Jehovah’s Witnesses a week later.  Anthony’s case is representative of many other Jehovah’s Witness males who chose to grow a beard.

With a controlling religion such as this Organization, it takes highly convincing leaders to sway their followers’ minds. You need a certain degree of control to heavily suggest to a crowd what they can and cannot wear, and shadowing it as a “preference of Gods“. It creates vulnerability in a person. Changing their doctrines like old light to new light, beards to no beards has caused their followers to drastically change their minds, feelings, preferences, and as shown their outer appearance. They are molded by the Governing Body’s preferences instead of their own. Changing this rule seems like they are becoming more lenient and less controlling as other sects are, which will look good in upcoming court cases when Governments are looking into their tactics.