PAYSON (ABC4 News) – A temple worker for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is speaking out after being removed from his position because of his hair. The situation was quickly righted, but Tekulve Jackson-Vann says this is a great opportunity to talk about how the faith can better incorporate members of many cultures.
Tekulve Jackson-Vann has been a temple worker at the Payson temple for almost two years. He knew that his decision to grow his hair into locs could be a problem, and he was right.
On Friday, he notified his temple supervisor of his hair change and was told, “Your hair doesn’t fit the guidelines. We’re asked to have our hair in a conservative style so it’s not a distraction to the patrons. My first thought immediately was this is a moment, this is a moment where I can help educate my brethren in the gospel that there are standards which are not rooted in doctrine and that can be challenged.”
Within 24 hours, the Payson Temple President was contacted by the Church Temple Department and the guidelines were clarified, allowing Jackson-Vann to resume his post.
Only worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can enter their holy temples; once inside there is a dress and grooming standard, but in this case it was incorrectly applied.
Jackson-Vann says that the Church is moving in the right direction when it comes to cultural diversity, but more can be done. He said, “Throughout different cultures, things like hair or language, even manner of dress, is a way that we hold onto our culture, and so we need to be careful about saying well, here’s the gospel standard, or here’s the uniform of the Priesthood.”
Jackson-Vann made it clear that he didn’t feel this incident was a sign of racism, but of a lack of understanding.
“Being black in Utah we often feel like, OK here I go again, I need to translate my culture for other people. It’s tiresome to have to be a cultural ambassador 24/7, but I think as we’re able to open up conversation with our non-black brothers and sisters, and as they’re open as well, progress can happen. In this case, I realized there was yet another Church policy that didn’t take into consideration who I am and where I am and we needed to open up a conversation about how do we change that.”