Tekulve Jackson-Vann intended only “to switch up my hairstyle a little bit,” but his grooming choice got an initial thumbs-down — which quickly turned to acceptance — at the Payson Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This was a moment to open up a conversation,” Jackson-Vann said Tuesday, about “how we interpret certain church guidelines across different cultures.”
It started a couple of weeks ago, when Jackson-Vann, a therapist who lives in Spanish Fork, contacted the coordinator of his volunteer shifts at the Payson Temple. He had recently had his hair done into dreadlocks, and sent a picture to the shift coordinator as “a little heads-up, so he wouldn’t be shocked.”
Later that day, a Friday, Jackson-Vann got a call from his temple president, who said the dreadlocks violated church guidelines that say temple workers’ appearance should be clean and conservative.
“Normally, with things like that, I let them go,” said the 38-year-old Jackson-Vann, 38. This time, though, he politely protested, posting a photo of his hairstyle on social media.
“I wrote, ‘Hey, my black brothers and sisters: This hairstyle will get you released as an ordinance worker,’” Jackson-Vann said. “It kind of went viral.”
By Saturday morning, the temple president called again, after being in contact with the church’s temple department. The decision now was that Jackson-Vann’s dreadlocks were appropriate for a temple worker.
A spokeswoman for the church declined to comment.
For Jackson-Vann, the experience recalled his days as a Latter-day Saint missionary in Lansing, Mich. The missionary grooming standards required young men to brush their hair to the back, or parted and brushed to the side.
“My hair doesn’t do that,” Jackson-Vann said, adding that when he asked for guidance on how to follow the standard, his mission president said, “Do the best you can.”
Jackson-Vann said he has no hard feelings about what happened, and even found the experience “a faith-building moment.”
“I didn’t see it as racism, per se,” Jackson-Vann said. “I saw it as [proof that] there is room for some cultural sensitivity in the church.”