The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show

At the 2019 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium Clair Von Barrus, Todd Compton, and Harold Peterson delivered a fun and fascinating session called “The Beatles, Rock and Roll, and Mormonism” 

Todd Compton Reads his paper on The Beatles and Mormons

During the Q & A portion of the session I mentioned that I had a 1964 copy of the “Mr Brown” missionary discussions that included the mission rules. These discussions are in a small, ring-bound folder that measures about 7×4 inches. The first 91 pages are the scripts for the discussions. These are followed by 34 pages of rules and guidelines.

The October 1964 LDS Missionary Discussions
Introduction to the “Missionary Handbook” section of the Discussions

A section titled “Rules” begins on page 11 and runs through page 13. Rule #13 on page 12 reads:

Wear conventional hair-cuts — no crewcuts, flat-tops, or BEATLE STYLES.

(emphasis mine)

The first Beatles song officially released as a single in the USA was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on 26 December 1963 (it soon sold 1 million copies). On 7 February 1964, the Beatles left the United Kingdom for their first tour of the US. Two nights later, on 9 Feb 1964 they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. While there was some negative press the next morning, the teens LOVED them. Beatlemania had reached the US and there were adults who could not handle this.

Clair Von Barrus presenting on the Mormon Leader backlash against Rock and Roll and “Back-Masking” fearmongering from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1980’s

In 1964 the LDS “Priesthood Correlation” program was just beginning. I honestly have no idea how long it took to get changes to manuals approved, printed and distributed. But the fact that this “Missionary Handbook” was published and distributed within 10 months of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” being released and within 8 months of the Beatles taking the USA by storm after their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to me shows that there were LDS leaders with a real fear of the impact that Rock and Roll generally and the Beatles specifically were having on LDS youth.

I have no idea if this “no Beatle Style” rule came from the general authority level of the church, or if it was from the mission president of the Eastern States mission. But Clair Barrus outlined quite well in his Sunstone presentation that there was definitely a fear among “the Brethren” about the impact that the Beatles and Rock and Roll were having on the morality of the youth of the church.

harold Peterson presents on his love of the Beatles and how the Beatles and Rock and Roll impacted his experience in Mormonism

Todd, Clair, and Harold’s papers were a fascinating study of LDS culture and history. Their session will soon be available for streaming and download purchase on the Sunstone website. If you enjoy the Beatles and Rock and Roll, if you remember the anti-rock firesides and back-masking scares of the 70’s and 80’s, or if you find LDS culture interesting then I beleive that you will enjoy this Sunstone session.


NO BEATLE CUTS! — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review Andrew. Here’s a bit more about my presentation.

    Session: The Beatles, Rock and Roll, and Mormonism
    Paper: The Beatles, Backwards Masking, and CES Instruction
    SLC Sunstone Symposium 2019, Clair Barrus

    I trace the introduction of backwards masking by the Beatles in 1966 with the release of “Rain” and in the Album Revolver with “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” — each containing backmasked lyrics or lead guitar.

    Later, Christian fundamentalists find supposed secret backwards messaging in songs, some of which they said contained Satanic messages. Particularly in the 1980s, some LDS CES instructors taught lessons based on materials originating in Christian fundamentalist teachings about Rock music. Additionally, some popular LDS music artists gave firesides, wrote books, and published articles propelling the fear that some rock music was based in Satanism.

    For more information:

    – Witchcraft, Rock ‘N’ Roll, and Mission Lore (
    – Lynn Bryson, LDS Fireside recording, “The Occult & Rock ‘N’ Roll: Overcoming Witchcraft, Satanism & The Illuminati in the Last Days” (
    – “Pop Music and Morality” by Lex de Azevedo (
    – Michael Hicks, The Beautiful and the Darned: A Meditation on Lex De Azevedo’s Pop Music and Morality, Sunstone Magazine (
    – Wikipedia: “Backmasking” (