Monday, June 15, 2009


Baby blessings. Baptisms. Birthdays. Being set apart. Ordinations. Sustainings. Housewarmings. Baby showers. Bridal showers. Wedding receptions. Courts of honor. Young womanhood recognition. Reaching dating age. Missionary calling opening/farewell/homecomings. Each one of these is an important and hallowed Mormon milestone, complete with accompanying unofficial (official) ceremonies.

Baby blessing? Consider it your license to ditch the block schedule after Sacrament meeting to have a family get together at your home completely consequence free. Reaching dating age? That first date is set up weeks in advance, followed by a spirited group romp to Scandia/Trafalga and a nice big high five to end the night. Ice blocking is a nearly free and perfectly acceptable alternative to go-carts and mini-golf. Getting married, are you? First, plan an elaborate and hopefully videotaped proposal so that you'll have something to post on YouTube, then, go register at Target or Wal-Mart. Ladies, remember to register for that KitchenAid or Bosch you've had your eye on ever since the first time you helped your mom in the kitchen. Gentlemen, shoot for the moon; register for that Xbox 360, you probably have a cool group of friends who will all go in on it. You'll have to sneak the scanner away from your fiancee, however. What should you do if you're opening your mission call? This one nearly plans itself. Grab the family camcorder, record the prospective Missionary reading the call verbatim, and then find the little known city/country where the mission is located on a globe or atlas. When it's time for that farewell (even though there really aren't farewells anymore) you have earned carte blanche to either try to sound way more spiritual than you really are, or to throw your talk together 10 minutes before since you went on your last official date the previous evening.

Perhaps one of the least mentioned milestones is recognizing the arrival of large, even numbers in a Mormon blog's hit count. While most Mormons will explain that their blog is just a fun little way to keep loved ones in the loop, secretly, every Mormon knows that their little corner of the internet is the coolest thing ever, and they take their hit count very seriously. It is an unspoken competition among Mormons, and Relief Society sisters will often troll other sister's blogs to get a feel for who has the most happening blog on the block.
Whenever a large, even number is hit (100, 1,000, 10,000) a Mormon has two options, to either show true class and let it pass unnoticed, or write a self-congratulatory post which most people will shrug off.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Mother's Day/Father's Day Double Standard

Mormons take gender roles very seriously (in case you didn't follow any of the news in California last year) and, as such, tend to make a big deal out of Mother's Day and Father's Day. They'll even base entire church meetings around those days. However, their approach to the two holidays couldn't be any more diferent.

Mother's Day will usually be celebrated with teary-eyed church members gushing about how important mothers are, and how much they love their own mothers. Stripling warriors and their mothers will be invoked repeatedly. Sentimental poems will be read and church leaders will be quoted about how awesome every mom always is. Flowers might be presented to all the women at church. Maybe even candy.

On Father's Day, men at church will be told to do a better job. They'll be lectured about how important their job is, and how awful everything is because they're slackers. Priesthood meeting will be especially awful. Luckily, most men will assume that the sermons are meant for those other guys, not him, and will blissfully look forward to a steak dinner when he gets home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Church Dances

Take one part raging (and repressed) hormones, one part angst ridden despair, add a spritz of Attention Deficit Disorder, talk to your local Bishopric member to get your dance card, and hang on for dear life. You my friend, are invited to the church dance.

While not wholly unique to Mormon culture, the LDS or so called church dance is a nuanced affair and has unique features not present in secular school dances. Any societal gathering where adolescent boys and girls have the opportunity to interact and mingle will bring on a certain degree of anxiety, but imagine if you will a gathering where you may or may not be making an impression on the person you will one day marry for all eternity.

No pressure there.

It would take a web based database on the scale of Wikipedia to chronicle all of the unique characters that populate the church dance, but some regular attendees include:

The guy who asks every girl to dance: This well bred young man will ask every girl to dance, regardless of physical appearance, because they are all “sweet spirits”. Beware, as this young man sometimes is just masquerading and turns out to be “the guy who asks all the ugly girls to dance to impress one really hot girl who thinks that it’s ‘sweet’”.

The ska/slam dance/emo/mosh brigade (depending on era attended): self-explanatory.

The too cool for school group: They will melt you with their white hot stares until you evaporate into thin air before their very eyes. Cliques from your ward learned their techniques in the minors. Warning, they will never dance.

The stalker: The kid who will find the guy/girl that he/she likes, and try to ask them for every slow dance, OR will find the same person from one week to another and always sneak in at least one dance. Special note #1, if someone has done this to you, you are already a couple in their mind. Special note #2, if you don’t know who the stalker is, you might be the stalker.

The investigator/recent convert: this young person almost always behaves better than actual members.

Bolo tie guy: often seen with a satin shirt and cowboy boots to finish off the ensemble.

The couple that will need to talk to Bishop tomorrow: the gravitational pull generated from their body proximity during slow dances will draw chaperones towards them like a planetary mass. No number of admonitions of keeping Book of Mormon length apart (or a quad length apart in more orthodox Mormon communities) will keep this from happening.

The kid that is so little, you cannot believe he is old enough to come to the church dance, but is: Don’t worry, the fear he feels now will contribute to his spiritual development later on. He will score plenty of dates by asking hot girls out in semi-stalkerish ways (see related post).

The group of kids that try to get inappropriate song requests past the DJ: Blister in the Sun is the poster child for this phenomenon
The church dance is never finished until its participants have paid their requisite visit to the local Denny's/IHOP to top off the evening by enjoying a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity or Moons Over My Hammy as they scramble to close any loose ends, such as getting digits, or making loud and obnoxious announcements over the restaurant's loud speaker.

In a very scientific survey, conducted by this very website, the first ever class of the “Church Dance Hall of Fame” was recently inducted. Those sacrosanct songs are:
Lady in Red by Chris DeBurgh
I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex
Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes
It’s the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M.
(I would Walk) 500 Miles by Proclaimers
YMCA by The Village People
Tainted Love by Soft Cell
Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order
Rock Lobster and/or Love Shack by The B-52’s
**These are merely the first inductees. Please submit further nominees in the comments section for this post.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Comparing Trials

If you’re like most people, you probably look back on your life and think, “Life hasn’t been half bad. I haven’t, say, been laid siege on by Indians, having to escape with my nursing child dangling from her clothing clutched in my teeth as I snuck away on all fours in the middle of the night, surviving on rose buds and roots for ten more days before the rescue party found us. I’ve never had to decide which of my children gets to eat the last serving of beans and knowing that I’ll have to listen to the other two cry from hunger throughout the night. And hey, I’ve managed to live indoors and eat just about every day of my life. In fact, I’ve been able to eat so much that my body actually has actually taken on the round shape so coveted by ancient cultures.”

“Yes,” you say, as you lean back in a comfortable sofa while cool or warm air blows directly on to you, as if magically, “I don’t have it half bad.”

If this is your attitude, however, you would make a very bad Mormon. While Mormons regularly exhort one another to count their many blessings, yea, even one by one, there is nothing more Mormon than counting your trials. Trials, it turns out, are the true sign of righteousness. And in any group of Mormons you’ll be sure to hear more than your share of them. An account of hardships is usually delivered with one of those fake, pained smiles and a sigh. “Yes,” your Mormon friend or neighbor will say, “we’ve had more than our share of trials in this family, but doggone it, we just get through them.”

Many a Sunday school lesson has descended into an hour of one-upsmanship, where Mormons strive to top one another as they enumerate difficult times. “You lost your job and your house?” One will say. “Why that’s certainly a tough one. Of course, my husband left me for the babysitter right after our daughter hit our dog and totaled the minivan. That was a tough day.”

As with many Mormon circumstances, the more visible and obvious the trial, the more it can be brought up in discussions as a talking point. A house burning down or a rebellious teenager, for example, gets much more attention than a quiet fight with depression or dealing with a mentally ill sibling. The idea is to strike that balance so that your fellow Mormons will say, “Sister so-and-so sure is strong,” and not “man, Sister so-and-so’s life blows.”

Mormons often remind each other of the story of Job. Where a man was so righteous that God and the Satan made a bet about him. These stories, rather than encourage righteousness, however, seem more to remind the average Mormon to dial it back a little. The logical path when confronted with this story is to shoot for that little area between so wicked that you don’t get any cool stuff and so righteous that your kids all die.

Submitted by Matt Howard

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey

While in its heyday, the “BMW” or Big Mormon Wagon referred to a Suburban or other heavy Sport Utility Vehicle, gas prices and Mormon chic has ushered in a new era of official vehicular dominance in Mormon circles; the two headed beast of the Toyota Sienna/Honda Odyssey.

Every transportation related discussion in the last 5-6 years in Mormon circles has revolved around these two vehicles, with the tie-breaker on a year to year basis going to which of the big two won the Consumer Reports annual face-off. Every conversation has either contained the phrase “We just got a Sienna/Odyssey” or “We’re thinking about getting a Sienna/Odyssey”, even if the person saying it has no intention of doing it.

The Sienna/Odyssey has grown in popularity owing to several factors. First among them the fact that smaller families may drive around in a vehicle designed for a bigger family without feeling stupid. This increases their feelings of Mormon-ness, as it is completely acceptable for a family with as few as two children to own the Sienna/Odyssey. As Mormons multiply and replenish the Earth, it also affords them room to expand, or at least leaves the option open even if a couple has no intention of having more than two children. Owning a Sienna/Odyssey is often a great way of never having to answer the question “So, are you planning to have more kids?”

In the Latter days as Mormons seek to eliminate all aesthetics that the secular world would use to oppress and persecute them, many are downgrading Suburbans and Tahoes to the Sienna/Odyssey to appear more environmentally friendly. “Hey, look at me! I may buck the societal conventions of having a small family, but I drive a socially responsible Sienna/Odyssey! Instead of getting 17 miles to the gallon, I get 22!” Because of this, it is anticipated that as Hybrid Sienna/Odysseys reach wide release, they will overtake the current Sienna/Odysseys as the official mode of Mormon transportation.

Mormon women wishing to convince their husbands to ditch their dreams of SUVs should point out the remote side door control and built in DVD options, whereupon their men will promptly ask to speak to a sales associate.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Using "Mormon Standard Time" As An Excuse

In a classic episode of The Simpsons ("Simpson Tide"), Homer lies to Mr. Burns to get out of trouble for yet another disaster by saying, "It's my first day." Burns, who still doesn't recognize Homer after all these years, laughs and lets him go. Mr. Smithers points out the deception to Burns, who turns back to Homer and demands an explanation for the lie, saying, "What made you think you could lie to me and get away with it?" Homer quickly answers with, "It's my first day!" Again, Burns decides to let the "new guy" off easy.

A similar trick has found its way into the DNA of LDS culture. Mormons have gotten the concept of "Mormon Standard Time" so deeply enmeshed into its roots that to even question it will leave your average Latter-day Saint scratching his head in confusion. "Of course MST is real," they'll avow. "That's why I'm always exactly ten minutes late to church!" And he'll no doubt say this while sitting on his couch, doing something other than preparing for the meeting that starts in ten minutes.

Though they use it as a corny in-joke ("Hey, Brandon's late for seminary/mutual/school/his own Eagle project, etc....must be on Mormon Standard Time!"), they still reserve the right to claim it as a legitimate excuse for their own time management malfeasance ("Oh my heck, I can't believe she's late again. She's like the poster girl for Mormon Stan...wait! What time is it? Shoot, I'm late for my Enrichment meeting!").

Indeed, MST is such a cherished understanding between all the scheduling skill-challenged among the Mormon community that it may well turn up as an acceptable excuse for things that are clearly non-MST related.


Scoutmaster: Your metal car weighs ten pounds and has a working motor!

Webelo: I was on Mormon Standard Time.

Scoutmaster: Oh, OK.


YCL: Why on earth would you spread those vicious rumors about the Mia Maids?

Laurel: It had something to do with Mormon Standard Time.

YCL: I see.


Stake President: Brother So-and-So, is it true that you have cheated on your wife twice, published articles defaming the Church, and stolen tithing money after beating up the deacons?

Brother So-and-So: Mormon Standard Time.

SP: Ha ha ha! Very good then. Let's just forget this whole mess. Off you go!

Sadly, we have yet to observe any Latter-day Saints using "Mormon Standard Time" as an excuse at meal times or sporting events, mostly because nobody's ever been late to any of those things.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Speculating About Controversial Doctrines

Every ward has one: the guy who loves to dig into the most obscure corners of church history, not really to edify himself or even to find something that either proves the church true or false, but just to find irritatingly difficult nuggets of information, trivia which he can then use to impress/provoke/make others uncomfortable. Even he doesn't really know what it means, he just knows that he likes the power implied in perhaps being the one guy who knows the Secret Stuff.

He'll lean over to you during a Gospel Doctrine lesson on something he finds unimportant, say, the Atonement, and whisper, "This is boring. You know what's cool? There's a copy of a first edition volume of the Journal of Discourses transcribed by a witness in French where Elder Erastus Q. Zebulon taught that in order to be saved, Adam had to go to Kolob and sacrifice fifty of his wives, and so will we. Dude, what's up with that?"

Attempting to refute such spurious piffle will only result in rolled eyes on the the part of your enlightened friend, who will then accuse you of drinking the Public Relations Department's Kool Aid.

Sometimes a ward will have more than one such fellow, and Elders Quorum lessons on service or priesthood leadership in the home will spontaneously erupt into heated debates about the identity of the One Mighty and Strong, or just how many undercover missionaries the church has in China, or, if you're really lucky, deeply learned diatribes about how Eve is really Heavenly Mother.

These trends are especially pronounced if your ward is in Utah, or near a college. If your ward happens to be near a college in Utah, look out. You may go an entire year of sacrament meetings without ever hearing about hope or forgiveness, but could hear endless locutions about how someone found a code in the Doctrine and Covenants that proves that the Book of Mormon was actually written by two-headed lizards from Mars.

During such an inspiring meeting, were an ironic soul to vocally query about the silliness of the old question, "How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?", the loquacious brethren in your ward might cheerfully dismiss it: "Irrelevant navel gazing! Good thing there aren't any myopic rubes like that around here!"

[Editor's note: all the irreverent "ideas" used as examples in this piece are fake, heretical, or dumb. Or all three.]