In Search of Mormon Folklore

Guest - February 16, 2005

I apologize that this isn’t a post like we normally have (plus it’s kind of covering some things we’ve discussed previously) but I could use all the help I can get. I wrote a paper for class a couple of years ago on Mormon Folklore and how though it has changed over the years since the organization of the Church (basically from mystical, three Nephite stories to more Priesthood power type accounts now) it still fills the same needs in our lives.
I am now revising it and sprucing it up for submission to a History Honors Society Summit and am looking for more accounts that I can possibly use to argue my point. I’d greatly appreciate any help from anyone that can point me to such accounts, old or new. They must be a primary source, meaning I need to get it straight from the one who experienced it, a written account by that person, or a recorded account by one who interviewed the person and wrote it down. So, as entertaining and interesting as it is to read rumors and hearsay of happenings in the church, that are of no help to me. These accounts can cover just about anything. I can weed through and see if it fits what I’m looking for. Please be wary of fakelore as well, meaning fantasiful stories that were not really experienced or thought to have really happened but were made up. (i.e.–Paul Bunyan stories, Washington and the cherry tree, etc.)
Clear as mud? I’m sorry, just send anything you can think of and I can decide if it’s true folklore, I suppose. I hope this helps and again, I’d REALLY appreciate any help any of you can give me, whether it’s a story you know, to pointing me to a website, book or magazine article. I’ll post a link to my paper when it’s finished. Thank you!!

1 Comment »

  1. Wait, if it needs to be written by the person who experienced it, wouldn’t it just be a fact, not folklore?
    My seminary teacher (unfortunately) was wont to tell us just about every Mormon folk tale as if they were true. He claimed that most of them happened in his mission, but they were just the standard tall tales:
    Garments at Dry Cleaners;
    Water Killing the Missionaries at the Beach;
    Elders Bragging They Could Cast Out Satan.
    I did hear one story about not using the drinking fountain when fasting that might be more credible.
    NFlanders | Email | Homepage | 02.16.05 – 2:30 pm | #

    Elder Monson’s Faith Rewarded
    2 vols of Best Loved Stories of the LDS People [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997 & 1999]
    Exceptional Stories from the Lives of Our Apostles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972]
    Vol 1&2 of Remarkable Stories from the Lives of Latter-day Saint Women [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973]( I think there is a men’s version as well)

    Also Steve H. mentioned Elder Orgill’s story in a post a while back (scroll down):

    http://www.splendidsun.com/wp/in…1/9/#comment- 37
    J. Stapley | Email | Homepage | 02.16.05 – 7:30 pm | #

    NFlanders,
    Folklore is not necessarily fiction. A person in 19th century Utah could very well have seen one of the Three Nephites and written down their account of the experience, but it would still be considered part of our folk tradition. All the other others you mentioned are great examples, some of which I know well.(Thank you!)

    Something I forgot to mention are simple traditions we hold that are not part of our doctrine such as “The Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight.”
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 02.16.05 – 9:17 pm | #

    Hey email Dan at danieldcrossen@hotmail.com and ask him about an expitrence he told me that happend to him in the Brazil MTC. It involves and Elder playin BBall and a blessing. I’m sure he’d be happy to recount to you the full story.
    Bryce | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 8:53 pm | #

    Weeding out legitimate Mormon folklore from mere “fakelore,” now that’s an interesting contrast. It seems like that’s a bit like a Catholic prelate who is tasked with distinguishing between true miraculous cures at a Catholic shrine from phony claims. It assumes there are true miraculous Catholic cures. It’s the kind of inquiry that only rings true to a believing Catholic.

    I’m afraid I just see all folklore stories as simple variations on “I prayed and found my car keys.” How do you propose to distinguish cases of mere coincidence from those truly miraculous cases where the God of the Universe actually intervened to help Gladys find her car keys?
    Dave | Email | Homepage | 02.19.05 – 12:11 pm | #

    Dave,
    Your point is well taken, but my intent isn’t to decide which is true and which is not. The term “fakelore” used here is used for those stories that people make up specifically as a folkloric story, usually either to make a moral point or to inspire a sense of cultural identity in a person. (i.e.–Paul Bunyan or George Washington and the cherry tree) I probebly should not have even said anything about it becuase I cannot even think of any Mormon fakelore, anyway. Real folklore is usually believed to be true, at least by some. (and, nowadays most folklore is in the form of urban legends) Does that make sense?

    P.S. Thank GOODNESS I do NOT have to do as a Catholic prelate does. What a nightmare!
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 02.20.05 – 8:38 pm | #

    Bret:

    I mentioned this post (and have something for you) at The Bloggernacle Times
    William Morris | Email | Homepage | 02.21.05 – 1:18 pm | #

    Thank you to both J. Stapley and William Morris for the helpful accounts
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 02.21.05 – 2:28 pm | #

    If you haven’t done so already, go the the MLA database (any college or university library will have access to it), and do a keyword shearch for Mormon folklore. There is a host of published articles on Mormon folklore in academic journals. The published works of Eric Elaison, Jill Terry Rudy, Bert Wilson, Reinhold Hill, David Allred, and many others will provide a lot of information. You could also search the BYU library for Masters’ theses on Mormon folklore (they should have the full text of the theses available online.)
    Dave | Email | Homepage | 02.22.05 – 12:59 pm | #

    Dave, Thank you. I’ve been doing that very thing, actually. It’s been one of my biggest resources besides personal interviews and a couple of books.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 02.22.05 – 1:43 pm | #

    Would you be interested in some things that happened to my Dad if I wrote them down instead of him? I’m having a hard time getting him to get past the oral history part of things.
    Stephen M (Ethesis) | Email | Homepage | 02.23.05 – 1:32 am | #

    Stephen, if you’d like. I don’t want you to strain yourself or anyone else for a story but that’d be great.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 02.23.05 – 1:30 pm | #

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