Mormon folklore

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Mormon folklore is a body of expressive culture unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and its members. Mormon folklore includes tales, oral history, popular beliefs, customs, music, jokes, and material culture traditions.

Folklore vs. doctrine[edit]

In the LDS Church, folklore is usually distinguished from church doctrine, but there is no universally accepted method of determining where doctrine ends and folklore begins. Most Latter-day Saints consider material in the scriptures of the church and joint statements of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to constitute church doctrine.[1] Any other part of the expressive cultural aspects of Mormonism may be legitimately classified as Mormon folklore.[2][3]

Leaders of the LDS Church have preached against the propagation of folklore and other rumors. In a 1972 general conference address, church president Harold B. Lee stated:

The first [issue I wish to discuss] is the spread of rumor and gossip (we have mentioned this before) which, when once started, gains momentum as each telling becomes more fanciful, until unwittingly those who wish to dwell on the sensational repeat them in firesides, in classes, in Relief Society gatherings and priesthood quorum classes without first verifying the source before becoming a party to causing speculation and discussions that steal time away from the things that would be profitable and beneficial and enlightening to their souls.
There is one thing that shocks me: I have learned, in some instances, that those who have heard of these rumors are disappointed when I tell them they are not so. They seem to have enjoyed believing a rumor without substance of fact. I would earnestly urge that no such idle gossip be spread abroad without making certain as to whether or not it is true.
This is something that is recurring time and time again, and we call upon you holders of the priesthood to stamp out any such and to set to flight all such things as are creeping in, people rising up here and there who have had some "marvelous" kind of a manifestation, as they claim, and who try to lead the people in a course that has not been dictated from the heads of the Church.

As I say, it never ceases to amaze me how gullible some of our Church members are in broadcasting these sensational stories, or dreams, or visions, some alleged to have been given to Church leaders, past or present, supposedly from some person’s private diary, without first verifying the report with proper Church authorities.[4]

Examples of Mormon folklore[edit]

Folklore, including Mormon folklore, is dynamic rather than static, changing emphasis and details over time. Latter-day Saints pass on the group's cultural heritage from person to person and from generation to generation. These elements of heritage may not only be passed through written documents or formal instruction but may be found in stories and customs in both family and church settings. Tales learned at home or in a church function may later be repeated to others. Stories learned at home, in the LDS Family Home Evening or other family gatherings, may later emerge in family activities in the next generation.

In general, Mormon folklore may be presented in three broad categories:

  • The spoken and written word: including songs, family stories, humorous tales, and contemporary accounts from missionaries and church leaders.
  • Handicrafts and memorial items: including traditional tools and implements, holiday traditions, family keepsakes and scrapbooks, and a family Book of Remembrance kept in association with genealogical records.
  • Unique Mormon activities: including Family Home Evening, youth dating practices, family celebrations of birth and baptismal dates, genealogical activities, and church and community celebrations of holidays such as Pioneer Day.

Tales and popular beliefs[edit]

The following are examples of tales and popular concepts from Mormon folklore:


Not to be confused with prophecies of Joseph Smith.

The following are examples of predictions or prophecies that are part of Mormon folklore:

Research into Mormon folklore[edit]

Alta S. and Austin E. Fife are generally recognized as the founders of research into Mormon folklore, a discipline that has expanded greatly since the couple’s initial work in the 1930s.[52] Although previous and contemporary scholars had briefly addressed the issue, the Fifes expanded the field, both through their collection,[53] now known as the Fife Folklore Archive, held at the Merrill-Cazier Library on the Utah State University campus in Logan, Utah. Their book on Mormon folklore, Saints of Sage and Saddle, was published in 1956. This book, according to folklorist Jill Terry Rudy, “remains the most complete book-length treatment of Mormon folklore” (144).

Folklorist William A. Wilson also specialized in Mormon folklore. According to Wilson, “the performance of folklore—whether it provides us with delight and amusement or causes us to fear and tremble—is one of our most fundamental human activities” (2006, 203). Wilson also explains that Mormon folklore often affirms the group’s beliefs that God speeds the right, a belief implying that people who do the Lord's work may receive divine protection; however, Wilson qualifies his claim by saying, “I am not foolish enough to argue that the [LDS] missionaries endure only because of their folklore. They endure primarily because they are committed to their gospel and convinced of the importance of their work. But that conviction is constantly bolstered and maintained by the lore they have created," and reaffirming that "the significance of folklore performance is that it helps them keep up the [good] fight” and endure to the end (2006, 218).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ However, some Latter-day Saints have a more expansive conception of doctrine. For example, some believe that any statement made by the President of the Church constitutes doctrine. Others may extend this belief to statements made by an apostle or other general authority in a general conference of the church.
  2. ^ Wilson, William A. (1992). "Folklore". In Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. pp. 518–520. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140. 
  3. ^ The designation "folklore" does not imply that the tale or belief is necessarily "untrue".
  4. ^ Lee, Harold B. (January 1973), "Admonitions for the Priesthood of God", Ensign .
  5. ^ Letter by Abraham O. Smoot, quoted in: Wilson, Lycurgus Arnold (1904) [1900], Life of David W. Patten, the First Apostolic Martyr, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, pp. 46–47, OCLC 4922706 
  6. ^ Whiting, Linda Shelley (2003), David W. Patten: Apostle and Martyr, Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, p. 85, ISBN 1555176828, OCLC 51293310 
  7. ^ Kimball, Spencer W. (1969), The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, pp. 127–128, ISBN 0-88494-444-1, OCLC 20950 
  8. ^ Arave, Lynn; Genessy, Jody (2003-07-24), "Living in Utah: A guide to separate reality from myths", Deseret Morning News, p. A1 .
  9. ^ 3 Nephi 28:7[better source needed]
  10. ^ a b Baldridge, Kenneth W.; Chase, Lance D. (2000), "The Purported December 7, 1941, Attack on the Hawai'i Temple"", in Underwood, Grant, Voyages of Faith: Explorations in Mormon Pacific History, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, pp. 165–90, ISBN 0-8425-2480-0 .
  11. ^ Hyde 1854, pp. 81–82, 210
  12. ^ Hyde 1858, pp. 259–260[clarification needed]
  13. ^ Pratt, Orson (October 1853), "Celestial Marriage", The Seer, 1 (10), p. 159 
  14. ^ Wilford Woodruff, Journal Entry July 22, 1883, reporting on a sermon given by Joseph F. Smith.
  15. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith, Handwritten note responding to letter from J. Ricks Smith, 1963.[better source needed]
  16. ^ Pratt 1880, pp. 276–277
  17. ^ Smith 1869, p. 83
  18. ^ William G. Hartley, "Mormons, Crickets, and Gulls, A New Look at an Old Story", in D. Michael Quinn (ed.) (1992). The New Mormon History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books).
  19. ^ Paul C. Richards, "The Salt Lake Temple Infrastructure: Studying It Out in Their Minds", BYU Studies (1996–1997).
  20. ^ BYU NewsNet 100 Hour Board: Submission 10093, 2004-11-12.
  21. ^ Stewart, John J. Mormonism and the Negro Salt Lake City, Utah: 1960, Bookmark (This book discusses and then dismisses this belief).
  22. ^ Matthew Cowley, ""Maori Chief Predicts Coming of L.D.S. Missionaries", Improvement Era 53:696–98, 754–56 (September 1950), reprinted in Matthew Cowley (1954, Glen L. Rudd ed.). Matthew Cowley Speaks: Discourses of Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) p. 200–05.
  23. ^ Grant Underwood, "Mormonism and the Shaping of Maori Religious Identity", in Grant Underwood (ed.) (2000). Voyages of Faith: Explorations in Mormon Pacific History (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University) pp. 107–26.
  24. ^ R. Lanier Britsch, "Maori Traditions and the Mormon Church," New Era, June 1981, p. 38.
  25. ^ LDS Church (1958), The Mormon Temple, Temple View, Hamilton, New Zealand: Bureau of Information, Zealand Temple, LDS Church, p. 13, OCLC 367545393, alt. OCLC 156001909 
  26. ^ Kezerian, Sandra L. (March 31, 2012), "Visiting our Family History Missionaries at the Archives", 
  27. ^ N.B. Lundwall (ed.) (1952). The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) pp. 226–33.
  28. ^ N. B. Lundwall (ed.) (1952). The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) pp. 292–352.
  29. ^ Jacob Spori, "True and False Theosophy", Juvenile Instructor, 28:672–74 (1893-11-01).
  30. ^ Paul B. Pixton, "'Play It Again, Sam': The Remarkable 'Prophesy' of Samuel Lutz, Alias Christophilus Gratianus, Reconsidered", BYU Studies, 25:3 (1985) pp 27–46.
  31. ^ "Pres. Packer refutes quote", Church News, 2001-04-28 
  32. ^ Hyde 1877, p. 58
  33. ^ Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, "The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: One Hundred Twenty-one Testimonies of a Collective Spiritual Witness", in John W. Welch (ed.) (2005). Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844 (Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah: BYU Press and Deseret Book) ISBN 0-8425-2607-2 pp. 373–480.
  34. ^ Michael T. Griffith (1996). One Lord, One Faith: Writings of the Early Christian Fathers as Evidences of the Restoration (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon) ISBN 0-88290-575-9
  35. ^ Pratt 1880, p. 323
  36. ^ Hyde did dedicate Palestine for the return of the Jews, but "careful investigation has uncovered no evidence" of Hyde's reported Jewish ancestry. See: Hilton, Lynn M.; Hilton, Hope A. (1994), "Hyde, Orson", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917 
  37. ^ Hank Stuever, "Unmentionable No Longer: What Do Mormons Wear? A Polite Smile, if Asked About 'the Garment'", Washington Post, 2002-02-26, p. C1.
  38. ^ James P. Harris, "A Place for Every Truth: The Einstein Rumor", Sunstone, April 2008, p. 33.
  39. ^ Memorandum to Personnel of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, "Circulation of Inaccurate Information on Rome Italy Temple", LDS Church, 2009-12-07.
  40. ^ Arave, Lynn (May 9, 2010), "Does the Great Stone Face really resemble the Prophet Joseph?", Deseret News 
  41. ^ Jackson, Dave (April 2005). "The Artist: Del Parson" (PDF). Desert Saints Magazine. Las Vegas, Nevada: Ellis Ink, Inc. 5 (4): 12–13. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  42. ^ "LDS Hoaxes and Myths". Scholarly & Historical Information Exchange for Latter-Day Saints. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  43. ^ "ID#: 46490". 100 Hour Board. BYU NewsNet. July 21, 2008. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  44. ^ Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, "Book of Mormon/Great and abominable church".
  45. ^ Bruce R. McConkie (1966, 2d ed.). Mormon Doctrine. (Salt Lake CIty, Utah: Bookcraft) p. 410.
  46. ^ Young 1854, p. 15
  47. ^ Kimball 1856, p. 216
  48. ^ Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April 1942, p. 87.
  49. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1950, p. 159.
  50. ^ Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1963, p. 113.
  51. ^ Robertson, John S. (1992). "Adamic Language". In Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140. 
  52. ^ Wilson, William A. (1994), "Fife, Austin and Alta", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917 
  53. ^ "FOLK COLLECTION 4: No. 1: Series II: Vols. 10-18: The Fife Mormon Collection: Manuscript Sources". Retrieved 2011-05-29. 


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