How’s Your Mo-Dar?

Hawkgrrrlchrist, christianity, Culture, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, religion, Utah 44 Comments

We recently went to a few Native American sites near Prescott, Arizona with our kids.  My husband’s “Mo-Dar” was in rare form.  I must have been sleep-walking to miss a few of these obvious fellow Mormons also out visiting these sites with their kids.

So, can you spot Mormons?  How good is your Mo-Dar?  Here are the clues we generally pick up on:

  • people traveling with small kids in tow
  • modest clothing with knee-length (or longer) shorts and shoulders covered for women
  • occasionally, “eternal smile” garment lines under the husband’s shirt or other visible garment lines
  • smiles and general friendliness
  • couple using Spanish as a second language to communicate “over” their kids listening ears

In turn, we have been spotted as Mormons in some unlikely places.  My husband and I were travelling in Hawaii and we stopped to see a waterfall.  We didn’t have the kids along, and a woman came up and volunteered to take our picture.  Afterwards she winked at us and said, “You’re Mormons, aren’t you?  So are we.”  The only “marker” I could think of was the fact that we were dressed modestly in Hawaii, and we were friendly.  FWIW, my husband wears a goatee.

I have also found that it’s not the same as looking “Wonder Bread” either (not that we don’t look that way–we probably do).  My Mo-Dar has blipped over people of various races:  Asian, Hispanic, African-American, etc.  There is a certain je ne sais quoi, a Mormon quality to people that makes us stand out.  Is it “receiving His image” in our countenance?  And would Jesus look Mormon?  I suggest that (in contrast to most artistic depictions of him) He would, in fact, possess this same quality.  Incidentally, I have some non-Mormon friends who have this quality also, but the key difference (lack of Mo-Dar) is usually related to dress in those cases.  While they are dressed modestly, maybe it is Catholic modesty vs. Mormon modesty.  And, conversely, I’m sure there are some Mormons who don’t blip my Mo-Dar (if you know what I mean).

So, what makes your Mo-Dar blip?  And are these qualities the same as receiving His image in our countenance or just looking dorky?  Would Jesus look Mormon?

Comments 44

  1. Teva sandals are a dead give away. The other thing that makes my “Mo-Dar” go off is when I spot a group of people wearing the exact same style. This is actually much more typical when I spot Utahans but can’t confirm if they are Mormon or not. Utahans are very trendy so if I see a group of boys all wearing the same style of shoes or girls with the same style shirt on my Mo/Utah-Dar goes off.

  2. I met my wife on a cruise ship in 1981. My limited Mo-dar actually identified her to me. I had just taken missionary discussions prior to this trip. I was standing at the front of the ship taking pictures and my wife and her friend happened to be nearby. I overheard a conversation about a friend’s wedding. My wife said to her friend,

    “I could go in, but I am not sure I am ready.”

    For some strange reason, the MoDar went off and I knew that she meant the Temple. I didn’t really know that much about the Church at that time but I somehow knew that.

  3. I’m from Canada. When I was still in middle school I took my non-member friend with me down to Ricks for basketball camp one summer. Though the camp was not co-ed, the girls camp was going on at the same time. He liked the experience.

    The next year we couldn’t do that camp due to scheduling, so we went to Eastern Washington. Much lower concentration of adopted Israelites. My friend had apparently developed some fairly sophisticated MO-DAR, especially for the girls. They guys he could pick out most of the time, but the girls he could identify immediately, with VERY little contact or interaction.

    Though he was never interested in the church, he was thereafter very interested in tagging along whenever I was headed to any function that might set off his new mormon detecting abilities.

    Sometimes I really think it’s a little more mystical than just our brains connecting the dots. Sold my scooter to a guy – and had no outward reason to really suspect that he was, but I knew that he was and I was right. The “vibe”…

  4. Mine went off when the instructor of a technical class I was taking used “geneaology” to describe the subsequent versions of the software and then used the word “pernicious” when describing a security threat. I asked him on lunch and I was right.

    The word pernicious was used in an Ensign article around 2000 regarding illicit stuff online and ever since the word has been a mainstay in Mo-cabulary. Same thing with “redouble our efforts”. I’ve googled people I’ve seen on talk shows or the news based on their Mo-cabulary and confirmed it.

  5. I agree that Mo-cabulary is an easier spot. Plus, Mormons flock to certain places (e.g. Disney theme parks).

    The Tevas comment is great. Add socks. Also, anyone else think that Mormons wear more ugly, ratty, freebie tee shirts?

  6. Ray, good Mormons are too nice to ever observe how much prettier we are than everyone else. You need to repent and show some humility.

  7. Since I don’t live in Utah, a vehicle with Utah plates as well as people wearing any Utah-related clothes (Jazz, Utes, Cougars, Aggies) always blips my Mo-Dar. That’s kind of fun to say – “Blip my Mo-Dar.” And if there’s lots of people in the Utah car, then the Mo-Dar goes crazy.

  8. I’m always amazed by how many Mormons are at Disneyland when we go with our (numerous) children. Really though, I think it’s the modest dress more than anything that trips my Mo-Dar. In cold weather, I can’t usually tell who’s LDS.

  9. This is really interesting, I’ve enjoyed the comments. I’m in college, and I can always tell by several things, some of which have been mentioned,

    -Vocabulary: when you hear freaking, shoot, gosh, goodness, bless your sweet spirit, or many many other substitutes for the generic words is a dead give away.

    -Eye contact: this is a big one, a lot of people won’t look you in the eye when passing you on campus, many mormons will.

    -The sixth sense: I think you just get that vibe when your around someone for even a second. If their living the gospel, you can hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes, and feel it from their pressence, I suppose that this also goes for many christians, but especially Mormons

    -The CTR ring is always a dead give away, and somehow, I can always pick an RM out of a crowd from a distance… Just the way people carry themselves says a lot.

  10. Hope – I agree about the eye contact. Mormons, esp. RMs, make more direct eye contact more frequently. I don’t think it’s something we are taught, but it seems to happen that way anyway. That’s the quality that I think the Savior would share. And the Tevas.

  11. I evidently travel incognito. I don’t use any of the words identified here as Mocabulary, don’t drive a car with Utah plates, am never surrounded by mobs of children, have been to Disneyland only once (on a cold, rainy February day), don’t know what Tevas are, don’t wear t-shirts with or without Utah logos, am not trendy, keep my garment lines covered, am so near-sighted that I’m too busy watching not to trip over cracks in the sidewalk to meet your gaze, don’t have a CTR ring, and the only one who’s even less pretty than I am is Ray. Sad.

  12. “and the only one who’s even less pretty than I am is Ray.”

    Thanks for making me have to clean off my screen. I haven’t laughed that hard so unexpectedly in a long time.

  13. My Mo=dar blips when I see other people on the street or in the tram on Sunday morning without a bag from the bakery or a dog with them. No one else is out and about at that time, it is actually deathly quiet in European countries then. Whenever I visit new cities, as long as I know the stop to get off at, I can usually find the rest of the way to church by following all of the others in ties and dresses.

  14. “Is it “receiving His image” in our countenance? And would Jesus look Mormon? I suggest that (in contrast to most artistic depictions of him) He would, in fact, possess this same quality. ” That’s. Just. Wrong.
    Believe me, I rarely think of Jesus when I’m around Mormorns, except to silently invoke his name as I wonder how I wandered into a Republican meetup.

  15. Another giveaway… RM haircuts paired with polos and dockers. While not indicators in and of themselves, they can be supporting evidence. Case in point, I was watching CNN Headline news this morning and they did a piece on female weight lifter Melanie Roach. Now there is nothing about a female weight lifter that screams Mormon. Nor did she speak any Mocabulary in the interview. Then they showed her family on the beach and interviewed her husband (a Washington state legislator) and I totally got the Mo-vibe. I googled: “dan roach” mormon washington and sho nuff, I was right.

  16. Hmmm,

    Done the Disneyland Mo-dar game and been right nearly every time. Once my parents and wife and I struck up a conversation with a wholesome looking young couple from Yakima, Washington in line for Thunder Mountain all because we were hoping they would confirm their Mormonness verbally. They dropped some Mocabulary and we got the courage to directly ask, which was great. It’s funny how once you know, a layer of tension departs like an evil spirit from a missionary’s apartment…


    Sometimes RM haircuts paired with polos and Dockers says gay instead of Mormon, so we have to be careful.

    As far as Mocabulary, the word “ponder” is a dead giveaway.

  17. My favorite place to play this game is in airports…. especially if I happen to be traveling in or out of SLC. You know there’s gonna be some mormons on those flights.

    My favorite tip-off is garments. I think it’s because they’re *supposed* to be hidden, but half the time you can see them anyway, so it’s almost like it’s a little naughty when you can see them. Stuff like BYU t-shirts take the fun out of it because any idiot could guess someone in a BYU t-shirt is a mormon, but you gotta know a little something about garments to know what to look for and how to accurately ID them.

    …or maybe I just like trying to guess what sort of underwear strangers are wearing…

  18. I am really curious as to whether this guy on a train in Paris a couple weeks ago was. He was a businessman in a really nice suit reading a novel in French, so presumably a local. Evidence for: not bothered by being surrounded by three kids when we got on the very crowded train, and he appeared to have VGL (visible garment lines) on his knees. But maybe he just had odd bone-structure in his knees. I suppose I will have to wait until the earth is a Urim and Thummim to know.

    I had a female friend once express admiration that I had no VPL. I just cryptically answered, “I know.”

  19. Ten days ago I took the early bus for church. And I wondered if the poor bus driver was aware that he was having a “happy mormon load”. There were two or three other passengers who’d shrunk in their little corner wondering what these weirdos might do to them if they were noticed. I can’t spot mormons in Europe because we usually do add for it. It is only Europe you know.
    Just for the record our bishop’s grand son is going to high school next year and he will be the third mormon this country side high school will have had (after is aunt and me). It is the most I have ever heard about in France. I wonder if they are aware that they have such a high mormon rate. Come on! Three within 12 years! Cheers!

  20. While on my mission I became almost infallibly good at spotting Jehova’s Witnesses. If someone answered the door I could lean over and say, “This guys a J-W, watch and see…” and lo and behold, the guy was. I’m not the only one who experienced this phenomenon. Many missionaries report the same. I don’t think Mormons having that Mormon aura about them means the Jesus must have the same aura (as was hinted in the original article). I think that’s pretty arrogant to say that Jesus would have a Mormon “feel” about him. I think it just means that people’s belief systems really do affect them on all levels, even the energy they emanate. And when you spend enough time around certain people, you recognize that energy.

  21. Jake – I think you put it better than my post did. I didn’t mean to imply it was a uniquely Mormon quality (as I said, not all Mormons have a spiritual vibe and many of other faiths or even no faith at all do). There really are two different things: being able to spot someone as Mormon (Jesus wouldn’t qualify unless he wore a BYU sweatshirt) and being able to spot someone who has spiritual inner peace (Jesus would exemplify that quality). I’m glad you pointed that out.

  22. Just to be a shallow guy for a moment, can I just point out that perhaps the best way to increase our baptism rate on college campuses around the world might be to distribute billboard-sized copies of the picture at the beginning of this post (“I can’t … I’m Mormon.”) to each campus – with an 800 number to call for more information? (The picture could be Katherine Heigel, if the one above isn’t available.)

    Just sayin’. 🙂

  23. I loved this post. A few weeks back I wrote a post about mo-dar on my blog. I am glad to see that others find this subject worth pondering. Those who feel prompted to read my post on mo-dar can find it here. Also, to add to your list, my mo-dar goes off is when I see people commenting on this blog.

  24. Ok so I’m a Bahai but have been asked many times if I am a Mormon….in Odd places. Maybe it is because the Bahai Faith encourages modest dress or maybe a spiritual life. Every time, I have said in answer to the question that I am not a Mormon the Mormon asking is shocked.

  25. bleached teeth, rocky mountain ratted hair, color coordinated attire, crew cuts for the boys, straight hair for the girls, and prozac happy

  26. Actually, KAnn, there are more than a few gay people (inside and outside the Church) who don’t support gay marriage. They prefer the European model of civil unions with full civil rights.

    That’s something that “No on 8” supporters tend to ignore totally.

  27. one way is they walk right up 2 you and say would you like to have a free book? and i(loving books)aggred it turend out to be a BOM ( or as a book of mormon) and i’m currently reading it i love it my favoret quote is from alma this is King lamoni saying i’m scared to call amon to me here it is “i durst not” just say that when your undergoing peerpresher! I DURST NOT!!! haha amother one is i bit “i love mormon girls” t-shirt!!!!!

  28. There is a difference between Middle Eastern and Arab. Jesus probably looked like a Middle Eastern Jew – because he was Jewish and born in Israel. And my mo-dar picks up on your big Mormon teeth.

  29. i play this game in the costco food court here in salt lake! it is really only fun in the summer. you have to search for modesty/VGL’s and whether or not there is coffee or alcohol in their cart, beacuse the Utah culture of stepford wife bringing the 5 kids to costco is way to prevelant for that to be your factor. Also a great way to catch some polygamists! best free entertainment we have!

  30. I can always notice the Mo’s by the way they carry themselves, they think it is called “the holy light” but it is actually called “stuck up”. They appear to be friendly at first but are extremely intolerant of other cultures, especially when it comes to the Mormon men working alongside or under Women in the workplace. There is also a high rate of people that only claim to be Mormon but still drink and smoke, they are lovingly referred to as Faux-Mo’s.

  31. You should probably look up the definition of “generalization” as well as “intolerant”. Mormons are notoriously intolerant of other cultures and religions, as is shown by the after death baptisms they perform on their relatives who are other religions- only MoMo’s get into heaven, right? I would be open to any examples you may be able to provide that would disprove your intolerance- if you’re not too busy having babies or rubbing your fat husbands feet, now THAT my FauxMo friend is “generalization”, unfortunately you probably ARE doing one of the two right now.

  32. Pingback: The Face of Mormonism | Wheat and Tares

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