The Amazing Adventures Of “The Mormon Answer Man”

Shawn Larsen Culture, Folklore, Mormon, temple 24 Comments

super-ctr-shirt.gifLook up there . . . . who’s that emceeing the Ward Roadshow? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the Mormon Answer Man!! Faster than a missionary speeding downhill towards a dinner appointment. Able to pull three heavy-laden handcarts at a time. Behold his breath-taking adventures after the jump, if you dare . . .

Chapter 1: An Introduction aka Our Hero Explains Himself

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to associate with folks for whom I am one of the only Mormons they know and/or trust. Growing up in Las Vegas, none of my close friends were members of the Church. I went to law school in Ohio and was the only LDS student in my class. I have worked at three different law firms where Mormons are very much in the minority. But given the fact that I love to talk about all things spiritual, am very hard to offend, and actually enjoy discussing some of the more difficult issues relating to Mormonism, I have often played the part of “Mormon Answer Man” for my non-member friends and colleagues. This requires neither super-intelligence nor a fancy cape; my only powers are a listening ear and an open mind.

In this role, I have heard all manner of off-the-wall beliefs about Mormons and their practices. I’m not talking your run-of-the-mill “do you have more than one wife” questions. There have been a few whoppers. Presented below for your enjoyment are my three favorite examples. (And since I’m a comic book geek, in addition to being a Mormon history nerd (watch out, ladies!), I couldn’t help but indulge in a bit of comic-speak.)

Chapter 2: The Mormon Answer Man vs. The Lusty Patriarchs

I once worked with a woman, let’s call her Alice, who repeatedly told me that she was “raised Mormon,” but that she no longer had or wanted anything to do with the Church. I assured Alice that I knew and liked people with all sorts of beliefs, so she need not worry about my judging her in any way. Alice, however, seemed unable to let it go, and made sure to bring up her Jack Mormon status every time we talked.

One day at lunch, Alice told me that she had heard something very disturbing about Mormons and that, while she wanted to verify whether it was true, she could not bring herself to tell me. After a bit of cajoling, I got it out of her. She had heard from who-knows-where that, in order for a bride to be married in the LDS temple, she would be required to have sex with the groom’s father and grandfather right there in the sealing room. As she told the story, she kept asking, “that can’t be true, can it,” which telegraphed that she, despite her background, thought there was at least a possibility it could be true. When she was done, I said, “do you honestly believe that my wife did it with my dad and grandpa on our wedding day?” She sheepishly said, “no, of course not,” and then I, in full “Mormon Answer Man” mode, gave a short primer on the temple. I also invited her to call Mrs. Mormon Answer Man to double-check; she politely declined.

Chapter 3: The Mormon Answer Man Pokes A Hole In The “Marriage Sheet” Myth

I worked for years, and am still good friends, with a woman I’ll call Anne. Anne is a devout Catholic and, despite having grown up in Orange County, California, knew very few Mormons before we met. We spoke often about our beliefs and it was always a positive experience. One afternoon, she came to my office with a bit of information that been passed to her by a friend “who saw it on the Internet.” She wanted to know whether Mormons were required to use a “marriage sheet”? “What on earth is a ‘marriage sheet,'” I asked. “You know, a sheet between you and your wife for your honeymoon. With a hole in it for, you know . . ” Using all my Answer Man powers to stifle a chuckle, I assured her that no such tradition or practice exists, or ever existed, in the Church. She was mightily relieved. She too, declined an invitation to call Mrs. Mormon Answer Man to double source my answer.

Chapter 4: The Case Of “The Mormon Magic Rock”

Every comics reader is familiar with that time-worn favorite, the origin story. These tales give the reader a glimpse into the hero’s pre-powers life. In that vein, I offer the following account:

In the summer before I left for my mission, I lived at home and spent lots of time hanging out with friends from high school. I had received my call and was basically killing time until I left for the wilds of Guatemala. One evening, a friend, who I’ll call Celeste, asked me what I knew about the “Magic Mormon Rock.” Given Celeste’s impaired state of mind at the time, I didn’t pay much attention. But the next day, she asked me again, “what’s the deal with this ‘Magic Mormon Rock’ you guys are always talking about?”

I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, and given that this was long before I came into my Mormon Answer Man powers, I was flummoxed. But that’s not what makes this story interesting (I am flummoxed on a regular basis). I was scheduled to go through the temple in less then 3 weeks and, from the scraps of information I had heard from my parents, I knew that “tokens” were involved. Would I be given a Magic Rock of my own? What on earth is a Magic Rock, and what would I be expected to do with it? What kind of secret (I mean, sacred) powers would my Rock hold? My mind positively reeled at the possibilities! And while I still didn’t know any details about what to expect at the temple, I did know I was supposed to keep my mouth shut about the whole thing. So, when Celeste asked questions (which she continued to do), not only did I have no answer, I was afraid that if I even ventured a guess, I could be drinking eternal damnation to my soul, or something like that. Looking back, I assume she was referring either the Urim & Thumin or peepstones. But at the time, I was utterly clueless. The “Magic Rock” turned out to be my Kryptonite.

Chapter 5: Conclusion aka Seeking Reinforcements From The “Answer Man” Corps

Obviously, I am not the only one with “Answer Man” powers. I’m sure most of you have been in similar situations, where you have been asked to verify the accuracy of a patently ridiculous rumor or to answer an out-of-left-field question. That’s what I want to hear about. We often talk about Mormon folklore, i.e., the stories we tell each other about our beliefs and culture. That’s not what I am getting at here. Tell us about the most interesting questions/rumors/tall tales/superstitions you’ve fielded from those outside the faith regarding those same issues, and how you — the “Mormon Answer Man” — have dealt with them. Excelsior!

Comments

comments

Comments 24

  1. Great post, Shawn. My favorite rumor I’ve had to dispel:

    A co-worker once told me that she’d been told we have those sharp, pointy steeples at all of our church buildings so that when Jesus comes again from the sky, he will be impaled on one of them. I am NOT making this up.

  2. Funny post. Enjoyed it very much. And the Mormon Answer Man’s most powerful of all powers: the Straw Man, 😉

  3. Shawn, great introductory post to MMatters! Welcome aboard!

    My guess on #4 is that this is a reference to the following scripture in Revelation: Rev. 2: 17 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” There is another in D&C 130: 11 “And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.” Never heard the term Magic Rock before.

    The summer after HS, my friend asked me if it was true that after death Mormons believed they would have cosmic sex and populate other worlds. I think he wanted to sign up. Many of my non-Mo friends have thought our church was very sex-oriented and new-agey.

  4. Here’s a reference on #3 Marriage Sheets above from Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/religion/sheet.asp

    I have never heard about this one in conjunction with Mormonism, although I saw it in Like Water for Chocolate. Apparently, it originated in dirty minds in reference to seeing Orthodox Jewish clothing hanging on the clothesline. And thus are born great urban legends.

  5. I have heard a rumor from several people including a member in my stake presidency that some Mormons wear their garments while having sex.

    I actually think that rumor has some truth to it.

  6. A female friend told me that her brother gave her the following advice prior to her going through the temple for the first time:

    1) Don’t laugh at the naked people.
    2) NEVER volunteer to be the virgin.
    3) Stay off the goat.

    It is obvious to us that he was teasing her, but I have heard derivations of each of these from non-member friends and acquaintances.

  7. OK, those are some of the best Mormon urban legends I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been around a while.

    And, Ray (#8): I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read your comment. Would have shorted out the keyboard on my laptop. ..bruce..

  8. Answer-Man,

    Do you have a flying dog with a red cape?

    I’ve heard that other Mormons say they have been asked if Mormons have horns, but I have never had someone ask me the question.

  9. #12 – When my son was a junior in high school, one of his friends said that her mother had heard from a minister that Mormons have horns – but that they are surgically removed when the child is circumcised. (Already cutting off something, I guess.)

    He told her she could feel the bumps left by the surgery, since she was such a good friend. He parted his hair; she felt his head; he asked if she felt anything. She said she, “No.” His reply:

    “Not even stupid?”

    (My son got my sense of humor, poor kid.)

  10. Ray (13) Ae you sure that happened? I’ve heard that same punch line so many times, just preceded by different tales of similar effect, that I was quite certain it is cultural folklore.

  11. It happened. My son heard it, thought it was an urban legend, then came home laughing uncontrollably about having the chance to use it.

  12. Great stuff, funny.

    Never heard about the sex in the sealing room before! Strange one that one.

    But I have heard about the ‘marriage sheet’ with the required hole in it. Although it’s more of a slit than a hole because it has to open and close, and points vertically towards the lady’s beautiful face. You see my very catholic grandmother was handed one the day before her wedding day in 1924 without any explanation or details off course. It was commonly used by respectable ladies in catholic countries during and just after the Victorian age. Today they don’t use it anymore since they’re having sex outside on the street. But both my grandma, who died in 1979 and mother would joke about the marriage sheet a lot. My grandma kept saying that my grandpa didn’t know how to use it and just threw it on the floor! She had her first son 8 and 1/2 months later. The real mystery is how it managed to go from Victorian Catholics to Mormons 🙂

    -The only strange questions I get are about the ‘magic underwear’ and do we have to wear them during sex. I usually dismiss the first question saying that they are dirty and smelly but not magical and then ‘no’ to the second one.

  13. #4 — thanks for the warm welcome. It’s funny, in the nearly years since that incident, I’ve never heard anyone else refer to the “Mormon Magic Rock.” To this day, I wonder where she heard that term and what she meant by it. The reunion is coming in a couple of years; mybe I’ll ask then 🙂 Re: the marriage sheet, I also think she got that idea from “Like Water for Chocolate.” That’s the first thing I thought of when she asked the question. How she transposed that practice onto Mormons, I’ll never know.

  14. Any weird idea can get transposed onto Mormons. It’s a law of nature. Don’t try to understand it; just accept it and ride the ride. *grin*

  15. Shawn- Great post as always. I enjoyed all of yours from Burning bosom. I did have an acquaintance ask if the tall, pointed spires of the San Diego temple held secrets or “special rooms.” I told her with a completely straight face that those spires housed the secret elevators to Kolob. I think she believed me. I bumped into her a few months back in the store and she actedg really nervous the entire time. I was buying silver lame fabric at Joann’s for an alien Halloween costume.

  16. I too have heard a story that seems to be ridiculous about the Mormon Church but I wondered if it were true. That if a mormon couple that have been married in the temple, divorce and the woman marries again and has children with her new husband, those children will be sealed to the old husband in heaven.

  17. Linda – haven’t heard that one, but it sounds a lot like the OT “policy” that if a brother died, the other brother was obligated to marry that brother’s wife and “raise up seed” to his brother. What I do know is the case (or used to be anyway), was that a woman could decide to be sealed to the second one rather than the first one.

    This falls into the category of ‘let God sort it all out later’ in my book.

  18. Answer man, are you REALLY REALLY good at answering questions? I am, but I don’t quite know how to tackle this question. Someone asked: “Rather than “Save” us, why couldn’t God have simply not condemned us to begin with?”

    I know that there are laws that God did not create and that “he” didn’t really condemn us, our sins do.
    Can you explain in an educated fashion because I really do not know how to explain the laws which God too must follow.

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  20. Grant Johnson-aka-mormonanswerman
    is a coward without the courage of his own convictions.
    He was losing a debate with me and when this became apparent
    he ran a sock puppet game-very clumsily I must add-and blocked me-
    after which he continued posting responses to my arguments
    implying that I couldn’t answer him and lying about the YT server being down.

    Despicable.

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