Look 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!