Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mormon Urban Legends


            When I was fourteen, I attended a Mormon youth program called “Especially For Youth”, which was a week-long activity meant to inspire and motivate the youth of the church.  The week was filled with talks, activities, and testimony meetings.  Every night, the girls in my group gathered together for a spiritual thought before heading to bed.  Towards the end of the week, my counselor Laura* gave us all a piece of paper with the following message:

You were in the War in Heaven and one day when you are in the spirit world you will be enthralled with those who you are associated with. You will ask someone in which time period he lived in and you might hear, "I was with Moses when he parted the Red Sea," or "I helped build the pyramids," or "I fought with Captain Moroni." And as you are standing there in amazement, someone will turn to you and ask, "Which prophet time did you live in?" And when you say "Gordon B. Hinckley," a hush will fall over every hall, every corridor in heaven and all in attendance will bow at your presence. You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous. Are you still? Remember who you are!

            I felt very solemn when I read this slip of paper – I had a great destiny to fulfill.  I didn’t feel more faithful, but here was an adult telling us that we had been saved for a special purpose.  I was both uncomfortable with the idea of having been more faithful in the pre-existence and sad that my youthful levity meant I was failing at the great destiny that was expected of me.  

 A few years later, I discovered that this statement was in fact an urban legend.  In the meantime, I heard this quote from multiple sources – we were special, we had a great destiny, we had been the elect spirits who had been saved for the latter-days for some great purpose.  This quote was repeated by teens and adults alike with all of the solemnity of gospel-truth.  I was grateful when I heard this quote was false, as I was uncomfortable with the implied superiority of this statement. But discovering this quote was false also went a long way towards increasing my cynicism about Mormon culture. 

In 2008 – nine years after I first heard this quote - the Mormon Church issued an official statement denouncing the falsity of this statement.  But when I first heard this quote, I believed.  I believed that I had been saved for a special purpose – and I felt like a failure for not living up to my destiny. 

Note: After posting this, people were nice enough to point out that the truth was a little more complicated than I had thought.  For a more in-depth discussion, I would recommend reading this follow-up post.


14 comments:

  1. Hi there,

    I'm happy to have found your blog through BlogHer. I am a survivor of the Mormon religion too LOL - I stopped attending church when I was 21, I'm 32 now so it's been about 11 years. It's good to find another who knows exactly what I'm going through. And I was also told this lie. Frequently - in fact it was pretty much the theme of all of the Young Women's activities of my youth. It never sat right with me either - just like most of the other things I'd been taught from birth.

    Thanks for sharing,
    HM
    htt://beyourownkindofbeautiful.com

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the comment - I love hearing from people who have gone through similar journeys. I look forward to reading your blog. :)

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  2. PM Girl, I was at book club meeting some years back. The subject was Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven. There Mormons in the group ranging from ages 20 to 40 to 60 to 80. At one point the 20 year old said, "I've been told that I am part of the greatest generation." - To which the rest of us piped up, "We were told that too!" sigh

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    1. Oh dear - how funny and sad, all at once.

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  3. I never heard this growing up.

    When I was in my late twenties, I lived in Utah for about four months. I heard something similar to this in a youth talk in sacrament meeting, and during a Fireside. I asked the YW president about who said it, since I had never heard it. She said it was just something everyone knew.

    I asked my seminary teacher about it a year or so after the time in Utah. He told me he thought it was a Utah thing. Where did you go to EFY, and do you know where your counselor was from?

    (I always chose debate and/or science camps instead of EFY. I had siblings who liked them, but they all went to BYU and were much more comfortable being in Utah than I have ever been.)

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    1. I went to EFY in Pennsylvania - I am not sure where the counselor was from, although this same quote was also passed around to other groups. I also heard it a few times in other contexts - each time I felt a little uncomfortable, although I never thought to question the veracity of the statement.

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  4. I was told this a few times myself growing up too and it never set well with me either. Going through the "growing pains" moving out of the church is difficult and my husband isn't LDS nor was he ever, so he doesn't really understand how difficult it can be. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I agree with Heather. It's nice to know that we're not alone in this. I have a blog too, though it's not just about my transition out of the Mormon lifestyle but if you anyone is interested: Driftingmedley.tumblr.com.

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    1. Thank you. I must admit - I am a little confused as to how Tumblr works as a blog - I tried to comment but I couldn't figure it out. :(

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  5. I just found the COOLEST blog post with a YM's lesson from the 1920s. It is soooooo very topical today.

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2011/09/01/the-young-man-and-his-vocation-1925-26-lesson-3-kinds-of-vocations/comment-page-1/#comment-259815

    Enjoy! Especially if you have LDS friends or family members who are staunchly conservative!!

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  6. I've heard this many times. In fact, I'm surprised to find out that the church officially debunked it, because it seems like something they'd want people to think, whether or not any of the leadership ever said it.

    Although, let's be honest--Captain Moroni was WAY cooler than Hinckley. If we were all sitting around shooting the breeze in the spirit world, nobody's going to say, "Shut up about how you guys kicked Amalickiah's butt and tell me more about all the little temples Hinckley built!"

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    1. Actually, after posting this some fellow ex-Mormons were kind enough to point out that the truth is a little murkier than I thought. I'm working on a follow-up post but in a nutshell, if you read the retraction, they state that no particular GA said anything about people bowing to you. But GA's have said some very similar statements. All quite murky and I was silly enough to accept the retraction at face value.

      Captain Moroni would be cool!

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  7. Do you know if there's a place where lds folklore is compiled? That would be interesting..

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    1. I got the quote and retraction from FAIR, although that is hardly an impartial source.

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    2. This is a good compilation

      http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon060.htm

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