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From our exchanges: “As the Saints Go Marching By: Modern Jokelore Concerning Mormons”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 30, 2008

Jan Harold Brunvand, “As the Saints Go Marching By: Modern Jokelore Concerning Mormons,” The Journal of American Folklore 83:327 (Jan.-Mar. 1970), 53-60.

Brunvand offers his study of humor by and about contemporary Utah Mormons to demonstrate that folklore can be modern as well as a survival from the 19th century; that folklore is generated by both those within a group and those without; that folklore, while often good natured, sometimes has a negative bite; and that while folklore about the Mormons has often centered on the libidinous, other themes do exist.

Me, I like the article simply for the corny jokes contained therein.

Some of them are too rude for me to be comfortable presenting here. (One sample, a song parody: “Come, come, ye Saints; no toilet paper here. But with grass wipe your ***.”)

But other, funnier jokes appear:

Why did the little moron take a ladder to church? So he could become a Ladder-day Saint.

What’s purple and has twenty-seven wives? Brigham Plum.

Did you hear about the hippy who didn’t know LSD from LDS? He went on a mission instead of a trip.

What’s a Jack Seagull? One that won’t eat crickets.

Brunvand discusses a whole category of jokes that are built around the incongruity of rejecting a minor vice while embracing a worse one:

A Mormon bishop [is] invited to a Gentile household. He is offered Irish coffee after dinner and asks what that is. “Oh, just coffee with whisky added and whipped cream on top.” “Well, perhaps just this once, but could you make it with Postum?”

Hyper-vigilance to Mormon expectations can also be the basis for humor:

Three Mormons go on a spree; one drinks coffee, one orders Coke, and the third takes milk. The first two tease the third one about how timid he is, and he replies, “Yes, maybe so, but somebody has to drive home.”

The Word of Wisdom is a fertile source of humor, apparently:

In another story about St. Peter in heaven, the new arrivals are invited to sit down in the vestibule and have a cup of coffee while their papers are being processed. To a Mormon, St. Peter snaps … “You can go to hell; I haven’t got time to make hot chocolate today.”

Brunvand concludes with this observation:

To a great extent, then, we can see in all these items how a visible, nonsensitive quality differentiating Mormon and non-Mormon serves as a safety valve for releasing pressures built up over other matters. It is one thing to joke with a Mormon neighbor or co-worker about coffee or smoking, but it would be quite another thing to make light of Temple Garments or of the visions of Joseph Smith. It seems clear that non-Mormon Americans have learned to tolerate some fairly exotic doctrinal matters as long as they may poke fun at some minor, and really quite praiseworthy, matters of simple social and personal behavior.

I don’t know about you, but I wonder if Brunvand would make the same assertions in today’s political climate.



14 Comments »

  1. a whole category of jokes that are built around the incongruity of rejecting a minor vice while embracing a worse one

    I share an office with a charismatic Baptist, and this statement reminds me of a joke he told about his own tradition:

    Q: Why don’t Baptists fornicate standing up?

    A: Because they don’t want God to see them and think that they are dancing.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 30, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  2. This is great fun, thanks for the hilarity. Mark, it is good to know we are not alone!

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 30, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  3. This was an enjoyable read. Thanks. I especially like the St. Peter anecdote.

    Comment by Christopher — May 30, 2008 @ 11:31 am

  4. Glad you enjoyed it (and contributed! ha!) Mormon subjects appear in a lot of journals that are not focused on Mormons studies, or that were written long enough ago to be unfamiliar to most of us today, that it’s rewarding to mine for nuggets like this one.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 30, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  5. My sons would love the “Come, Come, Ye Saints” version. I won’t show it to them.

    Comment by Ray — May 30, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  6. Not quite the same, Ardis, but you might like it:

    A man went to his local bar every year on the same day and drank three shots of whiskey – one for himself and one as a representative of each of his brothers living far from home.

    One day, he ordered two shots, explaining that one of his brothers had died during the previous year, so he could only drink for himself and his remaining brother.

    A few years later, he only ordered one, so the bartender asked if his last brother had died. He replied:

    “No, he is still alive, but I joined the Mormon Church last month – so I can’t drink for myself anymore.”

    Comment by Ray — May 30, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  7. Fits right into the mold, Ray, funny! And you *should* show the other to your boys. Maybe they could write the rest of the parody.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 30, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  8. Some mine for gold, others mine for Mormon jokes. :)

    I think it’s good when we can laugh at ourselves a bit.

    Comment by m&m — May 30, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  9. I watched Bill Mauher (sp?) a couple of times and I got really tired of his “magic underwear” jokes. Too bad he doesn’t get this idea “It seems clear that non-Mormon Americans have learned to tolerate some fairly exotic doctrinal matters as long as they may poke fun at some minor, and really quite praiseworthy, matters of simple social and personal behavior.”

    Comment by jks — May 30, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  10. . . . Though rough to you when rubbed upon your rear,
    Its better than diaper rash.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — May 31, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  11. m&m, this is the right place, laugh on.

    jks, I remember when John Paul II was named Pope and how all of a sudden all the Polish (and other ethnic) jokes that were so popular disappeared almost overnight, and I thought we were making real progress. But we’ve really regressed from that point, haven’t we, when the more sacred something is, the more it seems to be targeted for cheap, not very clever “humor.”

    Methinks Eric has been to scout camp … (grin)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 31, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  12. My favorite joke of the mixing up higher for lower is the following:

    Did you hear about the BYU coed who was at at party with liquor? Once she found out, she put on her clothes and went home.

    Comment by John C. — May 31, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  13. jks #9:

    Not long after President Hinckley died, Bill Maher was on Larry King. Maher was going on his usual rant about the Church, when he said something like “Wait a minute. Didn’t their leader – I think his name’s Hinckley – just die? Didn’t you have him on a couple of times?”

    Larry King replied, “Yes I did. You would have liked him.”

    Comment by John Taber — May 31, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  14. […] Now, if you really, really need a joke to help relieve your own tension, then make sure the joke actually introduces the topic and relates to the theme/topic. For example, here’s a joke (stolen shamelessly from Ardis’s blog): […]

    Pingback by How to Give a Great Sacrement Meeting Talk - Part 2 of 5: Arrangement : The Millennial Star — June 16, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

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