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.