“I think they’re Mormon.”

So my wife Sandy, who is very outdoorsy and independent, just returned from a five-day trip camping, biking and kayaking by herself in Wisconsin. One day she was riding her bike down a trail, and there was a large number of unusually clothed riders also on the trail. The men wore homemade clothing with wide-brimmed hats, and the women wore long dresses and bonnets.

She knew there were Amish in the area, so she just assumed they were Amish. But when they arrived at the parking lot, they piled their bikes in a van and drove away.

So Sandy asks this girl at the concession stand whether she knew what religious group those riders were affiliated with. Her reply was “I think they’re Mormon.”

My wife, standing there in her shorts and tshirt (not to mention the multiple piercings in her ears), replied, “Uh, I don’t think so…I’m Mormon and we haven’t dressed that way for a hundred years. Could they be Mennonite?”

“Uh…oh, yeah, I think they’re Mennonite.”

(I got such a kick out of this story I thought I’d share it with my “Nacle friends.)


  1. This reminds me of when I asked my sister, not LDS, if she had seen Napoleon Dynamite, she said yes. “The funny thing,” she said, “is that the people who made the movie are, like, Amish or something.” We’re in one big lump of “wierd religions” to most people.

  2. supressing…flashbacks…from…mission…

  3. My husband went to Italy on his mission… when he wasn’t mistaken for the Amish, he was mistaken for the Mafia! I guess not many *normal* people walk around in full suits all day.

  4. Maybe the Mennonites were riding in support of Landis?

  5. Just as an FYI, Amish do drive cars, vans, etc.,when necessary so it could very well have been Amish you saw. Or maybe they were Mormons… lol!

  6. The worst is when someone says “Oh aren’t they Mormons? Those weirdos who….” and they are absolutely correct.

    J. I had a friend who served in Belgium and he said that the movie Witness (where the kid witnesses a crime and then gets placed in an Amish Community) was translated incorrectly. Mormon appeared in the subtitles where Amish should have been.

  7. Only jack-Amish, Tony. Yep Amri, I believe that Amish was translated Mormon in all the western European languages for that movie. It certainly was in French. Here is a sample conversation that occured regularly:

    French guy: Mormon? Oh yeah, you are they guys that don’t drive and wear old-style clothes.

    Me: Yep, and I sailed accross the Atlantic only to sport this modern suit to try and get you to come back to america and build furniture with us.

  8. Starfoxy says:

    Re Witnesses, I can validate it for Italian too.

  9. Re. 7- No, not “jack-Amish”, J.Stapley…There was colony of Amish in Seymour, MO, that used to regularly drive into Springfield, MO for supplies, trips to the hospital, etc. I used to see them all the time when I was in college in Springfield.

  10. Hmm…I lived in MO too..must be a congregational disparity?

  11. cchrissyy says:

    was it pioneer day?

  12. I’ll validate the movie translation as far east as Hungary… jeesh!

  13. Tony Loyal says:

    Re. 10- No, I think all Amish can drive but only in limited circumstances. The cars I saw them in were, like them, always plain and unardorned, usually black in color.

  14. Thanks for the reminder of how lucky we are to only have the Word of Wisdom to set us apart.

  15. DKL, not so! We’ve got garments, too — and a whole lot more. Next time you doubt our distinctiveness, try a trip to do canning at the Bishop’s Storehouse.

  16. #9 They may not have been Amish, they may have been Hutterites. Hutterites have the same roots as the Amish, live in communes, wear black, etc., but do not avoid modern technology.

    Hutterites have colonies across Canada and in many northern States, and possibly in MO, I don’t know.

  17. Maybe it was a ward activity commemorating the pioneer trek … on bicycles.

  18. RE: Amish, my understanding was that their use of “technology” varies from fellowship to fellowship, with some groups accepting a surprisingly high level of technology while still considering themselves Amish. The “Old Order” Amish fellowships would definitely consider the more progressive ones to be “Jack Amish.”

    RE: Mistaken religious identities, in Portugal we were never mistaken for Amish. Most often we were mistaken for the CIA. The portuguese people noted that the missionaries first appeared in Portugal shortly after their dictatorship was overthrown in 1974 and assumed that these Americans in their white shirts and ties had to be related to that somehow.

  19. my sister and brother were driving home a few years ago (in north central indiana). the car got sideswiped on the highway; turns out the lady driving the other car was amish. we all got a pretty good laugh out of that. oh, yeah, and the amish lady pulls out a CELL PHONE to call her family after the accident (without even checking on my brother and sister, i might add, whose car had ended up in a ditch. the first cop on the scene wasn’t even aware of another car being involved, till my brother stumbled out of the ditch). i try not to make stereotypes about the amish after that incident, but it’s hard…lol

  20. Jothegrill says:

    Witnesses translated Amish as Mormon in Polish too.

  21. Jothegrill says:

    I think it was a conspiracy =)

  22. Re. 16- No, the people I’m speaking of are definitely Amish, I know this for a fact.

  23. As long as everyone understands that neither the Amish nor the Mormons worship Satan or sacrifice virgins in the dead of night, I’m willing to be conflated by the already otherwise clueless.

  24. In the story, the group was identified as probably Mennonite, which is not the same as Amish (although most of the comments refer to Amish). Mennonites dress very similarly to the Amish, but have more relaxed rules regarding cars and driving.

  25. S. P. Bailey says:

    In Brazil, we (missionaries) were occassionally asked if we were airline pilots.

  26. “Mennonites dress very similarly to the Amish, but have more relaxed rules regarding cars and driving.”

    I have a few Mennonite friends, and they don’t dress at all like the Amish. While Mennonites share a religious heritage with the Amish, most of them don’t dress like the Amish. You wouldn’t know their religion just by looking at the average Mennonite.

  27. “Scorecards, get yer scorecards! You can’t tell yer Anabaptists apart without a scorecard!”

  28. Years ago (more than I care to admit) I started my first year in college 600 miles from my Mormon dominated home town. One fellow in the dorm was familiar with the religious makeup of our region and correctly guessed that I was Mormon but for a few days he was the only one in our small dorm who knew my religion. A few days later several of us were gathered in the rec room and the subject of strange religious practices came up. A fellow who was from Chicago stated, “Mormons can’t wear zippers in there pants” to which my new friend declared, pointing at me, “Well he’s a Mormon and he has a zipper.” It was my first experience in some of the rediculous assumptions about our religion. But I’ve since learned that many of the Mormons have similarly rediculous beliefs about other religions of the world.

  29. jonathan n. says:

    26: The Mennonite communities in Belize dress like the Amish and reject modern technology. They ride in horse-drawn buggies, etc. They make an exception for farm equipment, so they use tractors, but they remove the tires and use the steel rims. They also don’t use electricity. The Mennonites in Oregon are a diverse group; some wear traditional clothing, some wear contemporary clothing.

  30. The Mennonites in my hometown had distinctive dress, but not like what most people imagine the Amish to have. The women wore long hair (never trimmed) and long skirts, and the men wore beards. Some dressed more stylishly than others, and those who made an effort were able to blend in very well. The lady who taught the (rather comprehensive) sex ed classes in our school district was Mennonite. She was a great lady.

  31. Once I was sledding on a hill in Colorado and there was a group of Mennonite youth snowboarding and sledding next to us. (They were using a snowmobile to bring them back up the hill, incidentally) They were dressed in normal snow gear, but the women and girls all had on pretty floral skirts over their snow pants. It was an interesting effect.

  32. Hutterites make the best damn pancake flour in the world. My family’s from Alberta, and we “import” about 30 pounds of it whenever we make the pilgrimmage to and from Canada.

  33. rleonard says:

    We got CIA in Africa. We had a rule about sun glasses. Apperently when young white guys in suits wore sunglasses everybody thought they were CIA.

  34. For those with curiosity about the Amish, I found the book Plain and Amish: An Alternative to Modern Pessimism by Bernd Langin quite interesting. It’s special value is that it is a German book translated into English; the German author had an instant credibility that an American could not. Langin wrote, for instance, that the Amish couldn’t believe that the Germans could have any culpability for World War II and figured the stories about Hitler had to be exaggerated propaganda.

    The Amish affinity for Germans is a bit funny given how persecuted they were in their old homelands until they fled to America. Which brings me to a thought about the Witness mislabelling in Europe. Maybe it wasn’t a simple mistake. Maybe there is some embarrassment about the Amish needing to decamp for America, and its better not to dredge up memories of that, so substituting the name of an American homegrown sect was safer.

  35. Kevin,

    Perhaps it was the McPrude family reunion.

  36. Rick Jepson says:

    On my mission the Dominican’s frequently thought that we were CIA.

  37. On our summer road trip from the Midwest to Utah we were driving through Wyoming on Pioneer day and stopped for a rest at Independence Rock. Several minutes later five busloads of teenage Pioneer Trekkers unloaded, fanned out across the park, and began climbing the rock. Quite a sight. I told my kids these were the real Mormons.

  38. MikeInWeHo says:

    Maybe one reason people confuse Mormons and Amish is because the FLDS polygamists get so much time on TV lately. The FLDS women and girls in particular look very Amish.

  39. In regards to APJ’s comment (number 19): believe it or not I’m almost positive I know the brother and sister he is referring to. In fact, they were driving back from my home in Indianapolis when the accident occurred. My recollection of the event is that the woman was Mennonite, not Amish. That would explain the car and the cell phone.

    Like I always say, it sure is a small world in the Church!

  40. Recently a gal at work asked me why missionaries can’t ride in cars.

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