The Return of the Great and Terrible Mormon Culture Tournament – Round 1 Part 4

Howdy! Remember back when we used to gather around, in the warm glow of the monitor, discussing the relative merits of funeral potatoes and Trunk ‘r Treat as cultural markers of Mormonism. Good times, good times.

Well, I went on vacation to the land of intermittent internet and none of the lazy slackers around here could be bothered to keep the dad-burned thing going. Don’t worry, I won’t whine about it or badmouth my cobloggers, no sirree! I’ll just get back to this time-consuming, back-breaking labor instead of writing my dissertation and feeding my family so that you people can have your fun.

When last we gathered round the board, these were our winners:

#1 Arnold Friberg, #2 The Christus, #14 Short-sleeved shirts with ties, #4 The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, #5 Large Families, #11 The Mission Field = Not Utah, #10 Johnny Lingo, and #8 For the Strength of Youth. Regarding these results, all I can say is, Bloggernacle you ugly, come down out of that tree or I will beat you with a stick.

Today’s competitions will be between:

#1 The Angel Moroni vs. #16 Martinelli’s for Toasts

    #1: The Angel Moroni is the most ubiquitous, uniquely LDS symbol. It is found on temples and it is found on ties.

    #16: Hey, would you like to experience the thrill and excitement of opening up a bottle of bubbly on New Year’s while not having to deal with an embarassing confession to the bishop later in the week? Have I got a drink for you! Sure it us usually considered de classe to have to twist off the top, but it is the thought that counts.

#2 Green Jello vs. #15 Michael McLean

    #2: Green Jello, how do I love thee? Usually with carrots, in salad form.

    #15: Michael McLean wrote several songs and several LDS videos designed to help people understand and join the church. Just remember, you’re not…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………alone.

#3 Ken Jennings vs. #14 Asking out with elaborate clues/scavenger hunts

#4 Harry Anderson vs. #13 HBLL Hawaii Five-O

    #4: Harry Anderson is not LDS (He’s actually a Seventh-day Adventist). Nonetheless, the Church hired him to paint several images for us and they have become iconic.

    #13: When the Harold B Lee Library is getting ready to close, they used to play the Hawaii Five-O theme song in order to drive the students out. They have since expanded their repertoire, with my favorite being a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

The Cultural Hall vs. #12 Gladys Knight

    #5: LDS meetinghouses all come equipped with a gigantic hall, which operates as a basketball court, reception hall, overflow area, greet place to take rowdy children during sacrament meeting, and audience seating should road shows ever come back. Apparently, they’ve been around since Nauvoo. Behold, the cultural hall!

    #12: Gladys Knight joined the Church and immediately raised our hipness quotient. Now if she can only do something about our music.

#6 3 Nephite Stories vs. #11 Handcart Reenactments

    #6: One time, I was driving up I-80 and I picked up a hitchhiker (which I don’t normally do). He asked me if I had my food storage ready and when I said, “kinda,” he said to have it ready by April Conference. When I turn to him to ask why, he was gone, leaving behind only a triple combination with a ribbon marking D&C 1:38.

    #11: Bishop, I’ve been thinking about a way to help our youth. Let’s take them up to Wyoming (or Temple, AZ or Ocala, FL) and make them push handcarts around, mimicking the actions of a group of saints who endured horrible events back in the day. To make it more “realistic” we could put them into family groups and have a member “die” on the night before the last day. That won’t be creepy or manipulative at all; I can hardly wait for the testimony meeting afterwards.

#7 Dancing Book of Mormon length apart vs. #10 Lock Your Heart

    #7: Remember back when the Church used to sponsor youth dances? Remember how they used to tell you to keep at least Book of Mormon distance apart from your date while dancing? Remember how you calculated that to be height, not width or length? Man, you are old!

    #10: President Kimball asked the missionaries to keep the romance a post-mission activity. Thousands of Russian parents of cute daughters would later come to hate President Kimball.

#8 Dale Murphy vs. #9 Dear John Letters

    #8: Dale Murphy (who was a two-time MLB MVP) will never be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is a crying shame. Not because he is the only (active) LDS player who may have a shot. Not because he is a genuinely nice person by all accounts. Because he played for my favorite team growing up and he was all I had! So there!

    #9: Dear John Letters have inspired thousands of missionaries to take President Kimball’s Lock your Heart talk more seriously. Thank you, o straying, back-home significant others, for helping those missionaries keep their mind on their task and not on why you left them for some RM who came home a month ago.


  1. J. Daniel Crawford says:

    My picks:
    Angel Moroni
    Green Jello
    Ken Jennings
    Harry Anderson
    Gladys Knight
    Hardcart Reenactments
    Lock Your Heart
    Dear John Letters

    I have more upsets here than normal. Also, I am guessing Dale Murphy will lose, even though he is my favorite baseball player ever, because the ’80s Braves ALWAYS LOST!!!!

  2. Aw, man, now I’ve forgotten all of my original predictions! Dangit!

  3. Hah! I beat my husband to the vote. Hah!

  4. JDC,

    You see, no-one else could have pulled this off with your panache.

    I’m going to be turning this series into a conference paper this summer for a group of Euro intellecshuls.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    At last!!! Thanks man/

  6. Aw shucks, guys. I take back all the horrible things I said about you. Now please explain to me the current results in the 3/14, 5/12, and 7/10 polls.

  7. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Woohoo! Now I can stop pretending to work and pay attention to the really important stuff!

  8. Sadly, Three Nephite Stories has about as much a chance as J. Golden Kimball, i.e., none.

    The Three Nephites in Contemporary Society

  9. Last Lemming says:

    Explain to me the current results in the 3/14, 5/12, and 7/10 polls.

    Can’t explain them, so I will try to infuence them.

    3/14. The scavenger hunt thing was never part of my experience, nor was it part of my kids’ experience. I’ve heard of it, but never actually witnessed it. I have witnessed Ken Jennings, but neverheard him mentioned in a church context (unless the bloggernacle counts as a church context). My vote for Ken is a vote for Jeopardy (they did let my daughter try out, but she didn’t get on).

    5/12. The cultural hall is just a gym, people. Lots of churches have them. It is cool that Gladys Knight is a member, but she has not achieved any kind of iconic status in the Church. My vote for her is analogous to those Nobel Peace Prizes they give out before peace is actually achieved, because the committee wants to boost the recipient’s credibility.

    7/10. Dancing BoM length apart…see scavenger hunts above. In fact, I had never even heard of this one. It was always just a “daylight” standard in my day. Lock Your Heart wins by a mile. (Its a long story).

  10. Is it crass to vote for oneself? Uh, not that I would ever do that or anything. I’m just asking, in case, you know, Michael McLean or Gladys Knight stops by. Or Dancing Book-of-Mormon-Length Apart.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    A: KJ, Michael McLean and Gladys Knight

    Q: Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?

    Good to see you dropping in, Ken. You got my vote, homes.

  12. Ken, since I want you to win, I say vote early and often.

  13. The cultural hall is just a gym, people. Lots of churches have them.

    It is just a gym, but for some reason we just can’t bring ourselves to *call* it that. We insist on calling something as straightforward and normal as a gym by some weird term that we effectively pulled out of our ears and yet we still manage to convince ourselves that it makes perfect sense and we aren’t weird at all. That is mormon culture at it’s finest.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Starfoxy, there is actually some real history to calling it the Cultural Hall, one that goes straight back to Nauvoo, and actually a bit further. I’m writing a post on the topic, but the name wasn’t pulled out of our ears. Today it’s a gym, but it wasn’t always so, not by a long shot.

  15. For those of you who haven’t been actively participating, I thought I ought to provide links to the prior parts of round 1:

  16. On a side note, follow the “O straying…” link. They have some doozies over there.

  17. Dear John Letters are gonna win it all!!!!

  18. Thanks, HP/JDC, for reviving this. I’ve missed it.

    Ditto on the O straying link, and the Dear John one is worth a look and many belly laughs, too.

    And can you tell me where I can get a job like yours? One where I can take a two month long vacation?

  19. Good fun! Thanks JDC!

    I’m pleased to say that all my votes won.

    As for HBLL closing music, they also often played the Lone Ranger and worst of all, “Some Day My Prince Will Come” (those few of us regularly in the library until closing time hated it!)

    Regarding the “cultural hall,” I’ve never really thought of it as a gym. I suppose it seems most like a gym to those who use it that way. Since the cultural hall is where non-worship events (Relief Society dinners, roadshows–yes, I’m that old–, munch ‘n mingles, stake dances etc.) take place, it never seemed the least bit odd to me to refer to it that way.

  20. Last Lemming says:

    Perhaps the “Cultural Hall” entry should be renamed “Calling the gym a ‘cultural hall'”

  21. No really, can anyone explain the way 3/14, 5/12, and 7/10 are going? I don’t get it.

  22. a random John says:


    Ken Jennings is a nerd. I can say that pretty safely since I work in his former position and only aspire to Jeopardy! greatness. People are afraid that voting for him would be an indication of their own nerdiness, especially when the option is something that proves how social they are.

    For 5 v 12, I’d say that people don’t appreciate Sister Knight and that her real musical accomplishments came before she was a member. Hard to beat the ever present cultural hall in such a situation. Plus so much of our culture is more on the level of the cultural hall (wedding receptions anyone?) rather than on appreciation of popular music.

    I’m not as sure about 7 v 10. I would guess that the BoM dancing thing is a bit more universal. Maybe Lock Your Heart is a little too harsh in the face of such a cheesy and harmless rival.

  23. Well, I can help out with 3/14. I don’t watch television so I’ve never seen an episode of Jeopardy and had heard of Ken Jennings until someone referred to him on the bloggernacle. There’s no way that Ken Jennings is quintessentially Mormon. (Sorry, Ken!).

    However, growing up in a very Mormon high school in Utah and then going to BYU made creative date requests part and parcel of my adolescence and early adulthood. To give you a sense of this pheonomenon (in case this really is new to you), one of the guys that asked me to my junior prom organized a quartet with three other guys from choir and came to the house to serenade me with a multi-verse revision of Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” (“To the Junior Prom”). When they finished, the other three went crooning down the street and my would-be date stayed and sung a more tender love song and presented me with a dozen red roses.

    If that seems over-the-top, you should have seen how the guy I actually went to the prom with asked me!

    Other memorable examples were scavenger hunts all over the city, date requests frozen in rock solid gallons of ice cream, requests written on the back of 500 piece puzzles, I had to put together to figure out who was asking . . . .and so forth.

  24. “Other memorable examples were scavenger hunts all over the city, date requests frozen in rock solid gallons of ice cream, requests written on the back of 500 piece puzzles, I had to put together to figure out who was asking . . . .and so forth.”

    Melissa, I can honestly say that I would have rather shot myself than have gone out on a date with anyone who put me through any of that.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    Since I voted for the leader in each of the contests HP asks about, I’ll give my rationales:

    1. I love Ken, but the creative asking out thingie was really big when I was at BYU, and seems to me to have been a pretty dominant part of the culture for a long time.

    2. I love Gladys, but I’ve never seen another church with a gym/stage set-up such as in the standard plan (not counting the modern megachurches). That seems more quintessentially Mormon to me.

    3. The BoM thing is a classic. I had never heard of “Lock your heart,” which must be more of a generational saying.

  26. Left Field says:

    Harmon Killebrew’s gone inactive?

    Who knew?

  27. Is Harmon LDS? I was thinking of Jack Morris (who stole a World Series from my beloved Braves) when I inserted teh active line.

  28. Oops! Harmon’s in and LDS. So is Wally Joyner, now that I think of it, but if Wally gets in before Dale, I might cry.

  29. JDC,

    There wasn’t much of a choice since all the guys in my little universe were doing that kind of thing at the time. It wasn’t really about impressing us (the girls) though. Coming up with the most “creative” way to ask to dances was a competitive male sport at my high school. Sometimes it was sweet (roses are always a good idea) but other times it was really obnoxious (for example, a life-sized plush rabbit for a Spring dance)

  30. I should have said, person-size (as in six-foot tall) stuffed bunny.

  31. Kevin,

    I can hardly believe that you’ve never heard of “Lock Your Heart.” That’s classic Mormon culture material. I wouldn’t be surprised if that talk influenced the outcome of thousands of marriages. I had a boyfriend send me that talk from the field with the sentence “if you have a girlfriend, lock her in” highlighted.

  32. I don’t know where all my blogging incontinence has come from today (maybe something I had for lunch?)!

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming (and I’m going back to work!)

  33. Gladys Knight raised our “hipness quotient.” Wow, that says a lot about how low it must have been in the pre-Knight era.

  34. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 25 The Lutheran church of my youth had a gym with stage similar to ones I’ve seen in LDS buildings, for what it’s worth. I think they’re fairly common in mid-size congregations of various denominations. The Lutherans called it a multi-purpose room, although it seemed as if its sole purpose was to traumatize me with shirts vs. skins basketball games.

  35. Ardis Parshall says:

    You’re doing it to me again, guys — I’m gonna stop reading your silly blog if you won’t let me participate in the important stuff, like this poll.

    So why have you barred my computer from voting?

  36. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, it means someone with your IP address has already voted. Is anyone sharing your computer?

  37. Ardis Parshall says:

    Steve, I don’t see how. I’m using my laptop, and am the onliest one who lives here.

  38. Harry Anderson? Loved him in “Night Court”…

  39. My picks were:
    Angel Moroni
    Green Jello
    Ken Jennings – not being from Utah, I’ve never heard of the scavenger hunt/date thing
    Harry Anderson
    The Cultural Hall
    3 Nephites
    Dancing BoM length apart (of course, our leaders said “triple combination” length apart!!!)
    Dear Johns

    On the Cultural Hall issue, when I was growing up, it was not just a gym – it was an actual place of “cultural” activities — like etiquette dinners for YW, Road Shows, ward theater, dinners. etc. The gym aspect was just one small part of it.

  40. Matinelli’s won’t win, but it is classic.

    A friend of mine here in Finland moved with his wife to California, and the RS pres. got their new apartment all set up, including getting them some food for the first few days. They found two plastic champagne ‘glasses’ withh this bottle of sparkling cider — which of course in Europe means alcohol. He said to his wife, ‘Wow, these California Mormons are pretty liberal.’

  41. Left Field says:

    I don’t necessarily have a consistent criterion for voting, but generally, I’ll vote against cultural phenomena that I dislike, am not familiar with, or have not participated in.

    Martenelli’s? Never heard of it.

    Michael McClean? The name sounds vaguely familiar. Didn’t he sing American Pie? Jello wins by default, though I seldom partake.

    I was always happy to leave elaborate courtship rituals to bowerbirds. I’ve heard of such things, but never knew anyone who actually did it. Go Ken.

    Did they do the Hawaii Five-O thing back in the Oaks-Holland administrations? I was a commuter student; maybe I was always home by closing time.

    Cultural hall? No big deal. Despite my extensive ignorance of popular music, I liked Gladys even back in the ’70s when she was still a Gentile.

    For some reason, the handcart thing rubs me wrong. Maybe it’s the odd expression “going on trek.” What is there, a shortage of indefinite articles?

    I never went to dances if I could get out of it. So I was always at least a full set of the Journal of Discourses apart. Lock your Heart was in my mission handbook, so at least I’ve read it.

    Why Dale Murphy, and not Harmon Killebrew, Vernon Law, Vance Law, Cory Snyder, Wally Joyner, Alan Ashby, Barry Bonnell, Bruce Hurst, or somebody named Iorg? Still, it’s good to have a ballplayer, and I avoided a Dear John letter by just not having a girlfriend before my mission.

  42. Clues/scavenger hunts beating Ken is a fine example of the Utah/BYU centric audience of this blog. Outside of the corridor, NOBODY does that stuff. It’s pathetic.

  43. LF,
    Did you see the bit where I said that I was a Braves fan growing up?

  44. You can’t escape BYU. Everywhere we’ve gone its alumni have been in the ward. Your resistance to BYU’s perpetuation of utah culture is futile. you will be assimilated, mu-hahahahaha. ;)

  45. JA Benson says:

    I had to vote for HBLL Hawaii Five-0.
    Back in the day (early 80”s) It was DH Mike’s job to close down several buildings at BYU for the night. I remember the fun it was after studying to accompany him as he turned on the music and shut down the HBLL.
    Thanks for the fun memory.

  46. Larry Jortner says:

    That was fun for an LDS convert from Brooklyn who was never in on any of this stuff until his 27th year. Putting Gladys Knight up against the Cultural Hall was hard. She could probably do well in any other match-up, except for the Angel Moroni.

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