Mormon YouTube Progress Report #2

[This is the second in a series, first one here.] Last year Elder Ballard told graduates of BYU-Hawaii to use new media to spread the gospel, and the exhortation was repeated to all church members in a cover story in last month’s Ensign. Among other things, members were encouraged to “create videos that illustrate aspects of your membership in the Church and post them on video sharing sites like YouTube.” I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a preliminary progress report for Elder Ballard. Humbly submitted: more good, bad, and ugly of Mormons on Youtube.

Genre: Rap and Hip Hop
Most of you will remember the Weird-Al-style Mormon Rap from the 80’s. Terrible as it is, it still inspires some among our youth. Fortunately, the quality of Mormon rap has improved dramatically over the last two decades, though we still have a ways to go.

Genre: Effective vs. Ineffective Missionary Techniques
Elder Ballard identified sharing the gospel as one of the primary purposes of going online as LDS. Here I’d like to evaluate the effectiveness of several approaches to missionary work. Unfortunately, we can’t tell from these short clips how many souls were saved by each approach, so I’ll just have to speculate based on my own judgement.

  • I can confidently categorize this Elder’s unique take on the spirit:body::hand:glove object lesson as ineffective
  • In this video, we are treated to a vertiable Oxford English Dictionary of missionary techniques, complete with real demonstrations of their effectiveness (shout out to Bookslinger!)
  • Oh boy. Intra-companionship contention at 0:15, stuff mom doesn’t want to know about at 1:03, property destruction at 1:14. On the plus side, a painting of Jesus is prominently displayed and apartment is not as messy as it could have been.
  • Memo to Elder: making toddlers cry is decidedly not effective.
  • This missionary has two key ingredients to successful missionary work: enthusiasm and love of those he serves. However, he’s got at least a couple serious issues.
  • Mass slaughter of men’s arms may be effective if you are either (a) a LEGO toy, or (b) a Book of Mormon hero. Or, as in this case, both. However, it is not recommended to try this at home. (very nice production values on this one, bravo!)

Genre: Missionary FAIL
This genre already made an appearance in the first Mormon YouTube Progress Report. However, there is a seemingly endless supply of these. So we return for another look at Elders acting out subconscious fantasies about escaping the rigors of mission life by any means necessary, even on a stretcher:

Genre: Documenting Mormon Life

  • I know many BCCers love pioneer treks! This is for you guys. Also for Robert Kirby, who went on his own handcart trek this summer. Here is a quote from one of his reports:

    The handcart trail crosses Bureau of Land Management terrain [which has the following rules]:
    1. Stay on the trail.

    6. No rock picking.
    7. No fires.
    8. Leave all animals alone.
    9. No burying babies.
    I didn’t make up that last one. Previous trek companies had apparently issued plastic dolls to their families as overwrought object lessons. The baby had to be cared for and protected and lugged the entire way—until it died. Then it was buried alongside the trail. …The BLM wasn’t keen on the idea and put a stop to it. The object lesson risked catching on with all trek companies, and the last thing even the butt end of Wyoming needs is 40,000 plastic babies buried in makeshift graves along a trail. Future trekkers would be digging up babies just to bury more babies.

    See for yourself in the Springville Spring Creek South Pioneer Trek commemorative video. Note fake babies being distributed at 0:15, and burying one of them at 4:35. Good times!

  • This LDS Dance in Mexico is way cooler than any stake dance I ever went to!

Genre: Grand Prize
This is the video that makes this entire YouTube Progress Report worthwhile:

Bookmark Mormon YouTube Progress Report #2


  1. The wedding party singing Circle of Our Love — what can I say? We are indeed peculiar people.

  2. But Cynthia, in the future, I’d appreciate a heads-up before you publicize that video from my wedding.

  3. Egads! I’m reading David Roberts’s report of pioneer treks this morning — a seeing ourselves as others see us nightmare, and the first notice much of America will have about this particular fad. Thank heavens dead baby dolls hadn’t made it onto the scene last summer when he visited Martin’s Cove.

  4. #3–I know lots of people roll their eyes at them, but in all honesty I like the idea of the pioneer treks. Granted, I’ve never been on one. But it seems like EFY, camping and road show all rolled into one, and I love each of those things individually. I’m sure some there are some flourishes of emotional manipulation type stuff that could be toned down here and there. But, overall, I see only good coming of giving the youth a wakeup call about the materialism and ease of our modern lives.

  5. Cynthia, I won’t pursue it as a threadjack, except to say that while I agree with you in principle, I think it signals a systemic flaw that these treks have to keep adding ever more sensational twists in order to keep the tears flowing and the fake emotions stirring.

  6. That Circle of Love thing – oh dear.

  7. The missionary videos bring up an issue that I have surprisingly never seen tackled in the bloggernacle: Why do missionaries talk so weirdly? I’m not talking about foreign missionaries, I’m talking about the American missionary accent; it’s in the way they pause and inflect and enunciate their words. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s so noticeable in every elder. Why does this develop?

  8. #5 – Bingo.

  9. The Circle of Our Love number is really special.

    Thanks for putting this together Cynthia.

    #7 Katie, I don’t why exactly it happens, but it’s a mix of the Western American accent, the earnest accent (you know when you’re really really earnest about something) and the testifying accent, also with how they think messengers of God should speak. It’s pretty affected at the beginning and then it takes over.

    I specifically hate how sister missionaries say “thank you so much” and they’re saying it in a way to make sure you know that they’re really really nice and thankful.

  10. This is one of my favorite posts so far on the BCC! I really loved the “It’s cool to be a Mormon” rap, and that story about burying babies is priceless. I think the concept of hijacking a wedding by singing The Circle of Our Love is intriguing, but without some slick dance moves it kinda got boring after about 10 seconds. Then you had to sit through that dreadful song, sung dreadfully.

  11. Can someone from the Noche Mexicana please come to my ward and teach me how to dance? Yowza.

  12. Oooh. Thanks for the link!

    Those twin sisters have given me some great ideas.

    Katie, #7, I think it’s a Utah accent thing. The Utah-boys seem to bring it to the mission, and it’s infectious.

    Here in Indiana we call it “The Utah Sing-Song”. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it does seem affected when you hear someone who’s not from Utah use that accent. It’s also more like a “cadence”. There is also a touch of “up-talk” to it, sort of like “Valley Speak” from California.

    Here’s my channel at Youtube.

  13. Actually, part of the problem with American missionaries is that they haven’t learned to make a declaration! It’s all “sharing” (may that word, as a pusillanimous wannabe synonym for “declaring” or “testifying,” be condemned to burn forever in the hottest circle of hell!) and supposedly declarative sentences ending with an upward inflection, like those folks on Jeopardy saying “What is Lower Slobbovia?” when they just can’t remember the country whose capital is Dushanbe. They’re hoping they’re right, but in their heart of hearts they know they’re about to go down in flames. And that’s what that heresy of the upward inflection sounds like coming from a missionary.

    Reminds me of the old lesson from Strunk and White: If you don’t know how to pronouce a word, say it loud. (This can cause problems, as it did for a friend of mine, working as a barmaid after a year of college, who just didn’t know that “facade” was French and had never heard it spoken aloud, but dropped a singularly infelicitous attempt at pronouncing it into an uncomfortable hole in the noise at the bar.)

    Back to the missionaries: I suppose much of their speech problem comes from their not really knowing what they’re going to say, even if they believe the ideas that they’re trying to put into words–words that sadly aren’t there.

  14. Oh, that “Circle of Our Love” video left me nearly speechless.
    Is there no shame?! No sense of… of anything?! Ugh, Ech, Aargh!

  15. Bookslinger–here is another missionary technique video (indirectly) that you might be interested in. Skip until 2:00 where “Kyle” does some slick missionary work.

    Amri: that video I just linked to for Bookslinger also has a discussion of starting a blog dedicated to moustache photos. FYI.

  16. Ardis,

    I’m shocked at your callous and heartless dismissal of the trek experience as fake. Me, I cried for days after (spoiler alert) Spock died.

  17. In the spirit of the thread

    Sniff. I need a kleenex.

  18. I wish everyone here would just leave those grieving for the dead plastic babies alone. Have you ever greived for a plastic baby you lost on a fake trek before? No? Well then, you just don’t know how painful that can be! I mean, even if a person just knows the plastic baby for a few days, there’s an undeniable bond there exists that only a fake mother and a plastic baby made by Chinese peasants can understand.

    Luckily, we’ve been given a sure knowledge that we’ll have the chance to raise those fake plastic babies in the millenium. Unfortunately, they’ll never grow or progress, since they are made or inorganic plastic afterall.

  19. Kaimi, Spock would want us to be heartless about it. It’s logical.

  20. Cynthia, Ardis, Kaimi:

    The American public seems to relish “fake reality.”

    Note all the TV shows of the genre, where “reality” is actually contrived and often emcee’d.

    However, much of life is “fake reality.” We take RV’s and towable camping vehicles to developed campgrounds with paved or graveled roads, black-top parking spaces, and call it “camping.” We get in cars and drive our bicycles to bike paths and drive ourselves to hiking trails. We drive our cars to the gym, and work out on machines that simulate running or jogging.

    1970’s singing groups with poofy hair-styles and uranium-brightened teeth (I’m thinking of a certain Utah LDS singing family contemporary with the Jackson 5) decide to “go country” in the 1980’s. Um, did they ever live on a real farm?

    People who were never cowboys and never lived on a farm or outside of an incorporated city wear cowboy hats. People who are not Greek, and never captained a ship wear Greek ship-captain’s hats.

    People dye their hair to non-natural colors, paint their faces to appear something they are not, douse themselves with man-made chemicals that give off odors that are not found in nature.

    Pretending to be a 19th century hand-carter is not much different than all the other pretending and play-acting that we do in our normal lives.

  21. Ok, on my trek (about 10 years ago) we had REAL babies.
    The Ma and Pa of our trek “family” brought their youngest children (some were toddlers). Then, one morning we were told these children died and were brought to their graves.
    Yeah, it was pretty emotional.
    I think that at the end they had the little kids come out dressed in white, singing I am a Child of God or something.

    So, it was pretty much the most emotionally manipulative thing you can do to teenagers (or anyone for that matter)
    I remember a LOT of crying.

  22. Bobby from Mesa, AZ asks: “Are there Mormon Ninjas?”

    You can find an interesting collection of Mormon Videos at

  23. Jessawhy–Oh my goodness!! Aside from the manipulation, isn’t that pretty reckless to bring little kids on a potentially dangerous camping trip? They’re lucky there wasn’t a real mishap.

  24. Unless I am sorely mistaken, wasn’t that wedding reception in the Skyroom at the Wilk? Niiiiiiice.

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’m pretty sure the entire crew of the Enterprise would vote for Obama, except Kirk, who would vote for McCain. I think Obama would make a great President of the Federation. Think how sharp he would look in that uniform!!

    By the way, the needs of the many do NOT outweigh the needs of the few or the one. The many is an abstraction. The one is the vessel of life. By the time you really think the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one you are well on your way to Cultural Revolution. Spock as Mao. “Religion is poison. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. From now on, one plastic baby per family! Live long and prosper. Party at the reeducation camp!”


  26. #’s 7 and 9; Thank you for discussing the missionary voice. I thought that maybe I was the only one noticing it, and good lord it drives me crazy. It is so absolutely insincere sounding and irritating that I have actually stopped having the missionaries over for dinner.

    I am pretty good at mimicking accents from around the world, but I must admit that the American missionary accent has eluded me for months, and I am actually trying really hard to master it.

  27. The Right Trousers says:

    Wow, I had no idea the extent we’ve gone to with the emotional manipulation. If I weren’t so busy ROFLing about plastic babies and fake spirit toddlers, I’d be ill.

    We damage our teenagers this way. When they think the Spirit feels like a chick flick, it doesn’t take many chick flicks before they 1) decide that Jane Austen is doctrine; or 2) discover they’ve been fooled. I’m not sure which is more dangerous.

    I used to feel bad about my jaded teenage attitude toward certain youth activities. Now I think I was usually right.

  28. Oooooo, I think I prefer this version of Mormon Rap:

  29. Thomas Parkin says:

    Some evidence for my point. Captain Obama for President.

    P.S. Exactly right, Trousers.


  30. #24–Nice catch!!

    #28–Awesome, Sue. Can’t help but notice the lovely wood paneling in the background.

  31. StillConfused says:

    Amount of time I made it through old school Mormon rap: 5 seconds

    Amount of time I made it through the new school Mormon rap: Whole thing baby.

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