How Much Mormonism Has Changed

Mette Ivie Harrison is a former BYU “Benson Scholar” and high school seminary Scripture Chase champion. She now writes Mormon mysteries about Bishop’s Wife Linda Wallheim starting with The Bishop’s Wife. She is an All American triathlete and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is the ward historian and nursery teacher, has five children and lives in Layton, Utah.

Sometimes I hear Mormons talk about how the church never changes in essentials or ex-Mormons complain that the church moves in geologic time toward more progressivity. My view is entirely different. In my lifetime (I was born in 1970), I’ve seen the church change dramatically, and not only in the most obvious way, the 1978 change to allow full priesthood blessings to be extended to our black brothers and sisters.


1. Polygamy
When I was a child and even as a teen, I remember the assumption that we would be practicing polygamy again as soon as it was legal. The change from this to the “one man/one woman marriage” doctrine to me has been a surprise.

2.Women’s issues
This includes a lot of things, from women not praying in church meetings (let alone General Conference) to women never speaking last, women being encouraged to go on missions (though not forced), women being allowed to teach Seminary even after marriage, and on and on.

3. Modesty
This isn’t a change I particularly like, but I notice modesty being more strictly enforced now than when I was a child, especially on very young children—girl babies now have “porn shoulders,” too, but also on teenage girls, who are now told to wear clothing that they could wear garments under. I don’t remember being told that. We were to enjoy wearing what we wanted until we were married.

4. Youth Programs
I remember distinctly feeling cheated as a tween and teen girl at how much more money and effort was spent on the boy’s scouting programs as compared to girls’ programs. I think this has been at least superficially addressed. I also see both YM and YW programs moving away from camping and toward more spiritual concerns, for good or ill.

5. Caffeine
When I was a teen, I believed that drinking coffee was worse than having sex. My parents had an enormous fit if they saw anyone in our family drinking Coke or any other caffeinated drinks. I don’t know if this is a real doctrinal shift, but it’s definitely a cultural one.

6. Birth Control
When I got married in 1990, my father was very upset to learn I was using birth control. But by then, it was up to me and my husband in consultation with God to decide when we wanted to have children. Since my parents had 11 children (when my mother was between ages 28 and 48), this was quite a shift.

7. 3-hr block
This may seem like a cosmetic change, but it dramatically changed our Sundays, particularly when we lived outside of Utah and had to drive more than an hour to get to a church building. Being Mormon was made a lot easier logistically.

8. Budget
When we moved to Utah in my teen years, we ended up in a very wealthy ward. That meant our ward budget was huge and included frequent trips to Lake Powell. One summer my bishop rewarded all the teens who had read The Book of Mormon with an all expenses paid week long river rafting trip down the Colorado river, including food and guides. That doesn’t happen anymore, and for good reason. It seems obscene to me now that a ward would be spending money on things like that, considering what other wards are going without in other parts of the world.

9. Imminence of the Second Coming
As a teen, I was constantly told that we were in the “Latter days,” that we had been “saved” for this special time because the world was so wicked and Christ was coming soon. I just don’t hear that talk any more with my kids. This is combined with the lack of talk about two year food storage and the likelihood of an apocalypse.

10. Ideals of Marriage/Dating
I remember when I was a teen, there were a few “super” Mormon friends who proclaimed that they weren’t going to kiss their partner until they were kneeling over the altar in the temple. I wasn’t sure if this was silly or very devout. It wasn’t something I did, but I did only ever kiss one man, the man I married.

11. Faith healings
I know that we still give blessings of healing, but I have the sense that almost everyone goes to the doctor first and gets a blessing after. Maybe I’m wrong, though, with the prevalence of Essential Oils.

12. Evolution
When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to believe in evolution. It was against church doctrine. My father was a scientist and was normally very logical and scientific, except on this one point. I still hear some old guard Mormons arguing you can’t believe in evolution, but not very loudly. The church’s official position on this appears to be very neutral.

13. Attitude toward Internet/Technology
Does anyone else remember the constant talks about the evils of the internet and how you had to keep your kids off MySpace to protect them? I do. Yes, we still hear about the evils or pornography, but that is a specific concern, not a call to avoid the internet completely.

14. Road Shows
I don’t know that road shows were good theater, but boy, they were a lot of fun to put on. Why don’t we do these anymore?

15. Church Farms
I spent many days picking apples on church orchards as a kid. I still remember when they closed them down and I felt a faint sense of nostalgia about my parents teaching me hard work and charity while getting dirty.

16. Magical Garments
There were a lot of stories about the magical powers of garments back in the day. Maybe they’re still around, but boy, I think the rhetoric has been almost entirely turned around to spiritual protection, not physical.

17. Kolob
When was the last time anyone sang “If You Could Hie to Kolob”? Or heard the word “Kolob” at all in church? I occasionally hear non-Mormons ask me about this special God-planet, but it’s really fading away.

18. Becoming Gods
President Hinckely’s interview with Larry King seemed to make us forget overnight about the Lorenzo Snow couplet. We’re trying to be a little less weird and be accepted by other Christians, but I don’t know if teens today hear about this at all unless they listen to anti-Mormons.

19. Witchcraft fears
Maybe it was just my mother, but I spent a lot of my childhood hearing about how there are Satanists out there, ready to grab you and any book or movie was to be suspect if it had stories about magic. That was probably just Satanists trying to get you to start sacrificing chickens.

20. Catholic church
This is only partly Bruce R. McKonkie’s fault, I think. But when I was a kid, I heard endless stories about how horrible the Catholic church was, how Catholics believe unbaptized babies go to hell, about the evils of a belief in Purgatory (so very different from our Mormon belief in a Spirit Prison, of course!) and the evils of a paid clergy. No one says anything about this anymore, and Mormons tend to think of Catholics as allies politically and perhaps religiously, as well.

My point here isn’t that the church is just fine as it is. There are lots of things I wish the church would change. But I have reason to believe that the church will change, even if it won’t necessarily change in only the ways I want it to. There are a few things I’m nostalgic about giving up, but overall, I think the church today is better than the church of my childhood. I like how the church seems to becoming more mainstream Christian. I like that we are less the “peculiar” people and more normal. “I’d never have known you were Mormon” is something I hear more often now than I ever did as a kid, and that seems to me to be a good thing.

Comments

  1. This was interesting to me as a younger member. Sometimes I wish the Church would be a little more “peculiar” though. I feel like we avoid talking about Heavenly Mother because it doesn’t fall into mainstream Christianity and I would like to hear more about her.

  2. LDS marriage still isn’t defined as “one man, one woman.” It’s defined as “A man and A woman.” A big difference, which still leaves an opening for polygamy.

  3. Great post. I remember each of these changes too. Go back a little further, to the 1940s and 1950s, and you get my favorite change: the Church magazine, The Improvement Era, used to be ad supported. Even the Conference issues. Nothing quite like a soap ad on the same page as the prophet’s conference address to make you realize that things are not as they always were.

  4. This is an exceptionally idiosyncratic list, as you unlearned things that were never a part of my own teaching or assumption — e.g., that we would practice polygamy if it were legal, or that coffee was worse than unchastity, or that we didn’t have a particular focus on modesty (I’m about 10 years older than you, and believe-you-me, talk about skirt length was *constant* from the time I was in kindergarten, with talk about how sleeveless blouses allowed boys to get an eyeful of your chest being added at least by 6th grade). It would be wise for you to separate your private impressions from what the church actually taught.

  5. I’m wondering how much of this can be put down to differences among families and neighborhoods. I’m exactly your age, grew up in SLC, and have distinctly different memories/experiences of at least half of these. I incline toward the family explanation: my parents would have had a fit if I’d wanted to marry at 20, and would have wondered about my sanity if I hadn’t used birth control when I did eventually marry. They also drank Tab. It never occurred to me that they might be less than fully committed to the gospel, and indeed they’re now going on 15 years as part-time humanitarian missionaries.

  6. Okay, based on my experience (b. 1955) growing up in Provo, here are a few that come to mind:

    Native Americans as literal descendants of Book of Mormon peoples.
    No inter-racial (as well as inter-religious) social interactions.
    Anti-communism as heaven’s approach to politics

  7. So much of this depends on the ward and community. A couple of years ago I lived in a ward where the Bishop, YWP, and EQP all had degrees in Biology; unsurprisingly, I never heard an anti-evolution comment in that ward, and if such a comment had been made it would have been shut down with authority.

    I’m now in small town Mormon Corridor. Pretty sure mine is the only home in the ward where kids are allowed to believe in evolution. I hear anti-evolution comments in church a couple of times a year. They say the church is the same everywhere. It really isn’t.

  8. Happy Hubby says:

    On the, “Attitude toward Internet/Technology”, I remember constant preaching that all of the technological improvements (i.e. satellite dishes) were given to us by the Lord for the main purpose of spreading the gospel. This was despite the one time as a young man waiting for priesthood meeting to start and they were trying to find the right “channel” and they stumbled upon some porn channel for at least 4 or 5 seconds – impressive how my brain remembers that decades later, but not any of the talks given that evening :-)
    Now all we hear is how technology is the tool of the devil and we have to constantly guard against it.
    I do agree with several of the comments about “your mileage will vary” depending upon the ward/area you are in. But I think that does not take away Mette’s main point in that the gospel is ever changing.
    I remember seeing a picture of the priesthood session from the 1970’s and all the shirts were various pastel colors and almost absent of any white shirts.

  9. Angela C says:

    I agree that this list is idiosyncratic, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

    My experience is somewhat more akin to the author’s as regards modesty before the temple. As a child, I used to run around shirtless in the summers because it seemed unjust to me that my brother could and I couldn’t. I certainly never heard that babies and toddlers (if female) needed to have their shoulders covered.

    But the caffeine being worse than unchastity? Nah. Actually, we moved quite a bit and the stance on Coke and Dr. Pepper varied a lot geographically. I do remember a lot of 80s stuff about Satan and heavy metal musicians all being in Satan’s thrall.

  10. If a list ain’t idiosyncratic, I don’t want to read it! I enjoyed this, even though I haven’t personally experienced some of these. We live in the midst of change.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Although I experienced some of these things differently, for most of them I had a similar experience. (I really enjoyed the list; it’s fun to see all these things together.) I could write a commentary on each of these. For instance, as a child I remember the case of Coke (in bottles) in our (two-year) food storage room. It had a thick layer of dust on it, because it was there for medicinal purposes (a balm to upset stomachs only). It was a long time before I drank a caffeinated beverage just because I wanted to.

    I also remember during interviews my bishop assuring me I would be alive when the Savior comes. (Back then in the 70s it was pretty much a given that the magic year would be 2000, because we all know what a sucker God is for round numbers). I would be shocked if a bishop made such a claim today.

  12. Kevin, I have always loved the way that Kurt Vonnegut started his 1990 near-future novel, Hocus-Pocus: “At least the World will end, an event anticipated with great joy by many. It will end very soon, but not in the year 2000, which has come and gone. From that I conclude that God Almighty is not heavily into Numerology.”

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Michael!

    We did road shows when I was a kid. They’re so retro that some years ago my stake actually resurrected them (for that one year only). My impression was the kids loved the experience and did a really good job.

    On the old Joseph Fielding Smith ideal of having one’s first kiss over the altar, I briefly dated a woman who held to that ideal, and I decided that was an ideal I didn’t share (thus the “briefly”).

    Oh, and I agree with Gary’s additions.

  14. I’m of a similar vintage and feel like another big change has been the emphasis on youth temple attendance, and participation in family history work. Much due, of course, to the ease of computer research and many more temple options, but when I was a teen in the DC area we could only do baptisms with a ward group on a limited use group recommend (I never had my own recommend like my kids carry)–nothing like this “temple passport” concept now to visit them all (like our YW group is doing with the 16 Utah temples this year).

  15. also, our stake in Sandy, Utah continues to put on road shows every four years (don’t know if that’s sanctioned?!)

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Ooo, here’s another one: face cards! Those used to be considered the devil’s playthings.

  17. Great list and comments. I grew up outside of Utah, but almost every item on the list resonated with me to some degree. I wonder what cultural/doctrinal oddities that seem normal to us now will be the subject of this kind of discussion in 40 years.

    Speaking of Church farms, does anyone remember doing service at the pig farm in Woodinville, Washington. Service meant cleaning up after 70-80 pigs whose diet consisted primarily of onions and carrots. It was horrible.

  18. Dungeons and Dragons was also considered evil. My mom told me that Satan would lead me to lose touch with reality through the fantasy aspect of the game and it would lead me to kill my best friend and stuff his body in the trunk of a car. Since I didn’t have a licence I don’t know what car she meant.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Ooh, when was the last time you heard someone worrying about Satan controlling the waters?

  20. Here’s one you all have missed: the importance of keeping a daily journal. I remember hearing this all the time in General Conference during the 1970s. Today? Nada.

  21. Kevin – Facecards were more than a rumor. It was a general conference talk by the Prophet. Now I think of all the Bishop’s I now know who sit down and play war with boys at Scout Camp. All is not well in Zion.

    Angela C. – Bare mid-drifts were the big no-no where I was. Shoulders were never mentioned. Which means you was breaking bad there in your shirtless wonderment. Thank heavens for repentance. I am sure that’s what brought you back. ;).

  22. Also we were the final generation. The clock hand was just about to strike mid-night. We were Saturday’s Warriors.

    Family Home Evening night was sacred. Where I grew up, we had talks on how to tell our friends who asked us to come out and play, “I can’t. I have Family Home Evening.” We were even given a phone number to dial to put our phones on busy signals to keep intruders from interrupting our sacred time.

    The church also produced a new Family Home Evening manual every year until somewhere around the 1980’s when they made a massive universal Family Home Evening manual.

    Dance Festivals, Gold and Green Balls (the Mormon Debutante Night), Ward budget dinners, purchasing of land for a gather place when the end did come. (I think the church bought all of those back. Even though individual wards and stakes collected the funds from it). It also came in useful when our state was rocked by a massive earthquake. Do to our purchased lands proximity our Stake leadership was the first group to get over to a town that had been nearly wiped out by the quake. So it did serve a brief final days moment.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Cat, yes, Gold and Green Balls! Even as a small branch we had those things, often with a band assembled from musical members. Back then it was a family thing; everyone came. Later, when we first moved to this stake in the later 80s/early 90s, they pulled out all the stops, renting out a local mall and hiring two separate bands, one geared for adults and the other for youth. Eventually in a retrenchment movement the stake stopped doing them and they died out.

  24. Love this list and the point that despite the rhetoric that God is inchangeable, his one and only church has many changing views.

    Born in 55 and I have seen many changes. Like my dad, when talking of Emma, made it clear to me that she as a wicked woman, part of that RLDS bunch that was apostate. Now we have statues of Joseph and Emma looking longingly into each other’s eyes.

    Also we had ward budget, tithes and fast offerings. Also members earlier could design and build their own warehouses.

    How about Tues night Mutual with speech contests, song festivals, and that giant summer spectacular at the U with dance festival?

    And of course there have been numerous changes to the temple ordinance as well, which I would get kicked off if I detailed them. But they are MANY! From preachers, to ways to take life, to avenge the blood of Joseph, to everyone coming to the alter to covenant.

  25. A couple of these I have no reference for. Quite a few others are like tales I heard around a campfire–once upon a time in a land far away. And about half resonate with my experience and make me nostalgic even where I think the new is better than the old.
    I would like to see the same kind of thing but dating from pre-correlation or pre-WWII. That would be stories from my father’s childhood and teens, but he’s gone. I wonder if the stories are too?

  26. I’ve read multiple sources that state GAs are asked to not keep journals or if they do, they become property of the Church. The Church doesn’t like all the biographies with journal references.

  27. My stake still does road shows. *sad trombone* They do it every four years as part of the youth conference rotation. My ward won best overall performance in 2015, no doubt thanks to my uncredited script doctoring. As for speaking last in church, my husband will only agree to speak in church if I go last. He has anxiety about it already and doesn’t want to stress about adapting the length. I like speaking in church, so cutting or extending on the fly was no big deal. I think the counselor was a little taken aback by my husband’s conditions for speaking, but he went along with it and people loved my talk on kosher elevators and keeping the sabbath.

  28. I grew up in the church and remember for my interview for my endowment the Bishop saying something along the lines of “And you know all about the protections of the garments”, and I said yes, even though I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t want to look ignorant.
    The first time I heard any member speaking bad about evolution was when I was working after my mission, and another member of the church was somewhat taken aback that I had no issue with it. I just looked at him waiting for him to explain why I shouldn’t believe in it, and he really couldn’t muster an argument.
    As for the witchcraft stuff, I figured we culturally picked it up from news stories about how good Christians were worried about Dungeons and Dragons, etc, and we want to be good Christians too. A few years back my bother-in-law brought home a deck of Magic the Gathering cards, and my mother-in-law was close to freaking out. It was a coincidence that we were visiting for a moment and I mentioned how I played growing up. Since it was pretty obvious that I hadn’t turned out Satanic, my mother-in-law pulled me aside and had me assure her if her son played a game that had occasional pictures of witches, skeletons, etc, that her son would be fine.

  29. The changes brought about in our worship forms by the consolidated block are many:
    Sacrament during Sunday School
    Jr. Sunday School (and sacrament in Jr. Sunday School)
    Practice hymns
    2 1/2 minute talks
    Sacrament gems
    There are other worship changes in my lifetime
    Quarterly stake conference with two sessions on Sunday
    Multiple general authorities/officers at every stake conference
    I’m amazed when I play old gaffer in Sunday School how many of these things even the people who lived through them have forgotten.

  30. Sheldon – I remember these. We also had family Sunday School presentations during adult Sunday School.
    Lunch was sold (yes money exchanged) during the break between Stake Conference Sessions.
    I believe sacrament wasn’t served in the morning sessions on fast Sunday. I could be wrong.
    The first 10 minutes of Fast and Testimony meeting were reserved for children first.
    Relief Society, Primary, MIA/Mutual were exclusive mid week events. None of it spilled over into Sunday.

  31. Kevin – I heard about Satan controlling the waters in Seminary in 2009 hahaha. I can’t remember if this was something he presented as “some people think” or “this is doctrine”, but I definitely remember believing that was why missionaries weren’t allowed to swim until I was on my own mission.

  32. Meredith says:

    In Mesa, AZ, which used to be a lot like Utah, we had Teen Elect, where we spent a weekend learning etiquette and manners and then had a dance and dinner to showcase our new skills.

  33. I have a friend of another faith who recently told me how lucky I was to be a member of a church that was so willing to change with the times. I was a bit taken aback because I often feel like our church is way too slow to change on important issues. But, compared to many other churches, it is true that our church has been pretty adaptable. I should count my blessings for that I guess.

  34. There’s definitely a tendency toward fear of the occult in some of the slightly older than me generations. I was just talking to my son tonight about how I had sleep paralysis last night, and he said that his Sunday School teacher when he was 14 told him that sleep paralysis was Satan taking over you and controlling you. He said he was really disturbed that she thought that since it sounds like a medieval superstitious explanation for something that is a known scientific phenomenon.

  35. Carole T Warburton says:

    Some of these rang true for me. I was born in 1957. However, where I lived I never believed or was taught that we would ever practice polygamy in this life, but in the next most definitely. I agree with the intense focus on modesty increasing these days. There was a lot of talk about skirt length, but I agree that there was very little if any emphasis on sleeveless shirts and short shorts. Hot pants were in style and I don’t remember them being looked down upon. I think the no-caffeine might have been emphasized more outside of Utah. My family (dad bishop) didn’t think drinking Coke was a big deal. I think women have taken a step downward in equality also–sadly. I think there has been a lot of doctrine that is no longer talked about.

  36. Don’t forget Adult Aaronic Priesthood.

  37. Happy Hubby says:

    And if we move beyond just “our lifetime”, I recall reading a talk given by an apostle back in the 1920’s I think and he was pounding on, “Drinking, smoking, playing cars, and billiards” – they were all equally evil and of the devil. I know of tons of members that have a pool table and their families love playing card games (no gambling of course).
    I am 100% sure if Joseph Smith were brought back to today, he would be dazed and confused.

  38. Happy Hubby, I believe that apostle’s lament about billiards was the inspiration for the hit musical “The Music Man.” Ya got trouble right here in River City.

  39. I’m dismayed at the level of zealousness that modesty has reached. As kids we all wore regular swimming suits to the pool. Now most of the girls at our local indoor pool are wearing swim suits that cover them from neck to wrist to knee. Last year the youth had an activity at a nearby lake. The boys wore swim trunks and the girls were told to wear t-shirts and knee length shorts over their swim suits. Craziness!

  40. I enjoyed the list. I do think that our own youthful exp are often the result of leadership roulette. We see big shifts around here locally when leaders get released. It can be quite dramatic. Right now locally we are on a big Heavenly Mother kick. Modesty seems to have been a constant thing in my exp. Older women enforcing modesty standards on younger women in practice.

  41. Dazed and Confused says:

    Happy Hubby is equating family game nights with the 1920s warnings against members developing habits and thus frequenting areas and business establishments known for drinking, gambling, prostitution, and violence? Please tell me that’s a playful attempt at ironic humor and not just historical ignorance.

  42. I was born in ’58 and grew up in the Midwest. I enjoyed reading this list — some of my experiences were the same and some different. We were very active in the church, but would regularly, after our evening sacrament meeting, stop at Dairy Queen for a treat on the way home and would often meet up with other ward members there as well. And on Fast Sunday we would often go out to eat after church at a buffet restaurant. My true-blue parents would be horrified by this behavior now. I was recently reminiscing with them about the budget fund-raising activities our ward would participate in: the basement of the church had an area set aside for “mail sorting” where we would sort mail for the post office (a practice which now astounds me!) and we would go en masse to department stores in the middle of the night annually to do the store’s inventory. And the ward had a contract with a local business to provide workers and we would sign up to take a shift to go to a warehouse to sort LP records. That was a regular duty for the youth and we had a good time there. I imagine tax ramifications prevents these kind of fund-raising efforts today. And to chime in on the swimsuit discussion, I still get a smile when I think about our Bishop’s comment in the ’70s when he learned of the Stake YW leaders stipulation that swimsuits at girls camp must be one piece. He responded “which piece do they want them to wear?”

  43. Tiberius says:

    I’m a millennial so a lot of this doesn’t resonate with me. I will say that the greatest legacy of the urban legends about rock bands putting backtracking satanic messages into their recordings was that some really did start putting backwards satanic messages into their recordings. (Honorable mention–the Jack Chick pamphlets and Monsters and Mazes).

    I certainly play up the deification aspect in my conversations with my non-Mormon associates. It makes us less boring and, I think, is an enlightened doctrine that remains one of the core reasons Mormonism remains the religion I most hope is true.

    I’ve gained some weight lately and joke with my wife that I shouldn’t go to the pool anymore because I’m “walking pornography” now.

  44. Happy Hubby says:

    @ Dazed and Confused. I think it was a bit of both laughing at what used to be classified as “unwholesome” now is considered “wholesome” recreation and also acknowledging that some of this was cultural and was because it was common to find booze, smoking, card playing (gambling) and pool tables in bars.
    But when I read the talk I don’t recall much talk about “places like that” – more of “face cards and playing pool are evil and not a virtuous thing to do.”
    I spent about 10 minutes looking for the reference and I think I have the scanned copy of the talk at home on my computer, but time to get busy with work. I might look some more when I am at home.

  45. J.R. Knight says:

    Did anyone mention Church discipline? Seems like we’re much more tolerant with serious sin than we used to be — the youth don’t seem to be disfellowshipped anymore, but are ‘counseled’ instead (which I think is a good thing). Also, excommunicated adults used to have their names announced in Priesthood meeting. The last time I remember this happening was 1975.

  46. John Mansfield says:

    Carolee mentioned store inventory as a ward fundraiser. In my Las Vegas ward circa 1980 we did that a number of times. Ward members would gather at a store as it was closing, then spend a few hours doing a hand inventory. We worked in pairs, one with the clipboard tallying the clothes items the other flipped through and called out. We did this at Zody’s, a cheaper discount retailer, and at the Joseph Magnin on the Las Vegas Strip, a high-end retailer that sold $1,000 dresses. Those chains shut down in ’86 and ’84.

  47. No one has mentioned white shirts. In the 60s and 70s many men wore colored shirts to church, including men in high leadership positions such as my bishopric counselor father who was about as conservative as you could get. It just wasn’t an issue that concerned anyone.

  48. I was born in ’65, but not baptized until ’86, and mercifully have never lived anywhere near Utah. Thus, my LDS experience has been filtered through a Midwestern Catholic upbringing in Lake Wobegon. (I’m literally from Garrison Keillor’s home town.) I’m also a historian by inclination, hobby, and academic background, so – a few thoughts:

    1) Really good to see you here, Mette. I enjoy your work (and our occasional banter on Twitter!) a great deal.
    2) In re. witchcraft: You were at the right age for your mom to get all caught up in the Satanic ritual abuse stuff in the ’80s, that resulted in the McMartin trials, etc., and so she was worried because we didn’t know what a load of crap all of this was yet. This wasn’t purely a Mormon thing (q.v., Dungeons and Dragons, the Gateway Drug to Satanism of my mother’s nightmares). I think lots of weird cultural things that looked like LDS cultural things in Utah were actually American cultural things. In Minnesota, both Catholics and Lutherans lay claim to Jello salad and funeral potatoes and are surprised to hear their LDS friends mention them.
    3) Someone mentioned facecards – I had a stake president once who was adamantly against them, claiming that they were an instrument of Satan because some GA had once said so (no specifics). I don’t believe that anyone ever mentioned them in General Conference, because I’ve been unable to find any citation for such a talk; however, I’ve heard that rumor before and wonder if it’s one of those things that people “remember” they heard in GC that they actually heard from their deacon’s quorum advisor in 1971. :) Anyway, can a Satanic image on a face card influence you to do evil if you don’t know it’s an evil image? Are we that superstitious, or do we still believe in agency? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
    4) Catholics: My religious tradition of origin. :) I left the RC Church at 15 due to doctrinal issues (or as I put it, “because I read the New Testament”). I remember reading the “fine-twined linen” verses in the BoM and telling the elders, “I know that church! I grew up there!” They explained that it didn’t refer to any denomination in particular, but I knew better; they couldn’t fool me. :)
    5) Polygamy: I was baptized when I was 20, on a very secular college campus. It seemed like a great idea at the time. I still hear people say, of course, that we’ll be doing it again in eternity, and occasionally I’ve heard someone parse the 1 man-1 woman thing by saying that each pair is a separate marriage, it’s not one marriage with one man and multiple wives. SMH.

    Anyhow, Mette, you’re right – and I think the point is that culture changes, the things we warn ourselves and our kids about changes, and we as a people have a tendency to think that anything mentioned over the pulpit – multiple earrings, porn shoulders, movies, etc. – is Doctrine, the Word and Will of the Lord. Wouldn’t that make life easy, just to follow the list of rules? Whose plan was that again?

  49. Kevin Christensen says:

    Mormonism to me is rather a different thing that the culture and family and time and place in which I was raised. Alma 32 says that the seed is supposed to change, if it is a good seed, giving all sorts of roots, branches, leaves, and fruit that was not visible at the start. And D&C 1, if I read it carefully, expressly offers a set of expectations that should make change and difference and growth, and new thoughts and knowledge, and non-exclusive views of truth and revelation and virtue part of my expectations. If I have a problem with change and difference, it’s never a bad idea to check my eye for beams, to re-examine my preconceptions. And to not over-generalize from limited understandings, to allow children to grow and human culture and society to do what they all do: to respond to diverse ever-changing influences.

  50. This is a good list. I would add “unquestioning acceptance of callings” I remember when declining a calling was like tell Jesus Christ himself no I’m not willing to serve. Now I know some very stalwart people who will politely decline a calling. Also food storage (maybe this falls under the 2nd coming topic) hasn’t been preached in a long time, probably giving way to a more general “self reliance” which is probably a good thing.

    LDS disbelief of evolution bewilders me although we’re certainly not alone in that, with some evangelicals even more staunch than Mormons in their denial.

  51. Great list, Mette, though I will agree with some of the other comments that your observations of cultural and doctrinal shifts within the Church are perhaps more a reflection of your family and ward and community rather than a representation of the Church as a whole. Some of these are Church-wide, yes, but many are born in the home and microcommunity. Having been raised in the South, for example, I never experienced anything other than a harsh distaste for polygamy. No one ever demonstrated even the slightest notion that this would ever be practiced again.

    Same with evolution and caffeine. Loosey goosey.

    I did, however, have a religion professor at BYU who very zealously preached the evils of birth control. He ignored the class’s course of study for two lessons to hand out all kinds of paperwork and to sermonize about it, even though it had nothing to do with what we were studying. I had never before in my life heard anything on the subject. Frankly, I think the professor was a pervert and simply thrilled with the idea of discussing sex with wide-eyed college-aged women. I found him rather appalling. Not just in this instance, but in others. Sad, I suppose, that some of my doctrinal corruption happened at BYU.

    And of course MY experience is a reflection of my upbringing and my microcommunity. My parents were converts from non-religious upbringings. So zealous we were not.

    I did hear the Catholic “great and abominable church” doctrine in Sunday School, though. Got an earful of that, sadly.

    Other changes that I have noticed are: changes to temple ordinances, greater acceptance of gays (though I think, as the Church itself does, that we have a long way to go in this regard).

    We have come far, as you point out, in regards to women’s issues, but there again not far enough. I am currently in a newly organized ward only a few months old, and I have yet to see a woman be the last speaker in sacrament meeting. I’m hoping that it’s just a freak coincidence and this Sunday will be different.

    Can’t wait to read more of your posts.

  52. My grandmother asked me to put together some games for a family reunion, and then freaked out when I brought some face cards. She never asked me to plan games again. I researched the face card issue a bit; the only mention by actual prophets was Joseph F. Smith, and that was against card playing in general (presumably meaning all cards, not just face cards). McConkie in Mormon Doctrine took that a step further and singled out face cards. Pretty sure that’s why my grandmother had an issue with it.

  53. When my wife and I were last assigned to speak in our ward I asked the councilor to have my wife go last. He said that they’d really prefer the husband to speak last. I suspect that some of that has to do with Bruce R. McConkie Priesthood as capstone gospel; but more to do with the assumption that a man is more likely to watch the clock and stretch out, or cut his talk as needed, vs. a woman who is not going to watch the clock and is very happy to go way over on time.
    But in our last sacrament meeting they announced that the wife would speak first and then the husband, but the husband got up first. He said that they accepted from the bishop to go in normal order, but when they were on the stand and chatting they realized that their talks would make more sense with her finishing. Then when it was the wives turn she started with “Don’t you think Bro. Martin is great? I never get to say that because I always have to speak first.” So it was a little treat for her to speak last.

  54. it's a series of tubes says:

    Regarding face cards – much of the rhetoric on this came from Joseph Fielding Smith and Joseph F. Smith:

    “While a simple game of cards in itself may be harmless, it is a fact that by immoderate repetition it ends in an infatuation for chance schemes, in habits of excess, in waste of precious time, in dulling and stupor of the mind, and in the complete destruction of religious feeling. … There is the grave danger that lurks in persistent card playing, which begets the spirit of gambling, of speculation and that awakens the dangerous desire to get something for nothing.

    One’s character may be determined in some measure by the quality of one’s amusements. Men and women of industrious business-like, and thoughtful habits care little for frivolous pastimes, for pleasures that are sought for their own sake. It is not easy to imagine that leading men in the Church would find any pleasure that was either inspiring or helpful at the card table” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 329).

    “CHURCH OFFICIALLY CONDEMNS CARD PLAYING. We have been taught all the days of our lives that card playing is not good and is contrary to the order and discipline of the Church. The authorities have called upon the people, and it is published in our magazines, to refrain from this evil indulgence. Notwithstanding all this, we find among us some who look upon card playing as a very harmless pastime. It is not harmless, but very harmful. It shows a lack of obedience to the counsels of the Lord on the part of members who indulge in this evil, and if nothing more could be said of it, it is at least a most pernicious waste of time that could be employed in some better occupation….”Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, p.303­.

    Statements to this effect were published in the Ensign as recently as 1974 (Kimball, “God Will Not Be Mocked”) and the New Era as recently as 1984 (Q&A, October 1984).

    I must be a heretic because this stuff just leaves me shaking my head.

  55. Back in the singles ward, we had a game night and I brought 5 Crowns. In the middle of the game the bishop tapped me on the shoulder and said “It’s still in the Handbook that face cards are not allowed in church buildings.” I responded with “These aren’t face cards. There are no Aces or Deuces, and there’s a Star suit.” He then left it to my judgement if I was following the handbook or not.

  56. New Iconoclast – “We hope faithful Latter-day Saints will not use the playing cards which are used for gambling, either with or without the gambling. As for the gambling, in connection with horse racing or games or sports, we firmly discourage such things.” – President Spencer W. Kimall. -General Conference 1974.

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1974/10/god-will-not-be-mocked?lang=eng

    The talk is long list of sins and requests.

  57. it's a series of tubes says:

    In the middle of the game the bishop tapped me on the shoulder and said “It’s still in the Handbook that face cards are not allowed in church buildings.”

    UR bishop is a liar HTH

  58. As with so many rules in the church the face card denunciation probably had its genesis in an upswing of card parlors appearing in SLC during the time of the JFSs. It probably became a concern that these establishments were enticing and corrupting the youth which lead to it being officially condemned by the highest authorities at the time. Once that is done it takes on a life of its own.

  59. My first sentence is unclear, many rules in the church don’t come from card parlors in SLC. Many rules in the church start with a local problem near the leadership and then beget global applications for everyone.

  60. Thanks, Cat, I must have been searching on the phrase “Face cards.” My SP was very specific that there was something about the K,Q,J pictures that was bad, although he was not specific as to what; he counseled us to “look it up.” I would not be surprised to hear that some entrepreneurial Utahn, at some point, had manufactured a deck with no face cards but 11, 12, and 13 spots – probably in a handy backpack with a 72-Hour Kit and the military set of the Standard Works. :)

  61. I remember my mother saying that as a child she wasn’t allowed to play with face cards but they used Rook cards instead. A Rook deck still has 4 suits with 13 cards per suit but no images.

  62. Fun list. As for me, I was a “Saturday’s Warrior,” and the 1970s were definitely about 11:45 p.m. on that last Saturday evening. What the heck happened? It’s got to be at least Tuesday by now. Maybe we were Saturday’s Warriors, but on the wrong Saturday.

    Mormons in my Utah town seemed a lot more secular back in the day. We called our LDS neighbors Mr. Coleman or Mrs. Syme, not Brother or Sister such-and-such. That would have sounded weird. And I can still remember my parents and their friends across the street driving down to the local drive-in for a milkshake on Sunday evenings. My dad may have even been bishop at the time. And my friends and I played a lot of basketball on the “Sabbath.” And no white shirts for me. I wore a red turtleneck sweater to bless the sacrament some Sundays. We’ve become a lot more corporate since the good old days.

  63. nothing assumed about your food allergy says:

    Something that appears to have changed mid-century (early 20th century?) that strangely hasn’t returned: beards! Did you notice the choir of young men singing at the last priesthood session? Not a single whisker to be had. I guarantee a good number of those guys are sporting beards in normal life but were forced to shave to perform at GC. Who will be the first apostle in 100 years to grow a beard again?

  64. never forget says:

    “11. Faith healings
    I know that we still give blessings of healing, but I have the sense that almost everyone goes to the doctor first and gets a blessing after. Maybe I’m wrong, though, with the prevalence of Essential Oils.”

    I laughed so hard at this; thank you!

  65. I third the comments on Sunday Snacks purchased at stores. During the good old days of 2 sessions of church on Sunday, we kids always traded going to each others houses to hang out. I didn’t live in Utah so Mormon Hang Out Sundays were cool. Every family I knew stopped at either the donut shop, the roadside fruit stand, or dairy queen to pick up a snack. No one flinched. Saturday’s Warriors were allowed to do that.

    On a broader note of how things have changed. A decade ago a friend called me on the phone to complain that her son was just told at a fireside that they were the chosen generation to usher in Christ’s second coming. She was livid. “All our lives it was us. We were going to be the ones standing next to Moroni walking through the Ash Heap of History – because we had been valiant. Now what are we supposed to do. Go out and get a tattoo?” I didn’t know what to say. Clearly we had been robbed.

  66. Up until the end of the 20th century we used to refer to the 1830s as “the modern era”. That always cracked me up.

  67. I was born in the 80s so I don’t have a lot of experience to draw from, but I definitely remember some moving modesty/dress standard targets in Young Women. At one point flip-flops were called out, at another point a letter was read to us that stated pantyhose should be worn to show respect in church. (As far as I could tell neither exhortation made a lick of difference). We were definitely told not to wear anything that wouldn’t work with garments. As for the young men, we had a crusading bishop who would not allow young men to pass the sacrament in colored shirts or if they were wearing those yellow Livestrong bracelets. Anyone know if those kind of ideas are still being pushed on the youth?

    I also remember a huge deal being made out of not seeing R-rated movies. Is that still a thing?

  68. I kinda wonder how much of this is the result of the Utah economy having gone to hell in the ’80s when commodities prices collapsed, and the resulting exodus out into “the mission field” (quickly reversed in the ’00s and ’10s real estate booms by all those much-hated California Mormons selling their houses for ten times what they paid and buying ones three times as large in Utah).

  69. “GAs are asked to not keep journals or if they do, they become property of the Church.”

    I don’t know about the “asked not to” part, but the part about the journal belonging to the church is true.

  70. Ever since reading Tim Powers’ “Last Call”, which is an urban fantasy novel where the wrong tarot deck can kill you, I have felt a little leery around playing cards. I know that sounds insane, but as i get older I have to ask myself whether I believe in magic (or at least the power of language and symbols) or not. How scientific materialist can I be and still be a Mormon? Is there a Mormon occult?

  71. Jared vdH says:

    I remember being counselled by my father to not mention the fact that we played cards at scout outings while we were at Tuesday night Mutual in case a member of the Stake Presidency happened to be walking by and overheard us. I got the impression that it was a big deal to certain members, but didn’t REALLY matter.

    I also miss road shows. They were at times a pain to put on and seemingly not a lot of effort for not a ton of return, but I enjoyed them. They seemed to disappear from my stake once I graduated high school and left for college around the turn of the century.

    As for beards – a member of the bishopric was asked to shave his beard when he was called last year and my dad was asked to shave his mustache when he became a temple worker.

    I remember Elder Maxwell mentioning that kids owning their own set of scriptures and bringing them to church was a “fine new pattern” in his last talk before he died in 2004. Now it’s almost disappeared as a practice thanks to smart phones & apps.

  72. “I am 100% sure if Joseph Smith were brought back to today, he would be dazed and confused.”

    That’s probably true, but mostly because, by definition, he would be a zombie. It’s hard to concentrate when you can’t see past your insatiable lust for sweet, sweet brains.

  73. The church still has a raisin farm near Fresno on which members work. It sucks.

  74. In Joseph F. Smith’s papers there are several letters ca. 1900 which mention his fury over the fact that a neighbor boy brought face cards into the house of one of his wives and played a game with one of his kids. He was really quite put out as I recall. I think the association with gambling was the reason.

  75. We had a really nasty pig farm in our stake. The bishopric guy (the one who drank RC Cola by the gallon) was in charge of it. I remember going out there and watching him spread lime of the pig pasture. The other counselor (the one who drank Coke by the gallon) never went there, because although they were neighbors, they didn’t like each other much at all (maybe it was because they were neighbors). I remember the latter because his black cat once bit my right index finger to the bone. I don’t think the last part is in the handbook.

  76. marcella says:

    A lot of what I remember has been mentioned somewhere in the comments…but a few remain. My family started attending church together in 1970 (my dad was the only member in the family prior to that) We were told that the Devil takes over after midnight and needed to be home from dates by then. It was always odd to me that the youth New Year’s dance always celebrated “midnight” at 11:30 and then they told us to get home quick. Also, we had a crazy lady who served in YW FOREVER and would be sure during slow dances we were always a Book of Mormon width apart. Every summer we had Church Education Week with speakers all day long and you went from class to class. Tattoo’s weren’t evil or even commented on, nor were number of earrings until President Hinkley spoke about it. My Dad remembers in the 50’s and 60’s that men in priesthood meetings were asked to take a pledge to not smoke or drink and the ones who did they would ask about each Sunday to see how they were doing. We also had junior Sunday School during Stake Conference – my dad was ward SS president for years and helping organize it was a big undertaking for all the ward presidencies. They don’t even have a Stake Sunday School presidency anymore. We also had YW sports teams – basketball and volleyball and played the other wards in the stake and some years went on to play other wards in the region. Stakes had a monthly Saturday for baptisms for any child turning 8 the previous month, now families do their own thing or maybe a couple families will combine. Final memory – we used to have lessons about the three degrees of glory and how wonderful they all were. Now it seems there is only exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom or misery.

  77. Chadwick says:

    I remember growing up being taught that cremation was a sin. Today I know some members are choosing cremation. It seems we are slowly letting go of all the silly little things.

    Also, growing up, I don’t remember talking about defending the family every single Sunday. Monthly seemed to suffice.

  78. Marcella – reading your memories sounds a lot like where lived. I even remember attending the regional basketball play offs. It was as big to us, as the final four is for America now.

    Chadwick, I was just visiting my family in California. Most mortuaries don’t even offer an option. Everyone just gets cremated. Period. A few years ago though the topic came up in Relief Society. The Stake RS President was adamant that creation was against God’s plan because you would have only ashes to collect when it was time for the spirit and body to reunite. My hand shot up in an instant – “What happens to people who are burned in fires, wars, etc?” She didn’t have an answer. Truth be told I don’t either, but I just couldn’t let it pass.

  79. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    When did centralized meetinghouse funding and construction kick in? That seems like it would have been a significantly different experience to take a few years to raise funds and swing hammers.

    And on a minor note, when is the last time you saw the roving microphones during testimony meeting? Cords everywhere — but all you had to do was stand up and wait for the deacon.

    I also have seen an abbreviation of the ward athletic leagues. What used to go on for months is often now just a weekend tournament. The “all-church” tournaments were before my time.

  80. Things we used to do:
    -My home ward used to have an “Evening of Elegance”, an adults-only dinner where everyone brought their fine china and ate chicken cordon bleu. My parents called it the “evening of arrogance” and boycotted it every year.
    -A youth activity called the “Carnival of Life”. Play games, win prizes (ZCMI gift cards! Jazz tickets!) only to have them taken away when you “die” and get stuck in the spirit world when you have an AP test the next day. (“There’s no AP tests in the spirit world, so sit down!)
    -BYU-sponsored Pioneer Treks that broke like 20 handbook rules but nobody cared
    -Firesides that told me the Beatles were satanic. I was devastated. I loved the Beatles.
    -Clearing church callings with the husband before asking the wife.

    Things I hope that will be on the above list in 10 years:
    -We used to not allow missionaries to have dinner hosted by a woman unless a priesthood holder was present. Crazy.
    -Remember singles wards? Terrible.
    -I can’t believe we called that “Activity Days”.
    -Remember that terrible ham that was always served at funeral luncheons? As if dying wasn’t bad enough.

  81. Happy Hubby says:

    Cathy – that last list of “what you hope will change” is probably fodder for another separate post by Mette.

  82. Cathy,

    Can we add:

    -So weird that you had to wait a year to get sealed in the United States if you had a civil ceremony first
    and
    -Why did the church ever officially sponsor boy scout troops?

  83. marcella says:

    Cathy mentioned ZCMI which reminded me – when we took my older sister to BYU it was the first time there for all of us. We toured around and at one point found ourselves in that store we’d never heard of. They sold garments out on the floor. Like boxes piled on clearance tables next to the aisle. It astounded us converts coming from California. When my parents went through the temple they didn’t even know garments existed – no one had mentioned them not even the Bishop or Stake President. So they showed up at the temple and got turned around and sent to the distribution center first :-) So to see them out in a regular old store was really odd.

  84. Sabbath observance has definitely tightened up. My Mom remembers going to Dairy Queen after church with her family when she was a kid. I think everyone watching so much conference is a big change. My husband didn’t know there were Saturday sessions of general conference growing up- and his dad was bishop. He got to the MTC and when they told him it was time to watch the Saturday sessions he thought they were kidding him.

  85. Moss – when I was a kid Conference wasn’t broadcast anywhere but in Utah/Idaho. In California we just went to church as usual. I believe tickets were sent to Stakes for selected Bishops or Stake Leaders to attend. There were usually various additional training meetings. Then your Stake came back and reported on it or selected a direction based on something they may have heard. Later in my teens it came over sideband radio. But you had to buy the radio. Conference was a distant event. I think it makes a huge difference. I was visiting my mom and she was mentioning how various Bishops we had been under, had been their own men. I believe this easy access to Salt Lake has cost Zion some good growth. Wards and Stakes could really excel through local divine leadership. Now we have become a lock step religion with very limited liveliness to it. It makes me sad. It’s as if all the varied beauty in the world was fixed to one kind only. I just can’t imagine a God wanting only one kind. But that’s just me.

  86. Kevin Barney says:

    Re: Conference, when I was growing up in Illinois we would at most see a Sunday morning session if a TV station decided to carry it to meet their public service commitments, but never more than that, and sometimes not even that. I also remember a number of times going to the priesthood session. We had to drive to the stake center (between a 45-minute and three-hour drive, depending on which stake we happened to be in at the time), and we would listen on a live telephone feed, which seemed ike amazing technology back then. There were always so few of us we would just all sit in the soft seats on the stand in the chapel.

  87. The social aspect, service and socials, are largely a thing of the past your ward or stake are very motivated. It’s hard to fellowship on the three hour block alone. The leadership has too much to do (same 12 people). Eliminating the ward activity chairperson was a huge mistake for the majority of units.

  88. When I was young I was in more than one ward where everyone usually read the Sunday School lesson ahead and there were great discussions and debates. It was very lively. However the content of those discussions were often full of very concrete declarations that I don’t hear anymore. Like the miraculous power of garments. How many have heard the story of someone dying in a fiery plane crash and their body being burned everywhere but where the garments covered? I heard that in more than one ward. Also there were the debates about where Kolob was located and if astronauts from earth could ever travel there or if you could only reach it with God’s power, the exact year of the Second Coming, if women would feel pain during the birth of their spirit children in the Celestial Kingdom, how to tell if you are being visited by an angel or Satan (handshake of course), I could go on. I have to admit I get a thrill whenever a certain older lady in my current ward will comment at length with these kinds of tales and then the teacher will struggle for a fitting response. I don’t mind more modern and correlated doctrine being taught that is more focused on our salvation and rational, that is an improvement, but Sunday School is pretty dull now by comparison. No one reads the lesson ahead of time and everyone gives the same pat answers and is upset at the slightest variation of tone or content. I don’t really care about Kolob or Celestial birth details, but it is nice to have them inserted into a modern lesson and watch everyone jolt awake.

  89. Troy Cline says:

    #12 can’t change fast enough, in my opinion. Though the church as an institution doesn’t address evolution very often anymore, culturally it is still largely viewed as Satan’s ploy to draw us from God. As a research biologist, I have found that I didn’t really begin to understand the nature of God until about 17-18 years ago, at the age of 23 or 24, when I finally allowed myself to follow the evidence (and the Spirit) and accept what was so obviously correct. My relationship with and understanding of God blossomed and now I am kind of ashamed that it took me 24 years to shake off the chains of cultural training.

  90. I joined the church nearly 20 years ago, so I’m surprised to read in the comments that 40 or more years ago white shirts weren’t as big of a deal as they are now.

    I remember at the time I joined that stake dances for adults were common (well, at least once a year). But I haven’t heard of one in a long time. It seems like even the teens now don’t have dances all that often.

    I’ve noticed in recent years more emphasis put on the authority of top church leaders. But I don’t know if there’s been a change or if it’s something that I just noticed after moving to Utah.

    One of the more important (and positive!) changes I’ve noticed: Thanks to people such as President Uchtdorf, Brad Wilcox and Bob Millet, among others, it has become OK to talk about grace as something that’s always there for us, not just something that doesn’t kick in until we become worthy on our own power. Who knows? Maybe “Amazing Grace” will be in the next hymnal.

  91. Robert60 says:

    I was about to make a somewhat negative sarcastic comment about the Church of my youth (while at the same time picking a fight with some of the comments), then I read Kevin Christensen’s comment:

    “Mormonism to me is rather a different thing that the culture and family and time and place in which I was raised. Alma 32 says that the seed is supposed to change, if it is a good seed, giving all sorts of roots, branches, leaves, and fruit that was not visible at the start. And D&C 1, if I read it carefully, expressly offers a set of expectations that should make change and difference and growth, and new thoughts and knowledge, and non-exclusive views of truth and revelation and virtue part of my expectations. If I have a problem with change and difference, it’s never a bad idea to check my eye for beams, to re-examine my preconceptions. And to not over-generalize from limited understandings, to allow children to grow and human culture and society to do what they all do: to respond to diverse ever-changing influences.”

    Thanks Kevin

  92. Robert60 says:

    Eric, I also hope “Amazing Grace” is in the new hymn book!

  93. Great list, very nostalgic. I remember as a child at the airport singing ‘God be with you’ to families of saints who were migrating from Australia to Zion before the definition of Zion changed in the 70s. We all thought the hymn referred to catching up again in the millennium, but within 5 years most had made the trek back.
    In our fledging LDS outpost talk of living the United Order/law of consecration and how that would work, was common. Those who had steak for dinner were reassured that there would be no reduction in the quality of sustenance.
    Primary was Friday evening or Saturday morning and a penny donation was collected for the Children’s hospital in SLC.
    Back then, we all new which pages the hymns were on, but the new book changed all that (213 my favourite). Scriptures, too, have been well-worked over. Sustainings are different; left-handers are no longer discriminated against for this or sacrament taking. List goes on, thanks for the memories especially blessing the sacrament in junior Sunday School sitting on those tiny chairs!

  94. Kevin Barney says:

    sjames, my Primary was also on Saturday mornings. A hardship at the time for conflicting with prime cartoon viewing, but now I remember it all fondly. And yes, I remember donations for the children’s hospital.

  95. sjames made me think of another item pre-block. Sunday School Opening Exercises. Since SS was a separate meeting, usually in the morning where I lived, you met in the main room/chapel all together and the Junior SS met in a children’s meeting room. (Priesthood meeting was at an earlier hour 8am or something, I think Relief Society met exclusively during the week?) SS opening had “hymn practice” in some places. You got to sing some of the unknown/less used tunes. I didn’t appreciate it at the time. After the block, wards I was in seemed to struggle with letting this go, or maybe it was still part of the block or something. Bishoprics had 12 and older people stay in their seats while the Primary went off to their stuff. Then there was hymn practice again! I was slightly more fond of it then. Then there was an opening prayer and away we went to classes. I remember a bishopric doing this ca. 1990 and the stake nixing it eventually.

  96. Kevin Barney says:

    My dad used to lead the hymn practice; he would crack the whip if he thought people were sloughing off or not trying hard enough.

  97. It’s been years since I’ve heard any mention of marching to Jackson County Missouri. Did that expectation get officially retired or did we just stop talking about it?

  98. Saturday Night Ward Movie. Bonneville Ward in SLC, 1950’s. Admission free if your family paid their annual ward budget. An astounding variety of fairly new movies on the big screen.

  99. I’ve never understood the proscription on beards. Some men look wonderful in them, some look perfectly scruffy. I knew who the most recent Bishop was going to be when I saw him before church without his really nice looking beard. His face has since tanned. One of his counselors has a beard though. Once nearly 50 years ago I was told off by a member of my bishopric for wearing a too short skirt, and all I could think of was to say that I found it unfortunate that a priesthood leader was looking at my legs. My complaint now is women who wear skin tight knitted dresses and skirts, especially if they are overweight and lumpy. But then I’m old and prefer to keep my lumpiness covered loosely.

  100. Happy Hubby says:

    My understanding is that the whole beard thing was a reaction to the 60’s “hippies” and not wanting to look anything like that. So we went from the big long beards to “businessmen” look that we are still hanging on to today (with varying amounts of success/admiration depending on where you go in the world). BTW – it is no longer written in the CHI that bishops/SP’s are required to be clean shaven. I understand it is still a requirement to work in the temple.

  101. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    As I put my feet through my garment bottoms, I sometimes reflect on the first experience of being ‘clothed’ as part of a beautiful initiatory ceremony, which, for better or worse, is not the imagery my children will have when they reach the endowment age.

  102. I remember the adults in the ward were divided into “social groups” and my parents would go their group’s activity every month or two.

    I also remember a friend of mine gave me a deck of cards that had cartoon drawings of frogs on the backs. I had them in my pocket at mutual once; we were waiting for things to start, so a group of us, including my Laurel advisor’s son, started a hot game of Crazy Eights. My advisor walked by, furrowed her brow, and said, “Are those FACE cards?” I knew quite well what she meant, but I just said innocently, “No, they’re frog cards,” and she walked away, befuddled.

    Just had to add, I’m stunned by the comment(s) about GAs’ journals. I was a kid when President Kimball was prophet (as is evidenced by my memory of social groups) and I had the impression at the time that journal keeping was right up there with the WoW.

  103. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Mette. I am close to your age and agree with all of your observations. Here is some of my own color to some of your points to contribute to the discussion.

    2-There has been a lot of change, despite some of us feeling like it is still too little and too slow. My mother was the first woman in our ward to offer a closing prayer in sacrament meeting. I have to add it seems to me the slope of change seems to have softened in the post-Hinkley and Okazaki era. Despite a few positive steps forward, I think the church has backslid a bit over the past ten years.

    3-I’m deeply bothered by the ‘temple-ready’ mindset toward children. We forget modesty is a psychological phenomenon and does not apply to innocent, little children. When I see this imposed, even on teens it makes me cringe as a father of daughters who already struggle with body image issues. It also seems contradictory in some ways since more Mormon adult women than ever are donning bikinis at the beach. When I was a boy the thought of a Mormon woman wearing anything but a one piece was anathema.

    4-One of my teen daughters is deeply resentful today that young women, today, still don’t do high adventure activities like the boys and openly calls it gender discrimination to her leaders, who in turn look confused and concerned. I’ve explained to her we’ve come a long way even if mountain biking and rappelling isn’t on the young women’s activity list…yet.

    5-hahaha. I’ve completely forgotten about how serious a sin it was to be caught in high school with a can of Mountain Dew. Today, Diet Coke should sponsor General Conference.

    7-I’m just old enough to remember not only the split meeting schedule, but also the reality that primary and young men’s / young women’s was held on Wednesday afternoon and evening, complete with opening exercises. Relief Society was not a Sunday meeting, but a Tuesday evening one. Sunday was for Priesthood meeting (an extra hour for the men) and Sunday school in the morning and a longer sacrament meeting in the afternoon. There wasn’t a primary room, there was a junior Sunday school room in which primary met on Wednesdays. (The ‘two and a half’ minute talk has its origins in Sunday school opening exercises, I believe.) Sunday school was far more prominent then than it’s ‘red-headed step child’ status is today. The church required far more time from its members 30 years ago than it does today, as impossible as that sounds to me. As busy as modern life is, I can’t imagine giving the church the time it asked from its members 30+ years ago before the block.

    8-Budget. I think you touch on one of the most impactful changes made in modern times. Members were asked to pay tithes, and families sat down with their bishop once a year to make a commitment to the ward and stake operating budgets. Those funds fueled ward activities, youth programs, everything. My guess is between tithing, fast offerings, ward and stake budgets, my parents gave 20-25% of their net income to the church. Wards also shouldered half the cost for new ward building construction and were asked to provide sweat equity (paint walls, do the landscaping, etc.). If you were from a poor, rural area, you had no budget and old buildings. If you were from a wealthy California ward/stake, your youth went river rafting (super activities) and ward buildings had pipe organs. The impact of the change (circa 1989) to normalize budgets and only require tithing payments (with other contributions being encouraged) from members cannot be overstated.

    10-I still see plenty of dating relationship wackiness but think it is more of a Utah phenomenon. This part of our culture is still so weird and in many ways unhealthy as we continue to struggle to come to terms with human sexuality and its place outside of marriage.

    11-Healing blessings have become more blessings of comfort, it seems to me. My father tells me of feeling the extraordinary weight of being asked to bless someone with a serious illness, and the expectation there was for healing to result because of the blessing. He said he felt that his faith was on the line every time he was called to perform a blessing and at times dreaded the call. I don’t see this today. We seem to be moving away from the priesthood as magic and more to it being an expression of love and faith.

    12-Certainly in the 60’s, 70’s and on into the 80’s the impact of Joseph Fielding Smith’s hard-line views on evolution would stunt the way members understand the place of the theory of organismic adaptation in our church, despite Apostles like Brown, Widtsoe and Talmage being open to it or even embracing it fully. (I recall reading that Elder Widtsoe, in particular, believed in pre-Adamites.) The church’s official position on the means of creation is still not broadly understood, which I think is unfortunate. Elder Packer’s writings before he passed away didn’t help bring clarity to the issue either. But I think more members today understand the church’s position, and are comfortable with it than at any time in the past. Certainly, those (like me) who openly express complete acceptance of the theory of evolution do so without worrying we will be viewed as a heretic.

    15-Thanks for bring up painful memories of an 8 hour day laboring on a dusty stake ranch once a quarter.

    16-Sometime around 1990 or 1991 the church produced a kind of ‘meeting important Mormons’ video and showed it via Satelite at ward buildings in North America as a part of a missionary effort. Prominent members were interviewed about being Mormon. If I remember correctly, Orrin Hatch, Steve Young and Bill Marriott were featured along with others. Bill Marriott told a story of being in a boating accident, and how the prop (if I remember correctly) struck him and cut up his pants but did not go through his garments, which is there to protect us. I had an investigator in attendance, and I could see him wincing. It was too much for him to take in because it tied so closely with anti-Mormon literature about our ‘magic underwear.’ I’m glad we are moving out of that era of belief.

    17/18-We seem to have become much less doctrinal and more existential. When I was young, hours were spent in church putting Mormon esoterica under a microscope. I often thought to myself, I belong to the weirdest religion on the planet. As we have ‘un-circled the wagons,’ it seems to me we have largely left Mormon doctrine behind, replacing it with church policies, an obedience culture and a lot of self-help homilies delivered over the pulpit. I’m not sure it’s been a positive trade, but I wouldn’t want to go back. (I so wish we had a developed theology. Different discussion.)

    19-Rumors abounded in the late 80’s and 90’s that Bishop Pace was conducting a formal investigation into satanic cults in Utah. That ended in media embarrassment.

    I’ll add one more since you were a scripture chase champion. It can’t go unmentioned that CES recently dropped Scripture Mastery, saying it didn’t help youth deal with modern problems. I thought that was a huge change too.

    Great post, Mette. Thoughtful, real and fun. I enjoyed thinking about the points you make.

  104. Kruiser says:

    I remember as pre-teens and teenagers sitting in Church meetings with our peers rather than our families. In the late fifties adults were all on a first name basis – no titles.Then someone comes along saying that titles would draw us closer together? We were a small branch.

  105. Not a Cougar says:

    Kruiser, that’s why I make a habit of calling people by their first names (I’m a president of an organization in the ward, and it makes my skin crawl when they call me “President”). I think it weirds people out a bit, but I don’t care. I feel more like friends and teammates with my ward when I do. But even I still call my bishop “Bishop” except when we’re alone. He actually appreciates it when I do call him by his first name.

  106. Not a Cougar says:

    Rigel, I’d actually rather forget about the time an old man I didn’t know placed his hand on my groin.

  107. Aaron Brown says:

    The only change that really matters is our deemphasis on the evils of face cards, and I’m pretty sure our abandonment of this sacred doctrine proves that we are in apostasy.

    Aaron B

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