Over the years I've come across more than a few church-related stories that seem a bit suspect. Some of them I've heard multiple times from as many different people in as many different contexts. Mormon Folklore, you could call them, others might say Urban Legends (or more accurately, Suburban Legends). Either way, what's disturbing is that a lot of people think these stories are either doctrinal or actually in the scripture somewhere. Church leaders have come out recently to warn about checking your sources when it comes to these bad-boys.
Anyway, I've decided it's time to launch a personal collection of the Suburban Legends. At best, they are faith-promoting stories taken too far, at worst, they are the hedge about the law that tripped up the Pharisees. Either way, they need a home (since they clearly aren't in the standard works). So without further ado, here are the best of the Suburban Legends: the Book of Ponch.
(scroll down for the newest entries)
Ponch 1:3 "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it."
The capo di tutti capo of Suburban Legends, this one shows up in constant supply at Deseret Book. Don't recall reading it in a Sunday School manual, though
Ponch 3:2-18 "Footprints"
Same deal. I've heard this quoted in so many Sunday School lessons and Sacrament Meetings that I'd swear it was canonized scripture. But it ain't. Nice idea, in fact, great metaphor. But it's only found in the Book of Ponch.
Ponch 10:13 "Give a man a fish; feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."
This one is a bit self-incriminating. I remember trying to find this one in the New Testament when I was in the Missionary Training Center. Just to show that I'm as much a criminal as anyone else.
Ponch 7:5-10 "Marrying Missionaries"
Here's the first of the actual Suburban Legend "stories". Heard this one multiple times on the mission. The idea is that back when the Elders had the authority to conduct civil weddings, a pair of Elders and a pair of Sisters in (insert local city here) married each other, swapped apartments, and proceeded to start new lives as happy families. BO-GUS.
Ponch 5:5-9 "Patriarchal Blessing Predicts War"
Another multiple version story. The basic storyline is that just before leaving on his mission, some kid gets his Patriarchal Blessing, and it tells him he'll come home early to serve his country in a time of war. Not entirely implausible, but when you hear it so many times, the credibility level sinks. Plus people always try to interpret it along the lines of the "war" being Armageddon or something.
Ponch 16:2-11 "Ten Pillars of the Holy of Holies"
Just heard this one a couple of weeks ago, and it's absolutely brilliant. Story was back in the days of President David O. McKay that the Holy of Holies inside the Salt Lake Temple contained ten pillars, nine of which carried busts of the latter-day prophets, beginning with Joseph Smith. Since President McKay was prophet number nine, and there were only ten total pillars, that supposedly meant the next prophet would be the one to usher in the Millenium, which was clearly going to occur within a week or so. Absolutely brilliant.
Ponch 12:12-23 "The Ear Transplant Story"
Another great one. In this one, the kid is born with deformed ears, so the doctor performs an emergency "ear transplant" surgery with the help of an anonymous donor. Read that last sentence again for effect. OK, so the kid grows up with no idea who donated his ears (which must have given him a complex growing up, I mean, come on, a five-year-old in the first grade with adult-sized ears?). But he always wonders why his mother always wore her hair down. OVER HER EARS.
Ponch 9:1-25 "Star Wars/Gospel Parallels"
If you're ever hard up for conversation one night, toss out the idea that elements of the Star Wars films were deliberately designed with Gospel principles in mind. Try to debate whether the Force represents the Spirit or the Priesthood, and how the Jedi's fit into it. (Heck, I'll bet people have figured out how Wookiees have fit into it. Analyze all of Yoda's lines and compare them to Conference talks. My favorite bit here? The rumor that the guy in charge of designing Yoda was told to model his face after the wisest person he knew. The guy was LDS, of course, and so he modeled Yoda's face after then-Prophet Spencer W. Kimball. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like giving up on writing fiction altogether.
Ponch 18:1 "Polygamy Mandatory in Celestial Kingdom"
Another confession: I used this on one of my companions in Chicago. He wouldn't stop talking about his girlfriend, and so I found this in one of those obscure Gospel commentary books that has no credibility whatsoever, but was written by a guy who's name is a combination of former Prophet's names, so it sounds legitimate. (Something like Joseph Kimball McKonkie). I didn't realize this list was going to be a vehicle of confession for me.
Ponch 7:18 "Shiny Walls in the Kirtland Temple"
This one claims that the early Saints donated their china to be crushed into bits and mixed with plaster to make the Kirtland Temple walls sparkle. Sounds pretty legitimate, but then again, that's what makes a good Suburban Legend.
Ponch 22:11-30 "Embarrassed in South America"
One of the great "language mix-up" stories. The sister missionary, still struggling to grasp her new language, is called up by her Bishop to bear her testimony in Sacrament Meeting. Flustered, she tries to say "I'm embarrassed and it's all the Bishop's fault", but she misses a subtle word difference and instead says "I'm pregnant and it's all the Bishop's fault." Chaos ensues.
Of course, I've got a better real one. My Mission President served in Japan as a youth, and early in the mission he and his companion waited at a local train station handing out pamphlets about the church. As each traveler passed by, my future President would hand out a pamphlet and sincerely say "please read this". Several hours and several hundred confused passengers later, he learned that he had been saying "please marry me".
Naturally, now that I've shared this, it will begin to circulate the globe and take on a variety of forms and derivations (if it hasn't already). Oh well.
Ponch 23:1-5 "Kneeling in the Halls of Heaven"
This is the Michael Jordan of Suburban Legends. I've heard this many times from many sources, and I'm not the only one. Supposedly this story has been officially debunked by church authorities (probably because people keep attributing it to them). The idea behind this one is that some apostle told the youth that in the afterlife, when people ask them what time in Earth's history they lived, if they say the time of President Benson, Hunter, and Hinkley, that everyone there will fall silent, kneel, and that the Halls of Heaven will hush in their presence. I actually have a copy of the quote that attributes it to a youth speaker, which sounds like a much more plausible source. Man, this one still makes me smile.
Ponch 25:7-15 "President Kimball in the Elevator"
Here's a great one, reportedly all the rage in the 60's. Some guy gets on an elevator somewhere in Salt Lake, and happens to find himself standing to President Spencer W. Kimball. President Kimball asks "do you have your two years of food storage?" Passenger replies no. President Kimball shakes his head, and solemnly mutters, "I feel sorry for you."