The Deseret Alphabet: A Peculiar People

Book of Mormon Deseret Alphabet

The Deseret Alphabet: A Peculiar People

By David L. Steed

In early Salt Lake City the University of Deseret, later to become the University of Utah, was the site of an unusual Mormon experiment. The new Mormon leader, Brigham Young, was the second president of the newly formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He was a powerful tyrant that led his people hundreds of miles across the plains to live in the desert of Utah and begin new lives after their first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., had been murdered in Carthage, Illinios. It was shortly after this event that the new prophet designated a new phonetic Mormon alphabet be devised to instruct the illiterate among the community. This new language would come to be infamously called “The Deseret Alphabet.”

In the early 1850’s it was announced that the university board of regents, under Church guidance, had commissioned a new phonetic alphabet. George D. Watt, an expert in shorthand and the first English convert of the church, had studied “phonemes,” the significant sounds of the english language that were based on the work of Isaac Pitman. Watt studied these phonemes and determined that there were 38 unique sounds within the english language. He developed a set of new characters for each of these individual sounds. The language was standardized and printed in four separate texts.

The first two were reading primers meant to teach english to children and illiterate adults. These books were known as The Deseret First Alphabet Book and The Deseret Second Alphabet Book. Then a full copy of the Book of Mormon was printed in the new exclusive Mormon script, followed by a reading excerpt from the scripture known as First Nephi-Omni. The church-owned Deseret Newspaper printed several articles and Book of Mormon passages as well in the new language at Brigham Young’s instruction in order to promote the new and very expensive project.

The Book of Mormon written in Deseret Alphabet.

The Book of Mormon written in Deseret Alphabet.

In order to print all of these wonderful materials to teach the Deseret Alphabet, the Church needed to order new metal cast type for a printing press. This was prohibitively expensive, the type alone cost $18,500 to create in a community comprised of poor subsistence farmers. In order to print a proper catalogue of reading materials, Church leader Orson Pratt estimated that printing a meager collection of 1,000 titles could run as high as $5 million, far exceeding available funds.

In order to justify such an expensive experiment, Brigham Young often encouraged faithful members to study and use the language in his speeches during sessions of General Conference:

“There are a few items I wish to lay before the Conference before we dismiss, which I think we shall do when we get through our meeting this afternoon. One of these items is to present to the congregation the Deseret Alphabet. …The advantages of this alphabet will soon be realized, especially by foreigners. Brethren who come here knowing nothing of the English language will find its acquisition greatly facilitated by means of this alphabet, by which all the sounds of the language can be represented and expressed with the greatest ease. As this is the grand difficulty foreigners experience in learning the English language, they will find a knowledge of this alphabet will greatly facilitate their efforts in acquiring at least a partial English education. It will also be very advantageous to our children. It will be the means of introducing uniformity in our orthography, and the years that are now required to learn to read and spell can be devoted to other studies.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, p. 298, Brigham Young, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Oct. 8th, 1868.)

This quote emphasizes Brigham Young’s goal of cultural exclusivism. By implementing a new written language, his people would be limited to reading church produced material, further isolating them from the outside world. Their new written language, carefully guarded, would also keep detractors from analyzing and printing disparaging content. Brigham Young’s emphasis on ironfisted control over his people in other areas of his life is just further proof of his intentions with the Deseret Alphabet.

In 1859, the New York Herald printed a short article regarding the Mormons and their strange new language. The author believed it was a way to ostracize the Latter-Day Saints further from their American counterparts back east. The commune of people hidden in the Rocky Mountains was becoming something to gawk at due to the unique nature of their beliefs. Even the Apostle Orson Hyde acknowledged that his brethren were a “peculiar” people.

The New Mormon Alphabet, The New York Herald, April 6th, 1859.

The New Mormon Alphabet, The New York Herald, April 6th, 1859.

Shortly after Brigham Young’s death in 1877 the experiment was abandoned. Like many of his other ideas, the reluctant faithful regarded the Deseret Alphabet as a fanciful dream rather than a prophetic vision. The overall experience of the language was destroyed by the exorbitant costs, the lack of available reading material, and the awkward nature of writing the unique symbols. Though the script could have been an excellent teaching tool for the illiterate, it was never standardized throughout the community.

The underlying oppressive nature of the language was extinguished from the Church and the territory. Brigham Young’s goal of isolating his people from the outside world by changing their script (as well as many other practices) was one of many failed experiments within the Church. The Deseret Alphabet, although an interesting idea, is now only used by Mormon historians and language hobbyists. This unique language is truly a peculiar story of a peculiar people.

Joseph Smith Pulls Religion Out Of A Hat

joe smith copy

Joseph Smith Pulls Religion Out of a Hat

Joseph Smith was the first president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the founder of Mormonism. He described himself as a prophet, seer, and revelator in the last days and was responsible for bringing forth a divine record known as The Book of Mormon. This book was a canonical record of ancient Jews who emigrated to the new world and founded an ancient civilization said to be numbered among modern day Native Americans. The book itself was said to have been written in a Hebrew hybrid language known as reformed Egyptian on a collection of gold plates. Joseph was charged with translating this record by the power of God and bringing it forth as a companion to the Bible. The process of translation often depicted in Church publications shows him sitting over the plates and reading directly from them.


This is, however, well-documented as being false and is understood not to be the way in which Joseph translated the plates. Even the LDS Church admits that Joseph used other tools to translate The Book of Mormon. One such tool was a seer stone (or peep stone, often used for finding treasure in folk magic) that he had found while digging a well for Willard Chase.

Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses of The Book of Mormon and a scribe to Joseph, described the seer stone as a “chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the Prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum.” Upon finding the stone, Joseph insisted it contained special properties for treasure seeking and would use it for such purposes over the next several years.

In 1825, Joseph was hired by Josiah Stowel to perform menial labor on his farm in Bainbridge, New York. It was during this time that Joseph insinuated to Mr. Stowel that he was sitting on a large sum of treasure and that Joseph could find it using the seer stone that he had in his possession. Intrigued, Mr. Stowel hired Joseph and his father to help him find the treasure, but as was the usual custom with treasure seeking, they came up empty-handed due to a misstep in the process of retrieval.

The following excerpt from the Justice of the Peace in Bainbridge describes the relationship Joseph Smith had using seer stones for treasure seeking purposes:

Prisoner examined. Says that he came from the town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel in Bainbridge most of the time since; had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, but the major part had been employed by said Stowel on his farm, and going to school; that he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold-mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times, and informed him where he could find those treasures, and Mr.Stowel had been engaged in digging for them; that at Palmyra he pretended to, by looking at this stone, where coined money was buried in Pennslyvania, and while at Palmyra he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was, of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account its injuring his health, especially his eyes – made them sore…

Justice of the Peace, Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, March 20, 1826

Neely Bill- This document is a bill of costs given by Justice Albert Neely in 1826. The document refers to Joseph Smith as “The Glass Looker” and shows that he was convicted and charged with a “misdemeanor.” The total charges are listed at $2.68.

Neely Bill- This document is a bill of costs given by Justice Albert Neely in 1826. The document refers to Joseph Smith as “The Glass Looker” and shows that he was convicted and charged with a “misdemeanor.” The total charges are listed at $2.68.

De Zeng Bill- This document was submitted by the arresting officer, Constable Philip De Zeng in relation to the 1826 incident. The record includes De Zeng’s payment in relation to Joseph Smith’s court case. The document reads: De Zeng Bill- This document was submitted by the arresting officer, Constable Philip De Zeng in relation to the 1826 incident. The record includes De Zeng’s payment in relation to Joseph Smith’s court case. The document reads: Serving warrant on Joseph Smith of (Chenango Co.?) Subpoening 12 witnesses & travel attendance with Prisoner two days & 1 night Notifying two Justices 10 miles travel with mittimus to take him

De Zeng Bill- This document was submitted by the arresting officer, Constable Philip De Zeng in relation to the 1826 incident. The record includes De Zeng’s payment in relation to Joseph Smith’s court case. The document reads: Serving warrant on Joseph Smith of (Chenango Co.?)
Subpoening 12 witnesses & travel
attendance with Prisoner two days & 1 night
Notifying two Justices
10 miles travel with mittimus to take him

According to the folk magic of the time, failing to find treasure was a common occurrence that was usually the result of guardian spirit protecting the treasure or a ritual not being performed in the correct manner. In Joseph Smith’s case, it was the mark of a con artist who would later admit to his father-in-law, Isaac Hale, that he had in fact never been able to use the stone to see anything of value.

Shortly after this, Joseph found himself desperately in love with the young Emma Hale. They quickly eloped and ran off to live with Joseph’s family. In need of money and furniture, Emma wished to return to her childhood home and collect some of her possessions. This meant that Joseph would have to see Isaac Hale and make amends with his father-in-law. Though somewhat furious with Joseph for taking his daughter, Isaac broke down and wept for the loss of his daughter to a treasure seeker. In order to make amends Joseph admitted to all of his wrong doing, including his use of seers stones. The following account was written by a Peter Ingersoll, a friend of the Prophet who was hired to move Emma’s belongings from her father’s home:

When we arrived at Mr. Hale’s in Harmony, Pa. from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: ‘You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money — pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.’ Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false.

Both the statement from the Justice of the Peace and Joseph’s own admission to his bereaved father-in-law are simply evidence that he was using a seer stone to conduct magical ceremonies or treasure seeking exploits, neither of which were legitimate or successful. However, Joseph would continue to use the stone the rest of his life while forming his newly crafted American theology.

After Joseph had retrieved the plates (some speculate by use of the stone), he began the translation process in a very unique manner. Emma Hale Smith, his first scribe, described the process to her oldest son Joseph III:

In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us. 

Many similar accounts by the scribes of Joseph Smith recount how the prophet would peer into a hat to close out the light and view written characters through his magic seer stone. This would all be happening while the plates were covered or hidden in an undisclosed location. It is also interesting to note that none of the scribes ever saw Joseph dictating from the plates directly, as they were forbidden from viewing the plates themselves. One of Joseph’s scribes, Martin Harris, describes the process in an article from the Millennial Star.

Martin Harris Quote copy

David Whitmer describes how Joseph used the seer stone in his translation as well.

I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.

-David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ

All of these accounts describe Joseph using his magical stone, the same one he used for treasure digging, to translate the gold plates into English. This contradicts many of the Church images that are produced for members and isn’t taught in Church programs as part of the religious curriculum.

If the accounts of Joseph’s closest confidants are to be believed in the Book of Mormon introduction then should not their accounts of the translation process be included as well? If the Church proclaims itself to be the one true church with a fulness of truth, why then leave out this and many other details of Joseph’s past? If this is how God designed for Joseph to translate a scriptural record on his behalf, Mormons should be unafraid to share this detail in their proselyting missions. The process is as unique as Mormons themselves. They should embrace this knowledge and seek further light by burying their heads in all kinds of objects. The one place Mormon’s certainly do bury their heads when it comes to the history of their church is the sand.

Mobsters and Mormons

Mobster and mormons copy

Mobsters and Mormons

On Sunday June 22nd, the same night Kate Kelly founder of Ordain Women was to be judged and possibly dismissed from the LDS Church, CNN released an article about excommunication happening in the Catholic Church. The differences between how the two cases have been handled are quite stark when comparing the reactions of leadership in both religions.

Kate Kelly, the founder of, has been a vocal advocate for gender equality issues within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Kelly has been accused of the crime of “apostasy” for her continued advocation of women being ordained to the all-male priesthood. Though this violates no clear doctrine within the church according to Church Public Relations spokesperson Ally Isom in a radio interview last week, Kelly’s membership has been placed on probation.

ally isom

Doug Fabrizio: Where does it say that in Mormon doctrine that women can’t receive the priesthood? You say its doctrine, where is that?…Where in the Mormon Scriptures? The Doctrine and Covenants, or the Book of Mormon, or any of the scriptures does it say that a woman is to be excluded from the priesthood?…Where does it say in Mormon doctrine that woman cannot hold the priesthood?

Ally Isom: It doesn’t.

While most excommunication trials held within the LDS faith are tried by their local leaders, Kelly has been denied that privilege. Though she has sent four separate requests to have her church membership records moved to her current location in Provo, Utah, her former bishop in Virginia has refused to transfer the records, thus making it impossible for her to attend her own trial.

During this process it has been strongly implied that top church leaders, known as the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles, have been instructing local lay leaders as to how they should proceed in matters of discipline. One of these leaders, Elder M. Russell Ballard, recently traveled to Washington D.C. to train local leaders as an officiating member of the faith. This same area also happens to be where Kate Kelly formerly attended her church meetings in Virginia. It has been speculated by many that Elder Ballard met with her local leaders on the issue of Kelly and her activism. The assumption that he has directed local leaders to pursue and expel her has become a national news sensation, though accusations have been vehemently denied by the LDS church.

In contrast to the ways in which the LDS Church has chosen to handle the situation, Pope Francis has been handling excommunication charges within the Catholic Church very differently. The Pope recently traveled to the city of Calabria in southern Italy, were the Mafia has long held control over much of the area there. The local crime syndicate, known as the Ndrangheta, is responsible for hundreds of deplorable crimes, including the recent murder of a three year-old boy and his grandfather. They are also one of the largest producers of illegal substances, making roughly 56 billion euros a year in the drug trade.

While speaking to the local citizens of Calabria on Saturday, Pope Francis issued his excommunication sentences to members of the crime organization directly:

“Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated.”

Though the two situations are very different, it would seem the Catholic Church is currently excommunicating people who have truly violated the laws of God. Given the choice between murderers and women politely asking to be admitted to listen to church authorities, is it really that hard to choose who to excommunicate? Furthermore, the Pope has chosen to actively be a participant in the process of overseeing his people. Why have the General Authorities of the LDS faith deferred responsibility for explaining Church practices and policies to their PR department? Shouldn’t they, like the Pope, be at the forefront of decisions regarding the salvation of their members? The questions that Kate Kelly and others like her have posed regarding women’s ordination in the Church have a simple answer, one that the leadership of the LDS faith could easily supply with a simple prayer and the courage and fortitude of the Catholic church’s Pope Francis.

Mormonism In The New Germany

Mormonism in the New Germany copy

Mormonism in the New Germany

“They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the Kingdom of heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature.” -Joseph Smith Jr.

In December of 1933, a newspaper article was written in the Church News section of The Deseret News. The title of the article was “Mormonism in the New Germany.” This article praised the new regime of Adolf Hitler and sought to compare the glory of LDS teachings with the new doctrine of Nazism that was spreading across the German nations. The article’s author, Dale Clark, was not the only Mormon to openly praise Hitler and Nazi Germany. Many other Mormon publications, including The Millennial Star, were used to compare and contrast Mormonism with Nazi Germany.

The first correlation of the LDS church with Nazism centered on the dynamic leader of Germany, Adolf Hitler. He was charismatic, strong, dedicated to his beliefs, a great orator, and was widely viewed as a savior figure to the Fatherland. Many Mormons could appreciate the qualities of a figure like Hitler, as these characteristics were the same ones valued in a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Those traits continued to stretch into more concrete beliefs that Latter-Day Saints could identify with, namely the Word of Wisdom.

Dale Clark described Hitler’s dedication to principles found in Doctrine and Covenants section 89 in the following manner:

There is another noticeable trend in the “Mormon” direction. It is a very well known fact that Hitler observes a form of living which “Mormons” term the “Word of Wisdom.” He will not take alcohol, does not smoke and is very strict about his diet, insisting on plain and wholesome foods, largely vegetarian.

When compared with verses from section 89 it is easy to understand how Clark came to that conclusion:

5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good…

7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

8 And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man…

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

His praise continues; Clark focuses on the product of obeying a Mormon lifestyle. He shows that due to Hitler’s clean living he has a superior mind and body that allowed him to rise above the struggles of the great depression in Germany. His dynamic leadership and choosing to live the principles of the Word of Wisdom have set an example for the youth. This insinuates that as a result of obeying a higher law that Hitler has been blessed by God:

Hitler depicted as savior to Germany

“These two colorful leaders (Adolf Hitler & Joseph Goebbels) of the new Germany, in their gigantic struggle for political supremacy have needed capable bodies and clear brains and have trained like athletes. Their very popularity is making intemperance more unpopular. The fact that they are worshiped may be one big reason for a growing dislike for smoking and drinking in Germany today.”

These are not the only comparisons that Clark draws between Mormon doctrine and Nazi culture. Under the direction of Hitler, National Socialism seeks to care for the needs all German citizens, much like the welfare programs of the church. Clark describes one of the new programs implemented by Hitler as an idea that has long been a central component of the LDS religion and thus further proof that Germany is preparing itself for the Gospel:

“Their trump card to show the originality and political genius of the Hitler party was the brilliant method they have under taken to put over the charity drive for this winter. To them it was phenomenal; to the friend, however, it was just another application of the effective method that has been in use in the ‘Mormon’ church for decades. The Nazis have introduced ‘Fast Sunday.'”

The German version of Fast Sunday is incredibly similar to that of the LDS Church. The fast is implemented on the first Sunday of the month and asks those that can afford it to forgo two meals in order to collect funds to feed the needy in the country. The idea behind this special fast was to build unity and alleviate the the suffering of those within Germany.

Clark was not the only one to make the comparison to “Fast Sunday.” Several of the LDS missionaries documented the practice in their journals and came to the same conclusion. One such missionary, Sanford Bingham, wrote in his journal in 1936 the following account documenting just one of the many missionaries’ first-hand accounts of how Nazi Germany compared to the religion they were trying to preach:

“A number of interesting parallels can be seen between the church and some of the ideas and policies of the National Socialists . . .The similarities between Mormons and Hitler ranged from views of the family, the importance of marriage, the strength of the educational system, the courage of the Mormon pioneers, the sense of the Word of Wisdom, the wisdom of a fast day to help the poor, the value of youth programs and the need to do genealogy.”

The Mormon publication The Millennial Star also printed their comparison of the two programs, showing unique but united Mormon perspectives from around the world on Naziism:

“It is indeed singular that a comparison of the details of the two systems of organized fasting shows them to be so nearly identical. Perhaps that part of the message of the Restored Gospel may have been directly or indirectly the inspiration and the model for the new scheme adopted by the German Government—perhaps not. But evident, at least, is the fact that consciously or unconsciously, the people of the world are discovering that the Lord’s way is best. The leaven of the Gospel is spreading.”

The comparisons between the two systems extended beyond the Word of Wisdom. Programs such as the Hitler Youth were directly correlated to the Boy Scouts, a staple of Mormon youth.  Womens organizations in the church have their counterparts as well; Young Women’s Mutual Improvement and the Relief Society are Bund der Deutschen Madel and Frauenschaft, respectively.

Clark continued in his article to emphasize the similarities with the genealogical program of the church. As the new idea of Aryan bloodlines began to surface in Germany, genealogical work for German families needed to be performed to prove their purity. Genealogy having already been recorded for decades in Mormon households set the Saints apart from their neighbors. The German government now set up genealogical facilities making it easier than ever before to find family records. The German members of the church were also recognized as patriots for their exceptional record-keeping:

Mormonism in the New Germany. Deseret News Dec 9, 1933.

Mormonism in the New Germany. Deseret News Dec 9, 1933.

As Hitler came to power, like most dictators, he sought to consolidate that power for himself. Most religions were openly attacked and outlawed, but Mormonism was allowed to thrive. Missionaries continued to share their message with others as other minority sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned.

While touring the European missions President Heber J. Grant visited the church members in Germany. He recognized the privilege that the Nazis were granting the saints to continue to practice their religion. There were minor exceptions to what could be taught, of course, as rhetoric concerning Zion or the New Jerusalem would not be permitted. President Grant saw an opportunity and instructed the saints to “Stay here. Keep the Commandments. Try to get along the best you can, even under some limitations. We want to keep the Church intact and the missionaries working.”

Traveling LDS Basketball Team gives Germany the Nazi Salute. Deseret News, Jan. 25, 1936.

Traveling LDS Basketball Team gives Germany the Nazi Salute. Deseret News, Jan. 25, 1936.

The Church then went on a campaign to align itself with the Nazi government and draw paralellels between the two ideologies. The Church magazine in Germany, Der Stern, emphasized that the Mormon Senator from Utah, Reed Smoot, was a longtime friend of Germany. Later, another article was written in the official paper of the Nazi party, Volkischer Beobachter, by the mission president of the East German Mission, Alfred C. Rees.

Rees did his best to draw comparisons between the plight of early Mormonism and the struggle of the Nazi party:

“The Mormon people know what persecution and suppression mean. And the German people who have gone through the shadow of the valley since the World War; and who have been forced to rely upon their own strength and determination, and upon their undying belief in their own ability to restore their self-respect and their merited place among the mighty sisterhood of nations, reveal that same progressive character, which does not shun obstacles. For that reason, to a student of Mormonism, recent developments in Germany present a most impressive comparison.”

Looking back on these statements it is hard to imagine that a church of God would align itself with some of the most despicable leaders of the past century. It is a lesson, however, in how the Church should conduct itself in other nations and with other cultures. As the Church continues to grow and expand their missionary efforts in other countries, they must be prepared for unsavory and hostile governments. The Church’s past diplomatic strategy has previously been defined by the twelfth Article of Faith: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” By tacitly endorsing rulers like Hitler and the Nazis, it forever tarnishes the image of the Church in places like Germany, where such endorsements are not quickly forgotten.

Bill Clinton: Almost the First Mormon President

Church President Clinton

Bill Clinton: Almost the First Mormon President

Back in 2012, former President Bill Clinton was on the campaign trail to help Barack Obama defeat Mitt Romney and win a second term in the Oval Office. Clinton had been delivering speeches across Florida that week to help secure the closely divided state for the Democratic Party. While leaving his hotel room Clinton was approached by several reporters and asked his thoughts on the status of the campaign. The former president addressed the issues quickly and smoothly as any seasoned politician would.

In addition to talking about the campaign, Clinton went on to discuss his encounter with Mormonism earlier in his life. He recalled attending recruiting presentations that he had attended at a local Mormon church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. As he described it, two or three Mormon missionaries had approached him to share the gospel. They explained the varying degrees of heaven in terms of a pyramid where people like Hitler and Stalin were at the bottom, faithful Mormons were situated at the top and everyone else fell in between.

This idea didn’t resonate with Clinton, a Baptist, who didn’t like his friends and family being left out of the top kingdom of heaven.

“I didn’t want to leave all these other people behind,” he said.

Though seemingly this wouldn’t have been a problem for Clinton, considering how the church feels about infidelity.

slick willy

The Mouths of Babes

The Mouths of Babes

The Mouths of Babes

While perusing the internet the other day I came across an old cult favorite of Mormons everywhere. The Mouths of Babes by T.C. Christensen was a charming LDS rendition of the popular classic T.V. program Kids Say the Darndest Things.This short film focused on primary aged children answering basic gospel questions about the organization of the LDS Church and other standard teachings within Mormonism.

Released in 1980, the film featured kids from early primary age that are just as funny, rambunctious, and curious as any that you would find in a classroom today. Many of the kids give unexpected answers to some of the most basic questions in Mormon theology. Though some gave the standard answer you would find in a church manual. Many give cute responses to questions about Heavenly Father, prophets, and my personal favorite, fasting.

Christensen: What does fasting do for you?  Kid: It just makes me hungry

Christensen: What does fasting do for you?
Kid: It just makes me hungry

T.C. Christensen, a popular LDS film maker of such titles as The Work and the Glory films, created this project by accident. Christensen told the Deseret News several years ago that he had been working on another project with a colleague when he was asked to film some of the children on set.   Christensen quickly rattled off a couple of questions regarding the church and was surprised by the responses he got.

“They were so hilarious,” Christensen said. “I thought, ‘I have got to make this into a movie somehow.’”

He quickly went to work filming other primary aged children and came up with the modern masterpiece that has been seen the world over. Asked when asked if he planned to make any sequels or modern equivalents, Christensen declined. His justification being that the film is already so fun and the children in it gave such great responses that he didn’t want to diminish it in any way.

The Mouths of Babes was later digitally remastered for future generations to enjoy and can be found on Youtube. It is still a fun video to watch and lasts less than 20 min. Those of you feeling nostalgic for prairie dresses at church, go give it a watch.

Mormons & The Moon

Mormons and the Moon copy

Mormons & The Moon

Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. was the tenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Though he only served in that calling for two years, he was one of the longest serving apostles in LDS church history. During his tenure as an apostle Joseph Fielding Smith spoke at a Stake Conference meeting to the saints of Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961. At the time the United States was also excitedly competing with the Soviet Union for scientific supremacy in the historic “Space Race.” This sparked a dialogue that was beginning to damage the long standing literal teachings of multiple worlds and celestial bodies. Smith is quoted as saying, “We will never get a man into space. This earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.”

This wasn’t the first time that Smith expressed his views on space travel. In his book, Answers to Gospel Questions, Smith is again quoted describing his belief that men would never reach any other sphere. “The Savior said that preceding his coming there would be signs in the heavens. No doubt there will be appearances of commotion among the heavenly bodies. We are informed by prophecy that the earth will reel to and fro. This will make it appear like the stars are falling. The sun will be darkened and the moon look like blood. All of these wonders will take place before Christ comes. Naturally the wonders in the heavens that man has created will be numbered among the signs which have been predicted—the airplanes, the guided missiles, and man-made planets that revolve around the earth. Keep it in mind, however, that such man-made planets belong to this earth, and it is doubtful that man will ever be permitted to make any instrument or ship to travel through space and visit the moon or any distant planet.”

JFS Quote copy

Obviously these quotes weren’t prophetic when it comes to the moon landing, but Smith’s understanding of Mormon doctrine would not have allowed him to come to any other conclusion. Turning to Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, one begins to understand how Smith could have thought that each celestial body was reserved for specific levels of divinity and none could obtain them except through God.

Here the prophet Abraham speaks with God and comes to a greater understanding of the different worlds as described to him:

5 And the Lord said unto me: The planet which is the lesser light, lesser than that which is to rule the day, even the night, is above or greater than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order more slow; this is in order because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, therefore the reckoning of its time is not so many as to its number of days, and of months, and of years.

6 And the Lord said unto me: Now, Abraham, these two facts exist, behold thine eyes see it; it is given unto thee to know the times of reckoning, and the set time, yea, the set time of the earth upon which thou standest, and the set time of the greater light which is set to rule the day, and the set time of the lesser light which is set to rule the night.

7 Now the set time of the lesser light is a longer time as to its reckoning than the reckoning of the time of the earth upon which thou standest.

8 And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still;

9 And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.

10 And it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light, until thou come near unto the throne of God.

17 Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.

The perceived knowledge of multiple inhabited spheres was commonplace to the saints before the 1960’s and it should be noted that many felt the same way that Smith did. Following the early teachings of the Church from prophets such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, each heavenly body was believed to have contained differing levels of intelligent life. Brigham Young in particular was often quoted saying things like, “”Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?… when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fathers. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth when it is celestialized”

The doctrine, even though it was taken literally at the time, can still be applied symbolically. It is when it gets more definitive in it’s tone that it begins to venture into the ridiculous, as was the case with Joseph Fielding Smith.

Smith’s account isn’t the most outrageous description of how the moon is correlated with God’s infinite plan. A much earlier account is recorded in the Young Womens Journal, an LDS publication, by Oliver Huntington. Huntington describes his experience receiving a patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Sr. shortly after joining the Church:

“Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a Prophet. As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do — that they live generally to near the age of a 1000 years. He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style. In my patriarchal     blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of     age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and — to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes.”

Oliver Huntington again described the vision in a separate account to Philo Dibble, a close associate of Joseph Smith:

“The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker style and are quite general in style or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally, near a thousand years. This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could ‘See’ whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see.”

These descriptions take the concept from being analyzed metaphorically and transform the dialogue into something else. When speaking with such definitive knowledge, it leaves only the possibility to be rendered completely false.

Joseph Fielding Smith later admitted that he was wrong, but it is difficult for those within the faith to know when something is prophetic or when it is merely speculative. Many of the Mormon faithful take these claims to an extreme and label those that question the teachings as “anti-mormon,” no matter how absurd the material might be. These members are unwilling to admit defeat, always insisting that their prophets are infallible beings, instead of imperfect people who sometimes fall short.

Stephen Gibson, author of One-Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions, gives his definitive answer to the question of Mormon moon men:

“Another aspect of the matter needs to be considered. At the present time, man has no scientific or revealed knowledge of whether or not there are inhabitants on the earth’s moon. The fact that a handful of astronauts didn’t see any inhabitants in the tiny area they viewed when they landed on the moon decades ago certainly gives no definitive information, any more than visitors to earth who might land in barren Death Valley would have any idea of the billions of inhabitants elsewhere.”

These quotes come from the Millennial Star No. 28, July 10,1882 : Are The Worlds Inhabited?" These quotes show the reluctant position of Latter-Day Saints to change to social and scientific pressures of the day.

These quotes come from the Millennial Star No. 28 July 10,1882 : Are The Worlds Inhabited?” The quotes show the reluctant position of Latter-Day Saints to change to social and scientific pressures of the day.

Are the Worlds Inhabited Millenial Star.1

Gibson’s answer and others like it are not the only ones trying to defend some of the more absurd, foregone notions of the Church. Many believe that what was said is as true as God himself speaking, while others dismiss it as bias of different era, though not to be confused as official doctrine. How are the members of the church to discern modern day problems that may be labeled in the future as “he spoke as a man not, as a prophet?” What forum is appropriate to discuss faithful concerns without being labeled as “anti-mormon?”

There are many that feel they have been validated for questioning teachings by Bruce R. McConkie or Joseph Fielding Smith who later admit they were wrong. Though it is too little too late to restore their faith as those questioning members have been disenfranchised from a religion that choose to label them instead of listening to their concerns.

The Brick of Mormon

 The Brick of Mormon

The Brick of Mormon

Inside every adult is a child desperately trying to escape, and inside every church meeting is a child desperately trying to do the same. That all will change thanks to a new product from Brick’em Young! This  fantastic new building kit is a great way to indoctrinate your kids into loving the church by building some of its most iconic structures.

The first lego-esque kit from Brick’em Young is a 1,725 piece set designed to be a replica of the Salt Lake City Temple. Never mind that the actual structure took 40 years of blood, sweat and tears to build, you can prayerfully create your own house of worship in a meager 6 hours. The set is compatible with other popular children’s brick brand sizes, allowing you to help convert heathen creations like pirates, spacemen and wookies.

Creator Suzanne Calton, a mother of 5 currently living in China came up with the idea after littering her house with temple photos while watching her son play with legos. Instead of building something a well-adjusted child would build, he instead was building his own version of the temple. That is when it hit her, it was practically staring her in the face.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was an Angel Moroni piece that we could put on top, or have white blocks with spires and windows?’” she said. “I then thought about how many other kids (parents) besides my son(‘s) would enjoy building the temple?”

The kit is marked for children ages 12 and up, probably given that is when young males are first able to receive the priesthood, a sacred rite among faithful Mormons.

After visiting the website and reading several reviews of the product, most consumers seem satisfied by their purchase and confirmed it a faith “building” experience. The only thing still missing is a tiny set of the Prophet and Apostles.

Why Mormons Love Green Jell-O


Why Mormons Love Green Jell-O

Mormons are incredibly social creatures. We love to celebrate nearly every occasion with food and fun in our very own “cultural halls.” The unique thing about Mormons however is not their choice of how to make a basketball hoop wedding appropriate, but their choice of what food should be served. Time and time again the classic dishes of Mormonism tend to be “funeral potatoes” and green Jell-O.

Inspired by the post-war culture of homemaking in the 1950’s, many stay-at-home moms were beginning to look for easy ways to prepare creative dishes at a relatively low cost. By combining the social trends of that period with the traditional Mormon value of food storage, Jell-O becomes an instant staple of every LDS home.

As time went on however Jell-O sales began to slip and the new management needed to focus on how to get more Jell-O into American homes. In 1986, the company did a market survey and found that mothers with children rarely purchased Jell-O. The company needed to find a way to market their product to families with kids and began scouring the hundreds of recipes to find something kids would love. They discovered a recipe for “jigglers,” a concoction that used four times as much gelatin mix and could be cut or molded into fun shapes before being devoured. This new marketing plan would be the driving force behind Utah becoming the number one consumer of Jell-O in the nation.

By the year 2000, Utah had slipped to the number two spot for Jell-O consumption behind Iowa. Many in the state saw this as a point of pride and rallied behind a campaign by several Brigham Young University students to promote Jell-O as the official state snack and reclaim the title. Resolution 5 was introduced and sponsored by state representative Leonard M. Blackham. It mentions how Utahns have connected with the Jell-O as a symbol to represent their culture with statements like, “Jell-O is representative of good family fun, which Utah is known for throughout the world,” and “Jell-O brand gelatin recipes, which often include bananas, apples, marshmallows, pretzels, carrots, and grapes, are a traditional favorite at family, church, and community dinners throughout the Beehive State.”

The petition to make Jell-O the official state snack of Utah was signed by over 14,000 people across the state. By 2001 the resolution had overwhelming support in the state legislature as well, receiving only 2 dissenting votes. National media coverage of the event labeled Utah as “The Jell-O State” and began to set the stage for products like the coveted “Jell-O Pin” for the fast approaching 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake.


By adopting Jell-O as a cultural symbol of innocence and family fun, Utah and ultimately the LDS Church as a whole, have labeled themselves as a little eccentric with their culinary habits. But what religion, ethnic, or social group doesn’t have something that labels them as unique? Jews have latkes, the Scottish have haggis, and the Vietnamese have dog.

The choice to make green Jell-O a staple of Latter-Day Saint homes is representative of how Mormon’s choose to view their own culture. They have shaped a food around  a group that values frugality, family, and women in the home. The mold has been set and regardless of the how much green Jell-O is actually consumed, Utah Mormons will forever be labeled by their love for a unique treat.