Leaders of the LDS Church have preached against the propagation of folklore and other rumors. In a 1972 general conference address, church presidentHarold B. Lee stated:
"The first [issue I wish to discuss] is the spread of rumor and gossip (we have mentioned this before) which, when once started, gains momentum as each telling becomes more fanciful, until unwittingly those who wish to dwell on the sensational repeat them in firesides, in classes, in Relief Society gatherings and priesthood quorum classes without first verifying the source before becoming a party to causing speculation and discussions that steal time away from the things that would be profitable and beneficial and enlightening to their souls. ... "There is one thing that shocks me: I have learned, in some instances, that those who have heard of these rumors are disappointed when I tell them they are not so. They seem to have enjoyed believing a rumor without substance of fact. I would earnestly urge that no such idle gossip be spread abroad without making certain as to whether or not it is true. ... "This is something that is recurring time and time again, and we call upon you holders of the priesthood to stamp out any such and to set to flight all such things as are creeping in, people rising up here and there who have had some 'marvelous' kind of a manifestation, as they claim, and who try to lead the people in a course that has not been dictated from the heads of the Church.
"As I say, it never ceases to amaze me how gullible some of our Church members are in broadcasting these sensational stories, or dreams, or visions, some alleged to have been given to Church leaders, past or present, supposedly from some person’s private diary, without first verifying the report with proper Church authorities."
Examples of Mormon folklore
Folklore, including Mormon folklore, is dynamic rather than static, changing emphasis and details over time. Latter-day Saints pass on the group's cultural heritage from person to person and from generation to generation. These elements of heritage may not only be passed through written documents or formal instruction but may be found in stories and customs in both family and church settings. Tales learned at home or in a church function may later be repeated to others. Stories learned at home, in the LDS Family Home Evening or other family gatherings, may later emerge in family activities in the next generation.
In general, Mormon folklore may be presented in three broad categories:
The spoken and written word: including songs, family stories, humorous tales, and contemporary accounts from missionaries and church leaders.
Handicrafts and memorial items: including traditional tools and implements, holiday traditions, family keepsakes and scrapbooks, and a family Book of Remembrance kept in association with genealogical records.
Unique Mormon activities: including Family Home Evening, youth dating practices, family celebrations of birth and baptismal dates, genealogical activities, and church and community celebrations of holidays such as Pioneer Day.
Tales and popular beliefs
The following are examples of tales and popular concepts from Mormon folklore:
that Cain, the killer of Abel, is alive and wanders the earth, wearing no clothing but being covered by hair and that apostleDavid W. Patten encountered him once; and that reported sightings of Bigfoot can be explained by this story;
modern encounters and assistance from one or more of "The Three Nephites", three Nephite disciples chosen by Jesus in the Book of Mormon, who were blessed by Jesus to "never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men..."
that on December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft pilots attempted to bomb or strafe the church's Laie Hawaii Temple just prior to or just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but were prevented from doing so by mechanical failures or an unseen protective force, and that the Japanese pilot who attempted to bomb or strafe the Laie Hawaii Temple was converted to the LDS Church after he saw a picture of the temple in the possession of Mormon missionaries in Japan;
that those who persecuted the early Latter Day Saints and killed Joseph Smith suffered physically and mentally later in their lives, with some meeting gruesome or particularly painful deaths;
that in 1739 a Roman Catholicmonk predicted that within 100 years an angel would be sent by God to restore the lost gospel to the earth and that the true church would be established in "a valley that lies towards a great lake";
that today's youth were "generals" in the War in Heaven and that when they return to heaven they will be revered;
that when speaking to the Latter Day Saints after the death of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young took on the appearance, voice, and mannerisms of Smith and that this was a sign from God that Young was to be Smith's successor;
that Del Parson's painting "Christ in Red Robe" was produced under the direction of church general authorities, who suggested how to make it more accurate, until it was deemed the closest resemblance of Jesus Christ;
Alta S. and Austin E. Fife are generally recognized as the founders of research into Mormon folklore, a discipline that has expanded greatly since the couple’s initial work in the 1930s. Although previous and contemporary scholars had briefly addressed the issue, the Fifes expanded the field, both through their collection, now known as the Fife Folklore Archive, held at the Merrill-Cazier Library on the Utah State University campus in Logan, Utah. Their book on Mormon folklore, Saints of Sage and Saddle, was published in 1956. This book, according to folklorist Jill Terry Rudy, “remains the most complete book-length treatment of Mormon folklore” (144).
Folklorist William A. Wilson also specialized in Mormon folklore. According to Wilson, “the performance of folklore—whether it provides us with delight and amusement or causes us to fear and tremble—is one of our most fundamental human activities” (2006, 203). Wilson also explains that Mormon folklore often affirms the group’s beliefs that God speeds the right, a belief implying that people who do the Lord's work may receive divine protection; however, Wilson qualifies his claim by saying, “I am not foolish enough to argue that the [LDS] missionaries endure only because of their folklore. They endure primarily because they are committed to their gospel and convinced of the importance of their work. But that conviction is constantly bolstered and maintained by the lore they have created," and reaffirming that "the significance of folklore performance is that it helps them keep up the [good] fight” and endure to the end (2006, 218).
^Stewart, John J. Mormonism and the Negro Salt Lake City, Utah:1960 Bookmark--This book discusses and then dismisses this common pre-1978 belief, which was regarded as contrary to Church doctrine that there were no neutrals in the War in Heaven
^Matthew Cowley, ""Maori Chief Predicts Coming of L.D.S. Missionaries", Improvement Era53:696–698, 754–756 (Sep. 1950), reprinted in Matthew Cowley (1954, Glen L. Rudd ed.). Matthew Cowley Speaks: Discourses of Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) p. 200–205.
^Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, "The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: One Hundred Twenty-one Testimonies of a Collective Spiritual Witness", in John W. Welch (ed.) (2005). Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844 (Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah: BYU Press and Deseret Book) ISBN 0-8425-2607-2 pp. 373–480.
^Michael T. Griffith (1996). One Lord, One Faith: Writings of the Early Christian Fathers as Evidences of the Restoration (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon) ISBN 0-88290-575-9
^Hyde did dedicate Palestine for the return of the Jews, but "careful investigation has uncovered no evidence" of Hyde's reported Jewish ancestry. See: Hilton, Lynn M.; Hilton, Hope A. (1994), "Hyde, Orson", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, ISBN0874804256, OCLC30473917