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10 Ways to Spot a Mormon  June 1, 2005

Greg — June 1 @ 4:22pm

First a few words about myself. I’m an only child, although my mom’s two Maltese dogs probably qualify as half-brothers. I did pretty normal things growing up—played hours of King’s Quest IV, went to Cotillion, got paid for getting good grades, and spent summers with my grandparents in Pennsylvania—and my parents never worried about me. Until I asked a Mormon girl to prom.

Why is it so bad to ask a Mormon girl to prom, you ask? Well, I’ve determined that in this case, it was my mom’s ignorance. She thought Mormons were a bunch of fundamentalists living on communes in Utah, and she was a little worried that her impressionable son would marry five women or start growing a beard. When I didn’t do either thing and when she actually talked to my date’s parents later on, she became much more rational. The reason I tell you this story isn’t to offend or ridicule (Mormons or mom). It’s just to point out that sometimes us non-initiates make pretty funny mistakes about what we think of you. And sometimes we need help in figuring you out. That’s where I can help. I like to think of myself as the non-Mormon Mormon expert. How do I know so much about Mormons, you ask? Well, besides taking one of you to prom, I currently have four Mormon roommates. They say it’s so they can have someone to buy things for them on Sunday, I like to think of it as a social experiment. So after a long period of impartial observation, I’d like to offer the following easy-to-use guide to identifying and understanding Mormons.

Spotting a Mormon can be an fun and enjoyable activity. Equipped with a few handy tips, even the most hardened agnostic can become a Mormon expert in a matter of hours. This sport can be pursued in teams or by yourself, and the risks don’t exceed getting asked to go to church or play ultimate with some missionaries. If you master this game, it holds great rewards. You can usually score a couple of plates of cookies, and if you play it right, you’ll get invited to one of those parties where no one gets drunk. Please calculate the occurrence of the following characteristics among your friends and neighbors. If you have an incidence of seven or more, chances are likely you’ve found a Mormon.

How to spot a Mormon:

10) If they ask for root beer at your office happy hour.

9) If they have 11 sisters and 19 brothers and 69 cousins.

8) If they think Napoleon Dynamite is a Mormon.

7) If they disappear for six hours on Sunday.

6) If their names are Nephi.

5) If the only places they’ve been are Utah and Argentina.

4) If they say grace over Wendy’s Frostees.

3) If they have to go someplace for church every night of the week.

2) If they regularly use words like “blessing,” “grateful,” and “fetch.”

1) If they get meet, date, and get married in less time than it takes to have a baby out of wedlock.

Please append any additions, corrections, rebuttals, or fatwahs to the “Comments” section below.


  1. Regarding your #2, I have noticed a far larger set of words that are signals that the speaker is LDS. Many of these are not particularly LDS in their nature, but have become such because they are old-fashioned usages that are cemented in the Book of Mormon and pulpit speech in the LDS tradition. Thus, you can spot an LDS judge in Utah (you should definitely not think, by the way, that all judges in Utah are LDS–that is far from true, as in the legal profession generally in Salt Lake City) from such usages even in reading judicial opinions. I was just discussing this with my wife a few weeks ago after reading something in the news that I concluded had to have been written by a Latter-day Saint based on the vocabulary used in the article, but of course, right now as I write after a day spent hammering out a motion for summary judgment, I can’t think of a single example of the many she and I discussed on that occasion. Suffice it to say, they are there. If any occur to me this evening or tomorrow, I’ll note them here.

    john fowles — June 1, 2005 @ 8:01pm
  2. Great list, Greg. My name is not Nephi, but I answer to most of the other ones. The exception to number 3 is Monday nights in family wards.

    Miranda PJ — June 1, 2005 @ 10:31pm
  3. Enjoyable post.

    annegb — June 2, 2005 @ 8:41am
  4. Thanks for reading, guys. John, I’ve never lived in Utah, but two of my roommates are from there and they’re the ones that use “fetch” and “freak” the most. The only other religion that I notice doing anything like this is the Quakers. My grandma says “friend” all the time–even when she’s yelling at someone in traffic. Do you think the non-Mormon judges in utah are ever at a disadvantage because they don’t speak the same “language” as the other judges? I read an article once about a French peasant who was found guilty of a murder he may or may not have committed, and among the reasons given were that he spoke a rural dialect and the educated judge couldn’t understand what he said in his own defense. Thanks for coming to our site, guys. Come back next week too.
    PS Miranda I don’t think you’d make a good Nephi. Too pretty.

    Greg Fox — June 2, 2005 @ 10:55am
  5. Greg: I was talking with a Catholic friend of mine yesterday and he related the following:

    “I went to an 80s party thrown by my friend. While there, some people asked me if I went to Institute. I asked them which one; Von Mises, Heritage, etc. They all laughed. I realized I was probably the only non-Mormon in the room.”

    lyle — June 2, 2005 @ 2:58pm
  6. re: #9. Just today, I was at lunch with a friend who recently got engaged. She was moaning about the size of the invitation list. Why so many? Turns out her fiance has 88 first cousins . . .

    Janey — June 2, 2005 @ 3:08pm
  7. My wife works at a bank when a woman who was probably about 23 years old walks in with her three kids. She’s wearing a short sleeve shirt and capri’s. She’s got a small little diamond ring from her getting married very young and she is kept fairly well (not fat or smelly). She has a fake tan and streaks of fake blond in her hair. In California this is about the same as wearing a CTR t-shirt.

    My wife asks her, “are you relgious?” and continues until it comes out that the girl is Mormon who had just moved here from Utah. Duh. Why wife also mentions that she is Mormon as well. The girl asks “how could you tell that I was Mormon?” My wife said, not wanting to embarrass the girl at all, “you just have a certain appearance in your countenance,” the appearance being all those things listed above.

    I can already picture this girl standing up in the next testimony meeting to bear testimony to how we need to always be witnesses of Christ because people can always tell we are Mormons by the ’sweet’ countenance we have about us.
    The girl got all

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 2, 2005 @ 3:55pm
  8. When I briefly visited the BYU center in Jerusalem, I went with friends to the old market to buy the obligatory olive wood nativity scene. As we walked, vendors would call out, “Hey Mormon! Over here!” At first we flattered ourselves that they were recognizing a certain light in our countenances, but it didn’t take long to realize that they were looking for the royal blue BYU Study Abroad bags. Ah well.

    Jeffrey, totally with you on the blond streaks + fake tan=Utah Mormon.

    Rosalynde — June 2, 2005 @ 11:38pm
  9. You know what though, I’m a complete and total cynical bastard, but I believe in the whole “light in countenance” thing. I’ve met people and thought they were Mormon without knowing and without seeing any clearly visual signs. I’ve even talked to people over the phone and thought they were Mormon and it turns out they were. It’s funny what you believe in and what you don’t.

    SeptimusH — June 2, 2005 @ 11:53pm
  10. I agree with Septimus.

    annegb — June 3, 2005 @ 12:17am
  11. Ha! I knew I was onto something. Lyle, I’ve been to a few of those parties too. I learned what ward meant after the first one and then it got pretty fun to say something like “I go to the Holy Mary Mother of Jesus Second Ward.” The thing that just blows me about these parties though is that everyone really is having fun without alcohol. Do you know how alien this is? My frat brothers think I’m lying about the roommates I live with now. Janey, I have 2 first cousins. And one of them is a child from a previous marriage, so no blood relation. The upside is that my grandparents have a lot of money to spend on me. Okay, I don’t know what you’re talking about with this light in countenance thing. Please explain. Septimus?

    Greg Fox — June 3, 2005 @ 1:34pm
  12. Ways to figure out if you’ve stepped inside a Mormon home:

    1) Trampoline in the backyard
    2) A fancy red plate that says “You are Special Today”.
    3) Cans of dry packed food
    4) Lots of Stephen Covey books

    Shannon K — June 4, 2005 @ 12:01am
  13. Sure, kid. I’ll explain. Countenance is the Mormon word for face. A lot of Mormons feel that through clean living you can glow a little bit more, because I guess the Spirit (or Holy Ghost) can be with you. Believe it or not, I’ve heard some converts say things like they first talked to a Mormon person because they saw a certain shine. The whole topic reminds me of that R.E.M. song “Shiny Happy People.”

    I don’t know, you tell me, are any of your roommates shiny?

    SeptimusH — June 4, 2005 @ 1:20am
  14. “blond streaks + fake tan=Utah Mormon”

    You’ve just described 80% of the women in the Dallas area (mostly Baptist or Methodist). In my experience, most of the LDS women here (even those from Utah, like me) are way less likely to visit a tanning salon due to lack of time and general cheapness (for me, also, it’s health concerns, but I can’t speak for everybody).

    I think there’s a certain Southern aesthetic at work here, with super-conservative women doing everything imaginable to look as traditionally feminine as possible — the fake nails, lots of makeup, expensive jewelry, totally “done” hair (sounds gruesome, but strangely, it usually looks good). Maybe it’s the same dynamic at work in some communities in Utah. I always thought I kept myself up fairly well, but I get less professional help with my appearance than some of my friends’ husbands. Shut down the nails salons, tanning salons and beauty salons, and I suspect that the North Texas economy would collapse.

    Sorry about the off-topic rant. I agree about the trampolines and dry-packed food, though.

    Allison — June 4, 2005 @ 9:09am
  15. Shiny. I thought that’s what girls wore make-up to get rid of. I’m thinking about if any of my roommates are shiny, and frankly, Sep, if I said they were, I’d be a lot gayer than I feel comfortable being. But I do think Mormons are nice people, and it always makes sense when I find out who is Mormon and who isn’t. I might be able to pick you out at speed dating, for example, but maybe not out of a line-up. Not that any Mormons would ever be in a line-up. Too damn well-behaved all the time. Especially the ones named Nephi.

    Greg Fox — June 4, 2005 @ 2:24pm
  16. Hi, I’m one of Greg’s roommate. Yes my name is Nephi (and I was born of goodly parents…I hear that one all the time). We’re trying to teach Greg the ways of the Latter-day Saints, so I’m glad all of you are too. We’d like to think of Greg as a dry Mormon. And just in case any of you are wondering, I’m shiny in just the normal ways.

    Nephi — June 4, 2005 @ 2:31pm
  17. Allison, good point; not all streaked-n-tanned women are Utah Mormons, and most Utah Mormon women are not streaked-n-tanned. The demographics in wards I’ve lived in probably tend to skew my perspective a bit: in my current ward, a number of local medical schools attract a large number of young, Utah (or Western)-based families who anticipate living on a doctor’s salary, and I think this may well foster the (false) impression that most young Utah Mormon women are unnaturally skinny, tan and blond.

    About the “done” hair, and your inability to compete, I’m totally with you. I do pretty well in most departments, I think, but when it comes to hair I’m doomed by nature, temperament and (lack of) skill. Long and flat when I wake in the morning, long and flat (and wet) after I shower, and long and flat when I lay down on it at night to go to sleep. I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin with a blowdrier and round brush.

    Rosalynde — June 4, 2005 @ 2:35pm
  18. “Dry Mormon”–once we shake him of his crack habit. Sorry dude, it had to come out sometime. Nephi, you’re shiny in…never mind. Glad you guys are letting Greg post on your site! It’s been keeping his borderline personality disorder pretty well under control, so all the rest of his roommates are grateful.

    Abe Thompson — June 4, 2005 @ 2:35pm
  19. Thanks for keeping things civil, Rosalynde and Allison. I don’t know much about what makes a woman a Mormon. The girl I went to prom with had brown hair, but I noticed that the girls who come over for Abe seem to be pretty much only blond. I thought that was just Abe, but maybe it’s all Mormons. Don’t pay attention to anything Nephi or Abe may write. One other thing–Miranda and Jenn and Mari don’t look like what you described. Is there a difference between some Mormon women and bloggernacle Mormon women? Not that, you know, it makes a difference to me or anything.

    Greg Fox — June 4, 2005 @ 2:39pm
  20. You have a borderline personality too, Greg! No wonder I like you.

    SeptimusH — June 5, 2005 @ 7:34am
  21. Greg:
    greetins from Chile , from a mormon from the most southen part of the world

    Luis — October 6, 2005 @ 12:55pm

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