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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mormon Radar - How to Spot a Mormon

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Gaydar is the ability of homosexuals to intuitively recognize one another. Mormons seem to have a similar instinct (of detecting other Mormons, not homosexuals. Although gay Mormons may have both powers. They are like superheroes.) Mormon Radar, Mormon-Dar, and Mo-Dar are differing terms that describe this skill. I can’t decide which one I like best.

My Mormon-Dar seems to be pretty dang spot on. Ask my wife. I’m not quite sure when I realized I had it, but grace to grace, it has developed into a well-oiled machine of discerning efficiency. Unlike Gaydar, Mo-Dar cannot be purchased with money. But don’t worry, here are some tips on developing your own clairvoyance.

Ways to develop your Mormon Radar:

Pray and read the scriptures.

Know what to look for. Be perceptive of the tell-tale signs that make us visibly unique.
  • Clothing - Mormons love to layer clothing. A t-shirt under a tank top or dress is common. Shorts that are just a little too long and slightly dorky are a dead giveaway. Also nothing screams priesthood quite like socks and sandals.
  • Garments - Look for a white t-shirt under a t-shirt. Who needs to wear two t-shirts? The “celestial smile” can be seen from a mile away. The half-inch line above the knee is harder to spot, but can be seen by a trained eye. (Although beware! I’ve heard of men putting electricians tape there to bait and switch the young women.)
  • Vocabulary - We use odd phrases in everyday language such as “fiber of my being,” “nourish and strengthen”, “tender mercies,” etc. We’ll drop “the Adversary” like he’s a guy that lives down the street. Don’t forget substitute swear words (SSWs) like fetch, fudge, flip, shoot, crap, gosh, geez, dang, darn, and heck, to name just a few. Acronyms galore: SSWs, CTR, BOM, BOA, TBM, NOM, BKP, NCMO, DH (this one has a dual meaning), MMM (also dual--crap!).
  • Kids - Lots of ‘em.
  • The gift of tongues - You’ll notice the whitest dude you’ve ever seen speaking perfect Spanish at your local Alberto’s restaurant. This one’s a freebie.
Beware the red herrings. Subtle variations can make all the difference. Don’t fall into these common traps.
  • The business goatee - It’s just not done. Mormons have goatees, sure. But not the suit wearing MBA types. If you see an otherwise clean-cut guy, on a weekday, wearing a suit AND sporting a goatee, I guarantee you it’s a non-Mormon cell phone salesman.
  • Praying in restaurants - People often mistake this as a Mormon trait. I grew up in Utah, I even worked in a church-owned restaurant, and I’ve never once seen anyone do this. I think it’s more of a Southern thing.
  • Women in dress pants - A cute, young family dressed up and walking down the street on a Sunday has to be Mormon, right? Wrong. Look again. The mom is wearing slacks. Even in a progressive city like Seattle, I’ll only see a pair of slacks in church once a month. I’d love to see some more though.
  • The white t-shirt - If the white shirt peeking up from beneath the collar is actually white, it’s probably a no-go. We wear these things until they’re grey and yellow and falling apart.
Test your hunches.
  • Good places to do this include the airport, tourist destinations, the hospital, the grocery store, and Idaho.
  • Try to work subtle hooks into a conversation to see if they bite. Drop words like Utah, ward, funeral potatoes, or Kolob (add Kokob and Kokaubeam if you’re feeling adventurous).
  • Once you become more confident in your abilities, you can always just straight up ask. You’ll be rewarded for your faith. However, if you’re wrong, you may get some funny looks.
Trust your gut.
  • I cannot stress enough how Mormon-Dar is more of an overall feeling than anything else. Please don’t take the cues I listed above as a literal checklist. Being Mormon affects everything about you. It becomes a part of you. And it becomes apparent to the attentive observer. Be patient. Be sensitive. Be believing.
I’ll close with a story. My wife and I were at the doctor’s office being helped by a man in his late fifties. There were no exterior clues that he was Mormon, but I somehow just knew. I was trying to think of a way to work Utah into the conversation when he mentioned his son’s friend being a professional photographer. I asked where this photographer lived. He said Utah. Bam. We confirmed his Mormonity and realized we even knew his daughter. Turns out the photographer he mentioned was also our wedding photographer. It’s a small, small world within Mormondom.

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