If you asked me which books on my shelf I loved the most, within the top three would be my Treasury of Jewish Folktalesby Nathan Ausubel. A fifth printing from November 1948, I picked it up at a bookstore in Pike Place Market during my honeymoon. Since then, I’ve eagerly read page after page of folktales which have supplemented my life greatly.
There is something about storytelling and folktales that simply stick within our minds. Humorous anecdotes and jests can help bring a barbed lesson home without it irritating our pride, while a shared cultural myth or story can unite a people together with common knowledge and purpose.
Of course, just like any culture, our Latter-day Saint culture possesses a great deal of folklore – apocryphal tales of Joseph Smith, stories about Porter Rockwell that border fantasy, seemingly random myths such as Bigfoot being the walking incarnation of Cain. With these stories, it’s hard to tell what’s fact and what’s fiction, and that’s where most of the fun is – we tell them over and over again, passing these stories along, hoping that these stories might have an element of truth.
Talk to any missionary and you will, after you gain their trust, receive a tome of whispered tales. They don’t know the subjects personally, but a friend of a companion, or perhaps a trainer’s trainer’s trainer, or a friend from another mission reports a hard to confirm (but still incredibly fun and juicy) tale. Maybe a general authority (or even an apostle) walked into their mission, scanned the congregation, told half the missionaries by name to stand up, pack their bags, and go home. Maybe some missionaries helped cast out a devil, or just met a really (literally) insane person.
I’ve decided to start collecting these myths and folktales and compile a Treasury of Missionary Folktales (of sorts). I’m not trained in historiography or myth collecting, but I this is a subject that has fascinated me for a very long time. So if you have mission stories to share, please, by all means, share them! If you know of missionaries who have such stories, please forward this email to them and ask them to send theirs as well! It doesn’t matter if it’s just the whispers of rumors or if they can’t be confirmed – the more apocryphal the better. But if they ran into something that happened to them, that’s perfect, too. I’ll categorize and compile them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see mission story archetypes cropping up.
Please send any of the stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for helping out!