Coming of Age in the Latter Days: Adolescent Folklore and the Paradox of Mormon Identity

Open Access
Author:
Green, Spencer Lincoln
Graduate Program:
American Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
October 01, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Simon Josef Bronner, Dissertation Advisor
  • Charles David Kupfer, Committee Member
  • Michael Lee Barton, Committee Member
  • Christopher Hollenbeak, Special Member
Keywords:
  • america
  • religion
  • mormon
  • LDS
  • adolescent
  • folklore
  • identity
  • coming of age
Abstract:
This dissertation looks at Mormon folklore during the adolescent stage of the life cycle. Using primarily folkloric sources, it examines how Mormon youth, primarily in the Mormon Cultural Region (MCR), negotiate the competing demands of being both Mormon and American while competing with being both insiders and outsiders in both of those communities during a time of life where peer affiliation and being “in” with one’s peers is particularly important. While Mormon youth have greater demands on and expectations for growing up than many adolescents in America, many aspects of folklore have helped ease the many stresses as they come of age. This dissertation looks at official discourse from biannual church-wide meetings (General Conference), outdoor disaster legends, the practice of toilet papering and creative dating, and folk interpretations of scientific and archaeological evidence connected with the Book of Mormon and Japanese heritage to show the many ways that adolescents create traditions to help them build community and ways of coping with the stresses of growing up as both Americans and Mormons. Mormon adolescent folklore becomes a useful tool to help Mormon youth cohere as a group and successfully negotiate the tempestuous teen years despite high and competing expectations and value systems.