My Favorite Rules!

Ever since Donna Banta posted this old LDS Living article to facebook a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about all the rules that define the LDS lifestyle, and how they change. Specifically, the article is about how Mormon families should forbid their kids from sleeping over at friends’ houses. If I understand correctly, this is now a thing. The über-Mormon family of the ward — the one that makes a point to follow the Mormon rules more strictly than the others — is now saying no to slumber parties instead of Coke.

It’s so weird to me. When I was a teenager (back in the 80’s) the idea that Mormons “don’t do sleepovers” didn’t exist. The Young Women’s organization in my ward threw sleepovers, regularly, and my sister and I often had school or church friends spend the night. (Just read the slumber party chapter of the novella Young Women’s). It’s sad to read the LDS Living author scaring parents with the shocking fact that “toilet-papering has been known to occur at sleepovers.” My mom (a very faithful, very cool Mormon) used to drive us to the homes of boys in the ward that we liked and helped us TP them back when she was YW president organizing YW-sponsored sleepovers.

There was one family in our ward that was known for going way overboard on following all the rules. So much so that they would even make up new rules to follow. For example, their kids weren’t allowed to watch any television shows made in the 70’s or later. Their kids were huge fans of The Monkees because it was the coolest show they were allowed to watch. But those girls were allowed to attend our slumber parties. Why wouldn’t they be allowed to attend sleepovers with Mormon friends? Even people who were highly creative at inventing new and arbitrary rules didn’t manage to think of that one.

The article also makes me wonder how/if parents with this rule justify letting their kids go to Scout Camp/girls’ camp/Youth Conference/EFY? What are those but extended slumber parties with a lower supervisor-to-kid ratio than you’d expect from a typical private sleepover? We played exactly the same middle-of-the-night games at girls’ camp as we did at other slumber parties. If anything, the seclusion in the woods aspect made the dares even more daring.

But I think the arbitrariness is perhaps the draw. If you refuse an activity that it’s perfectly ordinary to refuse (“Sorry, I don’t snow-board”) no one will think anything of it. Worse, no one will ask you about it, so you have no opening to answer: “Because I’m Mormon! Would you like to know more about my church?”

As a side note, I’m curious to know what kinds of rules were standard when you were an active Mormon. Here are some ideas to get started on:

1. Sunday activities:
a. Church: Always? Even on vacation?
b. Shopping: restaurants also verboten? Emergencies? Vending machines?
c. Other possible forbidden items: non-church music, television, swimming, working for pay, casual clothing…?
2. Word of Wisdom:
a. Using coffee or alcohol-related flavors in cooking?
b. Caffeine: coffee OK if it’s decaf? Soda-pop not OK if it has caffeine? Chocolate? Herbal teas? Other creative hot-drink rules?
3. Fasting:
a. How long?
b. Water too?
4. Other stuff:
a. Modesty: Temple-garment standards enforced even for little kids?
b. playing cards?
c. masks?
d. R-rated films?
e. Tattoos and piercings?

Anything else I missed…?

If people play along, I’ll add my list of rules I had to follow growing up (in the comments). 😀


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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10 Responses

  1. Donna Banta says:

    I remember extended discussions about what was ok on Sunday. Once a girl in my hall at BYU confronted me for ironing on the Sabbath. In my home ward, ironing, TV and non-church music would have been ok, but not at BYU. Oh, and homework was also a Sunday no-no at BYU in the late ’70’s. Fasting was 12 hours no water. I drank herbal tea and was considered “cutting edge.” Playing cards and masks were “gray areas,” same with drinking Coke. I was the liberal sort who would cross those lines. R-rated films were a no-no, but I saw them anyway.

    But the temple garment friendly clothes for little kids, no tattoos or piercings, and certainly this sleepover business came along after I left (mid 90’s). We had sleepovers at the church and it was fine–so long as a priesthood holder was there, which seems kind of creepy now, come to think of it.

  2. aerin says:

    I also don’t understand the no sleepover rule. We definitely had lots of sleepovers growing up.

    Some of the rules (or at least unwritten rules) make strange sense, things like – no playing cards (I think that’s somewhere in the OT, or it can be interpreted that way). Often I think it’s a way of focusing on following the rules to show your faith, rather than developing faith oneself.

    For the other stuff – ouija boards were also forbidden. Anything that was remotely related to the occult. There was a recent fmh podcast that talked about mormons and magic that talked about this.

    Finally, you mentioned rules when we were active mormon, but I think there are new rules about pron and computers. Things like – pc’s have to be in an open location, things about browser history, etc. So I suspect that there are (now) serious rules or unwritten rules about how much time someone spends on the pc, what websites they visit, etc.

  3. Just Jill says:

    I grew up in a fairly ‘loose’ family; however, my advisers and friends took it upon themselves to keep me in the loop.
    1. no face cards but UNO and Rook were okay. (in 1974 I burned my parents pinochle cards.)
    2. no coke, tea, coffee or other caffeine. Chocolate didn’t count. Herbal tea was one of those things best to stay away from. (appearance of evil and all)
    3. shorts just above the knee; dresses touching the floor when kneeling.
    4. The big question about whether we should stay in our Sunday clothes all day on Sunday. (I was glad I didn’t have to do this one).
    5. No shopping on Sunday. I remember refusing to go into the store with my mom and insisting on staying in the car.

    I was a ‘straight as an arrow’ rule abiding youngster. I have since mended my ways. bwaahaahaa

  4. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    I thought I grew up(the youngest and a teenager in the 70’s) in a strict orthodox family.
    Vacation was for sightseeing and going to museums where I got cultured by looking at sculptures and paintings of naked people. (my favorite painting on the Sistine Chapel is the Creation of the Moon)
    If we were at relatives(all Mormons), then we walked with them to their local wardhouse.
    Shopping on Sunday was forbidden, restaurants were exempt. And, glory hallelujah, this included the malt shop.
    After Sunday School, we were sent out to play. My Mother hoped we would wear ourselves out and sit still when we went back for Sacrament meeting.
    Watching television was okay, especially football and the Wonderful World of Color. It looked great on our new TV set.
    And one year while my Dad was overseas, and we lived yet again in Utah, we went to my grandparents early Sacrament meeting and then came home and watched Mission Impossible.
    Face cards were just like any other cards and playing poker and bridge was fine as long as there was no money being gambled.
    And while gambling was not allowed, slot machines at gas stations were conveniently located to relieve the burden of carrying loose change.
    My parents didn’t drink or smoke, at all. But we lived in government housing so we had ashtrays for those who visited. (and alcohol occasionally got served)
    When my dad retired, my mom cheerfully threw out the ashtrays.
    My mom cooked with alcohol, especially sherry from Jerez. My grandmother, who worked for the church, loved her rumcake.
    My parents didn’t drink coffee, not even Sanka. But jamoca almond fudge was the one true ice cream.
    Any soda was okay, but I got crap about the sugar.
    Herbal tea, in our house, was required by the word of wisdom. Also required was tvp, (blek) and other inedibles. This was preparation for the last days.
    Growing up, for play clothes I had short shorts and sleeveless shirts. My church dresses were short, but not mini’s. Everyone was dressed liked this, even in small towns in Utah.
    But halters were forbidden and levis. The latter a sore spot of contention. The compromise was a jean skirt with flannel shirt and sandals. I wore flipflops.
    Nowadays you can’t pry me out of my 501’s. That’s mainly because I’ve gained weight.

  5. chanson says:

    OK, here’s my list:

    1. Sunday activities:

    a. We went to church pretty much every Sunday, but would generally skip on vacations, unless visiting Mormon relatives.

    b. All shopping on Sunday was off-limits except emergencies (eg. medicines). That included restaurants — and I was pretty shocked when I first learned that some Mormons eat out on Sunday! (I don’t know whether vending machines were OK on Sunday — it never really came up…)

    c. We occasionally had to give up television and swimming on Sundays, when we were in a pious phase. We never had rules about “church or classical music only”, but I knew other Mormons who did. We also were allowed to change back into normal clothing right after church. The whole “work for pay” thing was very theoretical: In theory, one was supposed to try to get a job that didn’t require working on Sundays, but if that didn’t work out, and your job required you to work on Sundays, then you work on Sundays. You had to be pretty hard-core to refuse to do your job on Sunday. The whole time I was a teen I had a weekend paper route, so Sunday was my biggest work-for-pay day of the week.

    2. Word of Wisdom:

    a. We did not use any coffee or alcohol in cooking (but I knew Mormons who did). Note, of course, we you use flavoring extracts (like peppermint or vanilla) that are mostly alcohol, but only a really, really small amount goes into your cookie. But we wouldn’t use a flavoring that was supposed to taste like a forbidden beverage!

    b. Coffee was, of course, forbidden at our house, including decaf. Also all caffeinated soda pops (Coke, Dr. Pepper, etc.) were off-limits. Herbal teas and other hot drinks (other than coffee and tea) were OK, but we didn’t really drink herbal tea much. And we had absolutely no problem with chocolate. (I don’t think I’ve personally known any Mormons who refuse chocolate on WoW grounds).

    3. Fasting:

    a. We used to fast “until after church” — which was easier when we had morning church. We never started the fast Saturday night, though.

    b. We would refrain from drinking water as well, which seems a little crazy, in retrospect…

    4. Other stuff:

    a. Modesty: I wasn’t allowed to wear anything with a bare midriff (especially swimsuits), and no spaghetti straps, either. But we really didn’t have this modern LDS idea that four-year-olds should be taught to modestly cover their shoulders. My mom bought me tank tops and short-shorts when I was a kid.

    b & c. I knew Mormons who refused playing cards and masks on religious grounds, but we were totally allowed to have face cards and masks. We also had Rook and UNO cards, but it always struck me as completely stupid that some people were allowed to play a game with Rook cards and not allowed to play the identical game with normal cards.

    d. We were not allowed any R-rated films.

    e. The whole tattoos and piercings thing came long after I left the church. But my mom had strong objections to tattoos (I think on “body-as-temple” grounds) even way back then.

    f. Like Aerin @2, we were totally not allowed to play with ouija boards or anything that was remotely related to the occult. This rule always struck me as ridiculous — I never took all of this demonic stuff seriously, though I knew plenty of Mormons who did.

  6. Donna Banta says:

    I knew Mormons who wouldn’t eat chocolate. I’d forgotten about ouija boards, though. Too funny. I now remember being told that we were never to allow ourselves to be hypnotized. (From the folks who claim you gain a testimony by bearing it.)

    Another random rule. When I taught early morning seminary I was told I had to wear a dress (of course) and pantyhose. We were also told over the pulpit that women had to wear pantyhose to the temple. I understand that recently the sister missionaries have been allowed to go without stockings. Honestly, such minutiae.

  7. Holly says:

    1. Sunday activities:
    a. Church: Always? Even on vacation?

    We never attended any ward but out own–except for my grandmother’s ward, which was my mom’s home ward. I hated it. Aside from that, we skipped all the meetings when we were out of town. Back in the days when you had to go home between Sunday school and sacrament meeting, we sometimes skipped SM just to go on a drive.

    b. Shopping: restaurants also verboten? Emergencies? Vending machines?

    When I was growing up, as soon as sacrament meeting ended, the entire ward got in its cars and drove three miles to the Diary Queen Drive-Thru. The line of cars extended down the street and around the block. We thought it was awesome and it happened throughout the whole stake. Then some asshole GA heard about it and put at stop to it. Only renegades did it after that.

    Even after we stopped doing that, my parents never had any aversion to going out to dinner on Sunday.

    c. Other possible forbidden items: non-church music, television, swimming, working for pay, casual clothing…?

    After you got home from the DQ, you changed out of your church clothes because they were too special for just sitting around in, then you watched “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Duh. It’s what EVERYONE did.

    You couldn’t go swimming or to the movies, though. That was just too much.

    2. Word of Wisdom:
    a. Using coffee or alcohol-related flavors in cooking?
    b. Caffeine: coffee OK if it’s decaf? Soda-pop not OK if it has caffeine? Chocolate? Herbal teas? Other creative hot-drink rules?

    No booze. No coffee. Tea if you were sick. Of course we were never so stupid as to imagine that coke or pepsi were forbidden by the WoW.

    3. Fasting:

    Nothing at all, from bedtime Saturday night to dinner time Sunday afternoon, which was as soon as Mom could get an elaborate Sunday meal on the table.

    I was shocked when I learned that some people didn’t have a proper Sunday dinner on Sundays, that they ate things like pizza or macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, instead of roast beef or ham or turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy. How could it be a real Sunday if you didn’t have a special meal?

    a. Modesty: Temple-garment standards enforced even for little kids?

    Of course not. And I was pleased to learn from relatives recently that the whole uber-modesty thing isn’t really catching on in southern AZ where I grew up. You can still be a good Mormon girl and wear sleeveless dresses, even to church.

    b. playing cards?

    Not just playing cards, but card parties, at least for my parents and their friends. I had friends who would only use rook or UNO cards. I thought it was the dumbest thing in the world.

    I also heard that in some places in northern AZ/ southern UT, they played cards in the cultural hall after sacrament meeting.

    c. masks?


    d. R-rated films?

    Sure, if they were really good, like The Jerk (the first one I ever saw) or The Terminator (the first one I took my baby brother to).

    e. Tattoos and piercings?

    No tattoos. Plenty of piercings. Every girl I knew had at least one extra earring.

  8. chanson says:

    c. masks?



    I heard of Mormons who had occult-related objections to wearing masks, but that was always a bit of a fringe rule.

  9. aerin says:

    chanson, it probably goes without saying that the rules in your house were almost identical to those in my family growing up. One might think we were related…

    On a more serious note, I wonder if my parents compared notes with your parents (particularly your mom). I strongly suspect they did (about things like face cards)…

  10. chanson says:

    @9 lol, probably true!

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