Mormons and Halloween: Bring it on!

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Love this! DIY Moroni.

(LDS Living Magazine)

Love this! DIY Moroni.

Candy applesSome American evangelicals have engaged in vociferous hand-wringing about the spiritual dangers of Halloween: Will our kids think we’re glamorizing the occult if we let them go trick-or-treating? Are we breaking the Bible’s taboo against sorcery if we not only suffered a witch to live, but dressed that pint-sized Hermione in an adorable pointy hat and plied her with candy?

In my twenty years as a Mormon, I’ve not heard boo about the alleged spiritual dangers of Halloween. I’m sure there are some Mormons out there who don’t celebrate it, and I’ve heard a couple of stories about wards renaming their annual Halloween party a “Fall Festival.” But in general, Mormons seem to love Halloween.

Love, love, love it.

In fact, here are the only “don’ts” I’ve heard with any consistency:

Love this! DIY Moroni.

Love this! DIY Moroni.

1. Don’t let your daughters dress like hookers. In recent years, girls’ Halloween costumes have gotten, shall we say, kittenish. (For a hilarious take on the increasing sluttiness of Halloween costumes for women and girls, see this clip from The Daily Show.) But Mormons aren’t having it. Basically, the same modesty rules that apply the other 364 days of the year go for October 31 too, so if you dress as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz make sure the costume is more like this than like this.

2. Don’t wear masks. I don’t know why this is a “thing” in Mormonism, but the Church Handbook of Instruction actually forbids masks in any church activity except in dramatic productions (CHI 13.6.25). Sorry, Spiderman.

3. Focus on the fun, wholesome parts of the holiday and not the gore/death/fear elements. Mormons tend to emphasize the family time, silliness, and pumpkin-carving. (Pumpkin-carving, in fact, appears to have become a mandatory Family Home Evening activity on the Monday before Halloween.) Mormons tend to skip over the darker, more frightening aspects of the day. On the other hand, there seem to be a lot of haunted houses in Utah . . . go figure.

Why is Halloween so popular? While anti-Mormons would probably point to this as just one more example of how Mormonism isn’t really Christian, yada, yada, I think we love Halloween because it’s a holiday devoted to the things Mormons enjoy most:

  • Children
  • Sugar
  • America (where else in the world do they celebrate this holiday?)
  • Sugar
  • Going door to door, often in pairs . . .
  • Sugar
  • Neighborliness
  • Sugar
  • Sugar
  • Sugar

I have a feeling that any Mormon holdouts who might oppose this holiday will soon be forced to give way to the rising orange tide. For myself, I’ll be the one in the Angry Bird costume handing out candy this weekend.

And eating a lot of it myself.

Editorial note: This post was originally published in October 2013. But since Mormons still have our love affair with sugar and costumes and such, I thought I’d repost it this week. Happy Halloween!

  • Living as a Mormon in Waco, Texas with a lot of great Baptists I can inform you that the tide of orange is indeed rising.

  • Good to hear. But what makes you say so?

  • Halloween started as an American holiday, but it is certainly celebrated in many other places as an increasingly international holiday, esp. in Europe. (Germany and Italy are the early adopters.)

    Just this morning, I read in the paper that the Halloween celebrations in England are expected to be bigger than Guy Fawkes’ Day. Make of that what you will.

  • Dan

    I’ve also heard “no cross-dressing” fairly regularly but I’m not sure if that has any basis in anything other than folklore. Shh don’t tell anyone that Carolyn went as Charlie Brown this year 🙂

  • Ha! OK, that will be our community’s open secret.

  • British Guy

    Sorry but I must correct you, Halloween did not start in America but in the UK and Ireland. the original name is all hallows eve.
    Oh and it certainly wont be bigger than Guy Fawkes, although in recent years the dressing up side etc has got bigger.

  • Bill

    Mormons certainly ARE Christians. The central teaching is Jesus Christ is the Savior, that’s as Christian as it gets.

    And I lived all over Utah and I can say your percents and statistics are completely made up. Most Mormon girls are modest, period.

  • Laurie Atkinson

    Halloween can be lots of fun. Mormons do not wear masks because people who do not want people to know who they are while they are doing evil things wear masks. Those who came to kill Joseph Smith wore masks. Never do anything that you can’t show your face.

  • Dave

    As a life long Mormon, the reason, in my opinion, that we love Halloween is not just the sugar, it’s the once a year opportunity to not look like everyone else. We can be ourselves and let the world see more of our inner loves (favortis shows/characters/etc). We dress alike every time we see each other, but on All Hallow’s Eve we can be ourselves or show off something more personal about who we are.

    As for the masks, that one is our big “we agree with the Protestants” moment. Masks are/were worn in pagan rituals, like May day for the Celts for example. Technically we shouldn’t paint our faces either, but we just draw the line at the masks. Also, some feel that with masks we are so hidden we feel freer to do things we would not normally do, though masks or not the Lord sees our actions and knows our thoughts.

  • John

    Jay, you seem very educated on the subject of bad naughty girls.

    And conversely, I am a Mormon living in Texas who used to live in Utah Valley, and I see plenty of Christians walking around in slutty costumes…so I guess that makes them not Christian, right?

  • RM

    Surgeons, first respoonders, welders, and baseball catchers are evil?

  • Dustinsc

    I really think the mask thing is practical rather than doctrinal. Masks hide your identity and thus make it easier for hooligans to pull off mischief without fear of getting caught.

  • Angry Bird costume! One year my mother dressed up to hand out candy. She swaddled herself in my red Sears ribcord bedspread, wore my brother’s old devil mask and answered the door wordlessly.

  • I am a member in the Frankfort KY ward, and we call our Halloween party a “FALL FESTIVAL” and did not have “TRUNK OR TREAT”.. Which is something I am used to having. I want the kids to be able to have fun and be safe, but the kids do not have as much fun if they do not to get “trick or treat”……
    Being a Mormon does not mean we have to be uptight at all, we have fun too.

  • agkcrbs

    I grew up with it, but there hasn’t been a Hallowe’en that I haven’t pondered the inconsistency, and I sometimes abstain — as do many who grow out of it. There are certainly reasons against the celebration, and there are possible justifications for it. Whether we keep the day or not, it should be done to the Lord. We don’t need to call people ‘hand-wringers’ for having enough integrity not to puppet the world around them, when, in reality, it’s often merely our own spiritual lethargy that keeps our tents facing Sodom. It’s just easier to bow to idols when your whole neighbourhood does. It’s easier for us to observe Halloween than not to, and that alone becomes our usual motivation, I think — not because of any good we’ve found in the day, though there may be good to find in such traditions.

    The question of whether a person is ‘Christian’ who discards their discipleship when given an opportunity answers itself. ‘Christianity’ goes so much deeper than denomination.

    Sugar addiction? Not healthy.

  • S. McHardy

    I don’t care much for Halloween, and was glad when the kids out grew it. I am usually a fun-loving guy, but I tend to allow the negatives of neighborhood hooliganism, teenagers not even dressed up but asking for free candy, and parents promoting Jason and similar grotesque and evil characters by little kids as huge reasons for Ebenezer Scrooge to come out, which turns me off to the whole thing, spoiling the impact of the cute princesses, pumpkins and floppy-eared puppy persons too rarely stopping by.

    The masks, as I have always understood it, as a “mission field” Mormon goes hand-in-hand with reasons we also stay away from alcohol consumption (not the health aspect) and Dungeons-and-Dragons roleplaying immersion. When people don a mask, inebriate themselves, or take on a role other than that of themselves, they can rationalize behaviors and characteristics taken on while “behind the mask.” It has little to do with safety and not seeing the curb, but more to do with safety from doing or saying things we would not do when people recognize us. My $0.02.

  • Curtis Jensen (@curtisjunk)

    I think a “Sexy Angel Moroni” outfit is a very good way for our brother missionaries to fellowship on Halloween. They could go to Gay bars and ask guys to blow their “gold horn” and then when the Godless sodomites have been brought back to their home they could be treated to a felt board presentation on how they should give up all hope of ever loving anyone to be true to God’s magnificent plan (see “The Family A Proclamation to the World”)

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  • jr

    I never cared for Halloween ever, even as a child. I know LDS people that take things too far (extremists) regarding certin issues.
    A former Bishop and his wife spoke out against Harry Potter, calling it evil and that it encouraged kids to try true witch craft and there were other LDS in the town who felt the same. I taught Primary where we previously lived. I invited my class to my house for a fun day. I rented movies and one was about good magic (children fantasy rated G with a good dragon). One kid insisted on going home because I was evil for showing that movie. This child’s parents were not as nice to me. There was a woman who threw a fit about Christmas because (according to her) St. Nicholas was evil and beat children (forget the fact they openly used marijuana in front of their children and tried to recruit other ward members to try it and petition the church to allow its use. and to help legalize all illegal drugs. Their children hated all authority too. Not making this up). So the LDS church has ALL kinds. Where I live we have more of them.

  • jr

    I have to add that LDS parents, in my experiences, who over protect their children from the world, and make their children paranoid about different things the parents consider evil, have more problems with the kids when they become teens and older. I have seen the repurcussions too many times from not letting children be exposed to different experiences and things and issues, and keeping them on a tight collar with a short leash and under lock and key at all times. When these kids go to high school and especially college, they lose control and go wild. Drinking, drugs, all around bad behavior, out of wedlock pregnancies, etc. And these kids come from “good” Mormon families. Sad. But true.
    I was liberal with my kids to a point. They are well adjusted, straight A students, and very active in church. Also very responsible and kind and caring people.

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  • Kent

    God standards never change. But it is obvious that so many religions like the Mormons have changed your standards over the years. Mormons have no problem and celebrating a pagan holiday like Halloween. If you take the time to research Halloween you will see that is something that no Christian would want to be part of. So why do so many so-called Christians like the Mormons celebrate Halloween? It is because they do not have good knowledge of the Bible and they need to fit in with society they don’t want their kids to be picked on at school for standing up for belief in God’s word.

  • Joseph

    I know that in my family we enjoy the time together with church friends and dressing up, but I think we do it more the fun of it and not the original purpose for the day.

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