My grandmother remembers being asked about it from when she was a little girl traveling with her parents.
You folks are Mormons? Where are your horns?
Here father had obviously heard the question before,
Well, they haven’t come in for the little ones yet. Mine were removed, but you can feel where they were.
As hard as it is to believe, it’s a true story. Well, the fact that they got asked is true. Mormons never had horns. But, people thought they did.
But, why? Who would even think that? I heard a great explanation.
In the 1880s just about all the Mormons were off in the Utah territory. And they were by choice isolated and cut off from the rest of the United States. This was by a mutual unspoken agreement between the Mormons and the rest of the country.
But, the rest of the country, while they didn’t want Mormons living next door, were still interested in this new religion. Horace Greeley was editor of the New-York tribune. He sent reporters out to Utah to find out more about these Mormons.
And that’s where I always heard the story of the horns came from. On top of each Mormon Temple is the statue of an angel. The angel’s name is Moroni. But, a reporter missed that detail and misidentified the statue as Mormon, another ancient prophet and incidentally the father of the historical figure Moroni.
So, the reporter reports
On top of their temples are statues of Mormons with horns.
And the Moroni statue does have a horn. But, it’s the kind that you blow, not the kind you have on your head.
It’s a great story, right? It might have even been my grandmother who told me the newspaper story.
Unfortunately, other than Mormons being thought to have horns, everything else in this story is false. It was an urban legend that I grew up with mixed with just the smallest particle of truth from someone I had absolute confidence in.
I knew I wanted to write this story, and I thought I would do a little research and find the quotes I needed. We have a lot of Horace Greeley’s writings. He interviewed Brigham Young multiple times. But, nothing about the angel Moroni and the trumpet vs protrusions from their head.
Instead the story of Mormons and horns is sadly a predictable one. It’s the story of “the other.” In the 1800’s the Mormons were “the others.” There’s an interesting post here written by an author who did extensive research around the Mormon Horns myth.
He cited numerous other examples including
- French Canadians
- General Sherman
- Lord Byron
- Sinn Feiners
- Wisconsin politicians
- Yankees (Civil War Unionists)
- Yankees (WW2 Americans)
Included in that group are Mormons in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. He explains that Mormon Horns is really a story about prejudice and “other-ing” groups. Horns were how they did it 150 years ago. Sadly it continues today. We’ve just come up with modern day equivalents of horns.
Honestly, I liked my childhood story better than this truth.
Note: “Mormon” is no longer a term considered acceptable by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve used it here since the historically “Mormon Horns” was the name of the subject.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved