OF MORMONS AND GREEN JELLO

Although I conducted a lengthy search through multiple tomes of LDS church history in an attempt to discover the origins of Utah's unusual obsession with green Jell-O, I was unable to locate any reliable information on the subject, and thus was forced to conjure up a few ideas of my own.

Because it is a well-known fact that green Jell-O has been an important part of the LDS diet for as long as anyone can remember, my theory states that the wiggly, jiggly substance must have originated with our ancestors as they trekked across the Great Plains during the great Mormon migration to Utah. It wasn't an easy trip, and many of the Saints couldn't help but compare themselves to the Children of Israel from the book of Exodus-they saw themselves as God's people traveling through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land, AKA Salt Lake City.

Like the children of Israel, I'm sure that our pioneer ancestors got hungry after a while and probably started to complain about it. The next morning when they woke up, lo and behold, there was a strange, unidentifiable substance lying before them on the ground, like unto green powder that when boiled created a delicious treat.

"What is it, Brother Brigham?"

"I don't know, Porter, (squish, squish, squish, swallow) but it sure tastes good."

Anyway, that's my theory, though the LDS church headquarters has yet to adopt it as official church doctrine. But hey, it happened in the Bible, so why couldn't it happen again?

Nowadays, Jell-O comes in neat little packages that you buy at the grocery store. But it's still an important staple in the Latter Day Saint diet, and the multiple recipes that our ancestors concocted can still found in Utah today. In fact, Utahns eat more green Jell-O per capita than any other state in the entire nation, and it has even been certified as our official state dessert. The most common dishes include green Jell-O with whipped cream, green Jell-O with bananas, green Jell-O with salad, green Jell-O with marshmallows, and the ever-popular green Jell-O with little carrot peelings mixed in it. Or you could just eat it plain (the Jell-O I mean, not the carrot peelings.)

Whenever Jell-O goes on sale, my Mom brings home entire crates full of the stuff. (Everybody knows that Mormons tend to hoard vast amounts of food whenever it goes on sale.) Go to any basement in an LDS household and you will most likely find a year's supply of green Jell-O right up there on the shelf next to the sacks of grain and canned goods. After all, it would be absolutely terrible to be caught in an apocalypse without any green Jell-O to speak of.

Heck, we even play games with the stuff. One of my favorite green Jell-O activities includes the infamous "Jell-O slide" which is held annually on the lawn near the Institute of Religion building on the Utah State University campus in my hometown of Logan, Utah. During the Jell-O slide, members of the LDS church have Jell-O eating contests, jump into large piles of Jell-O, engage in Jell-O fights, and slide down the grassy hill on a long sheet of plastic covered with Jell-O. As I stand there watching my fellow church members run screaming bloody murder on the lawn while hurling big fists full of green Jell-O at one another, I can't help but wonder how many other religions participate in these kinds of activities. That's when I finally begin to understand why so many people think we're some kind of bizarre cult.

Green Jell-O is also a favorite dessert at family reunions, picnics, birthday parties, church functions, and even funerals (I have never been to a funeral in Utah where they didn't serve green Jell-O in some form or another.) Once I had a friend who even decided to take some Green Jell-O with him on a hiking trip. It was a beautiful day to be up in the mountains with all the birds and trees, but unfortunately the sun was blazing hot and by the time we arrived at our destination, his green Jell-O had mutated into green slime, not unlike the obnoxious scum that one finds floating on the surface of a stagnant pool near the edge of the Great Salt Lake. It was as runny as warm maple syrup and its stench wilted the flowers and frightened away birds and animals for miles around. It was awful.

You know, a lot of people are nervous about allowing the government to store toxic waste in Utah; but sometimes I wonder whether or not our own Jell-O has the potential to create a health hazard more disastrous than all the noxious fumes in the world combined. I find it rather ironic that our church leaders forbid us to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, but they still haven't said a word about the dangers of green Jell-O.

Health hazard or no, the way things are going, I'm sure that green Jell-O will continue to grace LDS tabletops for years to come. It is part of our religious heritage, I guess. Just don't tell my bishop that I don't really care for the stuff, okay? He might decide to excommunicate me.