More Mormon Urban Legends?

March 9, 2008 | 32 comments
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How about the one about the frog in boiling water?

This one, unlike the youth-as-generals, has a track record at lds.org (see here, here, and here for examples). It has even made it into the Gospel Doctrine teacher’s manual. (Although, admittedly, the wording in these references is usually more cautious than the youth-as-generals, using such phrases as “it is said that . . .”)

According to Snopes, it isn’t true.

Of course, I have no idea who Dr. Victor Hutchison is and whether he can be trusted.

Anyone have any frogs?

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32 Responses to More Mormon Urban Legends?

  1. WillF on March 9, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I’ve heard that countless times in Sunday School lessons (and probably have used it), This calls into question the Circus Elephant object lesson: http://www.scribd.com/doc/1025563/Circus-Elephant

    Basically, it goes like this: a circus elephant’s leg is chained when young and as the elephant grows it give up trying to break the chain because of the pain it causes, even though the chain used would easily be broken by an adult elephant.

    Can we still use that one?

    I couldn’t find an answer on Snopes if that one is legit, but I did learn that elephants are not, in fact, afraid of mice.

  2. Ray on March 10, 2008 at 12:22 am

    That’s one I’ve heard more than once. Never sounded right, but I never bothered to find out if it was true. I think I might have used it years ago, and I certainly remember it clearly.

  3. Joel on March 10, 2008 at 12:26 am

    I heard this one today in Sunday School. Teacher is from Taiwan and he claims that this is common way to cook frogs there. He might be exaggerating–I don’t know.

  4. rusty on March 10, 2008 at 12:42 am

    I just heard this one today and turned to my wife and said it’s not true. Sheesh, what’s up with us folks with such easy access to Google?

  5. Geoff J on March 10, 2008 at 1:09 am

    This post seems familiar

  6. Ray on March 10, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Wow, these stories recycle even here.

  7. Peter on March 10, 2008 at 1:31 am

    There’s been some taking-to-task online about Floyd Weston’s “The Seventeen Points of the True Church” . . . that is was all made up. Anyone care to comment?

  8. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Well, funny you should ask Julie, you see, my friend’s cousin got his patriarchal blessing last year and the patriarch stopped in the middle of it and called the First Presidency to make sure he should say what he was being prompted to. Apparently my friend’s cousin is going to be one of the first missionaries called to mainland China in a year or two. (I’ve heard several variations on this one).

  9. makakona on March 10, 2008 at 1:33 am

    the elder who receives his mission call only to find out that there’s no mission listed, only a phone number. he calls the number, is put on hold, and president hinckley picks up the line. the elder is then asked to serve a super special three year mission in china.

    if i had a dollar for every time i heard that… uh… i’d have less than $20.00, but that’s more than i have now! unfortunately, our bishop’s wife was the worst about perpetuating this, even dragging it out for almost a full year.

  10. makakona on March 10, 2008 at 1:34 am

    and folks, we have a winner!!!

  11. dangermom on March 10, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Ha! The GD teacher used that story today (to my surprise, she’s usually better than that, how many times have I heard that one?). Was it in the lesson manual or something? And then someone in the class told her it wasn’t true for frogs, even though it works for spirits…I think I need a pot of water and some frogs.

    #1: “I couldn’t find an answer on Snopes if that one is legit, but I did learn that elephants are not, in fact, afraid of mice.” What, don’t you watch Mythbusters? They tried that out earlier this year and were shocked to find that the elephant did react to a mouse. Bet you could find the video somewhere–that one’s up for argument again. O_o

  12. dangermom on March 10, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Oh. Yes, it is in the manual, as Julie pointed out. Oops.

  13. Jonathan Green on March 10, 2008 at 2:20 am

    You realize that fictional animal stories–think Aesop’s Fables–have been used as exempla in sermons for, like, the last 2000 years or so, right?

  14. California Condor on March 10, 2008 at 2:42 am

    Mark Bohn:

    When I was at BYU I heard a variation of your story where someone opens their mission call and it has a telephone number that they’re supposed to call. They call it, and it’s President Hinckley on the line, perhaps saying he was expecting the call, and saying that “We’d like to call you to mainland China.”

  15. Jacob J on March 10, 2008 at 4:21 am

    This frog story is not a “Mormon” urban legend since it gets wide play outside of Mormonism. I heard it as recently as last week from a decidedly non-Mormon radio talk show host.

    (Nice memory Geoff! I am still loving your suggestion on the last thread for a MormonSnopes.com.)

  16. Kim Siever on March 10, 2008 at 7:49 am

    I heard it yesterday in Sunday School.

  17. Graham Wing on March 10, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Good point Jonathan (#13)
    :-)

  18. Julie M. Smith on March 10, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Wow, Geoff J, good memory. I’d forgotten that one. And I miss Gordon.

    Re #13, after five years of inflicting classical education on my kids, I can assure you that I have had more Aesop than I can stomach. But I’m sure you are aware that modern speakers introduce fables in a different manner than they introduce scientific facts. And while the edge is somewhat blurred here, most of the quotes create the impression that the author believes that s/he is sharing something that is factually accurate.

    But that wasn’t the point of the post. It was more a short rumination on the burden of verification. :)

  19. Hayes on March 10, 2008 at 10:29 am

    First Paul H. Dunn and now THIS…

    that’s it, I’m outta here.

  20. WillF on March 10, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I found it interesting that in your first three citations the authors seem to claim that there is some kind of frog boiling priniciple, while Elder Faust only states that he heard a story about “some frogs who were killed without resistance by being boiled alive in a cauldron of water.” Elder Faust seems to be going to great pains not to turn a story about some frogs into a principle about all frogs, evidenced by the way he traces the storytellers:

    Thomas R. Rowan … said: ‘Author and commentator Malcolm Muggeridge once told a story about some frogs…

    These particular frogs may have been particularly stupid.

    So maybe a lesson to take from this is that we should be careful to avoid forcing the analogy itself to be a principle when we are trying to teach a gospel principle.

  21. WillF on March 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Another lesson… when read or hear “it is said that” or “I am told that” before something, you should be careful about believing what you hear next (also done by the three speakers other than Elder Faust). There. I just made a principle out of skimming three talks.

  22. WillF on March 10, 2008 at 10:46 am

    What I really want to know is if turkeys really drown if left out in the rain because they look up in the sky. And the answer is, No!

    http://www.howstuffworks.com/turkey-drown.htm

    I’m so disillusioned. Although I would have a hard time working that one into a lesson anyway.

  23. Julie M. Smith on March 10, 2008 at 11:43 am

    “These particular frogs may have been particularly stupid.”

    This is why I blog.

  24. Jami on March 10, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I seriously pondered the ethics of frog boiling for all of thirty seconds yesterday in RS and decided that I just couldn’t do it. Glad to hear someone else has gone to the work to de-bunk this.

  25. Ryan on March 11, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Ah, I love Snopes, but maybe Wikipedia has trumped it here?

    “The story’s origins are rooted in nineteenth-century physiological literature. An article co-written by G. Stanley Hall from 1887 indicates that many experiments were performed on frogs in the 1870s and 1880s for the purposes of determining how reactive their nervous systems were to various types of stimuli, with temperature change being one of these.[8] One source from 1897 lists an experiment done in 1882 at Johns Hopkins as evidence that “a live frog can actually be boiled without a movement if the water is heated slowly enough; in one experiment the temperature was raised at a rate of 0.002°C. per second, and the frog was found dead at the end of 2½ hours without having moved.”[9]”

    The snopes article cites a study in which the water temperature was increased at a rate ten times that of the study mentioned here.

    Clearly Satan hates the frog story for revealing one of his bestestest tricks and is using Snopes (and now T&S) to “debunk” it ;)

  26. Jami on March 11, 2008 at 1:43 am

    Dagnabit, now I’m going to have to go boil frogs. I hate conflicting studies!

  27. Bill MacKinnon on March 11, 2008 at 10:15 am

    In the companion thread to this one, Jonathan Green nailed it; indulging in this sort of legend is more a matter of the human condition than a matter of Mormon culture — all aggravated in recent years by the rapidity of the internet’s communications flow. . Accordingly, one finds that for centuries the Roman Catholic Church even assigns a priest (perhaps a cardinal) the role of “Devil’s Advocate” in order to establish the truth while ferreting out hyperbole/exaggeration/ error during the canonization process for sainthood. Although not matters of LDS theology or doctrine, there are several examples of legend that welled up on both the Mormon and federal sides during the Utah War of 1857-58 and are still with us: Surprisingly, some of these legends even have elements of truth in them:
    **Did the Nauvoo Legion use silver bullets, thereby setting in motion the later myth of the Lone Ranger’s sterling ammunition?
    **Was William Frederick (Buffalo Bill) Cody telling the truth during the 1880s in claiming that he participated in the Utah War as an 11-year-old assistant teamster who spent the winter of 1857-58 at Fort Bridger under the personal protection of James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok?
    **Did Nauvoo Legion Maj. Lot Smith famously say — in response to an army wagonmaster’s plea that he not put “a little fire” into his train — “it is for His sake that I do so”?
    **Is author-balladeer Bobby Bridger of Austin, TX retailing the truth in asserting in print that Jim Bridger, Cody, and Kit Carson spent the winter of 1857-58 together at Fort Bridger?
    **Did Col. Philip St. George Cooke, former commander of the Mexican War’s Mormon Battalion, respectfully doff his hat on 26 June 1858 as he and his Second U.S. Dragoons marched past Brigham Young’s Beehive House?
    **Did Capt. Jesse A. Gove of the Tenth U.S. Infantry summarize the casualties of the Utah War as a matter of “wounded, none; killed none; fooled, everybody”?

  28. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 11, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    The frog story was a set piece of the movie “Catch me if you can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a real life young man who succeeded in pulling off all sorts of wild impersonations, and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent who finally catches him. The guy became a consultant to companies on how to avoid being bamboozled. The protagonist learns the story form his Dad, and later on, when he is asked to say Grace over a meal, he realizes he has no religious training but just knows the inspirational story of the frog.

  29. Janet on March 11, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    I just want to know if, should we perform a study using many test subjects, young men really will not eat cake if someone has already put their finger in the frosting.

  30. Eric on March 19, 2008 at 2:28 am

    I remember hearing one for years about the painting of \”The Last Supper.\” A model was used for Jesus and years later a model was needed for Judas. Due to bad choices and a bad lifestyle, the same model was used! That one is in the PH manual a few years back (David O. Mc Kay.) He pulls a Faust by telling the story and then stating he didn\’t know if it was true or not. Here\’s what Snopes has to say: http://www.snopes.com/glurge/lastsupper.asp

  31. Eric on March 19, 2008 at 2:28 am

    I remember hearing one for years about the painting of \”The Last Supper.\” A model was used for Jesus and years later a model was needed for Judas. Due to bad choices and a bad lifestyle, the same model was used! That one is in the PH manual a few years back (David O. Mc Kay.) He pulls a Faust by telling the story and then stating he didn\’t know if it was true or not. Here\’s what Snopes has to say: http://www.snopes.com/glurge/lastsupper.asp

  32. Ray on March 19, 2008 at 2:43 am

    #29 cracked me up.