Paint a vulgar picture
My favorite Mormon myth has already been mentioned in passing in the comments on John's post. Yes, I'll admit it: I believed the Del Parson's Jesus myth. Fortunately, no one knows my real name, so the teasing will sting much less.
Imagine for a moment being in the ninth grade in Utah, walking ten feet off school property to attend seminary between algebra and earth science class. Our overly-enthusiastic, fresh-off-the-mission seminary teacher is filling our heads with the gospel. Or at least what he believes is the gospel. His stories include such classics as Elders being killed at the beach on their P-day (divine retribution for breaking the rules or Satan controlling the water? You decide!), angels with flaming swords protecting the Sister missionaries from would-be rapists, and of course, missionaries in Harlem miraculously starting their car without a battery to escape muggers. Most kids at that age already have a built-in b.s. detector, but not me. I am soaking it all up uncritically as my seminary teacher tells us how the artist commissioned by the Church to paint a portrait of Jesus keeps getting his painting rejected by the Brethren. They say that it's not quite right, and tell him how to change it. Finally, he prays for inspiration and presents them with his final draft. The prophet says that it is the closest resemblance to the Savior that he has ever seen. And that picture is (drum-roll please)... the red-robed Jesus that we all know and love!
Pretty ridiculous, I know, but somehow it got swept up with everything else I was learning about the church and I never realized that it was a Mormon myth. When I was at the MTC, I was certain only to buy the picture of the red-robed Jesus for the cover of my discussions, because it was the only one that looked just like him! Very embarrassing.
The thing I love about this myth is the sheer presumptuousness of it. It's not enough to be the only church guided by Jesus, we also have to be the only church that knows exactly what he looks like. I think it also reveals a little bit of our inferiority complex. Mormonism has always had the rhetoric of a world religion but been stuck with the membership of a regional religion. We are always looking to grab on to something to ease the tension between our self-image (God's One and Only True Church) and the image others have of us (weird, small, Utah religion).
We must be in the right church. Our apostles can pick Jesus out of a line-up, like they were on Law & Order. "Number 4, please step forward." This myth also reveals our collective fantasy about the prophet and apostles: we desperately want to believe that they are having face-to-face time with the Savior. They never say anything about it (at least not for the last eighty years), so we cling to the belief that they just aren't telling us.
Sadly, nothing in life will ever be as simple as these myths, or more accurately, Mormon fantasies. Gordon B. Hinckley goes on Larry King and 60 Minutes and gives vague, wishy-washy, and maddeningly unsatisfying answers. We want him to be Moses, we want him to speak to God face to face. We don't want to hear about feelings and impressions; we want to hear how God warned him about 9/11 and the tsunami. So when we hear a story from the Sunday School President whose brother-in-law works at the Church Office Building and swears he was there when it happened, we feel our faith has been vindicated.
That's okay, we won't have to worry about these things for too much longer. I heard they aren't calling any more missionaries because the second coming will happen before they come back. Good thing Brigham Young constructed the foundation of the Salt Lake temple so that it can be lifted from above.