Sistas in Zion are voices of humor and faith on stereotypes, misconceptions and all things Mormon

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15 2013 9:10 a.m. MDT

The Sistas have a wealth of funny personal experiences within the Latter-day Saint culture to draw from, and it’s good-natured fun. Most reflect stereotypes or misconceptions about the church.

Smith recalled shopping for clothes in Chicago when a salesman asked when Mormons were permitted to begin wearing colors.

“Do you think we’re Amish?” she responded. “If you’ve been to Salt Lake City you know we drive cars and talk on the telephone. I flew here, I didn’t come in a horse and buggy. We’ve always worn colors.”

Once at an Especially for Youth dance at BYU, a young man asked Vranes to dance, but for a strange reason.

“Do you know why I asked you to dance?” he asked.

“I thought he would say 'Because you've got the most rhythm in here,’ ” Vranes said. “But no, he said he wanted to touch my hair. I was like, what?”

It’s not uncommon, Vranes said, for young people just home from an inner city mission to walk up and hug her because they miss seeing “black people.” Sometimes they see her and offer a greeting in a different language.

“Yeah, I speak English,” she laughed.

Shortly after she was baptized, Smith was excited to attend a fireside where actor Gordon Jump was the featured speaker, although she wasn’t sure what people did at a "fireside." She wanted to wear shorts or something comfortable, but her grandma insisted on their Sunday best.

“It was at a church, but there was no fire,” Smith laughed. “Why call it a fireside if there’s not a fire? It was confusing.”

Vranes related a similar misunderstanding when her family invited a nonmember friend to attend stake conference with them.

“He was very grumpy in the car afterwards and my parents were like, ‘Did you not enjoy the meeting?’ ” Vranes said. “He said, ‘The least you could have done is let me stay for the steak.’ ”

Smith still gets confused about things, even after two decades in the church. She felt so special when handed a ticket to the late President Gordon B. Hinckley’s birthday party. She went with the expectation of attending a traditional birthday party.

“I couldn’t wait for the cake. But we didn’t even have cake, it was a concert,” Smith said. “I wondered, 'Are they going to give us cupcakes? Maybe a Twinkie?' Nothing. I went to a church concert I could have watched on TV.”

The end goal is to have fun and make people laugh. There are no inside jokes, and mean people are not allowed.

“People have a perception that Mormons don’t have a sense of humor, but it’s OK to laugh at ourselves, to let loose a little,” Vranes said. “There are things that are obviously sacred and serious to us, but other things are just hilarious, like green Jell-O with (grated) carrots. That’s funny.”

“When people can see that you enjoy your religion, and that you can laugh at yourself, it takes the edge off some,” Smith said.

The show

Four years after launching their website and blog, Sistas in Zion also has a radio show each Sunday evening from 5-7 p.m. Modern technology allows Vranes to call in from Boise while Smith dials up from Provo. Listeners are invited to call in.

Among their many guests are Jabari Parker, a Mormon and one of the top high school basketball recruits in the country, now preparing for his freshman year at Duke; Bryan Kehl, a former BYU linebacker currently playing for the Washington Redskins; and Al Fox, a recent LDS convert and popular speaker often referred to as “The Tattooed Mormon.”

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