Good clean family fun. Until grandpa’s ruthlessness emerged.

Nearly from its inception, the Proclamation to the World has been a controversial document as people have different ideas about how to have a successful marriage and family when God only approves of one way [1].  At the heart of this controversy:  so-called wholesome recreational activities.

Consider this advice from BYU’s Marriage & Families website:

There are numerous ways to use recreation to make your family life happier. When people engage in leisure, we do it for the joy of activity. [2]

That sentence sapped the joy out of itself before it even got to the word joy.  Also, if it’s leisure, are you engaging in it?  I thought the point of leisure was to lie around watching Netflix and eating Nutella straight out of the jar, not to do stuff.  At least that’s what leisure is in our family.  Which brings us back to the core dilemma: what are wholesome recreational activities?

First, in true Mormon fashion, let’s turn to the dictionary.  Wholesome relates to physical health [3] and moral well-being.  Recreational relates to activities done when not working or conversely to drugs taken on an occasional basis for enjoyment, especially while socializing.  Activities basically means doing stuff.  So, doing stuff that is physical, promoting health, and creating moral well-being, possibly involving occasional social drug use. [4]

Of course the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the phrase “Wholesome Recreational Activities” is this scene from the Breakfast Club:

John Bender: PB & J with the crusts cut off. Well, Brian, this is a very nutritious lunch; all the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mr. Rogers?

Brian: Uh, no, Mr. Johnson.

Bender: Ah. Here’s my impression of life at Big Bri’s house, “Son?” “Yeah, Dad?” “How was your day, pal?” “Great, Dad! How’s yours?” “Super! Say, how would like to go fishing this weekend?” “Great, Dad! But I got homework to do.” “That’s okay, son! You can do it on the boat!” “Gee!” “Dear, isn’t our son swell?” “Yes, dear. Isn’t life swell?”

By contrast, my own family’s attempts at wholesome recreational activities often descend into madness:  tears, slammed doors, questionable ethics (often in the form of self-serving score-keeping or lots of judge’s rulings in favor of the whiniest) and general poor sportsmanship.  That’s what happens when you start with simple wholesome recreational activities like Risk, Apples to Apples or President Scum.  In the family I grew up in, our wholesome recreational activities more often resulted in secret combinations, score-keeping you had to watch like a hawk [5] (hence my internet moniker), and an ever-increasing list of additional rules to stymie the strategic advantages that God and Darwin intended for the budding masterminds of the family (we all know who I’m talking about here) [6].

The real reason face cards were banned by BRM.

Somehow in all the families I’ve been in, so-called wholesome recreational activities have brought out the unwholesomeness in us [7].  One family event with my in-laws even ended in poisoning. [8]  Even on a good day, they’ve resulted in loud laughter, and we all know where that can lead [9].  Maybe it’s time to reverse this trend.  Instead of starting with a wholesome activity, maybe we can start with a less wholesome activity and it will bring out our finer qualities.

Since there are no bad ideas in brainstorming [10], I’ll throw out a few suggestions:

  • Tagging.  Instead of spray painting graffiti, paint faces of the Q15 so as to show that they are ever present and watchful, an important lesson about following the prophets.  Bonus points if you spray it on the church (enjoy watching leaders decide whether removing it is disrespectful).
  • Key parties, but instead of keys, put matched up scripture verses in the bowl.  Couples have to find their corresponding scripture partner to hook up. [11]  This sets a lovely tone for whatever follows.
  • Strip poker.  Once a family member has removed enough clothing to be outside of the standards in For the Strength of Youth, the rest of the group should shame that person for their inappropriate dress, an important lesson in modesty.
  • Trash Can Jenga.  This is a family favorite in which various members of the family continue to put garbage (or recycling) in the already too full can when no other family members are looking until the can inevitably overflows.  The last one who touched it has to take it out.  Resentful mopping ensues.
  • Huffing paint.  But instead of paint, substitute something wholesome like flour.  Then put an M&M candy or Life Saver on top and have the person use only their mouth to remove that item.  Actually, I’m pretty sure EFY has already mainstreamed this harmful practice despite its obvious drug origins.
  • Ransom!  This is a classic from my own childhood.  The older (or stronger) siblings tie up the weakest one to a chair and leave that sibling in the dark closet until they remember hours later they did it.  Reminder:  if you don’t use a gag, the bound family member may eventually alert the parents that the game is underway, and that spoils the fun.  Optional:  Cut letters out of magazines to write a “ransom note” to the victim’s loved ones if they ever want to see them again, demanding items like Ring Dings or ice cream.
  • Mumblety Peg.  Instead of placing your hand on a table, use the scriptures, and instead of a knife, use a red pencil.  Then take turns reading the scriptures you marked.  You can also use this as an important lesson in service and first aid to remove pencil leads from hands and bandage them up.
  • Scrumping.  This is basically looting, but with fruit.  Sneak into your neighbor’s yard as a family (the little ones make good lookouts), and pick the best fruits you can find without getting caught.  Extra points for any “white and delightsome” fruit.  Alternatively for urban families, you can take Juicy Fruit gum from the local bodega, but you may need bail money if you get caught.
  • Human Battleship.  Wait until your neighbors are having a backyard party (preferably if your neighbor is a General Authority).  Then discreetly lob water balloons into the midst of their party (Roman Candles are a seasonally festive alternative).  “Misses” don’t count.  “Hits” are on a sliding point scale depending on the humorlessness of the person hit.  An extra point is awarded for audible swearing.  The game ends when the police are called.
  • Fight Club.  Sorry, can’t talk about this one.
Likewise family game night.

Another added benefit is that your family will grow closer together as they evade law enforcement.  This is just a starter list, of course. Circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation [12].

How does your family define wholesome recreational activities?


[1] We all know “individual adaptation” is code for “you suck at having a family.”

[2] Note that “people” and “we” seem to be two different subjects in this sentence, leaving me to wonder why hearing other people relaxing makes BYU married couples do it.  I suspect scant motivation is required.  I also love how activity is italicized like it’s a foreign word.

[3] There goes the Nutella!

[4] It certainly sounds like Utah.

[5] Funny how someone can literally put a man on the moon (my dad) but consistently forget to add my points when I make an awesome combination in Triominoes.

[6] Me.  I’m talking about me.

[7] It’s like Parker Brothers wants us to fail.

[8] We had a “clear your pantry” party in which everyone brought their old snacks along to share.  Apparently, pre-wrapped Zingers don’t last forever.  Who knew?

[9] Even louder laughter.  Occasional peeing.  See your doctor if this condition persists.

[10] Demonstrably false as evidenced.

[11]  Only for Singles FHE groups!  This isn’t Caligula’s court.

[12]  Wink.

**This post was original published at BCC.