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Kirby: Mormon medals — new way to wear your faithfulness, or lack of it, on your sleeve

Published April 23, 2017 7:32 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I was digging through a storage box the other day and found the Old Man's U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal. He gave it to me years ago while temporarily beset by a sense of his mortality.

It's ironic that he would give this particular medal to his most problematic offspring. Bad conduct was my specialty. Was he trying to tell me something?

Note: Since he gave my sister — who isn't a writer — a handkerchief with Ernest Hemingway's autograph on it, you can see why a guy like me might wonder.

In the same box was a small plastic hatchet about the size of a quarter. At first, I thought it was part of a toy I once had but then realized it came from the Mormon "bandelo" I wore in Primary.

Another note: Some people spell it "bandlo" or "bandalo," but I like "bandelo" because when I Googled it, I got back "band ELO," referencing the Electric Light Orchestra.

Instead of cleaning the storage room, I spent two hours listening to Jeff Lynne sing about telephone lines, evil women and turning to stone.

Back to the bandelo. It was a band of green feltlike material — akin to a Boy Scout merit badge sash — that Mormon children wore to Primary. Glued to the material were plastic symbols of Primary achievement.

It was much like the "fruit salad" display members of the military sport above their left breast pocket on Class A uniforms, a colorful array of accomplishments. For overachievers, the emblems sometimes go clear over their shoulders and partway down their backs.

LDS Primary passed out symbols of progress as well. My memory is fuzzy, but I recall the hatchet, as well as a wagon wheel, pilot wings, numbers, a pine tree, a scroll, and possibly even a peace sign.

That last one could have been a personal addition. I'm not sure, but I do associate the vague memory of it with a blow to my head.

Whatever happened to my bandelo is lost to time. I might have tied it to the neck of a stray dog or tossed in into a ditch on my way home from the last Primary meeting I was forced to attend. I asked Mom but she doesn't remember.

Here's the thing: If a public display of personal success is good enough for our armed forces, or on scholarly vestments, maybe it's good enough for Mormons today. Perhaps we should bring them back. And by this I mean bandelos for adults.

Imagine how cool it would be if members had their church accomplishments and status visible for all to see. Then we would know who was what without having to wonder.

For example, full tithe payers might be awarded a clever little dollar sign to glue to their bandelos.

A high priest could have the symbol "zzz" glued to his bandelo, displaying for everyone his authority to randomly fall asleep.

I'm on to something, aren't I? There would be little plastic decals for former bishops (a gavel), Relief Society presidents (crossed rolling pins), nursery veterans (a loaded diaper), returned missionary (a stick figure being chased by a dog), even the Distinguished Order of Regular Testimony Bearer (series of plastic teardrops).

No more guessing as to someone's standing in the church. You would know who was really active/spiritual by how much their bandelo weighed or dragged on the ground behind them.

Then there are those of us whose bandelos would be practically empty or, worse, adorned with just a small plastic head of Satan.

If nothing else, bandelos would help us know whom we wanted to sit next to in church.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.






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