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When Leon's mom caught us playing cards, she snatched us sideways. Didn't Mormon boys who were almost deacons know that playing with face cards - even "go fish" - was a sin?

Because Leon, Duncan and I had taken the time to Magic Marker out the faces, we explained that they weren't technically face cards anymore. Also, "go fish" was a game for wieners. We were playing stud poker.

Sister Krygowski burned the deck in the fireplace. Then she called our parents, holding forth on the horrors associated with face cards, including gambling, fortunetelling, suicide kings and sloth. She quoted from Mormon Doctrine and everything.

Duncan's old man hung up on her. He said later that while he agreed with cards being a major waste of time, so was listening to a buckethead on the phone. And he didn't need an apostle to tell him that.

It was my first theological experience with the Mormon aversion to face cards. Since then I've heard a lot of reasons we're not supposed to touch them, play with them or allow them in our homes.

Depending on the size of your head, these reasons range from face cards as an idle pursuit all the way to their being a gateway sin to greater evils such as gambling addictions and the destruction of the family.

Some will point out that card games can even lead to hard feelings and then to hatred and murder. It's probably true. Few things make you crazier than finding out you were bluffed out of your pants.

It doesn't affect everyone like that, though. I've lost card games before, and none of those have put me in any worse a mood than Sunday school.

Lots of perfectly innocent stuff leads to disaster if you overdo it, including driving, reading, walking and thinking. Fools may argue a marginal benefit in aquatic sports, but the wise know the more you swim the more likely you are to drown.

Sorry, I got carried away.

Harder to argue is that cards aren't an idle pursuit. But so are video games, television, novels, 99 percent of all cell-phone conversations and my column. They probably aren't on the list because they weren't around when it was made.

Despite the counsel against face cards - and the occasional formal decree against bringing them to church activities - lots of Mormons still indulge. My kids and I still play poker, and we sometimes have friends over for a game of hearts.

None of these have ended in a knife fight yet, but it's a possibility. About the only sins I've never heard attributed to card playing are those dealing with sex. Leon's mom blamed those on playing Twister.