Provo • Jerilyn Pool places a black zippered container — which, she jokes, “looks like a scripture case” — on her kitchen table and opens it.
Inside are hundreds of black-on-white printed cards, and a few white-on-black ones, loaded with jokes and references to Mormon culture. There are also a few handwritten ones, with ideas that haven’t been committed yet to print.
“There’s just so many quirky things about Mormon culture and Mormon doctrine,” said Pool, 47, a graphic designer who works out of her home on Provo’s west side.
Pool has collected some of those funny things into a card game, Dang You to Heck, which she sells online. The game is a Utah-flavored version of the popular, and proudly offensive, game Cards Against Humanity.
“Is it kid-friendly? Maybe. It depends on your kids,” says the website for the game, which Pool launched in November 2014, but began producing under the Dang You to Heck name in January.
Like Cards Against Humanity, Dang You to Heck starts with a question or a fill-in-the-blank statement — examples: “What happens on a date at BYU?” or “Satan desires _____” — that players can answer with one of the cards in their hand. The funniest answer, as chosen by a designated judge (a position that changes every turn), is the winner of that round.
“I was very intentional with the game, that I didn’t want it to be offensive to orthodox Mormons, but I also wanted the ex-Mormon crowd to also enjoy it,” Pool said. “I’ve tried to walk a fine line there, by poking fun at the culture of that spectrum of Mormonism, without making light of things that are sacred to a lot of people.”
For people who play Cards Against Humanity and similarly offensive games, the idea of a family-friendly variation makes as much sense as a Disney cut of “Deadpool.”
“It’s a way to delve into that part of social norms that isn’t acceptable, but you’re doing it in a controlled environment,” said Richard Howard, a manager at Game Night Games, a game store in Salt Lake City.
Games such as Cards Against Humanity are “obviously meant not to be family-friendly,” Howard said, and if one were to sanitize such a game, “at that point you’re just playing Apples to Apples.”
Offensive games act as a safety valve for society, Howard said. “Nobody’s going to get offended, because everyone who’s there understands it’s just a joke. It’s going to be offensive, but it’s not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. It gives everybody an opportunity to actually explore that facet of society that everybody is super-tender about right now.”
Pool said Dang You to Heck, even with the ironically nonprofane title, can be as nasty as the players’ imagination. The fill-in-the-blank nature of the game allows the answer cards — “shopping for furniture at the DI” or “holding to the Iron Rod” — to be interpreted in more salacious ways.
“I like to tell people to turn it into a euphemism,” Pool said. “I like to joke that ‘destroying a printing press’ is my favorite euphemism.”
Answers like that, a reference to the mob attack that led to the martyrdom of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith in 1844, may be understandable only to the devout. Others, like a mention of funeral potatoes, are more universally known in Utah culture.
Expansion packs for the game go deeper. One is based on quotes from speakers at LDS General Conference. Another, called “Utah: The Rill Dill,” is specific to Beehive State oddities. (One card points out there is “lots of great barware at the DI because no one knows what it is when they’re cleaning out Grandma’s cabinets.”) The latest set focuses on a recent Utah obsession: the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”
Pool hires a Provo printer to make the cards, which she then packages at home. “It’s wrapped in brown paper, so your bishop doesn’t know what you’re up to,” she said. She sells about 10 sets a month. “I can’t afford to let it get too super-popular.”
She has written a “really dirty deck,” she said, “but I’m nervous to ask anyone to print it.”
Pool moved to Provo in 2016 from Oregon with her 55-year-old husband, Jeff, their two daughters, Annie, 22, and Bonnie, 10, and two “spoiled rotten” dogs. She said she is “more or less” active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I do show up to my ward occasionally, and the walls don’t fall down.”
The family moved to Provo, she said, to help the LGBTQ community in the wake of the November 2015 decree from LDS Church leaders that Mormon kids should disavow their LGBTQ parents’ same-sex relationships — a move that, she said, “caused a lot of hurt here.”
The game — along with her day job as a graphic designer (she made the logo for Brigham Young University’s LGBTQ student group USGA) — helps support the nonprofit the Pools run out of their house, Queer Meals, which helps LGBTQ Mormons in crisis.
“When you work with the queer community as much as we do,” she said, “we see a lot of the pain that is expressed at things that happen [to LGBTQ people] at church.”
The Pools play host to between five and 10 people at any one time. “Our busiest days at our house are on Sundays,” she said. “They’ve been at family dinners and need a place to relax, or they’ve been to church and they need a place to decompress.”
Pool called the game “just a fun quirky thing that I enjoy doing,” but “it’s one thing that really keeps me connected to Mormonism.”
She doesn’t think anyone needs to get truly offended by the game. “This creates community,” she said. “There’s no more community than sitting around a table and playing a card game.”
That’s an Article of Faith, isn’t it?