The following is a list of “Latter-day Saint Lingo.” Those of us who have been in the Church for a long time, or even born into the Church, we never think of some of these terms. For those who aren’t familiar, however, the adjustment and learning can be quite the task. For this purpose, I’ve compiled a few of those terms that may be unfamiliar. It’s not a complete list, and many of them are my own. For a more complete list, you can take a look here for another list that I’ve found. I’ve taken some of these definitions from the Church website and adapted them for class purposes, but many are my own. Please feel free to use this text, but please remember that this is meant as a casual reference and is not an official statement of terms from the Church:
Active: This is a term for someone who is Mormon and regularly attends church meeting and activities. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they go above and beyond, but they are “active” as far as their attendance.
Apostle: The Church today has apostles just as the primitive Church did in the time of Jesus. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles serve in the calling for the rest of their life and are “special witnesses” of Jesus Christ to the world. When an apostle dies, a new apostle is called to take his place with the Twelve.
Articles of Faith: Thirteen statements, or basic points of doctrine (written by Joseph Smith) that were placed in a Newspaper. These articles are now kept today as simple points to share with others as to what the Mormon faith believes.
Auxiliaries: Organizations within a specific Ward. Some auxiliaries are: Primary, Young Women’s, Young Men’s, Relief Society, Priesthood and Sunday school. Although this term isn’t used very often, you will occasionally hear an announcement for a meeting in which all of the “Auxiliary Leaders” need to attend.
Bishop: Similar to what other Churches call a Pastor or Minister, Bishops are the leader of the local congregation. In the Mormon Church, there is no paid clergy, including Bishops. The Bishop presides over a ward, along with two counselors who that he has chosen to assist him. Bishops continue to have their regular career and family duties in addition to their responsibilities as a Bishop. A Bishop normally serves for five years and then a new Bishop is called in his place. Bishops are normally called “Bishop” followed by their last name, out of respect for their title.
Bishopric: The Bishopric consists of the Bishop, and the two counselors that he has chosen.
Branch: A branch is a congregation with a small number of members that are not large enough to constitute creating a regular ward. Branches are usually found in smaller communities or rural areas. Once the congregation’s attendance increases, it may be reorganized as a ward. Instead of a Bishop, a branch is presided over by a Branch President. The duties are more or less the same, but have a few subtle differences.
Brother & Sister: It is a custom to refer to adults as “Brother” or “Sister” in the church. Usually this is followed by the last name (Sister Jones) but you may also occasionally hear this with a first name instead (Sister Jane). It is not taboo or against the rules to call anyone by their first name only. Or sometimes you will hear simply “Brother” or “Sister” (say, if you don’t know a person’s name and you’re trying to pass him in the doorway, you might say, “Excuse me, Brother…”). This is meant to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters in the gospel. The only exceptions to this is when someone carries another title, such as “President” or “Bishop.”
Calling: To have a calling means that you have personally been asked to take on an assignment or responsibility. The Bishopric prayerfully decides who will serve in each position that needs to be filled. Callings are varied, but in general involve teaching, leading, or supporting the ward in other ways. Serving in callings helps to develop skills and/or talents. All callings are voluntary, but upon willing to accept one, blessings are promised. Most members of the ward serve in at least one position, but may have more – there is plenty to do!
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: The Official name of the “Mormon” Church. But because of the long name, it often gets abbreviated. Because of the two different names, many think that they are two separate churches.
Convert: Someone who was not born as a church member, but joined the church later in life. People are considered to be a “new convert” (or “new member”) for the first year or so, and usually considered a “recent convert” for several years after their baptism.
Covenant: A two-way promise between God and a person (or group of people). Those who keep their part of a covenant will receive the fulfillment of promised blessings from God. A covenant is different than regular contracts or agreements, because it is eternal in nature. God sets the terms of the covenant, and we are free to choose if we accept or not.
Deseret Industries (or D.I.): A non-profit thrift store owned and operated by the Church, similar to a Goodwill, Savers, or Value Village. Items are resold to the community in the thrift store. Proceeds from these sales go towards helping the needy. Because many members of the Church donate to this store, it’s a great place to find Church material (books, videos, etc.)
DTR: This is an acronym, used mostly with youth, for “Determining The Relationship.” It’s a conversation had between two dating persons to decide the end result of the relationship. It usually determines whether people are “steady dating” or simply friends.
Elder: This title is used in several different ways. Full-time volunteer missionaries (if they’re men) are always called by the title Elder (along with their last name) during their entire two-year service. Women missionaries are called by Sister and their last name. It’s simply a title that refers to “Teacher” and not because they’re “old” or “wise.” Elder is also used as a title for general authorities (see below). For example, a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles goes by the title Elder. Elder is also the name for an office of the priesthood. It’s used in many ways, and it sounds confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Endowment: An ordinance that is only performed in the temple and essential for exaltation. Adults are eligible to receive their personal temple endowment after they have been a church member for at least one year, and as long as they are worthy. As with other ordinances (such as baptism or receiving the Priesthood), the endowment involves making covenants to follow God and keep his commandments. In return, we receive special blessings.
Ensign Magazine: A monthly magazine published by the Church. It contains Church news, events, and articles. Talks gived in General Conference are printed in the Ensign in the May and November issues each year. Subscriptions to the Ensign are available at a low cost (generally around $10 a year) because they are sold “at cost.” The Church makes no money from these magazines, they only require purchasing to cover the cost of printing.
EQP: Elder’s Quorum President. The leader of the men’s Priesthood organization in the church.
Family Home Evening (or FHE): A program implemented by the Church that promotes togetherness as a family. It’s one day set aside one night a week (usually Mondays) for a special evening at home with the family. Most evenings include a lesson, activity, treats, etc. Everyone is encouraged to participate. Something as simple as scripture study or watching a movie with your spouse/family can be a “family home evening.” Single people and couples with grown children sometimes meet together for potlucks or a group activity.
Fast and Testimony Meeting: The Sacrament meeting on the first Sunday of each month (known as “Fast Sunday”). Anyone from the congregation can stand up front and share their positive feelings and gratitude for the truths of the Gospel. Sharing (or “bearing”) your testimony is meant to be brief (1-2 minutes). Some want to share long stories, but this is discouraged due to time that could be used for testimonies of others. On Fast Sunday, most members fast (abstain from food and drink for two meals) and donate money that they would have otherwise spent on those meals to help the needy. This is called a “fast offering” and is included on the tithing slip.
Fireside: An additional meeting, apart from the usual Sunday meetings, usually held on Sunday evenings. They are normally held in a chapel, but sometimes in a home. There is usually a special speaker, followed by refreshments. Sunday clothing is appropriate, regardless of location.
First Presidency: The directing authority for the Church, on behalf of Jesus Christ; comprised of the Prophet (the President of the Church) and his two Counselors. The prophet and his Counselors are usually referred to by the title “President” and either their full name or just their last name, i.e. President Monson. The current members of the First President consist of President Monson, President Eyring, and President Uchtdorf.
Food Storage: A program guided by the Church as a way of helping your family become self-reliant. This means storing extra food basics (canned food, etc), gardening/growing food, and emergency preparation supplies. Everyone is encouraged to thoughtfully prepare for the unexpected (natural disasters, unemployment, storms, etc) as well as they are able. Having an emergency kit with supplies for 72-hours and enough of a food supply for at least 2 months is highly encouraged.
General Authorities: A term for any of the senior leaders of the Church. These include the First Presidency (the Prophet and his two counselors), the Quorum of the Twelve (Apostles), the Quorum of the Seventy, and Area Authorities. They are called by the Prophet to preach the Gospel and direct Church affairs around the world.
General Conference: A broadcast from Salt Lake City held twice annually (usually the first week of April and October). Members throughout the world watch via satellite, television, internet, or even go to a large “Conference Center” in Salt Lake City to attend in person. These meetings are for instruction, announcements, and teachings given by the Prophet and other General Authorities. The Conference covers both Saturday and Sunday, with three sessions on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each day has different talks and are not repeated. General Conference replaces all other regular Sunday church meetings. Times and places that the broadcast can be viewed are announced at church or can be found on the Church’s Official Website (lds.org).
Gospel: The general name given to the teachings of Jesus Christ. By definition, it is known as “The Good News.” This includes the plan of salvation, the scriptures and teachings of the Church, allowing all to return to our Heavenly Father. The five main points of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End.
High Priest: One of the offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the higher order of the priesthood. This office comes with administrative responsibilities in addition to spiritual ones.
Home Teacher: Two Priesthood holders assigned in pairs to specific families or people in a ward. Each set of Home Teachers are expected to share a monthly message and generally assist, help strengthen, and be-friend their assigned families. They are to aid in any way they are able. All families in the ward should have someone assigned to Home Teach them monthly.
Institute: A Church class held during the week for college-aged students in church. More or less like a Bible class. It covers various topics, such as Gospel Principles, the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon, and History of the Church, just to name a few.
Investigator: Someone who has not been baptized as a member of the Church, but is meeting with the missionaries to learn more about the church. They are “investigating” if they would like to become a full-fledged member.
Jack Mormon: Someone who only acts like a Mormon on Sundays. The Mormon equivalent to a “Sunday Christian.”
Latter Days: The time in which we currently live; the last period of time leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Less-active/Inactive: Someone who isn’t regularly attending church or participating in the church programs is deemed to be “less-active”. A person who is completely un-involved with the church and does not attend church is considered “inactive.” The Church is attempting to phase out this term, as people deemed as “in-active” may be offended. These two terms are often used interchangeably. People are categorized as “less-active” or “in-active” in the Church as a sign that Ward Members and Leaders should seek out these people and lend a hand of fellowship so that they can return to receiving the full blessings of the Gospel.
Member: Whether fully involved with the church or not, a “member” is anyone baptized into the Church.
Mission: A period of volunteer service, generally ranging from 6 to 24 months (depending on the type of mission). Church members devote themselves part-time or full-time to proselyting, humanitarian aid and/or other service. There are many different types of missions available locally, nationwide, and worldwide for young single men/women and for retired single people and couples. The most common “Mission” spoken of is for young men and women which lasts for 2 years or 18 months (respectively).
Mormon: A nickname for the church, derived from the Book of Mormon. It is preferred to be called Latter-day Saints (sometimes shortened to LDS), or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon also refers to an ancient prophet, the one who organized/compiled the collection of ancient records contained in the Book of Mormon.
Mormon.org: An official website created by the Church in hopes to demystify some of the misconceptions with Mormonism.
Mormon Standard Time: A joke within the Church which makes reference to members being consistently late for meetings and activities. It is usually used to emphasize a prompt starting time, i.e. “7:00pm Sharp – Not Mormon Standard Time!”
NCMO: Non-committal make-out, or the Mormon version of hooking up.
Patriarchal Blessing: A one-time blessing that is given to Church Members by a specially called Patriarch, who (through revelation) gives advice and counsel meant to help guide the member throughout the course of their life. It’s like personal scripture straight from the Lord. This blessing is recorded (tape recorder) and the member is given a typed copy of their blessing to keep a few weeks later. Members who would like to receive their own Patriarchal Blessing should ask their Bishop for an appointment. There is no age limit or requirement needed to receive your blessing, however it is recommended that someone is at least 12 years or older, and is mature enough to guide the counsel received therein.
Premie: Pre-Missionary (the opposite of an R.M.). You hear this term mainly in Utah and in Church schools (BYU or BYU-Idaho). It often means that you can date the person for a brief period of time, but soon they’ll be headed on a Mission, and will be gone for two years. It’s generally used by women saying that they don’t date premies, due to the fact that it can’t lead to marriage (at least until the Missionary has returned). “Sorry, I don’t date premie’s.)
Preside: To watch over and be responsible for.
Priesthood: The authority given to men to act in the name of God. Through priesthood responsibilities (such as performing ordinances like passing the Sacrament) boys and men learn to give Christ-like service to their families, community, and the church. Being a priesthood holder is considered a sacred responsibility. Priesthood holders receive no payment or compensation for service rendered, as it is their sacred duty. The Priesthood is intended to bless the lives of others. Woman cannot hold the Priesthood.
Priesthood, Aaronic: The Aaronic Priesthood, or the preparatory Priesthood, functions under the direction of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is often referred to as the “lesser Priesthood” in the fact it is secondary to the Melchizedek Priesthood. One receives the Aaronic Priesthood before they receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Generally, boys serve in the Aaronic Priesthood from years 12 to 18 before receiving the higher priesthood. The offices within the Aaronic Priesthood include Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Bishop.
Priesthood, Melchizedek: Melchizedek Priesthood is similar to the Aaronic Priesthood, but carries different “keys” (or responsibilities). This Priesthood incorporates the offices of Elder, High Priest, Patriarch, Seventy, and Apostle. Because the Priesthood is a requirement for the Lord’s Church, it must be present and functional whenever the kingdom of God is upon the earth in its fullness.
Primary: An organization of the Church set up for children. Nursery class is for ages 18 months – 3 years. Other Primary classes are for children ages 3-12. Primary often includes activities for fun, but also learning, such as signing time, sharing time, snacks, etc.
Quorum: An organized group of Priesthood holders in which they learn to better themselves and how to further magnify their callings. e.g. Deacon’s Quorum, Priest’s Quorum, Elder’s Quorum, etc.
Restoration: The period of time in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ was completely restored to the earth once again. This includes the authority (Priesthood) to act in the name of Jesus Christ, and other truths which were revealed to Joseph Smith and other witnesses.
Relief Society: The women’s organization of the Church for those 18 and older (once you’ve graduated High School). The Relief Society program is a service organization and includes Sunday instruction, activities, leadership opportunities, more. The Relief Society is one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world, claiming more than 6 million members in over 170 countries.
R.M: This is an acronym for Returned Missionary (the opposite of a Premie), meaning a person who has served and completed a full-time mission. (You know, those annoying ones with the name tags who go knocking on doors teaching about Christ). Many men (and women) in the church go and serve one when they turn 18 and 19 (respectively). It’s not required, but is often encouraged for young men in the Church. For women, it’s completely voluntary.
Sealing: A sacred ordinance done in the Temple which unites a family in an eternal bond, including those who have already passed on. Couples are “sealed” together for eternity as a part of the marriage ceremony. Any children born to the couple after the sealing ordinance are considered to be “born under the covenant”. Couples who have been married civilly can enter the Temple and receive the sealing ordinance for themselves and their children.
Singles Ward, Singles Ward II, The R.M: These are all popular Mormon movies, all comedies. Click here for reviews of each!
Stake: A stake is an organizational unit which is made up of a number of Wards and Branches. The word “stake” is a symbolic of keeping the entire Church together an unified; the wooden pegs (stakes) that hold up a large tent. Each “stake” that is firmly in the ground keeps the tent held up in place. A Stake President and his counselors preside over this group of wards and branches.
Standard Works: The main volumes of Scripture in the LDS Church, also known as the “Canon”. These are; the King James Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Talk: A speech given in Sacrament meeting (the first meeting). A member of the Bishopric asks ward members to speak (or “give a talk”) in Sacrament Meeting from time to time. This gives everyone an opportunity to have practice speaking. A talk is generally 10 to 15 minutes in length. It also allows Ward members to hear from a variety of speakers and learn from their unique perspective. A gospel topic is always given to the speaker and they have plenty of time to prepare. New members are generally not asked to give talks until they have a decent amount of time as a member of the Church.
Temple: A holy sanctuary, similar to chapels (meetinghouses), built for performing sacred ordinances, i.e. ceremonies such as marriages for eternity. Temples, of which there are some 150 in the world, differ from chapels or meetinghouses that are normally used for Sunday worship. They are sacred, holy places. Those who wish to enter the temple must meet high standards of personal righteousness and worthiness, which are judged according to the Temple Recommend interview questions (see below). Though there are many temples, they are all usually referred to as “the temple”.
Temple Recommend: A ‘pass’, you might say, to get into the temple. To get one, you must receive an interview from your Bishop and then a second interview with a member of the Stake Presidency. The interviews involve questions regarding your personal testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and your keeping of those standards. If you are found worthy, you will be given a signed temple recommend. There are two types of recommends: 1) a limited-use recommend is given for members who would like to do proxy baptisms at the temple (this type requires only one interview with the Bishop). This limited recommend is available for members any time after their own baptism. 2) a regular, full-use temple recommend is for adults who have been members of the church for at least one year, and allows for entrance to the other areas of the temple where you can participate in other ordinances, such as sealings and endowments.
Temporal: This simply means “worldly” or “physical.”
Testimony: A personal knowledge or beliefs that one holds in regards to the gospel teachings of the Jesus Christ and the Church.
Visiting Teachers: Two members from the Relief Society, assigned in pairs, to minister and help an assigned Sister in the Ward. Each set of Visiting Teachers shares a message, generally assists, and helps to strengthen and be-friend their assigned sister(s). Each member of the Relief Society should make a visit on a monthly basis.
Young Men: The youth program for boys from ages 12 to 18 (Aaronic Priesthood holders). The young men are then divided into sub-classes by age; Deacons (ages 12 & 13), Teachers (ages 14 & 15), and Priests (ages 16 & 17). The young men work toward certain goals, such as completing their Duty to God Award or the Eagle Scout award before progressing to an Elder and holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Young Women: The youth program for girls ages 12 to 18. The young women are divided into sub-classes by age; Beehives (ages 12 & 13), Mia Maids (ages 14 &15), and Laurels (ages 16 &17). The young women work toward certain goals, such as completing their Personal Progress Award before advancing to join the adult women in Relief Society.
Ward: The Mormon term for “congregation.” You attend a Ward based on your geographical location, must like a School District. They also have special wards for different age groups (such as single wards or single adult wards), spanish-speaking wards, deaf wards, and regular family wards.