MormonFAQ/Terms

Table of Contents

Like all religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has terms or expressions which may not be familiar to outsiders. Some of these are described below.

A

Aaronic Priesthood
This is one of the two Latter-Day Saints priesthoods. It is made up of three offices Deacon, Teacher and Priest each with increasing duties. In the LDS Church it is generally given to young men starting at age 12. In the RLDS and most other restorationist churches, it is generally given to adults. Capitalize both words. See priesthood.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Aaronic Priesthood link
Aaronic Order
A communal restorationist faith in and around Esk-Dale, Utah. Not part of the Salt Lake City based LDS church.
anti-Mormon
Those who actively campaign against Mormon beliefs or practices. Merely disbelieving Mormon doctrine, leaving the Church, or disagreeing with Church policy does not make someone anti-Mormon. Some anti-Mormons write books, pamphlets and articles, while others protest outside of church buildings and conference centers while the Mormons worship. For an example of anti-Mormon activities, see: here. Anti-Mormons generally share one of two ideologies: (a) Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian groups or (b) secular/agnostic/atheist, usually former members. Authors should be aware that that some who pass themselves off as experts on Mormonism have their own ideologic agendas, and sometimes derive some or all of their income from material attacking the LDS church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Anti-Mormon Publications link
apostate
An inflammatory word used by some to denote a person who has been a member of a Church and who has been excommunicated or who has withdrawn from membership because of belief in doctrines that are not compatible with church doctrine. The term, however, should not be used to describe or label any church or person. If a church can trace its origins to another church, then it should be so stated. For example: The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ was formed by members of the RLDS Church in 1989. If an individual is no longer a member of the church, they should be referred to as a "former member" or some other less inflammatory term.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Apostate link
Apostle
A calling usually in reference to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In the RLDS Church it may be used as a title, Apostle John Smith. Use the term Elder in the LDS Church, Elder John Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Apostle link
Area Authority Seventy
Articles of Faith
Brief summary of core LDS beliefs, written under direction of Joseph Smith, Jr. Now part of LDS scripture.
Auditorium, The
Capitalize when referencing to the building (RLDS) at Independence, Mo.

B

Baptism for the dead
The practice of baptizing a person by proxy for a deceased person. When used in a sentence do not capitalize. This rite is performed most often in the temples of the LDS Church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Baptism for the Dead link
Barlow University
A college in Colorado City, Arizona operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Barlow)
Beehive
A term used for a class of young women age 12 or 13.
Bishop
A lay person called to oversee the operation of a local congregation (LDS) or to assist in the temporal affairs of the church in a given area (RLDS). Capitalize when part of the title. Bishop John Smith otherwise lower case as in the bishop's storehouse. In the RLDS and Temple Lot, etc. bishops have the general oversight and responsibility for all the temporal affairs of the church and its members.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Bishop link
Book of Commandments
A book of scripture first published in 1833, consisting of revelations received by Joseph Smith. It was reissued in 1835 with additional revelations as the Doctrine and Covenants. The Book of Commandments is still used by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and several other restorationist churches.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Book of Commandments link
Book of the Law of the Lord
A book of scripture translated by James J. Strang in 1851. Used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strang) and related groups.
The Book of Mormon
A book of scripture used by most, but not all, of the restorationist churches. Translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. it is also known as The Record of the Nephites by some churches. The LDS Church's media style guide gives the name as The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ which is rarely used even within the LDS Church. Citing scriptures from the Book of Mormon. Because the Book of Mormon has two different verse numbering systems in use it is important to cite verses from it in a consistent way. The numbering system used by the church about which the story is concerning should be used with the alternate system used afterwards. The two systems are noted as either LDS or RLDS. For example: 1 Ne. 1:1 (1 Ne. 1:1 RLDS) You should do this even in cases where the two numbering systems agree.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Book of Mormon link

Abbreviations of book titles The following are the accepted abbreviations.

  • 1 Ne. 1 Nephi
  • 2 Ne. 2 Nephi
  • Jacob Jacob
  • Enos Enos
  • Jarom Jarom
  • Omni Omni
  • W of M Words of Mormon
  • Mosiah Mosiah
  • Alma Alma
  • Hel. Helaman
  • 3 Ne. 3 Nephi
  • 4 Ne. 4 Nephi
  • Morm. Mormon
  • Ether Ether
  • Moro. Moroni
Branch
Ecclesiastical unit in the LDS Church that is comparable in function to a ward but that is smaller. It is presided over by a Branch President.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Branch, Branch President link
Brigham Young University
Also known as BYU or "The Y". A University in Provo, Utah operated by the LDS church. It is one of the largest private Universities in the West with approximately 27,000 daytime students. It has received many national recognitions and is ranked high in several categories.
  • Website: www.byu.edu
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Brigham Young University link
Brigham Young University-Idaho
A University in Rexburg, Idaho operated by the LDS church. Formerly known as "Ricks College."
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
A University in Laie, Hawaii operated by the LDS church.
BYU Jerusalem Center
The Jerusalem Center is Brigham Young University's center for study in Jerusalem. Students enroll through the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, travel to the Holy Land, and live in the Center for programs that extend for two or four months. Students study a core curriculum that focuses on Old and New Testament, ancient and modern Near Eastern studies, and language (Hebrew and Arabic). Classroom study is built around field trips that cover the length and breadth of the Holy Land.

C

Celestial Kingdom
The highest of degree of glory in the LDS concept of heaven. It is compared to the glory of the sun It is sub-divided into three heavens or degrees (DC 131:1-4).
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Celestial Kingdom link

D

Deacon
An office in the Aaronic Priesthood. In the LDS Church this office is generally given to boys at the age of 12. In the Community of Christ (RLDS) it is held by adults, both men and women. This office generally performs non-ecclesiastical duties such as collecting offerings and passing the sacrament (communion) to the congregation.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Deacon, aaronic priesthood link
Doctrine and Covenants
Scripture used by LDS Church; consists of revelations given to Joseph Smith and a few from his successors. Abbreviated as D&C. See Book of Commandments.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Doctrine and Covenants link

E

Elder
There are three uses for the term "Elder." First it is a level of priesthood that belongs to most male members between the ages of 18 and 50. Secondly, it is the title used when referring to all male LDS missionaries who posses that priesthood. Third, it is the title used when referring to members of the the Quorum of the Twelve, or the Seventy. For example, Dallin H. Oaks may be referred to as "Elder Oaks."
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Elder, Melchizedek priesthood link
Endowment
Ritualistic-drama ceremony given in LDS temples that teaches man about the creation, fall, atonement, and how man may return to God's presence and be exalted.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Endowment link
Exaltation
In LDS belief, exaltation refers to the deification of men and women in the highest heaven of the Celestial Kingdom. This is reserved for those who are heirs of God and join-heirs with Jesus Christ (See Romans 8:16-18). They will become "gods, even sons of God" (See DC 76:58-59) and thus participate in the Divine Council (See 82/.?lang=eng# Psalm 82 :).
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Exaltation link

F

Family Home Evening 
Monday evenings are set aside for families to meet together, learn gospel principles, and to participate in family activities.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Family Home Evening link
Family Prayer
The entire family kneels down together and prays. This typically happens first thing in the morning, and as the last thing at night.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Family Prayer link
Fasting
At least once each month, church members skip two meals and pray.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Fasting link
Fast Offerings
When a member skips two meals fasting, the money that would have been spent on those meals is given to a fund to help feed the poor.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Fast Offerings link
Fast and Testimony Meeting
On the first Sunday of each month, the members of the church fast. Then when they come to church, instead of their usual meeting they have an open pulpit and allow the members to stand and give their testimonies.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Fast and Testimony Meeting link
First Presidency
The highest presiding council of the Church composed of the President of the Church who is the Presiding High Priest over the whole Church and usually two counselors who are also High Priests. All three are referred to by the the title of "President." The RLDS and the LDS Churches both have a First Presidency.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: First Presidency link

G

Garments
After a member of the church goes to the temple, they wear special garments as their under clothing as a sacred reminder of covenants made with God. They are similar in form to boxer shorts and an under shirt. Some anti-Mormons mockingly refer to this as "magic underwear" or other derogatory names which behavior is very offensive to the members of the church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Garments link
General Authorities
Church Leaders who have authority in the world wide church and who are not restricted in authority to certain geographical regions alone. The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the First and Second Quorums of Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric are all general authorities.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :General Authorities link
General Conference
The first weekend in April and the first weekend in October, all of the General Authorities of the church will meet in Salt Lake City in the conference center. They will give sermons and talks on a variety of subjects. It is broadcast all over the world and listened to by the members of the LDS church. You can see the talks from General Conference here http://www.lds.org/conference/sessions/display/0,5239,49-1-775,00.html
Gift of the Holy Ghost
The right to have, whenever one is worthy, the companionship of the Holy Ghost. This right is given only after proper and authorized baptism and is conferred by the laying on of hands by those who hold Melchizedek Priesthood. It acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify them from sin.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Gift of the Holy Ghost link
Godhead
  • The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost acting in a quorum. In the LDS teach that "the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us." (D&C 130:22)
  • The term "Godhead" as found in the KJV New Testament is archaic and means "godhood"—the quality or state of being divine. LDS do not generally use the term in this fashion although it is in KJV version of the Bible which is used by the Church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Godhead link
Godhood
The state of being, or becoming, divine.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Godhood link

H

High Priest
This is a level in the LDS priesthood given to many males over the age of 40, or to those who have served in Ward or Stake leadership positions.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :High Priest link
Home Teaching
The families in the church are visited by other members each month. This is referred to as "home teaching." The intent of the visit is to make sure things are going well with the family and then to leave a gospel message.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Home Teaching link

I

Institute
Next to various college campuses there are buildings called "Institute of Religion." These are used to teach religious classes and to provide a gathering place. It is open to anyone, but it is designed particularly for those attending college.

J

Jesus Christ
Our Lord and Savior
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ link
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ, Fatherhood and Sonship link
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ, Names and Titles of link
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ, Second Comforter link
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ, Sources for the Words of link
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ, Types and Shadows of link
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Jesus Christ in the Scriptures link
  • LDS Scripture references to Jesus Christ off-site
  • FAIR Wiki: Jesus Christ
Joseph Smith,Jr. 
The first prophet and founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

K

Keys of the priesthood
Authority to direct and administer priesthood responsibilities. The prophet holds all keys; other keys are designated to apostles, stake presidents, bishops, and quorum presidents as needed.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Keys of the Priesthood link

L

Laurel
Young Women who are 16 to 18 years of age are in the Laurel class.

M

Melchizedek Priesthood
The second, or higher, priesthood (the first being Aaronic.) This is the priesthood held by all elders and high priests in the church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Melchizedek priesthood link
Mia Maid
Young Women who are 14 to 16 years of age are in the Mia Maid class.

N

O

P

Pastor
The leader of the local congregation in the RLDS Church. Also sometimes used as a term to describe a Bishop in the LDS church.
Patriarch
Man designated within each Stake to give blessings.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Patriarch link
Patriarchal Blessings
Special blessing given by patriarchs to each member. The blessing is written down and is frequently used as a guide for life.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Patriarchal Blessings link
Pearl of Great Price
A book of scripture held sacred by the LDS Church. It contains various texts including:
  • The Book of Moses: Joseph Smith's retranslation of the early chapters of Genesis.
  • The Book of Abraham: Joseph Smith's translations of some papyrus that was discovered with some mummies by Michael Chandler.
  • Joseph Smith - Matthew: Part of Joseph Smith's retranslation of Matthew, chapters 23 and 24.
  • Joseph Smith - History: Joseph's account of early events of the Church, taken from his History of the Church. And,
  • The Articles of Faith: A brief statment of basic beliefs of the Church, originally part of a letter from Joseph Smith to John Wentworth, Editor of the Chicago Democrat who inquired of Joseph about the Church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Pearl of Great Price link
Priest
A level in the LDS priesthood held by young men ages 16-18. It is also often held by newer male converts in the LDS church. In the Community of Christ (RLDS) the office of Priest as with other Priesthood offices is generally held by adults, both men and women.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Priest, Aaronic Priesthood link
Primary
The children's organization in the LDS church.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Primary link

Q

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
In the LDS Church, the apostles preside following the death of the prophet/president of the Church until a new prophet (usually the senior apostle) is chosen.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Quorum of the Twelve Apostles link

R

Relief Society
the woman's organization within the LDS church. All women within the church belong to this organization.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Relief Society link

S

Sabbath
Mormons generally have their sabbath on Sunday. While there are differences on how each family decides to "Keep the sabbath day holy," it usually involves not working on Sunday, not shopping on Sunday and trying to avoid activities that would cause other people to work. Members who live in areas in which Sunday is not the traditional Sabbath (e.g. Saturday in the State of Israel; Friday in Muslim countries) will observe the Sabbath of their host nation.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Sabbath Day link
Seminary
A class offered to high school youth. In most areas it is early in the morning before school and is five days each week.
Stake
Ecclesiastical unit comprised of wards and branches and presided over by a Stake President. The term "Stake" is a reference to a stake in the tent of zion.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Stake link
Stake Conference
A meeting of the entire stake. It generally takes place twice a year. No ward or branch meetings are held on the Sunday when Stake Conference is held.
Stake President
Leader of a stake; analagous to a Catholic "bishop," in that he administers several local worship units.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Stake President, Stake Presidency link

T

Teacher
There are two uses of this word among LDS. The first is the familiar term teacher, as in a Sunday School teacher. The second usage is for a position in the LDS priesthood that is generally reserved for young men age 14-16.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Teacher, Aaronic Priesthood link
Telestial Kingdom
The lowest kingdom of glory in the LDS view of heaven. It is compared to the glory of the stars.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Teletial Kingdom link
Temple
The temple is not a church building for normal Sunday meetings. It is a place of sacred worship and ceremonies performed for the living and on behalf of the dead.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Temple link
Terrestrial Kingdom
The middle kingdom of Glory in the LDS view of heaven. It is compared to the glory of the moon.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Terrestrial Kingdom link
Testimony
This has two uses within the LDS church. First it is a description of belief, as in "He has a testimony of the gospel." Secondly, it is used to describe the verbal expression of that belief, as in "He bore his testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." Members are encouraged to receive a testmimony for themselves: i.e., they are to petition God for answers about the truth or falsity of the Church and its doctrines, and to receive such answers via personal revelation.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Testimony link
Tithing 
Tithing has been defined by the Lord as "one-tenth of [a person's] interest annually" (D&C 119:4). Generally this has been interpreted to mean "income." The Church has not defined "interest" or "income" specifically, leaving such determination up to each member.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Tithing link

U

V

Visiting teaching
Monthly visit made by two women in the ward to other sister(s) as assigned by the bishop and Relief Society president. Analagous to the male practice of home teaching. The purpose is to share gospel teaching, build and strengthen friendships, and make sure all personal and spiritual needs are being met in each woman's life.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Visiting Teaching link

W

Ward
Ecclesiastical unit presided over by a Bishop. Members are assigned to attend wards by geographical location.
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Ward link
Welfare
A system of Church assistance, which provides food, clothing, fuel, and sometimes cash to meet basic necessities for those members who are in financial difficulty. The bishop administers welfare at the ward level, and finances come from fast offerings. Church Welfare is a gift, not a loan. Bishops work with members to help them become financially self-sufficient again, and bishops will almost always assign the member receiving assistance some sort of work, service, or activity so that the assistance is not a "dole."
  • Encyclopedia of Mormonism :Welfare link
Word of Wisdom 
The health code followed by practicing Latter-day Saints (Mormons.) The current interpretation includes not drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, taking illegal drugs, drinking coffee, or black or green tea. Some Latter-day Saints in the United States have further interpreted this to mean they should not drink any caffeinated beverages, although this is a matter about which the Church has no official stance.

X

Y

Z

Zion
There are several definitions:
  • The name of the people of the Lord (Moses 7:18).
  • A city built by Enoch and his people that was translated (Moses 7:18-69).
  • The City of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6-7).
  • The New Jerusalem that is to be built in Jackson County Missouri (D&C 84:1-4).
  • All of North and South America (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 362).