If you want to navigate through a conversation with a Mormon you will need to have a basic understanding of some of our terms. Sometimes we throw around acronyms like a government operative, and only other Mormons know what we are talking about.
Why so many terms? The Mormon religion is all encompassing. We live it, breathe it, and sleep with it. Our religion fills our days and occupies our nights. We love it! You just can’t be that wrapped up in something without having a “few” terms that you use that your neighbors aren’t familiar with. Talk to any dentist or mechanic, plumber or nurse; every group that specializes in something has their own vocabulary that is unique to that group. Mormons are no different.
Similar but different Some of the things we say sound like you should know what we are talking about, but you might not. I’ll explain more of these words and phrases in other postings, so bear with me as I introduce a few things to you now. I told my friend that we were going to be meeting at the Stake house at 6:00 p.m. What my friend heard was “steak” house. He assumed he had been invited to dinner.
Our congregations are generally called wards. A collection of wards (up to 12 of them) is called a Stake. It is a geographical term. The Stake house is the building where the offices for the Stake are located. Our congregation is run by a Bishop, that’s our clergy. But the Bishops get their marching orders from the Stake President. Wherever his office is is where the Stake house is. You will never find a Stake President’s office in any other building other than a Stake house. I’ll explain why it is called a Stake in another post.
When we go to church on Sunday the congregation sits in the pews on the floor, but the bishop and others sit on the stand. The stand is the elevated place (only two or three steps up) where the pulpit, organ, choir seats, and sacrament table are located. The stand almost always, if not always has a short wooden wall that goes across the front of it. In some places such a short wall is called a modesty screen (for obvious reasons). This wall is a great place for us to decorate our chapels with flowers each Sunday.
Come to think of it, I have no idea if other churches decorate their pulpit areas with fresh flowers each week. I live in Hawaii and we have three congregations that meet in our ward house each Sunday. The wards take turns coordinating which ward will decorate the pulpit that month. Generally one family will head out into the yard and start clipping flowers and making anywhere from two to six small arrangements to place along the front of the stand. Last month the gardenias were blooming. Someone supplied a strand of 12-15 gardenias along the front of the pulpit each week that month. It smelled great! But then I sit in the front of the chapel each week, so I was close. If our Bishop thinks the arrangements are too tall he gets up and moves them to the side so he can get a better look at the congregation during the meeting.
Okay, two more and I think you will get the point. When we talk about getting married we get sealed. The sealing takes place in the temple. It is the act of permanently sealing a man and a woman together as a single unit before the Lord in His house, by the use of His priesthood. When others hear us talk they are hearing ceiling. Trust me, entirely different.
Finally, I will introduce you to how we use the word gentile. Now that is a fluid word. To a Jew anyone who is not a Jew is a gentile. To most christians anyone who is not a christian is a gentile. To a Mormon, even fellow christians and Jews are gentiles, though technically Jews are only half gentile. In the old context a gentile was someone who was not a member of the house of Israel, a descendent of the prophet Jacob who had his name changed by an angel to Israel. To many christians being a gentile means they haven’t come to know and embrace Christ and his gospel. To a Mormon being gentile means you haven’t made any covenants with God through his authorized priesthood representatives. Hence, though a Jew is a descendent of Jacob, they haven’t made any covenants with God through God’s duly appointed servants, making them gentiles as well.
I’ll probably get some people who will like to take issue with some of that, but that is okay. If I find that I am wrong I’ll fix it. That is just how I understand it to be.
New Terms As the Lord has re-established and restored His church in the last days, many terms have come to be that didn’t exist before because there was no need for them. I will give you a few here, but I will do a separate post that just lists terms and gives definitions. It will be a reference piece to go to when you don’t know what a term means. If you find something that you want a definition to and I haven’t yet included it, please let me know by making a comment so I can put it into the ever evolving dictionary of terms.
Family Home Evening Also known affectionately as FHE. This is a gathering of the family in the home each Monday evening. The purpose is to give the parents a time to instruct the children in matters of importance to the family. It could be doctrine, behavior, moral discussions, entertainment, etc. Often the children themselves are invited to plan and conduct the Family Home Evening. Each one generally starts with a prayer and a hymn, announcements, a spiritual thought, the lesson then the most important part, the refreshments, after the closing prayer and blessing on the food, of course.This meeting is like any other family function. In some homes it operates like a dream and the children are all angels. In other homes the evening is fondly called Family Fight Night. They cannot get through the prayer without someone “looking at me” or “she’s breathing my air” or some such fiasco. Isn’t it nice that the Lord has a sense of humor and gives us ample opportunity to try again, and again, and again to get it right.
Personal Priesthood Interview The “PPI” is used both by fathers with their children and priesthood leaders with those who answer to them in the hierarchy of the priesthood. This is both a powerful tool and a completely wasted one. Those who use their opportunities to hold regular interviews with their children find that they learn some eternally valuable things about their children, and in many homes these become opportunities for the children to ask their fathers for counsel and priesthood blessings (another post), etc. This is a wonderful tool for fathers to get close to their children.
Unfortunately, like many fathers, many priesthood leaders have not yet learned how valuable this God-given opportunity is, and so it is either squandered in inappropriate use or is not used at all. Sad. Many priesthood leaders who are supposed to have regular PPIs either don’t hold them at all or haven’t learned yet how valuable they can be for learning what is really going on in their areas of responsibility.
As enlightening as all this has been, I’m sure you would rather just read some definitions and get on with life. Head on over to my makeshift dictionary and see what you can learn.