Dictionary

 

Dictionary of Mormon Words and Phrases

NOTE: This list is a work in progress. What you see here is by no means all that there is. I will be adding to it as new words or phrases come up on the site, so check back often. Also, each definition is not all inclusive. These definitions are only meant to give you some context for the word or phrase. If you would like something defined, I’ll be happy to do what I can to do your word or phrase justice.

A  
  Aaronic Priesthood

The lesser priesthood responsible for the physical needs or physical salvation of God’s children. Baptism is the highest ordinance in this priesthood. The greater or higher priesthood is known as the Melchizedek priesthood. See Melchizedek Priesthood.

   
B  
  Bishop
This is a Melchizedek Priesthood responsibility that lies within the Aaronic Priesthood. The office of the Bishop is to administer in all the temporal (physical) affairs of the Church. Bishops help the homeless, feed the hungry, watch over the ward, issue calls, preside over Sacrament meetings, collect the tithes of the Church, and interviews for worthiness, acting as a judge in Israel.
Bishopric
The Bishop has two counselors who help him administer the affairs of the ward or congregation. The three of them together comprise the Bishopric.
   
C  
Calling
A calling is a position of responsibility in a congregation or ward. Some common callings are Sunday School teacher or ward organist and so forth. To receive a calling or to be called to a position means that you have had a visit with the Bishop or one of his counselors, and they have asked if you would accept the responsibility for a particular duty in the ward, and you said, Yes!
Conduct
To conduct a meeting is to direct the flow of the meeting. The person conducting the meeting announces who will be praying, the order of talks, the numbers of the hymns, etc.
  CTR
“Choose The Right” – This is the name of a children’s class in Primary, and CTR is used extensively in the making of jewelry for the LDS (Latter-day Saint) market.
   
D  
  Deacon
The first level in the Aaronic Priesthood. A young man is ordained a Deacon at 12 years of age. His main responsibilities are to pass the sacrament and take care of the Church house. In the Doctrine and Covenants 20:59 it says, They are, however, to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.
   
E  
  Elder
The first level in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Elders preside over meetings when there is not a High Priest present. All those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood administer the spiritual ordinances of the Church. A Priest can baptize, but an Elder can baptize and confirm a person a member of the Church, can bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, give blessings of healing and comfort, etc.
  Exaltation
The crowning achievement by any of God’s children is to humble themselves and serve Him and keep God’s commandments all the days of their lives. In return for their obedience, the grace of God (His good will) promises that all that he has will be given to Christ, who in turn promises to share all that he receives from God with us, his brothers and sisters because of our faithfulness. So after all we can do, though never enough, God’s good grace will exalt us and raise us up to become like God, becoming gods and goddesses in our own right. The child becoming like the parent.
   
F  
  Family Home Evening
A weekly meeting, usually held on Monday evening where the family gets together to learn, pray or play as a family.
Fast and Testimony Meeting
This is a type of Sacrament meeting. The first Sunday of each month we go to church fasting, and instead of regular talks given by assigned members of the ward, the time is opened up for anyone who would like to express their witness or testimony of Christ can come to the pulpit and have their say. Most try to keep their time to less than five minutes to give others a chance to express themselves.
Fasting
On the first Sunday of each month Mormons go without two meals and donate the money they would have spent to eat those meals to the Church to go toward caring for the poor and needy. Those funds are referred to as Fast Offerings. During a Fast we are encouraged to read our scriptures, pray, and perform service to family and others to help increase our spirituality. The scriptures generally couple fasting with prayer.
  FHE
Acronym for Family Home Evening
  Fireside
Gatherings in a person’s home to discuss the gospel in the evenings used to be called Firesides, since they generally centered around the fireplace in the living room. Today, special evening meetings where a guest speaker comes in to speak to a group of saints is often referred to as a Fireside.
Foreordain
Before sending His children to earth to be tested, the Lord called us to perform specific tasks while we are here. Fore means before. So to be foreordained or to have a foreordination means to be ordained through the priesthood to do something before coming to mortality.
Example: In Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord tells Jeremiah that He knew Jeremiah before Jeremiah was born, and ordained him (before he was born) to be a prophet to the nations. This is a foreordination.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

  Foundation of the world
When the scriptures refer to something existing “from the foundation of the world,” it is referring to the creation of the earth. So in Alma 13:3 when Alma is referring to the men who were foreordained to become high priests, he is referring to those who were faithful in the premortal world, and were ordained, before the earth was created, to become high priests in mortality.
G  
  God
We normally refer to God the Father as God, but Christ is also a God, and the Holy Ghost is also a God. But when we say, God, we are normally referring to our Father in Heaven. God the Father is the only god we worship.
Gospel
Gospel means good news. So the gospel of Christ refers to the good news of Christ. The word gospel includes all the doctrines and teachings that come from God.
   
H  
  Heavenly Father
God, the Father of us all, the first and primary member of the Godhead. He is the literal father of all the spirits of the human family, but he is the literal physical father of Jesus Christ, hence Christ being referred to as the only begotten son. When we refer to our Heavenly Father we mean it literally. He is a glorified and resurrected man, and we long to be like him someday.
  High Priest
The High Priest can administer all the ordinances of salvation when properly authorized to do so. They watch over the Church, preside over meetings, act as Bishops when called to that office, and care for the spiritual welfare of the Church. All Seventies, Patriarchs, and Apostles are High Priests.
  Holy Ghost
The third member of the Godhead. His main responsibility is to testify of Christ and the Father and to teach us all truth. He is the revelator who teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept to bring us to Christ. He is a personage of spirit. He does not, nor has he ever had a physical body. As such he can only stand in one place at a time, but his influence can be felt everywhere at once. When we receive a spiritual witness or knowledge of any truth it is received from the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. The names are interchangeable.
Holy Spirit
This phrase is rarely used in the Mormon Church. We generally refer to either the Holy Ghost or the Spirit. These two are equivalent. The Holy Spirit is considered to be more of a Protestant or Catholic term.
  Home Teaching
Home Teaching is a program in the Mormon (LDS) church where two priesthood holders are assigned anywhere from one to four families to watch over and care for. Each month they are to make sure they have visited the family. They generally leave a message, check for any needs in the family and are charged to look for any way in which the ward can help the family, specifically the parents in their responsibilities.
There are also women who go out in pairs to visit specifically with the women of the home to see to their needs each month. See Visiting teaching.
   
I  
   Investigator
A person who is learning about the LDS Church for the first time. Actually, it includes those who have been studying the church for possibly many years, but have not yet made up their mind to join or become a member.
   
J  
  Jesus Christ
Jesus is his earthly name. Christ is his title. He has many names that describe his role in our salvation. He is the only physical son of God to be born into mortality, which allowed him to fulfill his earthly mission of performing the act of atonement that made forgiveness of sin possible. We pray to our Father in Heaven and do all things in the name of Jesus Christ, since he is the author of our salvation, and the only one worthy to plead our cause to our Father, being the only child of God without sin. Without Christ there is no salvation or forgiveness possible.
   
K  
  Keys
The Keys of the priesthood refer to the rights of administration. Only certain people are given the rights to direct God’s work. These people who have the right to direct His work do so because they are the holders of the keys or rights to direct God’s work. The Prophet is the only person on earth who actively holds and uses all priesthood keys simultaneously. All other work in the Church is done because he delegates specific responsibilities (keys) to others to help in moving God’s work forward. Without the keys of the priesthood we would have no right in God’s eyes to perform any ordinance of salvation.
   
L  
  Laying on of Hands

Anciently the priesthood authority was passed from one priesthood holder to another through the process of the one who currently holding the priesthood laying his hands on the head of the one receiving the priesthood and conferring the priesthood on that person and ordaining that person to a particular office in the priesthood. Under the direction of the man with the keys of the priesthood that new priesthood holder could now perform whatever ordinance work he had been ordained to do within the limits of his priesthood office.

Moses laid his hands on the head of Aaron and gave him the right to perform the ordinances of the lesser priesthood for the children of Israel. This priesthood became known as the priesthood of Aaron or the Aaronic priesthood.

Leading Music
The music conductor who directs the congregation in singing the hymns is said to lead the music.
   
M  
  Melchizedek Priesthood
The greater or higher priesthood, holders of this priesthood have the authority to direct the various aspects of God’s redemption and salvation of His children. All ordinances in the temple are done through this priesthood. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the subsequent confirmation of membership in God’s church is also done through the Melchizedek priesthood.
  Mormon Standard Time
Many Mormons are notoriously late to everything. This is referred to as Mormon Standard Time. Polynesians are also very casual about punctuality. Here in Hawaii we call it Hawaiian Standard Time, because almost everything starts late. If you want a meeting to start at 10:00 a.m., the joke is that you have to announce that it starts at 9:30 a.m. so it will really start on time. It never actually works that way, but that is the joke.
   
N  
   
   
O  
  Offices in the Priesthood
Each level in the priesthood has several offices in that priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood, for example, has four offices, Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Bishop.
   
P  
Paid Clergy
Most Christian churches pay those who lead them. The LDS church has no paid clergy. We are a lay ministry. Everyone volunteers their time and efforts, even our Bishops and Stake Presidents, the equivalent of a Pastor and a Bishop in the Catholic faith.
  Personal Priesthood Interview
A short meeting of a priesthood leader where responsibilities and progress are reviewed. Fathers can have these with their family members and priesthood leaders should be having these with the general members of the priesthood.
Ponder
To think quietly, methodically, and deeply about something. Synonyms are meditate, dwelling upon, deliberate, soul searching.
Postlude
This is the music played quietly after the meeting has finished, as people leave the room.
PPI
Acronym for Personal Priesthood Interview
Preside
The person who is responsible for what happens in a meeting. The person conducting a meeting takes their orders from the presiding authority. In a ward, the presiding authority is the Bishop. He has the final say in all matters pertaining to how the ward is run.
Prelude
This is the music played quietly before a meeting starts.
Postlude
This is the music played quietly after the meeting finishes.
  Priest
The highest level in the Aaronic Priesthood, held by young men 16 and 17 years of age. They do all that the Deacons and Teachers do, plus they can bless the sacrament, as well as ordain others to any office within the Aaronic Priesthood. In the absence of a Melchizedek Priesthood holder a Priest can take charge of church meetings.
  Priesthood
The authority given by God to his servants to perform His work on the earth. It is passed from authorized servant to fellow servant by the laying on of hands only by permission of one holding the keys to that priesthood.
Priesthood Meetings
Meetings held generally at the end of the three-hour block of meetings for the men. They divide themselves up by their priesthood office and have instruction based on their age or priesthood held. See Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood.
   
Q  
   Quorum
A quorum is a specific number of priesthood holders who all hold the same office in the priesthood. All Aaronic Priesthood holders ages 12 and 13 years of age belond to a Deacon’s quorum. A Deacon’s quorum has up to 12 members. The purpose of the quorum is to help the members of the quorum act as a single unit in their worship and service before the Lord, it is a brotherhood. Please refer to the article on Quorums on this website called “What is a Priesthood Quorum?” 
R  
   Relief Society
A women’s organization that focuses on charitable works. The Relief Society is one of the oldest women’s organizations in America, and has several million members, most all of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the LDS church when a young woman reaches the age of 18 she moves from the youth program into the Relief Society. Relief Society sisters (as they are called) are assigned to visit each other on a monthly basis to make sure all of the members’ needs are being met. They operate under the Priesthood, which is the governing organization of the Church.
   
S  
Sacrament Meeting
This is the main Sunday meeting that Mormons attend. It is 70 minutes long, and is usually the first of the three meetings in the three-hour block of meetings attended each Sunday. The main purpose of this meeting is to participate in the Sacrament.
  Saints
In New Testament times Christ referred to the members of His church as saints. Since we are members of Christ’s restored church, He also refers to us as saints. Hence the name of the Mormon church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  Salvation
Salvation refers to being rescued through Christ’s atoning sacrifice from the results of death. Salvation is a gift Christ freely gave to all the people of earth. Exaltation has to be earned.
  Solemn Assembly
A solemn assembly is a special meeting that is held to conduct special business of the Church, like the sustaining of a new prophet to lead the Church. At times the Lord has commanded the saints to prepare themselves for a solemn assembly in order to purify them for what was to come. The first time this happened in this dispensation was when the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to prepare the people for a solemn assembly in which He commanded the saints to build the Kirtland temple. A solemn assembly is held at each dedication of a new temple.
Stand
The stand is the place where the leaders of the ward or congregation sit during the meeting. Generally, the speakers, choir members, and music conductor will also be on the stand.
  Sunbeams
This is the name of the Primary class for three-year-olds who will be turning four that year.
Sunday School
This is the second meeting held each Sunday. In Sunday School lessons are taught according to a child’s age group. Adults have several types of classes they can choose to attend, but most attend Gospel Doctrine class, where the scriptures are studied.
Sustaining
An act of support to help another person be successful in their church calling. Members of the church are expected to sustain one another in any and all callings or assignments. The “sustaining vote” refers to the moment when a person’s name and calling is announced to the congregation and the whole congregation or ward raises their hand to promise to support that person in their new assignment or calling. 
   
T  
  Teacher
The second level in the Aaronic Priesthood. Held by 14 – 15 year old young men. They can do all that a Deacon does, plus they prepare the sacrament and go home teaching. In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 20, it says that they are to watch over the church and see to it that there is no backbiting and are to see to it that all members do their duty.
  Temple
A House of the Lord. A building constructed solely for the purpose to be dedicated to the Lord and used to perform saving ordinances for the living and the dead. It embodies the most Christ-like virtues of selfless service as those who serve in the temple perform the saving ordinances for those who can no longer perform them for themselves. The temple is where the living go to receive these ordinances for themselves. The crowning ordinance is the sealing of a family together as a new eternal unit. Once sealed, only disobedience to God’s commandments can break the marriage bond either in this life or the next.
  Testimony
A testimony is something that you know from personal experience. To bear your testimony is to tell someone what you know to be true from your own experience. In the Church (meaning in the Mormon or LDS church) this refers to talking about what God has personally given you experience with. Some things are considered too sacred to share with just anyone, but other things are perfectly appropriate to share with the world at large.
Three-Hour Block
The modern Mormon Church schedule consists of three meetings, which take three hours to complete. They are Sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and Relief Society for the women, and Priesthood for the men.
   
U  
   
V  
  Visiting Teaching
Visiting Teachers are two women who have been assigned to visit a specific set of sisters in the ward each month and look after their needs. They are assigned by the Relief Society, to which all of them belong, and they report back to the president of the Relief Society each month with any needs they find. The Relief Society President then takes those needs to the Bishop so the Bishop can help the woman or family in need. Often the help involves the family’s Home Teachers, the men who are also assigned to the family and visit them each month. See Home Teaching.
   
W  
Ward
A Ward is a congregation. Wards are geographically set up so that you know what ward to attend. If you are at such and such address, then the place for you to attend church is such and such ward. We are encouraged to attend the ward in which we live.
   
X  
   
Y  
   
Z