Latter-day Saint "LINGO" -a glossary of terms
A helpful guide to some of the phrases frequently used by members of the Church
Apostle: The Church today has apostles just as it 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 (written by Joseph Smith) explaining some of the basic beliefs of the LDS Church.
Auxiliaries: Different organizational groups within a ward. Auxiliaries are: Primary, Young Women's, Young Men's/Aaronic Priesthood, Relief Society, Melchizedek Priesthood and Sunday school. This term isn't used very often, but you may hear an announcement about a leadership meeting for auxiliary leaders.
Bishop: Similar to what other Churches may call a Pastor or Minister, but Bishops are not paid for their work. The Bishop who presides over a ward, along with two counselors who assist him. Bishops are sometimes referred to as the "Father of the ward" because they look over and care for the congregation. Bishops continue to have their regular career and family duties in addition to their responsibilities as a Bishop. A Bishop normally serves for several years (usually about 5 years) and then a new Bishop is called as his replacement. Bishops are called by Bishop and their last name (instead of Brother) out of respect for their calling.
Branch: A branch is a congregation with fewer members than a regular ward. Usually branches are found in smaller communities with small populations. Once the congregation's attendance increases to the level of a ward, it is reorganized as a ward. Instead of a Bishop, a branch is presided over by a Branch President (very similar to a Bishop, but specifically for branches).
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). 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..."). Using the terms Brother and Sister is not a requirement, and in most cases its fine to refer to people by their first name only*. Brother and Sister are used most often during Church meetings and classes, and other more formal occasions (like an interview with the Bishop). This is meant to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters in the gospel. (*exceptions would be men or women who are serving in leadership positions like the Bishop or Relief Society President, etc. Out of respect, we normally refer to these people by their title and last name at church, even if they are personal friends).
Calling: To have a calling means that one member of the Bishopric has asked you personally to take on an assignment or responsibility. The Bishopric prayerfully decides who will serve in each position that needs to be filled. The types of callings are varied, but in general involve teaching, leading, or supporting the ward in other ways. Serving in callings can help us develop skills and talents. All callings are voluntary and come with specific blessings. In general, most members of the ward serve in some type of calling - there is plenty to do! Callings are considered to be sacred opportunities to serve in God's kingdom on earth, help others, and develop our personal talents/skills.
Convert: Someone who was not raised as a church member, but later joined the church. Usually people are considered to be a "new convert" (or "new member") for the first year or so, and may be considered a "fairly recent convert" for several years after their baptism. (Sometimes you may hear people say that every person is a convert because even if you were raised in the church you still have to gain your own testimony and be "converted" at some point)
Covenant: A two-way binding contract between God and a person (or group). Those who keep their part of a covenant with God receive the fulfillment of promised blessings. A covenant is different than most regular contracts or agreements because it is eternal in nature, God always sets the terms of the covenant - we are invited to take part (or we may choose to decline) if we choose.
Deseret Industries (or D.I.): Church-operated non-profit thrift store (the closest one to Longview is in Portland). Most items are resold to the community in the thrift store, some donated items (clothing, etc) may also be used locally or internationally for humanitarian projects. Proceeds from sales go towards helping the needy. From time to time, a Deseret Industries truck is brought up to Longview and parked in one of the church parking lots to accept local donations. (Since many church members donate items to D.I., it is a good place to shop for church clothes, books by LDS authors, LDS-themed toys, etc.)
Elder: This title is used in several ways. Full-time volunteer missionaries (if they're men) are always called by the title Elder (along with their last name) during their entire mission (women missionaries are called by Sister and their last name). For missionaries, this is meant as a reminder (to themselves and others) that they are on a sacred mission at all times during their term of service. Elder is also used as a title for general authorities (unless they are a member of the First Presidency, then they are referred to as President). For example, a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles goes by the title Elder. Elder is also the name for a level of the priesthood (Elder is the priesthood office that most adult men hold, though they aren't called "Elder" as a title because of it). Sounds complicated, but you'll get the hang of it!
Endowment: An essential ordinance that is only performed in the temple. Each adult can be eligible to receive their personal temple endowment after they have been a church member for at least one year. As with other ordinances (like baptism), the endowment involves making covenants to follow God and keep his commandments. In return, we receive special blessings.
Ensign Magazine: (correct pronunciation is En-Sign). A monthly magazine published by the Church containing Church news, events, articles and policy announcements. General Conference talks are printed in the Ensign in the May and November issues each year. Subscriptions to the Ensign are available at a low cost (around $10 a year) because they are sold "at cost" (publishing costs, etc, not for a profit).
Family Home Evening: Church-wide program that promotes family togetherness and gospel teaching by setting aside one night a week (usually Monday) for a special family night at home. Most families have a program that includes a lesson, activity, treats, etc. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the program, no matter what their circumstances. Something as simple as personal scripture study or watching a movie with your spouse 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: A special church meeting held during Sacrament meeting on the first Sunday of each month (known as "Fast Sunday"). Members in the congregation can take the stand and share their positive feelings and gratitude for the gospel truths. Additional time for testimonies may be given at the end of 3rd hour classes. If you want to share (or "bear") your testimony, keep in mind that this is meant to be brief (1-2 minutes). Some members become accustomed to sharing long stories, personal family history, or using the opportunity to express love for ward members, but these things are generally discouraged because they take up time that could be used for testimony by other members. Essentially, a true testimony is brief and focus on stating a personal belief in gospel truths (such as Jesus Christ and the restoration of the Church). On Fast Sunday, most members fast (abstain from food and drink for two meals) and donate money that they would have spent on those meals to help the needy (this is called a "fast offering" and is included on the regular tithing slip).
Fireside: A special meeting, in addition to the usual Sunday meetings, usually held on Sunday evenings (sometimes in a chapel, sometimes in a home). There is usually a special speaker, followed by refreshments. Announcements about firesides will explain who is invited (youth, adults, etc). Sunday clothing is appropriate, regardless of location.
First Presidency: The directing authority for the Church on the earth, 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 (ie President Monson, or President Thomas S. Monson)
Food Storage: 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, members of the governing bodies of the Church worldwide. These include the First Presidency (the Prophet and his two counselors), the Quorum of the Twelve (Apostles), and the Quorum of the Seventy. They are administrative authorities, called by the Prophet to preach the Gospel and direct Church affairs around the world.
General Conference: A twice-annual conference (April and October) broadcast from Salt Lake City. Members throughout the world watch via satellite, television, video, etc. These meetings are for official instruction, announcements and teachings given by the Prophet, General Authorities and other leaders. These conferences are held on the first full weekend of April and October, with 2 sessions on both Saturday and Sunday (all different talks, no repeats). General Conference replaces all other regular Sunday church meetings. Times and places that the broadcast can be viewed are announced at church.
Gospel: The general name given to the teachings of Jesus Christ. This includes the plan of salvation, the scriptures and teachings of the Church, enabling all to return to our Heavenly Father.
High Priest: One of the ordained offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the higher order of the priesthood, with administrative responsibilities in addition to spiritual ones.
Home Teacher: Two Priesthood holders assigned in pairs to specific families in the ward. Each set of Home Teachers are expected to share a monthly message (found in the Ensign Magazine) and generally assist, help strengthen and be-friend their assigned families. All families in the ward should have someone assigned to Home Teach them monthly.
Investigator: An investigator is a non-member who is meeting with the missionaries to learn more about the church.
Latter Days: The time in which we now live; the last period of time leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Less-active/Inactive: A person who isn't regularly attending church or participating in the church programs for a length of time is considered to be "less-active". A person who is completely uninvolved with the church and does not attend church at all is considered "inactive". Sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably. The term "less-active" was suggested several years ago as a less harsh sounding and preferred term, since we don't always know the reason a person stops attending church and being referred to as "inactive" might be considered offensive to people who are not attending because of health reasons, etc. The concern for less-active (on completely inactive) members is based in the idea that active members and leaders should reach out to these members and help them return to full activity and the blessings involved with living the gospel.
Member: A member is a baptized member of the Church, whether they are actively involved with the church or not.
Mission: A period of volunteer service, usually ranging from six to 24 months (depending on the type of mission), when Church members devote themselves part-time or full-time to proselytizing, humanitarian assistance or other service. This is considered sacred service and is completely voluntary. There are many different types of missions available locally, nationwide, and worldwide for young single men/women and for retired single people and couples.
Mormon: Nickname for the church, in reference to the Book of Mormon. We prefer to be called Latter-day Saints (sometimes shortened to LDS), or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is also the name of ancient prophet, who organized the collection of ancient records contained in the Book of Mormon.
Mormon Standard Time: This is a (joke!) reference to members being consistently late for meetings and activities. Usually used to emphasize a prompt starting time, "12:30pm Sharp - Not Mormon Standard Time!"
Patriarchal Blessing: A special one-time blessing that is given to church members (usually teenage or adult) by a specially called Patriarch, who (through revelation) gives advice and counsel meant to help guide the member throughout the course of their life. This blessing is recorded (tape recorder) and the member is given a typed copy of their blessing to keep. Members who would like to receive their own Patriarchal Blessing should ask their Bishop for an appointment.
Preside: To watch over and be responsible for.
Priesthood: The authority to act in the name of God. Through priesthood responsibilities (such as performing ordinances like the Sacrament and baptism) boys and men learn to give Christ-like service to their families, community, and the church. Ordinances must be performed by one who has the authority to perform them in order for them to be binding the eyes of God. Being a priesthood holder is considered a sacred responsibility, priesthood holders receive no payment. It is only possible to use the priesthood to bless the lives of others. Priesthood holders are held to a high standard of personal integrity and are expected to lead by example. This is an important element in teaching boys and men to be righteous husbands and fathers.
Priesthood, Aaronic: The Aaronic Priesthood functions under the direction of the Melchizedek Priesthood and is of lesser power and authority than the priesthood of Melchizedek.
Priesthood, Melchizedek: Melchizedek Priesthood are the offices of elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch, apostle, and president…this priesthood must be present and functional whenever the kingdom of God is upon the earth in its fullness, since it is an essential part of the Lord's church.
Primary: An organization of the Church set up for children, held during the 2nd and 3rd hours of church. Nursery class is for ages 18 months - 3 years. Other Primary classes are for children ages 3-12.
Quorum: An organized group of Priesthood holders e.g. Aaronic Priesthood, Deacons, Teachers, Priests, Elders, High Priests.
Restoration: The period of time in which the entire Gospel was restored to the earth. This includes the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ (the Priesthood's), the Book of Mormon and other truths were revealed to Joseph Smith and other witnesses.
Relief Society: The women's organization of the church. Originally organized as a service-organization, the Relief Society program now includes Sunday instruction, activities, education, service, leadership opportunities, visiting teaching, and much more. The Relief Society is made up of every adult woman in the church and is one of the oldest and largest women's organizations in the world, claiming more than 6 million members in over 170 countries.
Sealing: A Temple ordinance, which unites a family (past and present) in an eternal bond. Couples are sealed together forever as a part of the marriage ceremony, and any future children born to the couple following the sealing are considered to be "born under the covenant". Couples who are already married outside of the temple can go to the temple to be sealed together (with their children) as a family in the temple.
Stake: A collection of wards and branches to make up one section of a region. Named a "stake" as a metaphor of each area keeping the LDS Church working as a whole. The wooden pegs (stakes) that hold up a large tent. Each peg/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 four volumes of scripture officially accepted by the LDS Church. These are; King James Version of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Talk: A speech given in Sacrament meeting. The Bishopric asks most ward members to speak (or "give a talk") in Sacrament Meeting from time to time. This gives everyone an opportunity to have practice speaking and allows Ward members to hear from a variety of speakers and learn from their unique perspective every week. A gospel topic is always given to the speaker and they have plenty of time to prepare.
Temple: A holy sanctuary built for the purpose of performing sacred ordinances and ceremonies such as marriages for eternity. Temples, of which there are more than 120 throughout the world, are not the same as chapels or meetinghouses that are used for Sunday worship. They are sacred, holy places and anyone who would like to enter the temple is required to meet high standards of personal righteousness and worthiness. Even though there are many temples, they are all usually referred to as "the temple".
Temple Recommend: Anyone who would like to go to the temple needs to have a temple recommend card. To get one, you complete an interview with your Bishop and then a second interview with a member of the Stake Presidency. Each interview involves questions regarding your personal testimony of the gospel, adherence to gospel principles and keeping of baptism covenants, activity in the church, etc. If it is determined that you are eligible to attend the temple, you will be given a signed temple recommend, which shows the temple staff that you are recommended for entrance to the temple. There are several types of recommends- a limited 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 (teen and adult) any time after their own baptism. A regular (full) temple recommend is for adults who have been members of the church for at least one year, and allows for entrance to the main sections of the temple (and the ordinances that are performed there, such as sealings and endowments).
Temporal: Physical or earthly
Testimony: A personal knowledge or feeling that the gospel teachings of the Church are true
Visiting Teachers: Two Relief Society sisters assigned in pairs to certain sisters in the ward. Each set of Visiting Teachers share a monthly message (found in the Ensign Magazine) and generally assist, help strengthen and be-friend their assigned sisters. All Relief Society sisters should have someone assigned to Visit Teach them monthly.
Young Men: Youth program for boys aged 12 to 18 (Aaronic Priesthood holders). Classes are divided by age; Deacons (ages 12 & 13), Teachers (ages 14 & 15, Priests (ages 16 & 17). The Aaronic Priesthood / Young Men work toward completing their Duty to God Award before progressing to an Elder and holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Young Women:Youth program for girls aged 12 to 18. Classes are divided by age; Beehive (ages 12 & 13), Mia Maid (ages 14 &15), Laurel (ages 16 &17). The Young Women work toward completing their Personal Progress Award before leaving to join the adult women in Relief Society at age 18yrs.
For more information on our "Welcome to the Ward" Packets for new converts and what is included, see the topic section labeled "WELCOME PACKET" on the right side of this page, above the picture of people shaking hands.