I listened to an interesting podcast on NPR’s the Hidden Brain called “Lost in Translation”. They talked about how word usage can influence how we think and act. For example, they did an experiment where they had artists paint a picture of “death”. Afterwards a group of people that did not know who painted which picture was able to tell if the artists native language used a female or male pronoun for the word “death”. Some paintings had a more feminine representation of death, and other a more masculine. Another example they gave is when people described a bridge, if their language used a feminine pronoun, then they would use like beautiful and graceful. If their language used a male pronoun, then the words were strong, sturdy, and tall.
This got me to wondering what about words we use in the church, and how that might influence our thinking and shape our worldview. There has already been a lot written about “non-consensual immorality” with our own hawkgrrl weighing in here
But what about other words that we Mormons use. Remember when somebody who didn’t come to church was “inactive”? Now they are “less active”. I think the reasoning behind this is that it is less harsh, and gives the impression that there is still some “activity” in the person, they just need a little push to get back into full activity.
We use to have “free agency”? Now we just have “agency”, or more recently “moral agency”. This was probably to drive home that even though we are free to act, we are not free from the consequences. There are no gays or homosexuals in the church, or for that matter anyplace in the world. There are just people that suffer from “same sex attraction”. The church as yet to come up with a good word for transsexuals, but I’m sure we’ll hear one soon in General Conference. Maybe “gender befuddled”?
What about using male pronouns for all deity? Even though we believe that we have a Mother in Heaven, and she is a God, there is no “Her” in any of our official discourse. Once in a while we’ll get a “They”, usually when the General YW’s or RS president is speaking in General Conference, and has talked about “Loving Heavenly Parents”.
There are millions of English speaking Mormons who think God and Jesus speak in early modern English using thee and thou, and that those words are the only way to address them in prayer.
And just recently, the word “minister” has jumped into the LDS lexicon. While we all have an idea of what it means, this will change in coming generations as the new ministering (not a program) takes over for home teaching and visiting teaching. (When I hear “Minister”, I think of the poor sap in the pre-1990 temple movie). David B talked about this change in meaning in his recent post Suddenly, Everything is Ministering.
So what words do you see being used in the LDS Church that can alter our perception, for good or bad?