In casual conversation, Mormons use words just like everyone else. But when it comes to Mormon religious discourse and to more formal discussions of doctrine and theology, it gets tricky. Sometimes Mormons use words that other English speakers use but with an entirely different meaning. Sometimes Mormons confidently use ambiguous words. Sometimes Mormons juggle different meanings of a word in the same discussion (that’s equivocation). Let’s talk a bit about how Mormons use and misuse words by looking at some examples.
Translate. You’re familiar with the meaning of the English word “translate,” to render spoken or written words from one language into another. If you happen to know two languages fairly well, you can translate casual conversation. If you know two languages very well and have a good bilingual dictionary on hand, you can translate a written document. If you don’t know the source language, you can’t possibly translate conversation or a written document; you can’t translate at all. If your friend comes up to you with a two-page German article in hand and says, “I translated this into English,” and you reply, “But you don’t speak German …” then you are entitled to add, “Translate. I do not think that word means what you think it means.”
Consider the LDS Gospel Topics Essay “Book of Mormon Translation“. Here is how the essay describes the process of producing the English text: “According to witnesses of the translation, when Joseph looked into the instruments, the words of scripture appeared in English.” That’s not translating, that’s reading. Words appear on a (supernatural) rock and Joseph reads them out loud to his scribe. That’s reading. Joseph could read, so there’s nothing implausible about it (well, other than the supernatural rock part). Joseph didn’t write down the English phrases, he spoke them, and one or another associate wrote them down. That’s dictation. Other LDS scholars and apologists (but not the Essay) have endorsed a looser approach to Joseph’s project, suggesting that while looking at characters and pondering their meaning, God somehow put thoughts or ideas into Joseph’s mind. Joseph then put those thoughts or ideas into words using his own vocabulary, which he then spoke to his scribe. That’s composition, putting thoughts and ideas into words, not really different from what you did when writing a paper in college or what any other author does when writing a book. Reading, dictation, composition, whatever, but even the Essay clearly acknowledges (when you ignore all the handwaving) that it wasn’t translation that Joseph was doing. Yet leaders and laity alike keep using that word.
God. When 21st-century Christians use the word “God,” they are generally referring to the orthodox Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three persons but one God. The attributes of the Christian God include the three “omnis,” omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, as well incorporeality, impassibility (the “passions” part of without body, parts, or passions), and eternity (that God exists in some sense outside of time; He has no beginning or end). The Book of Mormon uses the term God and often refers to a tripartite God, as in Alma 11:44: “Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God.” So Mormons quite happily, in their conversations, use the word God pretty much like mainline, Evangelical, and Catholic Christians do.
At the same time, Mormons think of God quite differently. The Persons are quite distinct and there are three of them, united in purpose but not in any deeper or metaphysical sense. One of them is often depicted as literally sitting on a physical throne somewhere in Heaven, hardly different from depictions of Zeus sitting on a throne somewhere on Mount Olympus. While Mormons often sneer at the Christian claim that God is incorporeal — as if incorporeal means not real — of the Three Persons in the Mormon Godhead, one is plainly depicted as incorporeal (the Holy Ghost, necessarily so in order that His influence might be felt everywhere, universally, although confusingly the Father and the Son are generally accorded the same power) and another, the Son, as incorporeal in the Pre-existence, prior to earthly birth.
The LDS view is that God is not impassible; He weeps, He has emotions. Presumably He can be happy or sad, angry or depressed. I know, it sounds a little impious to talk about God in those terms, but I’m just spelling out what LDS leaders and scholars have increasingly come to candidly affirm, that God is a very emotional Being. I’ve never seen an LDS scholar put out a list of approved emotions (ones they are okay with God having) and disapproved ones (emotions that they think God would not have). But presumably if God can take on some emotional states, He can take on any emotional state. If you are thoroughly convinced God weeps, you have little basis for denying that God can get angry, even enraged, from time to time. Who are you to say God can’t have a bad day? Really, the whole idea that God has emotions (e-motions, something external to God that nevertheless moves Him) compromises His omnipotence and His self-contained being (which might fall under aseity or immutability or transcendence, other attributes of the Christian God). The idea that external events could cause God to be angry or to weep raises more problems than it solves, although LDS commentators seem totally oblivious to this problem.
Bottom line: When Mormons use the word “God,” they generally have a much different concept in mind that do other Christians.
Covenant Path. You’ve heard this term a lot lately. What does it mean? Well, obviously it’s not an actual path, although I wouldn’t be surprised if a stake somewhere in the world has constructed an actual path from the baptismal font in the stake center across the street to the front door of the adjacent temple and named it “Covenant Path.” In some contexts, it refers to the Mormon Checklist: baptism, seminary, serve a mission, attend Institute in college (or take your BYU religion classes), get married in the temple, have from two to ten kids, pay tithing and serve without pay in whatever calling comes your way, serve a senior mission, and die quietly and reverently, surrounded by kids and grandkids, with a testimony on your lips. Miss checking a box, you’re off the Covenant Path. Well, there are apostles who didn’t serve an LDS mission. Are they off the Covenant Path? Well, hmmm, not sure. Will repentance retroactively put you back on the Covenant Path if you missed a few boxes during your wild and crazy twenties, before coming back to the fold in your thirties? Seems like it should. So maybe repentance and grace are what’s important, not the boxes to check on the Covenant Path.
Whatever the term Covenant Path implies, it’s certainly not limited to covenants. It seems to be used much more broadly. A one-hour Mormon (who skips the second hour) is likely talked about as off the Covenant Path in Ward Council discussions. I’m sure there are Mormon Republo-fascists who think a Mormon Democrat is off the Covenant Path. I have no doubt some members of your ward think that a young woman in the ward with more than one piercing per ear is off the Covenant Path. The more you think about it, the more it seems the term has become just another Mormon stick to beat on those who aren’t quite as zealous as you think they should be. It’s just another tool for judging your neighbor. As a term, it means whatever it needs to mean in order to engage in an enjoyable episode of judge your neighbor.
The next time the phrase pops up in Mormon conversation, ask your friend, “What exactly do you mean by the term ‘Covenant Path'”? I think you might get a variety of answers from different people, and even from the same person in different contexts. Even LDS leaders who try to explain what the term means don’t really do much explaining. Here is Elder Christofferson, from his 2021 Conference talk “Why the Covenant Path“:
What is the covenant path? It is the one path that leads to the celestial kingdom of God. We embark upon the path at the gate of baptism and then “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men [the two great commandments] … to the end.”2 In the course of the covenant path (which, by the way, extends beyond mortality), we receive all the ordinances and covenants pertaining to salvation and exaltation.
Conclusion. I’ll bet that now that you have this idea in your head, you will notice a lot of words and terms in Mormon discourse that don’t quite make sense. Or maybe you have been noticing them all along and are dying to share your frustration.
- What terms or phrases do you think members and leaders constantly misuse or confuse?
- Any terms or phrases that you now realize that *you* have misused in the past?
- Any examples of members or leaders who swim against the tide and are careful to clarify confusing terms or avoid misleading terms?
I think you missed the boat on “translate.” If the English text of the Book of Mormon reflects the meaning of the Reformed Egyptian text on the golden plates, that is a translation and the person responsible for generating it can fairly be said to have translated it, by whatever means. Not having the golden plates for comparison, the jury remains out on whether the Book of Mormon is a translation thereof. But the jury is back on the Book of Abraham–the English text of the BoA does not reflect the meaning of the hieroglyphics on the papyri reproduced in the BoA facsimiles, so it would not be called a translation by any non-Mormon definition. And yet Mormon apologists still call it a translation and simply suggest an alternative definition of “translate.” That is the disconnect you should have highlighted.
There are other words that the Church is trying to change the meaning of, with varying amounts of success. “Preside” is one that comes to mind. Other words have (and have had since Nauvoo) multiple meanings even within the Mormon context, yet we use them as if they have a single meaning that all other Mormons would understand. Oaks even gave an entire Conference talk on the different meanings of “salvation.” When Nelson talks about “love” (as in the conditional kind that God has), he means something different than what pretty much the entire rest of the Church thinks of as love. Prayer, atonement, repentance, etc. It’s a long list.
“The World”. This phrase encompasses each and every bad thing that the speaker can think of, while not enumerating any of them. Each hearer then gets to assume that the speaker is referring to all the bad things *they* can think of. Whether there is any intersection between these two lists is entirely beside the point. What is important is that each person gets to nod knowingly to themselves as everyone in the congregation unites in the fervent believe that all the Bad Things are bad, and only Bad People who are living In The World would do those Bad Things. “The World” is the ultimate phrase to ensure that everyone agrees with you, even when no one knows what we are even talking about.
Great post. In my early years (I’m as old as dirt), I remember that Mormons rarely used the term “God” at all, because it was too close to “Damn” or “Swearing,” I notice Church members now say “I swear” (of course not to God) where growing up in Mesa one never used the word–purposefully using “promise.” Now they use Lord rather indiscriminately. I brought up what we meant when we said “Lord”–Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ or both, teaching GD in a Manhattan Ward. A prominent, liberal, LDS scholar said “both, or separate, it doesn’t matter.” Geez people are touchy about that one. Even after acknowledging four versions of the First Vision, I think that the institutional Church has boxed it self into the separate beings, and it’s so central to the theology, they will have to run with it for years to come.
On the other hand, it is quite interesting to me how “translate” has developed, and seems always followed “by the gift and power of God.” I’m pretty sure that these Gospel Topics essays became necessary because of R. Bushman’s seminal Rough Stone Rolling (disclosure, he was our home teacher for 13 years while writing it). Because he had unfettered access to the archives, they really can’t “disown” his work, most especially on a historiographical basis. (As if any of them know what’s in there anyway, might be Parley P. Pratt’s laundry list–who nows). Once the seer stones came out, they were forced to try and “finesse” a new translation mode. I think down the road, 10, 20 years we will see the major impact of this book on official church doctrine and history. I almost wonder if they will ever depart from the “literal, gold plates” thing to a “Book of Moses” mode, as they have devolved the Book of Abraham.
Here’s a few special Mormon words and phrases:
know – This may be the most abused word in Mormonism. Mormons look down on “lesser” Christian denominations whose members “believe” or “have faith” or “have hope”. Mormons have to be special and one-up everyone else by claiming to “know” things that are unknowable, at least for most people. Could we please be honest in testimony meetings and start saying things like “I have faith that God exists”, “I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet”, etc? Most, if not all, Mormons cannot justify saying “I know that God exists”, “I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet”, etc. if we’re using the normal English meaning of the word “know”.
revelation/inspiration – Sometimes these words are used interchangeably. Sometimes revelation is intended to mean something greater than inspiration, but what exactly the actual distinction is is rarely stated. For example, perhaps both revelation and inspiration can come from a “burning in the bosom”, but maybe the temperature has to be higher to be considered revelation? Many times revelation/inspiration can just be feeling good about something with very little description of how this differs from a non-Mormon just having random thoughts pop into their head that make sense to them personally.
prophetsseersandrevelators – I think this is a relatively new word to Mormonism. It’s the conjunction of three other words that no one really understands in the first place so combining them into a single word makes things so much clearer. When you have leaders that are supposed to be guided by God but in reality seem not to be terribly inspired to the point that people are grumbling about following them, giving them ever more glorified titles with lots of syllables totally makes people want to follow them.
love – When you have top leaders of the Church teaching that it is wrong to be seen in public or to have pictures taken with your LGBTQ children, then there is obviously a serious misunderstanding of the word love.
contention – Many Mormons think that any questioning or debating aspects of their faith to be contention, which of course is “of the devil”. Most people outside of Mormonism are capable of discussing differences of opinion about their faith without becoming contentious.
testimony – To most people, a testimony is spoken or written evidence that a person can give on a topic based on their own experiences or observations. It’s something you just have given your work or life experiences. For example, a witness to a crime can provide testimony to a court that the defendant ran out the door of a given house holding a gun. People aren’t typically trying to “find” their testimonies or “working on their testimonies”, etc. If someone were to provide testimony in court and tell the jury that their testimony is a “work in progress”, the judge would probably immediately throw them out and sanction the lawyer that called the person as a witness.
Judge in Israel – Most Mormons have no clue what this really refers to. When the bishop is referred to as the Judge of Israel, it simply means he’s probably going to kick someone’s butt, possibly right out of the Church.
I love you pointing out the strange usage of “covenant path”. What does it mean, anyway? I agree that it can mean different things. My conclusion is similar to yours that the most common meaning of covenant path is to do everything the Church tells you to do, check all the boxes, etc. Perhaps someone who is truly on the covenant path should be called “church broke”?
Don’t forget hawkgrrrl’s excellent post: https://wheatandtares.org/2013/10/08/mormon-jargon/. This post was my first exposure to W&T and is hilarious. I notice (after the fact) that a few of my terms above made her list.
I still prefer to use “the way” instead of “covenant path” as i can happily be a follower of “the way” as in Jesus showed me the way to go, i live in such a way, i am a follower of the way etc. IMO covenant path seems very restrictive and not inclusive of our Lord, who is truly The Way, The Truth and The Light of whom i think of when the words covenant path is used as it seems to be a catch phase brought about by pres. Nelson. I often feel left out as i am not in the inner circle of those who use it……
The proclamation of the family makes no sense because it says the man “presides” but is still equal to the woman. While women are equal to men in value in God’s eyes, they are not equal in function and power in the church, or in the proclamation, even though the word equal is used. Presides effectively negates the word equal.
Usage of “preside” in the church definitely doesn’t indicate equality in function or power. For instance when the bishop presides in sacrament meeting he makes all decisions for the meeting including
whether the chorister can ask the congregation to stand or to sing the additional verses at the end of the song. While the bishop and chorister are equal in value in God’s eyes, they do not have equal functions or power, or partnership.
Elder Soares tried to change the meaning of “preside” in a recent talk, to include more partnership and equality than is inherent in the word preside in the proclamation of the family.
While this was a nice effort, the wording stands as it is. It can still be confusing to couples that try to make their marriage match it’s concepts. To be equal partners while one partner presides still indicates hierarchy to me even if Elder Soares wants to say it doesn’t.
One talk can’t change the hierarchical history of marriage in our families and society. Acknowledging the actual meaning of the words, and changing the proclamation seems more helpful to me, but is probably beyond Elder Soares power.
Meanwhile, the background and wording remains confusing to couples that are trying their best to fulfill their roles. A woman speaks up in an equal way and it confuses the man who expected to be respected as the person who presides. He asks her why she won’t respect him, and she says she thought she did because she treated him equally and expected equal treatment. But the “equal” treatment he expects includes the added power and function of presiding, so he feels disrespected when she fails to defer to him and expects him to listen to her equally. Having never seen equality in his own parent’s relationship, it’s hard to make sense of what she is expecting. After all, he is supposed to preside. Says so right in the proclamation.
So communication and partnership are reduced and marital conflict increased by this little dishonesty in meaning.
In my experience this confusion has negative effects on many LDS marriages, and their children, as they try to match roles that do not match.
One big one that almost always goes unnoticed is the word “testimony.” In the legal word, a testimony is a declaration or statement of an incident that someone has witnessed made in a formal context, such as before a judge and jury. In non-Mormon religious contexts, the word testimony means a declaration of a belief that someone has come by through a spiritual witness. The word testimony can also mean evidence, as in “this ink stain is testimony to the pen’s ineffectiveness.” Yet in Mormon speak, the word testimony is used as synonymous with belief or strong belief. Mormons say “bear testimony” which coincides with how it is used outside Mormonism. But they also say to “have a testimony,” “lose a testimony,” “work on a testimony,” etc., which all suggest that what is meant is “belief” and not “testimony” as it is used elsewhere. But testimony is more than that. It also means a belief that based on some sort of vague witness that can easily be forgotten and misinterpreted and someone can strengthen by sheer willpower, I guess.
Mormonspeak about testimony is used to box doubters into a corner. “You lost your testimony” means “you changed your perspective.” But if you say it as that, “you changed perspective,” it gives the perspective change a validation that the believers do not want to give to a former believer. “You lost your testimony” communicates that they regard the former believer as a sort of weak traitor. “You changed your perspective” regards them as an equal who just came to understand things differently.
Also by giving testimony a special meaning as belief based on spiritual experience, it allows the believer to avoid the uncomfortable question of “based on what?” Well, built in to the Mormon concept of testimony is the idea that the belief is already based on spiritual experience and that it is tautological to even explain that it is based on said spiritual experience and that there is no need to justify the belief on any tangible basis. It is belief out of thin air and you can “choose to believe” without anything causing the belief and that it is up to you and your own choice to have the willpower to believe or not. But I have found that believers often don’t like it if I ask them if they’ve tried to gain a testimony of the prophethood of Warren Jeffs, or if they validate the spiritual experiences of Jeffs’ followers who claim belief in his prophetic legitimacy much in the same way that Nelsonite Mormons claim the legitimacy of Russell Nelson’s prophethood.
Words mean lots of different things to different people in different contexts. To a biologist, “translate” means to synthesize a polypeptide from a mRNA. To a corrections officer, a ward is a division of a prison. I have to push back against the idea that if Mormons use a word in a Mormon way, then they must be using it wrong. Catholics use words in a Catholic way. Architects use words that have specialized meaning in the jargon of architecture. To some people, “sabbath” means Sunday. To others, it means Friday night and Saturday. I don’t feel the need to proclaim one of them wrong. Language always depends on context.
Of course Mormons have different ideas of God than everyone else. And everyone else has different ideas among themselves. That’s not using a word wrong or differently, it’s just differences in theology. That’s okay with me. I don’t have a problem with the Book of Abraham being called a translation. The Book of Abraham is in English. It is highly unlikely that Abraham wrote it in English. That makes it a translation, regardless of whether it came from the papyri or from revelation. Of course, whether it is an authentic translation of some writings of Abraham is another question, but since it’s in English and purports to be writings of Abraham, it also has to purport to be a translation. The same goes for the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants 7. Mormons use “preside” to mean particular things, which largely overlap with the various things that various other people mean when they use the word.
Human language is wonderful and complex and never unambiguous. That is the beauty of it.
“Standards”. Mormons are obsessed with standards and instead of seeing them as guardrails for personal behaviour, they weaponize them to judge others. Our obsession with standards turns us into Pharisees. Could we please spend less time talking about standards for dress and music and movies and more time talking about having our hearts changed, our lives sanctified, and our souls filled with love for our neighbour? As far as I am concerned, the real standard to measure up to is loving God and our neighbour with all our heart, might, mind and strength. If we do that, the rest will fall into place on its own – and without self-righteousness.
Excellent post! It’s something I would bring up frequently when I was attending Church regularly: words matter, and meaning is often a feature of context, so be cautious what you say. The Brethren could stand to be reminded of this following the events of Colorado Springs.
The classic example is “knowing,” as in “I know this Church is true.” What’s interesting here is that the technical definition used inside and outside the Church is roughly the same: to perceive or understand as fact or truth. Technically, those bearing their testimony have perceived something is true. Where the divergence occurs is in the acceptable standards used to judge truth. In modern time we assume a high standard for statements of knowledge that robust external validation, predictable and replicable results, and a willingness to update our position given new validated and robust data. By contrast, those in the Church have an uneven standard that sometimes incorporates middling external standards (“by their works you shall know them,”) but failing that/when those fail (God wants you to kill Laban), reverting to internal validation, i.e., what you feel is right is objectively true. What’s more, for this knowledge to be dependable, you have to trust your gut/the Spirit without question. Certainty here actually bars the possibility of updating your position, even if this position conflicts with external knowledge. In the end, your gut arbitrates reality; knowledge only comes from within.
Granted, this is not a uniquely Latter-day Saints epistemic sin, and sometimes people will be thoughtful enough to include the qualifier “spiritual knowledge,” which is certainly an improvement. However, for a missionary church constantly trying to draw new converts into the fold, there is something both hubristic and duplicitous in the cultural insistence on the usage of this word in the face of completely appropriate alternatives, i.e., belief, faith, etc. It’s as if members are aware their definition is different, but they think their definition is better (“the Spirit is the true source of knowledge”), so they appropriate the word with a new definition, “the World’s” definition be damned. If curious nonmembers attribute more credibility to their position as a result, so much the better.
What’s at the end of the Covenant Path? Or does it never end, or do we never “finish” the course? Is it a treadmill we’re talking about?
Maybe the Brethren don’t have a terminus in mind; or maybe we’re all going to get the Second Annointing now?
Nice discussion; thx for posting this and encouraging further discussion. One term that surely has transmogrified under Mormon usage is “musket fire”, thanks to one particularly unwise speech at BYU.
Great post. I was going to mention “know” or “I know” before mountainclimber479 beat me to it. We use and misuse phrases all the time. Words/phrases that are highly problematic, IMHO:
Family–When Mormons use this word, there is generally a very specific, nuclear family connotation. This is problematic on a number of levels, two of which are: 1) Not everyone has/belongs to a family like this. It’s incredibly dismissive and exclusionary. It’s also increasingly problematic because fewer and fewer members belong to this kind of family (see recent data that indicates a majority of adult Mormons are single, whether widowed, divorced or never married), which means a lot of the bullsh*t family rhetoric employed at church is designed to signal privilege, power and authority (these families are the “best”/most ideal, etc.). And 2) this is also a handy way to continue to exclude LGBTQ folks and their families.
Faith–This is a big one for me, because in a neutral context, the word isn’t that big a deal: “I have faith in Jesus”, “I have faith One Direction will reunite”, etc. Your faith is yours and it’s entirely subjective and that’s fine. However, when this word is used to oppose rational thought or thoughtful questions, I have a problem. How many of us have heard the word used by leaders who have no idea how to answer legitimate, difficult questions? “Bishop, why are the Book of Abraham facsimiles not at all what Smith and the church claims they are?” “Well Bro/Sis So and So, you just have to have faith.” Same for any of the other pointed and important questions that the church can’t answer; everything from lying about its own history to women and the priesthood to the church’s appalling history on race and LGBTQ issues. It’s often used as a cop-out or as a way to deflect and minimize legitimate, important questions and I think that’s wrong.
Less active and inactive–Really dismissive labels that reduce all of the complexities concerning religion and faith to “well, did you go to church and do your calling or not?” Similar to what John W says about “losing” your testimony. These are labels/words that are meant to enforce a kind of rigid orthodoxy that I’d be willing to bet a lot of members don’t actually have. It’s just that some of us are better at/more committed to pretending than other members are. It’s labels like this that make difficult, complex, but potentially fruitful discussions nearly impossible in a church setting. We’ve created a church that prohibits any actual, sincere discussion of questions involving faith, doctrine, history, etc. So congratulations to us, I guess?
Yikes! You mean members gossip about me if I skip the second hour of church? Not cool.
However, I do have a word to describe myself while skipping the second hour… HAPPY.
@ Dave B
Enjoyed the post.
We’re very fond of catch phrases in the church and I’m several more and more grating. I wish they’d just stop already. My most hated:
A win for satan
Same sex attraction
Wish there was an edit button 😂
More from the Museum of Passive Aggressive Mormonisms:
Patriarchal – as in order, letting everyone know who’s in charge.
Special – members living on the margins.
Ward Argonist – unpaid and unappreciated musician.
Extemporaneous – speakers bureau for unprepared bishoprics.
This reminded me of a post I did many years ago called Mormon Jargon, a tongue-in-cheek Ambrose Bierce-style “Devil’s Dictionary”: https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/07/24/mormon-jargon-2/
“Scantily clad (adj.) For women, revealing shoulders or knees in public, including when swimming, rendering the woman walking pornography; there is no equivalent for men because nobody wants to see that..”
Luv it, Angela C, well done. Encyclopedic!
“Immorality” — sexy sexual sex, but without the full sexiness of those exact words.
Speaking of catchphrases in Mormonism… if this keeps up, exMormons will be able to date themselves by the catchphrase in fashion at the time of their departure. “Hastening the work of the Lord” or simply shortened to “the Hastening,” was the phrase that kicked me on the butt on my way out the door.
The “covenant path” will have succeeded in running many many members away before it gets plopped in the dustbin. I wonder what the next phrase will be. I suspect it might have something to do with “religious freedom.”
“. When 21st-century Christians use the word “God,” they are generally referring to the orthodox Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three persons but one God. The attributes of the Christian God include the three “omnis,” omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, as well incorporeality, impassibility (the “passions” part of without body, parts, or passions), and eternity (that God exists in some sense outside of time; He has no beginning or end)”
I am unimpressed. The “21st Century Christians” are hardly legally designated as the official arbiters of Godness. Joseph Smith deliberately rejected the theology of his day to produce an altogether new understanding of such things. Of course the God of Mormonism is different. It’s supposed to be.
Only an Investigator (heh heh), but here are a few I’ve run across:
Heavenly Father (+ Heavenly Mother for extra credit)
Word of Wisdom
Sealing, Endowment (you don’t wanna know how we gentiles use this one!)
Telestial Kingdom, Kolob, Mordor, etc.
Eye of Agamotto
As a never Mormon, it’s always bothered me that Mormons “hijack” common words, such as modesty. Mormon modesty has many specific details attached to it – most (non-LDS) people wouldn’t call a tank top immodest. Another one is calling young male missionaries “elder” – it seems to attempt to attach a level of wisdom & knowledge that a 19-year old male is not going to typically have. “Priesthood” is along the same lines. It has a Catholicism connotation to it, and would typically be associated with several years of schooling/study. If Mormons are proud to be a peculiar people, it would make sense they would use/create words that don’t already have a fairly universal meaning.
Zla’od, I am laughing my head off at how you slipped “Mordor” into the list right behind Kolob. I know what rumspringa is due to my Amish-romance-reader phase. I had to google the Eye of Agamatto and now I’m laughing again.
The God of Mormonism is different indeed. The God of Mormonism is so different, He is even different from Himself depending on which Prophet is talking. Joseph prayed to the Father thinking he was talking to Jehovah. Brigham was praying to Adam. Wilford was so confused he said we should stop fretting about it. Talmage decided they were all wrong together and crafted his own Nicene-esque exposition on the nature of God and managed to get everyone else to sign off on it.
My bête noire words include these:
“Worthy.” I dislike the entire concept behind this word, as it is used in the Mormon church. It’s a reflection of our purity culture and conveys this false sense that some are favored of God while others are not…all because one can or cannot quantify their beliefs and behavior in a linear worthiness interview. Although, it seems to me its usage is lessening with the rise of Covenant Path™, a more expansive shaming charge than worthiness perhaps. I believe the etymology of the word worthy means something of value, or something that is appreciated, or highly thought of. Quite different from what the word has come to mean in the church.
“Morals” and “Immoral”, which many members and local leaders associate only with the keeping or breaking of the law of chastity. We don’t teach morality or moral decision making in the full sense of what it means because it would arm members with a stronger personal internal moral compass, which might complicate the degree to which members unquestionably follow the church’s obedience decretums.
“Return with honor.” This used to be a common refrain in my generation which meant to go on a mission, be obedient and serve the entire two years, and certainly not come home early. Evidently if you didn’t do any of these things you returned with dishonor? I hear this phrase used less these days, which I think is a good thing.
“Marry an RM.” This isn’t exactly tied to theology, but it does harken to a time when young men were invited to go on a mission based on a bishop or stake president’s recommendation (pre 1974ish?). Presumably, the young men invited to serve met a set of narrow requirements and bore certain spiritual qualities. Serving a mission was a calling, not a mandate (contrast this against what Elder Pearson recently asserted, outlandishly in my opinion, that serving a mission for young men is a part of their baptismal covenants). For a lengthy period of time, being an “RM” was an exception, not the rule among Mormon men. While the phrase spoken to young women, “marry an RM,” speaks to our culture’s grossness when it comes to our penchant for ranking and stacking members spiritually and in terms of their eternal worth and mortal utility to the church, it is also paradoxical. Where I grew up, not one of my home ward’s bishops had served a full-time mission from the time our ward was organized (circa 1920’s) until roughly 1994. Being an RM was neither a requirement for leadership callings or for being just a great, all around faithful male member. But today we have turned serving a mission into another form of favoritism within the ranks of the church.
“Valiant.” This is what I heard growing up again and again and again. Be valiant. Code for unquestioning obedience. While I believe valiant appears in the old testament and is associated with valor in war or battle, its usage when I was younger didn’t have much to do with displaying courage, but with obedience. It’s meaning could be rolled into today’s Covenant Path™ rhetoric.
“Come unto”. Just like all the thees and thous, it doesn’t sound reverent, it sounds low prole.
@englecameron, why would the church depart from the notion that there were literal gold plates? Even Bushman believes that.
How about the phrase “eat, drink, and be merry,” which has a completely different connotation in the Church world? When is eating, drinking, and being merry an OK thing to do? I’m pretty sure those three things are standard practice at every ward Halloween and Christmas party. Maybe eating, drinking and being merry is only not acceptable if you’re part of the “world” (as referenced in multiple responses above).