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DICTIONARY OF MORMONISM

A BRIEF REFERENCE GUIDE TO COMMON TERMS OF THE LDS CHURCH

One of the major difficulties in witnessing to Mormons is that they speak a unique language. Not only have they coined numerous words and expressions which are unique to Mormonism; they have also given unique definitions to biblical words. At first-glance, the differences might appear subtle. But they aren’t. They are drastic – and deadly.

We call this language “Mormonese.” It is important for you to know, not only to understand Mormonism, but also so you can clearly speak the truth in love to them.

This short dictionary will help you understand Mormonese. It focuses not only on words which are common in their usage but also on ones which are helpful in speaking God’s truth to them. The definitions are intentionally brief and meant to be user-friendly. Quotes and references come from well-known LDS sources. For many of the words, we have also included a brief Christian definition.

If you want a more in-depth discussion on a particular word, type it in the search box. There’s a good chance we have an article or blog addressing it.

A

+ Aaronic Priesthood

Also known as the lesser priesthood. It serves as the entry point into the priesthood for boys age twelve and older as well as adult male converts. Members of this priesthood supposedly experience the ministering of angels. The Aaronic priesthood is responsible for the churchs temporal affairs under the guidance of the bishop.

Biblical Christianity teaches that the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood was replaced by the Melchizedek priesthood (which only has one priest, Jesus Christ) and no longer exists. See Hebrews 7:15-19.

+ Adam

Equated with Michael, the archangel. Mormons believe he was one of Heavenly Fathers finest spirit children. He was sent to earth to make man mortal, which he accomplished through his fall into sin. Because of this, Mormons consider the fall a good event. See 2 Nephi 2:22-25; Moses 5:10,11. Also see: Fall of Adam.

+ Agency

A person's free will and natural capacity to choose right from wrong. "Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior" (True to the Faith, p. 12). Mormons are regularly encouraged to exercise their agency and make wise choices. It is one of the most important underpinnings for Mormonism's works-righteousness.

Biblical Christianity teaches that people by nature, are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and thoroughly evil (Genesis 8:21). Therefore, no one can seek God or do any good (Romans 3:10-12).

+ Angels

Mormons themselves seem to be confused about their exact description. Most common is the explanation that “an angel is a resurrected or translated body, with its spirit ministering to embodied spirits” (D&C Student Manual, p. 320). An example would be the angel Moroni who supposedly appeared to Joseph Smith. According to the Book of Mormon, Moroni was originally a Nephite leader who was resurrected sometime after his death.

Biblical Christianity teaches that God created angels distinct from humans. They especially serve believers (Hebrews 1:20).

+ Anointing

Ordinance performed on the sick and injured by holders of the Melchizedek priesthood. Many priesthood holders carry small bottles of consecrated olive oil for use in emergencies. Stories of miraculous healings are regularly reported.

+ Apostasy/Apostates

Apostasy means falling away. An apostate, in Mormonism, is a Mormon who leaves the LDS Church.

Mormons also talk about the Great Apostasy which they describe as the time between the death of the apostles and Joseph Smith's establishment of the LDS church. They teach that during this long period of time the true church was gone from the earth.

Biblical Christianity teaches that there will always be believers on earth. The true church consists of believers, so it will always have a presence.

+ Apostles

1) Sometimes a reference to the original twelve apostles.

2) More often a reference to the twelve current apostles of the Mormon church, who serve immediately under the First Presidency of the Church. They claim to have seen the risen Lord and are considered prophets, seers, and revelators

+ Apostles' Creed

Along with all the historical Christian creeds, it is considered an abomination by the LDS Church. See the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History 1:19.

+ Articles of Faith

Thirteen brief statements of faith often given to interested individuals. They do not mention many distinctive Mormon doctrines and thus give a deceptive picture of Mormonism. Since they are part of the Pearl of Great Price, they are considered scripture

+ Atonement

Mormonism's favorite term for Jesus sacrifice. They do not limit the atonement to Jesus' suffering on the cross. They include his bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane. Historically, this is what they emphasized.

Mormons refer to the atonement quite often, but they rarely explain it in any detail. Because of this, many Christians have not understood Mormonisms view of the atonement. Instead, they assume Mormons define it the same as Christians do.

Their understanding, however, is drastically different. They use it in two distinct ways:

1) Used very frequently as a reference to Jesus' conquering physical death for all people. By conquering physical death, Jesus made it possible for everyone to enter into the presence of Heavenly Father once again. Often left unsaid, however, is that they enter the Father's presence to be judged. The following quote is more the exception than the rule as it clearly brings in the idea of judgment. "Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ redeems all people from the effects of the Fall. All people who have ever lived on the earth and who ever will live on the earth will be resurrected and brought back into the presence of God to be judged" (True to the Faith, p. 18). However, to stay in his presence and live with him for all eternity, not only must a person receive the temple ordinances, they must also show their worthiness by keeping the commandments.

2) At times it includes the thought of Jesus' paying for their sins. Underlying all such references, however, is the thought that they have to pay him back. For a good example, see Boyd K. Packer's parable of the creditor and debtor. One place this parable is recorded is in the chapter on atonement in Gospel Principles.

Biblical Christianity teaches that through his voluntary sacrifice, Jesus made payment (atoned) for all sin. Therefore, salvation is free and full in Jesus. No more payments can be made. See Hebrews 10:18.

+ Authority

Authority is a huge concept in Mormonism. It is connected exclusively with the LDS priesthood. Thus, the only valid voices in religious matters are LDS authorities; the only valid religious rites are those performed by members of the LDS priesthood. This is why they consider only the baptisms performed by a priesthood holder as genuine.

Biblical Christianity teaches that all believers are priests before God (1 Peter 2:9). There is now no special priesthood with special authority.

B

+ Baptism

LDS Baptism is not about what God does for them, but what they promise to do for God. "When you were baptized, you entered into a covenant with God. You promised to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end. You renew this covenant each time you partake of the sacrament" (True to the Faith, p. 23).

They are baptized by immersion either at the age of eight or when they convert. Mormons consider a baptism valid only if it is performed by a holder of their priesthood. Even though they are baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (D&C 20:73), it is not a valid Christian baptism since the LDS church is not a Christian church.

Biblical Christianity teaches that God wonderfully uses baptism to connect people to Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Through it, God bestows the benefits of Christ's perfect life and sacrificial death. The blessings of baptism include the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), a new spiritual life (Romans 6:4), and eternal salvation (1 Peter 3:21).

+ Baptism for the Dead

To redeem the dead is one of the three main missions of the LDS church. They believe they accomplish this by being baptized for them. They base this belief on 1 Corinthians 15:29.

Mormons believe that spirits who accept Mormonism in the spirit world cannot progress or enter paradise until they are baptized. Such spirits must receive baptism vicariously through a living person since they don't have a body that can be baptized. Such baptisms are performed only in the temple. Faithful Mormons carry out this important temple work, for it is a way to further their own progression.

Biblical Christianity acknowledges that 1 Corinthians 15:29 is a difficult passage to interpret. But it wholeheartedly rejects Mormonism's interpretation. Paul, the inspired author, never says he baptized for the dead. In fact, he draws a bold contrast between the "they" of verse 29 and the "we" in verse 30. Neither does he command only baptisms for the dead.Furthermore, the Bible rules out any possibility of salvation af ter death. See Hebrews 9:27 and Proverbs 11:7.

+ Bear a Testimony

A popular expression for testifying about the truth of Mormonism. Also see: Testimony.

+ Bible

One of four books Mormons consider scripture. They believe it to be the Word of God "as far as it is translated correctly" (Eighth Article of Faith). When they talk about "translation," they usually mean "transmission." As the Book of Mormon states (1 Nephi 13:28), they believe many plain and precious truths were lost as it was transmitted down through the centuries. Consequently, they consider it the least reliable of their scriptures.

Mormons only use the King James Version (KJV). Contrary to what some think, they have not changed it. Their edition of the KJV includes additional items such as extensive references, their own Bible Dictionary, and portions of Joseph Smith's translation. Most Mormons are not very familiar with the Bible. Christians shouldn't assume that Mormons know even some of the more common Bible stories or verses. Biblical Christianity teaches that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God. It contains everything we need to know for salvation and godly living (2 Timothy 3:15-17). There are many conclusive proofs of the faithful transmission of the biblical text.

+ Bishop

The head of the local ward (congregation). A bishop has no formal theological training. Often the major criteria for becoming a bishop is success in the business or professional world. His main task is to judge people’s worthiness, not to be a teacher or preacher. He also supervises the administration of his ward.

A bishop continues working in his secular occupation during his term of office. Each week he must spend many hours fulfilling his duties as a bishop. This results in a lack of time at home which can often cause stress to his family. Although there is no specified length of service, most serve approximately five years.

To be called to be a bishop is a high honor – something which is reflected in the high respect they receive in the LDS community.

+ Bishopric

Each bishop has two counselors. These three men comprise the bishopric of each ward. Also see: Counselors.

+ Blessings

1) Blessings from God. In Mormonism, every blessing from God is dependent on their obedience. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21).

2) Blessings given by members of the LDS priesthood. These include, but are not limited to, the naming and blessing of children, confirming of new members, dedicating of homes and graves, and blessings administered by fathers on the members of their families. Such blessings are given in times of sickness or at significant events.

3) Patriarchal blessing. Once in a lifetime blessing given by a man called to be a patriarch. These are conditioned on a person’s faithfulness and obedience.

+ Body

Mormonism teaches that having a physical body is essential for the attaining of godhood. “No other people on earth understand the sacred nature and purpose of our physical bodies as do Latter-day Saints. … We knew that by gaining physical bodies to house our spirits, we would have the opportunity to become more like our Father” (Come Unto Me, p. 143). Also see: Mortal.

+ Book of Abraham

A section of the Pearl of Great Price, and thus a part of LDS scripture. It talks about gods creating the world and refers to Kolob, the star closest to God’s throne. Joseph Smith claimed to have translated it from Egyptian papyri he obtained. This was disproved in 1967 when these papyri were found in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It was quickly ascertained that they contained a description of Egyptian burial rites and not the Book of Abraham.

Christians sometimes emphasize this to Mormons in the hope of their seeing the faulty foundation of Mormonism. Most Mormons, however, shrug this proof off.

+ Book of Mormon

Subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” it is one of four books Mormons consider scripture. They say it supports and even outranks the Bible as a source of truth. "I told the brethren that The Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth . . . and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (Joseph Smith, Introduction to the Book of Mormon)

Mormonism teaches that The Book of Mormon was inscribed on golden plates and delivered to Joseph Smith by the angel, Moroni. It contains the story of groups of Jews migrating to the Americas and their subsequent history. This includes a visit from the resurrected Christ. Non-Mormons are encouraged to read it and prayerfully ask Heavenly Father if the book is true. Surprisingly, it contains very little LDS doctrine.

Mormons highly respect it, even though many have never read it. They know some of its stories, having been taught them since childhood.

+ Book of Moses

A section of the Pearl of Great Price and thus considered Mormon scripture. It contains teachings on the plurality of gods, Adam’s “good” fall, and Satan’s rebellion and fall.

+ Branch

A congregation too small to qualify as a ward.

+ Bretheren

The General Authorities. These consist of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Apostles, and the Seventies.

+ Brigham Young

The second president of the LDS church. After Joseph Smith’s death, he led the Mormons to Utah where they prospered under his leadership.

+ Brother

Male church members are commonly addressed as brothers.

+ Burning in the Bosom

A feeling of peace and assurance, supposedly given by the Holy Ghost, to confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Mormons put great stock in feelings.

+ BYU

Brigham Young University, located in Provo, Utah. Relatively few non-Mormons attend.

C

+ Caffeine

Although many think the LDS Church prohibits the use of caffeine, officially it doesn’t. They reaffirmed this in 2017.

+ Calling

A common expression for a specific task to which LDS members are assigned by their bishop. Since Mormonism teaches that the bishop receives direction from God, it is difficult for members to turn down these callings. Most active members serve in a specific calling (i.e. primary teacher, quorum president).

Only the apostles and president of the church receive lifelong callings.

+ Celestial Kingdom

The highest of the three LDS kingdoms of glory in heaven where a person will live eternally with Heavenly Father and Jesus. Qualifications for entering this kingdom depends “on the depth of your conversion, expressed by your obedience to the Lord's commandments. ... Such a goal is not achieved in one attempt, it is the result of a lifetime of righteousness and constancy of purpose" (True to the Faith, p. 92).

There are three levels within the celestial kingdom: the top level equals exaltation (godhood), the purpose of the second level has not been revealed, and the third level is for faithful Mormons who were not married in the temple. These individuals become ministering servants.

Biblical Christianity teaches that all who go to heaven will live with God. There is only one kingdom of glory, not three. People will be able to live with God, not because of anything they have done, but all because of what Jesus has done for them.

+ Celestial Marriage

Being married in the temple for time and eternity, which is essential for exaltation. It is also called eternal marriage. It is also performed vicariously for the dead. “The major crowning point of the law which man must obey is eternal marriage. Therein lies the keys of eternal life or, as the Doctrine and Covenants puts it, ‘eternal lives.’ In other words, an eternal increase of posterity” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, p. 4).

Biblical Christianity teaches that there is no marriage in heaven (Luke 20:35-36). Our heavenly relationships will greatly surpass any earthly relationship.

+ Choice Spirit

A common LDS expression roughly equivalent to a good person. It is rooted in their teaching of preexistence.

+ Choose the Right

A common slogan in Mormonism. CTR (choice the right) jewelry is popular among Mormons.

+ Christian

Mormons refer to themselves as being Christian. The LDS Church will refer to itself as a denomination within Christianity. Their primary reason for being considered a Christian is that they claim to place Jesus Christat the center of their theology and the need to follow His commandments. The LDS Church claims to be the only true Christian church since the current Christian church does not have the “fullness of the gospel.” Mormons believe the LDS Church has the complete teachings from God due to Joseph Smith’s restoration of the gospel.

Biblical Christianity teaches: The Bible equates Christians with believers. (Acts 11:26) A proper biblical definition of a Christian is one who has already received the status of being reconciled with God. A Christian trusts or believes in Christ’s righteousness and by faith alone is already perfect, worthy, and righteous. This status separates a Christian from any others who rely on any works on their part to be justified before God.

+ Civil War Prophecy

Contained in D&C Section 87. Mormons often cite it as proof that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. Such “prophecies,” however, were not uncommon in his day. In addition, parts of it did not come true. Mormons also fail to mention, or don’t even realize, that Smith made many other prophecies – none of which came true. For example, see D&C 84.

+ Coffee

The drinking of hot drinks is condemned in the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89). Joseph Smith later interpreted hot drinks as coffee and tea. Drinking coffee disqualifies Mormons from entering the temple and is one of the worst sins they can commit.

+ Cold Drinks

Many Mormons believe it is a violation of the Word of Wisdom to drink caffeinated drinks even though it does not specifically forbid them. “What about cola drinks, kava, some health or sports drinks, or other drinks containing stimulants? An official statement by the Church’s leaders reads: ‘With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided’” (D&C Student Manual, p. 210).

+ Confirmation

Confirmation is an ordinance performed immediately after baptism and consists of priesthood holders "laying on their hands" and giving a blessing. Mormons believe it confers the gift of the Holy Ghost who will be their constant companion if they remain worthy.

+ Constitution of the United States

On the basis of D&C 101:80, Mormons believe it was inspired by God.

+ Constitution of the Seeds

The ability to bear spirit children, which is the essence of being a god. Only those who attain godhood will be able to have a continuation of the seeds. See D&C 132:19,20.

+ Conversion

"Conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the Savior" (True to the Faith, p. 41). Mormons continue the process of conversion by being worthy: by remaining strong in keeping their covenant promises and following all the commands and ordinances of the Church. "Because conversion is a quiet, constant process, you may be converted now and not realize it" (True to the Faith, p. 41).

Biblical Christianity teaches that conversion is not a process, but an event. It is the moment when a person is brought to faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). St. Paul’s conversion (Acts 9) is an example of all conversions (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

+ Covenant

A very important and popular word in Mormonism. LDS covenants are always bilateral, conditioned on a person’s obedience. If Mormons promise to do their part (obedience), then God will do His part (blessings). “A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances, we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience" (True to the Faith, p. 44).

Almost everything in Mormonism is considered a covenant. “Each ordinance and requirement to man for the purpose of bringing to pass his salvation and exaltation is a covenant” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, p. 197).

Biblical Christianity teaches that the most important covenant, the new covenant, is unilateral (Jeremiah 31:31-34). God does all the work. No conditions are attached.

+ Create

According to Mormonism, Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth under the direction of Heavenly Father. He did not create the world from nothing, but organized eternal matter. Mormonism teaches that others were involved in the creation (Moses, Abraham, James, John, Peter, and Joseph Smith in their preexistent forms, among others).

Biblical Christianity teaches that God created the world out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3). All three persons of the Trinity were active in creation.

+ Creeds

Mormonism teaches that all historical Christian creeds are abominations. See Joseph Smith – History 1:19 in Pearl of Great Price. Most Mormons have never read the creeds.

+ Cross

Many Mormons are repulsed by symbols of Christ’s cross. They do not exhibit crosses in their meetinghouses or homes. Nor do they wear them as jewelry. They view the cross as a symbol of death and say they prefer focusing on the living Christ.

+ Cult

Labeling Mormonism a cult is highly offensive to Mormons. They define a cult as a group which isolates its members from their families. Therefore, they cannot understand how anybody could consider Mormonism a cult. Although Mormonism, in theological terms, is a cult, it is more beneficial for Christians to view it as a culture.

+ Cumorah

The hill, in western New York State, where the gold plates containing the Book of Mormon were supposedly hidden and subsequently found by Joseph Smith.

D

+ D&C

Abbreviation for Doctrine and Covenants, one of Mormonism’s four scriptures.

+ Damn

Refers to the stoppage of a person’s progression to godhood, not to suffering eternal punishment in hell. The LDS concept of damnation is similar to the idea of damming a stream. All who do not gain godhood experience damnation to some extent. Thus, the majority of people in heaven are “damned.”

+ Deacon

The first office of the Aaronic priesthood. Worthy boys enter it at the age of 12. Deacons help distribute the sacrament.

+ Demons

The spirit children who joined Satan in his rebellion. They were immediately consigned to outer darkness, thus depriving them of any chance of continuing their progression to godhood. Also see: Satan, Outer Darkness.

+ Deseret

The Book of Mormon’s name for the honeybee (Ether 2:3). Frequently used in names of LDS businesses because it implies industry.

+ Deseret Industries

Similar to Goodwill Industries. This church-run organization employs handicapped and impaired persons who recondition and repair donated items which are then sold in outlet stores.

+ Disciplinary Councils

Church “courts” held on the ward or stake level to decide appropriate “punishments” for serious sins. “A council can reach one of four decisions: (1) no action, (2) formal probation, (3) disfellowshipment, or (4) excommunication” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, Sept. 1990, pp. 15,16). In the recent past, members desiring to leave the church had to go before such a council. This no longer holds true in most cases.

+ Disfellowshipped

A judgment arrived at by a disciplinary council for a serious sin. It is one step removed from excommunication. “Disfellowshipment is usually temporary, though not necessarily brief. Disfellowshipped persons retain membership in the Church. They are encouraged to attend public Church meetings, but are not entitled to offer public prayers or to give talks. They may not hold a Church position, take the sacrament, vote in the sustaining of Church officers, hold a temple recommend, or exercise the priesthood. They may, however, pay tithes and offerings and continue to wear temple garments if endowed” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, Sept. 1990, p. 16).

+ Dispensation

“A dispensation of the gospel is a period of time in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the holy priesthood and the keys, and who has a divine commission to dispense the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth” (LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 657). Mormons believe the last dispensation was inaugurated at the time of Joseph Smith.

+ Doctrine and Covenants (D&C)

One of Mormonism’s four scriptures. It consists of 140 “divine revelations and inspired declarations” received mostly by Joseph Smith. It teaches more Mormon doctrine than the other three LDS scriptures combined.

E

+ Elders

The title Elder is given to all men in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Even though they have weekly elder quorums, they don't refer to each other as Elders. Instead, they call other men "brothers" and women "sisters." Within the LDS Church, the only people who call themselves "elders" are missionaries and General Authorities. Although many Christians chafe at addressing young LDS missionaries as elders, it is good to do so. To insist on calling them their first names creates an unnecessary obstacle and introduces friction into the relationship.

+ Elias

The KJV translation of the name Elijah in the New Testament. Mormons, however, don’t equate Elias with Elijah. Instead they surround this name with a confusing set of teachings. At times they speak of Elias as a separate individual, other times as a title for a forerunner, and still other times they identify him with Noah. The following quote illustrates their confusion: “The term Elias means forerunner. Noah, Elijah, John the Baptist and John the Revelator have been referred to as Elias in scripture, though the references to Elijah by this name are mistranslated. Summarizing the facts—Joseph Smith revealed that Gabriel was Noah; Luke declared that it was the angel Gabriel who appeared to Zacharias and Mary; and the Lord has declared that Elias appeared to Zacharias and Joseph Smith. Therefore, Elias is Noah” (Old Testament: Genesis—2 Samuel, Student Manual, p. 54).

+ Elijah

Mormons believe he holds the sealing power of the Melchizedek priesthood. They believe he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple in fulfillment of Malachi 4:5,6. Mormons claim he conferred on Smith and Cowdery the keys of this sealing power, which especially includes the power to perform ordinances for the dead (D&C 110:13-16).

+ Elohim

The Hebrew word for God. Mormons identify it exclusively with Heavenly Father. They say Jesus was Jehovah (translated LORD in English), although the Bible often uses both names in reference to the same person. For example, see Genesis 2:4. Also see: Jehovah.

+ Endowment

The initiatory temple rite which consists of being ceremonially washed, receiving a new name, receiving sacred garments, viewing the LDS version of creation and the fall, and learning various handshakes essential for exaltation. These rituals “are called endowments, because in and through them the recipients are endowed with power from on high” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 226f.). Endowments are also performed vicariously for the dead.

+ Ensign

The name of the official monthly magazine of the LDS church. The May and November issues contain the transcripts of all speeches given at the latest general conference. These issues are called conference editions and are considered scripture. “If you want to know what the Lord would have the Saints know and to have his guidance and direction for the next six months, get a copy of the proceedings of this conference, and you will have the latest word of the Lord as far as the Saints are concerned” (President Harold B. Lee, quoted in D&C Student Manual, p. 42).

+ Eternal Death

In Mormonism, not a description of hell. Rather, it refers to the inability to procreate spirit children because of the failure to obtain godhood. Mormonism pictures this inability to produce offspring for all eternity as one of the worst fates which can befall people.

+ Eternal Family

A favorite LDS expression. There are two aspects to an eternal family: (1) the earthly family unit will remain a family unit for all eternity; (2) the family will increase through the procreation of spirit children for all eternity. The popular thinking is that most faithful Mormons will have an eternal family. However, LDS teachings specifically state that only Mormons who have reached exaltation will have an eternal family.

Biblical Christianity teaches that all believers are members of God’s eternal family (Hebrews 2:11).

+ Eternal Life

Distinct from immortality. It doesn’t describe living eternally with God but living eternally as God. Thus, it is another name for godhood and synonymous with exaltation. “Eternal life, or exaltation, is to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom” (True to the Faith, p. 52). It can only be achieved “through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Ibid. p. 52).

Biblical Christianity teaches that eternal life is living with God. It is his gift (Romans 6:23) and is received the moment a person is brought to faith (John 5:24).

+ Eternal Marriage

See: Celestial Marriage.

+ Eternal Progression

The LDS belief that a person can continue to progress throughout eternity, eventually obtaining godhood. This teaching lies at the heart and core of Mormonism.

+ Eternal Punishment

Not punishment which lasts for all eternity, but punishment inflicted by an eternal god (see D&C 19:6-12). Mormonism’s eternal punishment lasts a relatively short time. Also see: Hell.

+ Eternities

Mormonism often talk about “the eternities” although they never explain what they mean by the plural form.

+ Exaltation

The highest level of the celestial kingdom, godhood. “They shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things...Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to ever lasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (D&C 132:19-20). It is one of Mormonism’s more popular “theological” terms.

+ Excommunication

“Excommunication is the most severe judgment a Church disciplinary council can take. Excommunicated persons are no longer members of the Church” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, Sept. 1990, p. 16). With a great degree of effort an excommunicated person can be restored to church membership.

+ Exemplar

A popular LDS title for Jesus. It reflects Mormonism’s emphasis on Jesus as our example. This is another way Mormons emphasize their works since examples only show us what we have to do, leaving the work for us to do.

Biblical Christianity emphasizes Jesus as our substitute. He did it all for us.

F

+ Faith

A word commonly used in Mormonism but one quite difficult to define.

1) The belief that God exists and has given us a good plan of salvation (Mormonism).

2) Trust, not so much in Jesus’ works, but in his words, his teachings. Mormonism sees Jesus as a new lawgiver.

3) Often described as the power God gives people to resist sin and become perfect. "Faith is a principle of action and power...You can exercise faith in Christ when we have an assurance that He exists, a correct idea of His character, and a knowledge that we are striving to live according to His will" (True to the Faith, p. 54).

The more righteous a person is, the more power (faith) God will give him. "You can strengthen your faith by keeping the commandments. Like all blessings from God, faith is obtained and increased through individual obedience and righteous action” (True to the Faith, p. 55).

Biblical Christianity teaches that faith is primarily trust – in Jesus’ works. It is more than knowledge. Faith is a gift received from God through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). By faith alone, a person is justified before God.

+ Fall

Mormonism’s teaching of the significance of the Fall is very confusing and even shocking to Christians. Mormons view it as a good thing. “Adam voluntarily, and with full knowledge of the consequences, partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that men might be. … For his service we owe Adam an immeasurable debt of gratitude” (Marion G. Romney, quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, p. 20).

The key phrase in this quote is “that men might be.” Mormons believe Adam and Eve could not have children unless they became mortal by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Having children is what the phrase “that men might be” refers to. "In addition to introducing physical and spiritual death, [the Fall] gave us the opportunity to be born on the earth and to learn and progress (True to the Faith, p. 57).

Mormons believe God gave Adam and Eve two conflicting commands: 1) to be fruitful and multiply and 2) not to eat the fruit. He did this in order to test their agency – to see if they would choose the right. Mormons think they conflict because, as stated above, they believe Adam and Eve could not have children unless they ate from the tree.

Mormons further believe Adam and Eve choose correctly by eating the fruit. Only by doing so, they state, could Adam and Eve keep the command to be fruitful and multiply. This is taught especially in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2:22-25). “If we correctly understand the role of Adam and Eve, we will realize that those who have labeled them sinners responsible for the universal depravity of the human family are misguided. The truth is that Adam and Eve opened the door for us to come into mortality, a step essential to our eternal progress” (Doctrine of the Gospel Manual, p.19).

Biblical Christianity teaches that the Fall was the worst catastrophe in the history of the world. It brought death into the world (Romans 5: 12-19) and resulted in the total corruption of mankind (Romans 3:10-12).

+ Family

"The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children...The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). This emphasis on family attracts many people to Mormonism.

+ Family History

Another name for genealogy. Mormons work hard on identifying their ancestors (and others) so they can vicariously receive the temple ordinances for them.

+ Family History Center

One or more rooms, often attached to a stake house, equipped for genealogical research. These libraries have extensive microfilm and computer resources. Non-Mormons can, and many do, make use of these facilities.

+ Family Home Evening

Every Monday evening families are to spend time together studying and playing. No church activities are scheduled for Monday night.

+ Farewell

Shortly before people go on their missions, their local ward devotes a Sunday meeting to giving them a farewell. Family members and friends give speeches, making these farewells often quite emotional.

+ Fast and Testimony Meeting

Held on the first Sunday of every month. Instead of assigned speakers, members give their testimonies. Since they have been fasting, they often become quite emotional meetings.

+ Fasting

Members are urged to fast for two meals or 24 hours during the first week-end of the month. “The law to the Latter-day Saints, as understood by the authorities of the church, is that food and drink are not to be partaken of for twenty-four hours, ‘from even to even,’ and that the Saints are to refrain from all bodily gratification and indulgences” (President Joseph F. Smith, quoted in To Make Thee a Minister and a Witness, p. 116). Many Mormons, however, do not follow this strictly. The money that would have been used for food is given as their fast offering to help the poor.

+ Feelings

Subjective feelings, rather than objective facts, are what Mormons rely on. They believe revelation, knowledge, guidance, and the answers to prayer all come through a person’s feelings. “The Holy Ghost also helps us remember things we once learned but have forgotten… Other ways the Holy Ghost helps us solve problems are by revealing answers to us directly in a still, small voice. … (If we receive the answer to our prayers from someone else, the Holy Ghost will give us the feeling that it is correct.) … Such promptings may simply be a feeling that we ought to spend more time with someone in our family or do something special for him. … He tells us that if the decision we make is right, we will receive a feeling of peace in our hearts and in our minds” (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part B, p. 106).

+ Fellowshipping

Many Christians use this term to describe socializing with their fellow Christians. Mormons, however, use it to describe the act of being friendly with nonmembers or new members as a way of doing mission work. An example of its usage: “Fellowshipping investigators (investigators = mission prospects) also has an effect on the quality of teaching” (Giles H. Florence Jr., Ensign, June 1991, p. 14).

+ Fireside

A talk, often transmitted over satellite, given by a church leader, usually to one specific church organization. An example would be a fireside for the priests’ quorum.

+ Firstborn

“Jesus Christ is the Firstborn, then, in two senses of the word – he is the first spirit child born to God the Father in the premortal world, and he was the first one on this earth to be resurrected, or born from the grave” (Larry E. Dahl, Ensign, April 1997, p. 15). Also see: Only Begotten Son.

+ First Ordinances

Baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

+ First Principles

Faith and repentance.

+ First Vision

The vision Joseph Smith supposedly received in 1820 when Heavenly Father told him not to join any church since they were all corrupt. Mormons believe it proves that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. “The key to a testimony of the gospel is Joseph Smith’s first vision. All that we believe hinges on this account. … The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith, to prepare the way for the laying of the foundation of His kingdom” (Sharing the Gospel Course Manual, pp. 33f.).

+ Flesh and Blood

A description of mortality. Mormons believe that Adam, before the Fall, and we in our resurrected bodies will not have blood. “When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was not subject to death. There was no blood in his body and he could have remained there forever” (Doctrine of the Gospel Manual, p. 21). Also see: Flesh and Bones.

+ Flesh and Bones

A description of immortality. “After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones, but they will not be blood bodies, they will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal and they shall become immortal and shall never die” (Joseph Fielding Smith, quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 76). Also see: Flesh and Blood.

+ Forgiveness

In the vast majority of times, when Mormons talk about forgiveness, it’s about their duty to forgive. It is not about God forgiving them. It is more burdensome law than uplifting gospel.

When Mormonism does talk about God’s forgiveness, it emphasizes that a person must earn God’s forgiveness. “Peace comes only through forgiveness. But forgiveness has a high price. Elder Kimball said: ‘To every forgiveness there is a condition. … The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin. There must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit. … There must be tears and genuine change of heart. There must be conviction of the sin, abandonment of the evil, confession of the error to properly constituted authorities of the Lord’” (Gospel Principles, p. 252).

Biblical Christianity teaches that God forgives us freely because Jesus has already paid the entire debt of our sin. See Hebrews 10:17-18.

+ Free Salvation

An expression not commonly used in Mormonism. The LDS church defines it as salvation which is freely and fully available to all people, but not free in the sense that they don’t have to earn it. “Though salvation is free (fully available and not withheld from anyone because of time, location, or lineage), we must reconcile ourselves to God” (Ensign, July 1989, p. 60). In fact, Mormons label the Christian teaching of free salvation as satanic. “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (Spencer W. Kimball, quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 36).

+ Fulness of the Gospel

A synonym for the teachings of Mormonism. Mormons believe that Christian churches, at best, have only part of the truth.

G

+ Garden of Gethsemane

The place of Jesus’ greatest suffering. “Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane … in reality, the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles Manual, p. 172). Mormons base this on the fact that many people were crucified but only Jesus sweat drops of blood.

Biblical Christianity, although acknowledging Jesus’ great anguish in Gethsemane, follows the Bible in emphasizing Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

+ Genealogical Research

Before temple ordinances can be performed for the dead, they must be accurately identified. Hence the importance of doing genealogical research. Doing this research, especially in regard to their own families, is an important duty for every Mormon.

+ General Authority

The title for a church leader whose authority is not limited to one geographical area. The General Authorities consist of the First Presidency of the Church, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.

+ General Conference

Held twice a year (April and October) in Salt Lake City. The General Authorities give talks which are then considered scripture. These talks are studied both individually and at church for the following six months.

+ Gifts

Mormons believe that all blessings from God come in the form of a gift. For instance, the forgiveness of sins, grace, and redemption are gifts from God. However, receiving these gifts is entirely dependent upon their obedience. "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated -- And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:20-21).

Biblical Christianity teaches that God’s greatest gifts (i.e. forgiveness, eternal life) are unconditional. They are undeserved gifts in the truest sense of the word. It further teaches that God often gives many unmerited earthly blessings.

+ Gift of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost becomes a person’s constant companion making them eligible to receive revelation. “The gift of the Holy Ghost is the privilege given to a baptized person, after he has been confirmed a member of the Church, to receive guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost. … A person may be temporarily guided by the Holy Ghost without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. … Today many nonmembers of the Church learn, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true (see Moroni 10:4-5). But that flash of testimony leaves them if they do not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Gospel Principles, pp. 131,132). Also see: Confirmation.

+ God the Father

Mormons believe that Heavenly Father was once a man who subsequently obtained godhood. A classic couplet states: “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.” They call him an exalted man and believe he has a physical body. “‘I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form …’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). God is a glorified and perfected man, a personage of flesh and bones” (Gospel Principles, p. 6). Believing that God has a physical body is one of the most important tenets of Mormonism.

Heavenly Father is the god of this world. As such, they only worship him. This is often stated quite subtly. “As you reverently partake of the sacrament and attend the temple, you remember and worship your Heavenly Father and express your gratitude for His Son, Jesus Christ” (True to the Faith, p. 188). This also means that Mormons don’t pray to Jesus. They only pray to Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

Many Christians focus on God’s nature and the Trinity when they talk with Mormons. For most Mormons, however, this is not something which bothers them. In fact, many of them prefer a god they can understand to the true God who is far above their understanding. Therefore, we usually do not find God’s nature a productive topic to discuss.

Biblical Christianity teaches that God the Father is an equal member of the Trinity. He has no body; but is a spirit (John 4:24). He is far above us and beyond our comprehension.

+ Godhead

Mormons do not believe in the Trinity. Instead, they talk about the godhead. They believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are "distinct beings with distinct roles, [yet] are one in purpose." The three beings of the godhead are not equal in power or authority. They believe the godhead is structured similar to the first presidency of the church.

+ Gods

Although Mormons don’t often talk about gods with non-Mormons, it is not uncommon to run across such references in their literature. For example, Abraham 4-5 in the Pearl of Great Price talks about the gods creating the world. Mormons believe there are many who have progressed to become a god and many more who will progress to godhood.

+ Going to Heaven

Since Mormons believe that nearly everyone will go to one of the three kingdoms in heaven, it is often unproductive to talk to Mormons about “going to heaven.” It is much better to speak to them about living with Heavenly Father.

+ Golden Plates

The plates on which the Book of Mormon supposedly was written. Mormons believe the angel Moroni led Joseph Smith to the place on the hill Cumorah where they were allegedly buried.

+ Gospel

A common term for Mormonism or its intricate plan of salvation. "The gospel is our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. ... In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom. The Savior has promised that if we endure to the end, faithfully living the gospel, he will hold us guiltless before the Father at the Final Judgment" (True to the Faith, p. 76).

The LDS Church teaches that the gospel was restored in its fullness during these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. By following the LDS gospel, a person can find happiness in this mortal life and eternally progress toward happiness in eternal life. Obedience, not faith, is a hallmark of following the gospel.

Biblical Christianity teaches that the gospel is the specific good news that Jesus has done everything for our salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-7). It is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16).

+ Gospel Principles

1) The laws of Mormonism.

2) The title of a manual for new members. It summarizes the teachings of Mormonism better than any other manual.

+ Grace

The power God gives people to save themselves, which he grants only after they have done everything they can do. “This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 697). “… we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

Biblical Christianity teaches that grace is God’s unbelievable love for us. The preeminent example of this love is Jesus’ doing everything to save us. He kept the law perfectly for us. He died as payment for all our sins. It is by grace alone we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).

H

+ Heaven

Consists of three kingdoms: celestial, terrestrial, telestial. This teaching is based on a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:40-41. Everybody, except for a small handful of people, will go to one of these kingdoms.

Those in the celestial kingdom will live with Heavenly Father and Jesus. A person must have participated (either personally or vicariously) in the temple ordinances to qualify to live here.

Less than faithful Mormons and moral non-Mormons will go to the terrestrial kingdom. They will not live with Jesus, but will be visited by him.

People who don’t repent or confess Christ will be in the telestial kingdom. It is said life there will be thousands of times better than earthly life. They will be visited by the Holy Ghost.

Biblical Christianity teaches that all who go to heaven will live with God for all eternity. It further teaches that Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6) and thus only people who trust in Jesus’ saving work will be in heaven.

The context of 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 clearly shows it is not talking about different heavenly kingdoms. It is an illustration Paul uses to talk about different bodies.

+ Heavenly Father

The most popular LDS term for God. Its popularity is rooted in their belief that they were spiritually procreated by him in the preexistence.

+ Hell

Mormonism uses it in at least three different ways.

1) Not a place of eternal punishment but the temporary state of suffering wicked spirits experience in spirit prison before Judgment Day. “That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is called hell. … Hell will have an end” (D&C Student Manual, p. 165).

2) The regret the inhabitants of the lower kingdoms of heaven will experience as they see the glories of the celestial kingdom. “Of course, those who enter the telestial kingdom, and those who enter the terrestrial kingdom will have the eternal punishment which will come to them in knowing that they might, if they had kept the commandments of the Lord, have returned to his presence as his sons and his daughters. This will be a torment to them, and in that sense it will be hell” (Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles Course Manual, p. 66).

3) As a synonym for outer darkness where the devil, the demons, and the sons of perdition will dwell. There will only be a handful of persons who qualify as a son of perdition. It is a place of eternal torment and punishment.

Biblical Christianity teaches that hell is eternal punishment. It is for everybody who does not trust in Jesus’ saving works.

+ High Council

A council of twelve men on the stake level assisting the stake presidency.

+ High Priest

An office of the Melchizedek priesthood. “General Authorities, stake presidencies, bishoprics, and patriarchs, are ordained as high priests” (D&C Student Manual, p. 436).

+ Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost is a member of the godhead but not equal to Heavenly Father. “The Holy Ghost is the third person in the Godhead. As such he possesses the power of Deity. However, he is not fully like the Father and the Son in that he does not have a body of flesh and bones. He is a personage of Spirit” (Sharing the Gospel Course Manual, p. 104). “He is a spirit that has the form and likeness of a man (see D&C 130:22). He can be in only one place at a time, but his influence can be everywhere at the same time” (Gospel Principles, p. 37).

Biblical Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit is God, equal to the Father and the Son. His knowledge, power, and presence have no limits.

+ Home Teachers

Each LDS family is assigned a pair of male home teachers. They are to visit their families each month to teach a brief lesson. Their main purpose, however, is to encourage and check up on their fellow members. These visits also serve as good training for future missionaries since teens are often paired with an older man.

I

+ If

One of the biggest words in Mormonism. Every promise of God is conditional on the obedience of man. “All blessings are conditional. I know of none that are not” (Elder Spencer W. Kimball, quoted in Remember Me, p. 23). Also see: D&C 130:21.

+ Immortality

See: Flesh and Bones.

+ Independence, Missouri

1) An important site to Mormons, sometimes referred to as Zion. Mormons believe Jesus will return there and rule both from there and Jerusalem during the Millennium (see D&C 133). Before this happens, however, they believe a temple needs to be built on the spot indicated by Joseph Smith.

2) The site of the Garden of Eden.

+ Inspired Version

Another name for the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. LDS editions of the Bible contain excerpts in footnotes and an appendix. It is not widely used since the church claims he never completed it.

+ Institute

College level courses on Mormonism. The LDS church has built institute buildings near many college campuses. These serve as the center of college life for many LDS students.

+ Intelligences

The part of mankind that Mormons say is eternal. They believe Heavenly Father (pro)created spiritual bodies for these intelligences to inhabit. “The word when preceded by the article an, or used in the plural as intelligences, means a person, or persons, usually in the spiritual estate. Just as we speak of a person or persons, we speak of an intelligence, or intelligences” (D&C Student Manual, p. 220).

+ Investigators

Prospects. Non-Mormons who are interested in (investigating) the church.

J

+ Jack Mormon

A slang expression for a non-active Mormon.

+ Jaredites

People, in the Book of Mormon, whose language was preserved by faith at the time of the Tower of Babel. According to the Book of Mormon, they subsequently came to America.

+ Jehovah

Jesus. “Jesus is Jehovah. He was the God of the Old Testament” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles Course Manual, p. 21). Also see: Elohim.

+ Jesus

Mormons regard him in the following ways: 1) As the first spirit child of Heavenly Father. 2) As Jehovah. 3) As the only begotten Son. They believe he is the only child Heavenly Father physically begat. Also see: Only Begotten Son. 4) As the Savior. Not a Savior who did everything for mankind but rather one who a) conquered physical death for mankind, b) paid our debt and is patient with us as we pay him back in full, c) served as our example, showing us what we have to do to save ourselves.

Biblical Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 5:22-23). To rescue us from sin, the Son of God became flesh and lived under the law to satisfy the law in our place. His suffering and death, especially his being forsaken by the Father, served as payment for the world’s sin. His glorious resurrection serves as dramatic proof that the Father accepted his payment. The Bible emphasizes Jesus our substitute, not our example.

+ John the Baptist

The last legal administrator of the Aaronic priesthood. Mormons believe he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829 and bestowed the Aaronic priesthood on them.

Biblical Christianity teaches that John the Baptist was the God-chosen forerunner of Jesus.

+ Joseph Smith

The founder of Mormonism. He is often referred to as The Prophet. Almost all LDS teachings originated with him. “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” (D&C 135:3) Testifying that Joseph Smith is the true prophet is an essential component in being a member of the LDS Church.

+ Journal

A personal record to be written in daily or weekly which will serve as a testimony to a person’s descendants. Keeping a journal is an important responsibility. “I urge all of the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity. This is a duty and a responsibility, and I urge every person to start the children out writing a personal history and journal” (President Spencer W. Kimball, quoted in The Latter-day Saint Woman, Part B, p. 161).

+ JST

Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Also see: Inspired Version.

+ Justification

A term unfamiliar to most Mormons because it is not used much in Mormonism. It is God’s strict confirmation of the merits or demerits of man’s own actions. In other words, LDS justification is God’s act of rewarding the right and punishing the wrong.

Biblical Christianity teaches that it describes God's action of declaring people not guilty. No person can be declared innocent by observing the law (Romans 3:23). Only by faith, can people receive the verdict of "Not guilty!" and become acquitted of their sins.

K

+ Keys

Common LDS term denoting the power and authority of the priesthood. A man only has keys for his particular calling. For example, a bishop has keys (power and authority) in his ward but not in his stake. Mormons believe that Jesus has given the apostles all the keys necessary to govern the church.

+ King Follett Sermon

The funeral sermon Joseph Smith preached in 1844 for a man named King Follet. Many Mormons consider it the greatest sermon ever preached. In it, Smith outlined his thoughts on the nature of God and how man can become a god.

+ Kingdoms of Glory

The three kingdoms of Mormon heaven: celestial, terrestrial, telestial. "The glory you inherit will depend on the depth of your conversion, expressed by your obedience to the Lord's commandments" (True to the Faith, p. 92). Also see: Heaven

+ Kolob

The star nearest the throne of God (Book of Abraham 3:3-9). One of their hymns (284) is entitled: “If You Could Hie to Kolob.”

L

+ Lamanites

According to the Book of Mormon, the branch of Lehi’s descendants that became unfaithful. (The Book of Mormon says that Lehi was a Jew who traveled to the Americas around 600 B.C.) Mormons believe they became the ancestors of the American Indians.

+ Law

In Mormonism many things are described as a law. Some examples are: the law of the gospel, the law of forgiveness, the law of justice, the law of the sacrament. “Law provides the way for the Saints to grow, progress, and obtain happiness” (D&C Student Manual, p. 393).

+ LDS

Abbreviation for Latter-day Saints. Mormons describe themselves as LDS and prefer this to being called Mormons.

+ Lehi

An important figure in the Book of Mormon. He, with his family, supposedly traveled from Judah to America in 600 B.C. His descendants became the Lamanites and Nephites. LDS children learn about him and his voyage across the ocean.

+ Line of Authority

“Every priesthood holder should be able to trace his ‘line of authority’ back to Jesus Christ. This means he should know who ordained him and who ordained the person who ordained him, and so on back to Joseph Smith, who was ordained by Peter, James, and John, who were ordained by Jesus Christ. This is called the ‘priesthood line of authority’’’ (The Latter-day Saint Woman, Part A, p. 77). Members of the priesthood carry cards, called “line of authority cards,” which contain this information.

+ Line upon Line, Precept Upon Precept

A common LDS expression roughly equivalent to progressing “one step at a time.”

+ Living Prophet

See: President of the Church.

+ Lord's Supper

See: Sacrament.

M

+ Magnify a Calling

A common LDS expression equivalent in meaning to performing your assigned tasks as faithfully as you can.

+ Make Your Calling and Election Sure

“Means that the Lord seals their exaltation upon them while they are yet in this life” (D&C Student Manual, p. 326). Mormons believe it happens to only a select few.

+ Manuals

The LDS church provides manuals for every church organization and activity. These manuals are excellent sources of current LDS teachings.

+ Marraige

See Eternal Marriage.

+ Meetinghouses

Mormon church buildings. Also commonly referred to as “stake houses” or chapels.

+ Melchizedek Priesthood

The higher priesthood. Worthy young men enter at the age of 18 or 19. Mormons believe Peter, James, and John bestowed it on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829. The offices of the Melchizedek priesthood are elder, seventy, high priest, and patriarch.

+ Millennium

Mormons believe Jesus will return and rule for a thousand years on earth. They say he will rule both from Jerusalem and Independence, Missouri. During this time, all temple work will be completed.

+ Ministering Servants

The people who will inhabit the lowest level of the celestial kingdom. These are faithful Mormons who were not married eternally and thus cannot reach exaltation.

+ Mission of the Church

The LDS Church has a threefold mission: (1) to perfect the saints; (2) to proclaim the gospel; (3) to redeem the dead.

+ Missionary

In 2012, the LDS Church lowered the minimum age requirements for missionaries. Now, young men can begin a two-year mission at the age of eighteen and young women can begin an eighteen-month mission at the age of nineteen.

They are not required to go on a mission, but they receive strong encouragement from the church and experience great pressure from family and peers to do so. "In fulfillment of [Great Commission], able young men in the Church have a duty to prepare spiritually, physically, and emotionally to serve as full-time missionaries" (True to the Faith, p. 105).

They receive very little training (only two weeks if they are called within the States). Many, therefore, don’t have a very good grasp of LDS teaching. Few have a familiarity with the Bible.

During their mission, they can only call home twice a year (Mother’s Day and Christmas). They are on strict schedules and are regularly assigned new companions. In addition, they are regularly moved to different locales in the mission district. They are not to watch TV, listen to secular music, play video games, etc. while they are on their mission. The more one learns about their mission experience, the more one understands why many missionaries experience loneliness and anxiety.

Over the years, we have interacted with thousands of missionaries. By taking the time to be nice to them, we have had extended opportunities to share God’s truth with them. For more information on this exciting outreach strategy, visit pleaseopenthedoor.com.

+ Mormon

Popular name for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is derived from the name of a prophet in the Book of Mormon.

+ Moroni

The angel who supposedly appeared to Joseph Smith. His statue adorns the top spire of LDS temples.

+ Mortal

Mormons include the ability to have children in their definition of mortal. They claim that Adam and Eve’s fall was a blessing since it made mankind mortal (able to have children). “When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden they were not yet mortal. They were not able to have children. … Their physical condition changed as a result of their eating the forbidden fruit. As God had promised, they became mortal. They were able to have children” (Gospel Principles, pp. 30f.).

+ Mother in Heaven

Until the last few years, she was hardly mentioned. Her existence was more implied than stated as they taught that all people are spirit children of Heavenly Father. (If we are his literal children, he needed a wife.) In recent years, she is mentioned more frequently.

+ MTC

Abbreviation for Missionary Training Center. The main one is in Provo, Utah. There are 15 such centers worldwide.

+ Murder

On the basis of 1 John 3:15 and D&C 42:79 Mormons believe that murderers will never obtain exaltation but will still inherit the telestial kingdom.

+ Mutual

Name for Mormon youth groups.

N

+ Nephites

According to the Book of Mormon, both they and the Lamanites descended from Lehi, a Jew who came to America in 600 B.C. The Nephites were his faithful descendants, who became corrupt, and were finally destroyed by the Lamanites. Much of the Book of Mormon is a description of the wars between these two groups.

O

+ Obedience

Obedience is the hallmark of the LDS Church. All of God's blessings, even forgiveness and salvation, are dependent upon one's obedience (D&C 130:20-21).

+ Offerings

These are contributions given over and above their tithes (e.g., fast offerings and offerings to missionary fund or building fund).

+ Only Begotten Son

Mormons use this expression, not as Christians do to express Christ’s divinity, but to refer to their belief that Jesus is the only person Heavenly Father physically begat on earth.

“God was the Father of His fleshly tabernacle, and Mary – a mortal woman and a virgin – was His mother. He is, therefore, the only person born who rightfully deserves the title ‘the Only Begotten Son of God’” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, April 1991, p. 2).

“We believe that he came into the world, born of Mary, literally and actually, as we are born of our mothers; that he came into the world, born of God the Eternal Father, the Almighty Elohim, literally and actually, as we are born of our earthly fathers” (Bruce R. McConkie, quoted in Sharing the Gospel Course Manual, p. 74).

+ Ordinances

Ordinances are rites administered by the authority of the priesthood. Some of these are performed in their chapels like baptisms, confirmations, and ordination into the Melchizedek priesthood. The most important ordinances are the ones performed in the temple. They are the endowment and eternal marriage.

+ Outer Darkness

The closest Mormonism comes to the biblical concept of hell. (Mormons define hell differently. See: Hell.) Outer darkness is the abode of Satan, demons, and the sons of perdition. Many Mormons believe that only a handful of people will qualify as sons of perdition and thus go to outer darkness. Also see: Son of Perdition.

P

+ Paradise

When people die, Mormons believe their spirits enter the spirit world. It is divided into two parts: paradise and spirit prison. Mormon spirits go to paradise, while non-Mormon spirits go to spirit prison. In paradise, Mormons can continue their progression towards godhood; from there they can go on missions to spirit prison in order to convert non-Mormon spirits to Mormonism.

Christians often point to Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” as proof of salvation without works. Mormons, however, believe that Jesus told the thief he would go to the paradise of the spirit world where he would have to work on progressing.

Biblical Christianity teaches that paradise is a term for heaven itself. Compare Revelation 22:2 and its reference to the tree of life with Revelation 2:7. From this it becomes obvious that Jesus, in Luke 23:43, told the thief on the cross he would be with Jesus in heaven.

+ Patriarch

A man who is called to give patriarchal blessings. There is a patriarch for the whole church and one in most stakes. It is a highly honored position. “A patriarch is ordained, not set apart. If a man is set apart to an office in the Church, he will one day be released. But an ordination to an office in the priesthood is permanent unless it is lost through transgression. A man is not released from the office of patriarch. Age or illness may require the patriarch to be placed on nonfunctioning status” (Office of Patriarch, lds.org)

+ Patriarchal Blessing

A one-time blessing, given by a patriarch, which supposedly reveals a person’s lineage and his or her future potential. The blessing, however, is conditioned on a person’s faithfulness. These blessings are typed out and are highly valued. "Patriarchal blessings are given to worthy members of the Church by ordained patriarchs. Your patriarchal blessing declares your lineage in the house of Israel and contains personal counsel from the Lord to you." (True to the Faith, p. 111)

+ Pearl of Great Price

One of four Mormon written scriptures. It contains a collection of five brief items: the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith – Matthew, Joseph Smith – History, and the Articles of Faith. Because it is short, it is usually printed with the Doctrine and Covenants in one volume. Most Mormons have never read it.

+ Peep Stones

Magical stones said to have been buried with the golden plates. Joseph Smith supposedly used them to translate the Book of Mormon from the golden plates. He said he put these stones in his hat and the translation would miraculously appear. Also called the Urim and Thummim.

+ Perfection

The major emphasis of Mormonism. Becoming perfect is the key to becoming exalted. This emphasis places great stress on many Mormons.

“Utah Valley University professor Kris Doty observed first hand how depression affected LDS women, when she worked as a crisis counselor in the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Doty saw increased activity of LDS women on Sunday evenings after church meetings suffering from feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and guilt. Doty concluded the LDS women’s depression was caused by genetics, abusive history, family relationships, and judgment by others. However she found that toxic perfectionism was the major cause of depression among LDS women” (Nobody’s Perfect: A Look at Toxic Perfectionism and Depression in LDS Women).

+ Plan of Salvation

The plan of salvation is also referred to as the plan of happiness. According to LDS teachings, Heavenly Father prepared the plan in the pre-mortal existence so that we, his spirit children, could progress and become like him. The whole plan revolves around a person making wise use of their agency by choosing the right. It is a man-centered plan.

Our presence on earth indicates we had already used our agency wisely in preexistence. If we hadn’t, we would have been banished along with the devil and would never have had the chance to come to earth.

Our earthly lives are times of testing to see how well we obey. In one sense, it is earthly life is like an obstacle course, where we must prove our worthiness to progress. Or it is like a maze with a dizzying degree of choices. Only by choosing correctly will we progress through the maze. The key is being obedient to the laws and ordinances of Mormonism.

After death, a person's spirit enters the spirit world to continue their eternal progression and await the resurrection of their body. On Judgment Day, Heavenly Father will judge a person's worthiness and assign them to the appropriate kingdom of glory.

Biblical Christianity teaches a God-centered plan of salvation. He is the one who works the plan. God the Father sent his Son to save us. The Son became human and became our substitute. He kept the law perfectly for us and then paid for all sin with his death. The Holy Spirit creates faith in us and is a constant source of strength and comfort for the believer. God does everything. To him be all glory and praise!

+ Plural Marriage

Mormons use this term instead of polygamy. In 1843, this doctrine became part of LDS scripture until 1890 when "the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church." (lds.org) The LDS Church currently teaches that God's standard is a marriage between one man and one woman. Many Mormons, however, believe there will be plural marriages in the celestial kingdom.

+ Plurality of Gods

Mormons prefer this term to polytheism. They claim they are not polytheists, although they believe in a plurality of gods, because they worship only one god: Heavenly Father. Their manual on the Old Testament states: “In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through—Gods. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, it sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods.” (Teachings, p. 372.)

+ Polygamy

See: Plural Marriage.

+ Polytheism

See: Plurality of Gods.

+ Prayer

They do not pray to Jesus Christ or to the Holy Ghost, but only to Heavenly Father. The power of their prayers is dependent upon their worthiness. Answers to prayer come through feelings. A good feeling constitutes a positive reply while a bad feeling signifies a negative reply.

Mormons normally do not fold their hands or place their arms behind their back while they pray. Rather they pray with their arms crossed in front of them.

+ Preaching

Not a common word in Mormonism. Their Sunday service centers on testimonies and talks given by different members each week rather than a sermon given by the bishop.

+ Preexistence

Also called pre-mortality or our first estate. Mormons believe we existed before our earth-life as spirit children of Heavenly Father. Also see: Spirit Children.

+ Presidency

Each organization of the church is run by a presidency consisting of a president and his two counselors.

+ President

The head of a church organization (e.g., stake president, quorum president).

+ President of the Church

Also called the “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” or the living prophet. They believe that he, and he alone, receives direct revelations for the entire church. These revelations take precedence even over their written scriptures. It is a lifetime position. The apostle with the longest tenure becomes the church president at the death of the current church president.

"Our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. The Lord warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets will fall. He promises great blessings to those who follow the President of the Church." (lds.org)

+ Presiding Bishopric

The three General Authorities who supervise the Church’s financial affairs.

+ Preisthood

The LDS Church teaches that the priesthood is the power and authority of God to act on His behalf. All worthy male members enter the priesthood. Only they can properly administer the ordinances; thus, the LDS Church does not recognize Christian baptism. They believe the priesthood also gives them power to receive revelations. There are two priesthoods: the Aaronic and the Melchizedek.

The Aaronic priesthood serves as the entry point into the priesthood for boys twelve and older and adult male converts. It is responsible for the church’s temporal affairs.

The Melchizedek priesthood is for all worthy adult male members. "Through the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, Church leaders guide the Church and direct the preaching of the gospel throughout the world. This greater priesthood was given to Adam and has been on the earth whenever the Lord has revealed His gospel. It was taken from the earth during the Great Apostasy, but it was restored in 1829, when the Apostles Peter, James, and John conferred it upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery." (True to the Faith, p. 101)

Biblical Christianity teaches that every male and female believer is a member of the holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5-9). They are holy and righteous in God's eyes because of the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

+ Primary

A Sunday school-like organization for children ages three to eleven.

+ Prophets

The First Presidency of the Church and the Twelve Apostles

+ Proselyting

Evangelizing; doing mission work. Unlike in Christianity, it doesn’t have a negative connotation. In Mormonism it is used in a positive sense.

Q

+ Quorums

Each Sunday the priesthood holders meet in what they call quorums. While they are meeting, the women are in their Relief Society meeting. There are also quorums on the stake level. The General Authorities (first presidency, apostles, seventies) also meet in quorums.

R

+ Raising Right Hand to the Square

When Mormons sustain their leaders, they raise their right hands in such a way that a right angle is formed at the elbow. Also see: Sustaining.

+ Recommend

recommend can enter the temple. Also see: Temple Recommend. Members of the priesthood also receive recommends to perform certain ordinances.

+ Redeem

Mormons use it synonymously with atonement. They believe all people are redeemed from physical death. They often talk about how all will return to God’s presence because of Jesus’ redemption, but they usually don’t explain that people return to his presence to be judged. Only those who were obedient will be worthy to remain in his presence. "Because we are accountable and we make the choices, the redemption from our own sins is conditional—conditioned on confessing and abandoning sin and turning to a godly life, or in other words, conditioned on repentance" (Gospel Topics: Redemption, lds.org).

Biblical Christianity teaches that Jesus paid the ransom price for all sin by his suffering and death (1 John 2:2). Through faith we receive the benefits of his death (Romans 3:22-27).

+ Redeem the Dead

One of the three main missions of the LDS church. Also see: Baptism for the Dead.

+ Reformed Egyptian

According to Mormon 9:32, the language in which the Book of Mormon was supposedly written.

+ Relief Society

LDS women’s organization. Its emphasis is more on practical matters (e.g., being good homemakers, self-improvement) than on theological matters. It meets every Sunday while the men meet in their various priesthood quorums.

+ Repentence

According to Mormonism, “repentance is a painful process, but it leads to forgiveness and lasting peace” (True to the Faith, p. 133). It is also a detailed and drawn-out process. It has six steps: faith, sorrow for sin, confession, abandonment of sin, restitution, and righteous living.

This is how the fourth step, abandonment of sin, is explained: "Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression" (Ibid, p. 135). Official Mormonism teaches that if a person repeats a sin, their repentance wasn’t sincere. “There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of the sin. … The saving power does not extend to him who merely wants to change his life” (Spencer W. Kimball, quoted in Sharing the Gospel Course Manual, p. 94). “Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin. … To ‘try’ is weak” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 164f.)

The sixth step, righteous living, is explained as follows: “It is not enough to simply try to resist evil or empty your life of sin. You must fill your life with righteousness and engage in activities that bring spiritual power” (Ibid, p. 135, emphasis added).

Biblical Christianity teaches that repentance is the change of mind when people turn away from trust in themselves and their works to trust in Jesus and his work for them. Instead of a painful process, it gives great joy. A good example of a repentant man is Zacchaeus in Luke 19.

+ Restoration

The period of history ushered in by Joseph Smith. Mormons believe that after the original twelve apostles died, a Great Apostasy occurred. It was a period of spiritual darkness where people had lost the "fulness of the gospel truth." They believe the priesthood was also gone from the earth. It was not until Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to a young Joseph Smith in the early 19th century that the fulness of the gospel and the priesthood were restored. Mormons believe the lost teachings can be found in LDS scriptures. For these reasons, the LDS Church considers itself the only true Christian church.

+ Revelation

Their own feelings, even more than their written scriptures, are the vehicle through which Mormons receive revelation. The Holy Ghost may either "whisper" a spiritual prompting or provide a "burning in the bosom.”

+ RM

Abbreviation for returned missionary.

S

+ Sabbath

Sunday. On Sunday they are not to work (even around the house), shop, go to the movies, or engage in sports. They are to attend church meetings, rest, visit with family or the sick, and read inspirational literature. "Because the Sabbath is a holy day, it should be reserved for worthy and holy activities. Abstaining from work and recreation is not enough. In fact, those who merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath fail to keep the day holy." (True to the Faith, p. 146)

Biblical Christianity teaches that the Sabbath pointed to Christ. When he came, the purpose of the Sabbath ended (Colossians 2:16-17). God did not establish a new set of rules to govern our worship, or set apart a specific day of the week for worship.

+ Sacrament

Used exclusively as a reference to the Lord’s Supper. Mormons partake of the sacrament every Sunday. It consists of bread and water, and all members, including toddlers, receive it. Its purpose is to remind them of their obligation to obey God. “To keep his saints in constant remembrance of their obligation to accept and obey him – or in other words, to eat his flesh and drink his blood – the Lord has given them the sacramental ordinance” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles Course Manual, p. 93).

Biblical Christianity teaches that God, not humans, are active in the sacrament. It is his table, his body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16). It is where he bestows the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).

+ Sacrament Meeting

The name for the LDS Sunday church service. They partake of the sacrament every Sunday.

+ Sacred Grove

The place where Heavenly Father supposedly appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and told him not to join any church because they were all corrupt.

+ Sacrifice

Faithful members of the LDS Church are to make any sacrifices required by the Lord to eternally progress on God's plan of salvation and reach their divine potential. "If we were not required to make sacrifices, we would never be able to develop the faith necessary for eternal salvation" (True to the Faith, p. 149).

+ Salvation

For most Mormons it is equivalent to resurrection, which is the only free gift in Mormonism. This is why many can say they believe they are saved by Jesus alone. They mean they believe they don’t have to do anything to gain resurrection.

When it comes to salvation from sin, they say: “you will not be completely saved from sin until you have finished your life on the earth, having faithfully endured to the end. Note that you cannot be saved in your sins; you cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins through the rest of your life. Through the grace of God, you can be saved from your sins. To receive this blessing, you must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament" (True to the Faith, pp. 151-152).

Biblical Christianity teaches that salvation from sin is free and full in Jesus. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus not only paid the price for all sin, he also kept the law perfectly for us. Salvation is his gift to us.

+ Sanctification

A term not commonly used in Mormonism.

+ Satan

Heavenly Father’s spirit child who proposed an alternate plan of salvation. After Heavenly Father rejected it, Satan rebelled. Heavenly Father sent him, along with his followers (demons), to outer darkness. They lost forever their chance to obtain physical bodies and to continue their progression to godhood. For many Mormons, Satan is the spiritual being whose presence they are most aware of.

+ Savior

Mormons often refer to Jesus as their Savior. They believe he paid their debt to Heavenly Father and also conquered death for them. But they also believe they have to pay him back in full (For a good example, see Boyd K. Packer’s parable of the debtor on lds.org.). In other words, they believe Jesus saved them by assuming their loan, refinancing it, and spreading out the payments. They do not believe he saved them fully and freely by paying for their sins and then canceling the debt.

Biblical Christianity teaches that Jesus is our Savior by being our substitute instead of our example. Jesus paid for our sins and doesn’t ask to be repaid. We receive the benefits of his salvation only through faith.

+ Scripture

The official (or "canonized") scriptures of the Mormon Church are the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible. These books are referred to as the standard works. They consider the Bible the least trustworthy scripture. Mormons also refer to the messages of the living prophet and the talks given at general conferences as scripture.

Biblical Christianity teaches that all Scripture is contained in the Bible. It is inspired, inerrant, and contains everything we need for salvation and godly living (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

+ Sealings

Being united for eternity. This can be done only in the temple. (1) Spouses are sealed to each other by being married in the temple for time and eternity. (2) Children are sealed to their parents in another temple ceremony. Both of these ceremonies can also be performed vicariously for the dead.

+ Seer

The President of the Church is often referred to as “the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.” A seer is a person who can see the future.

+ Seminary

Not a theological school but the daily set of instructions on Mormonism offered to high school students. Often the LDS church will build a building close to a high school in which they conduct these classes. These seminary buildings become the social center for many LDS students.

+ Setting Apart

“… through a priesthood blessing, we are set apart from the world to focus our time and talents on a specific labor for the Lord. … As a priesthood ordinance, the action of setting an individual apart involves divine power, promise, and holiness. … When we are set apart, we also receive the right to obtain knowledge and revelation to accomplish our assigned tasks” (Ronald D. Maines, Ensign, Feb 1992, p. 51).

+ Seventy

A title, not a number, of an office in the Melchizedek priesthood devoted to mission work. The name is taken from the account of Jesus sending out the seventy to witness. This office does not exist on the local level.

+ Sin

Mormonism has a weak view of sin. “Sin is knowingly choosing to do wrong or not to do right” (Plan of Salvation, p. 9). A person sins only if they consciously and deliberately disobey one of God's commandments. Instead of talking about sin, they use words such as bad habits, infractions, mistakes, and poor judgments.

Neither does Mormonism teach that humans have a sinful nature. LDS Scripture (D&C 29:46-47) says a child cannot sin until they are eight years old. Instead of talking about a person’s sinfulness, they more often talk about their divine potential.

Biblical Christianity teaches that we sin not only in our actions but also in our thoughts (Matthew 5:28). When it comes to sin, ignorance is not bliss. Sin is sin whether a person realizes they are sinning or not (Romans 7:7). Even one sin ruins perfection and brings total guilt (James 2:10).

+ Sister

Female members of the LDS church are commonly addressed as sister.

+ Son of God

That Jesus is the Son of God is part and parcel of every Mormon’s testimony. They do not believe, however, that Jesus is equal with God the Father. “Jesus is greater than the Holy Spirit, which is subject unto him, but his Father is greater than he” (Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 74). Jesus was Heavenly Father’s and Mother’s first spirit child and in this sense, he is the Son of God.

+ Son of Perdition

A person who goes to outer darkness. Some Mormons believe that hardly any, if any, will qualify as sons of perdition, while others use it mainly in reference to apostates. In referring to sons of perdition Joseph Smith said, “This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, p. 93).

+ Spirit Bodies

The “bodies” of spirit children. “What are we like as spirits? (We do not have bodies of flesh and bones, but our spirit bodies are in the same form as the physical bodies we will have on earth.) … As spirits, what can we do? (As spirits, we are able to move about, talk, listen, think, learn, make choices, and prepare for earth life)” (Walk In His Ways, Part A, p. 22).

+ Spirit Children

Mormons teach that in preexistence everyone lived as a spirit child of Heavenly Father and Mother. They believe spirit children can develop characteristics and begin their progression to godhood through the wise use of their agency.

+ Spirit Prison

The section of the spirit world where non-Mormon spirits go. LDS spirits from paradise can convert the inhabitants of spirit prison to Mormonism.

+ Spirit World

Mormonism teaches that the spirits of all people will go to a spirit world after death. Mormon spirits will go to paradise. Here they will continue their eternal progression towards godhood.

Spirits of non-Mormons will go to a place of hell and punishment called spirit prison. Here, they receive a second chance to learn the true LDS gospel via spirits from paradise doing mission work. Spirits in spirit prison who accept the LDS gospel and repent of their sins hope that a Mormon will go to the LDS temple to be baptized for them and carry out other ordinances on their behalf. Without this happening, they will not be able to enter paradise. "Those in spirit prison have the opportunity to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation through the work we do in temples (D&C 138:30-35). When they do, they may enter paradise" (True to the Faith, p. 111).

+ Spiritual Death

Separation from God’s presence. 1) Because of Adam’s Fall, all are spiritually dead. Because of Jesus’ atonement, all will be raised and brought back into his presence to be judged. 2) Because of a person’s sin. “Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ offers redemption from this spiritual death, but only when we exercise faith in Him, repent of our sins, and obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel” (True to the Faith, p. 48). Especially because LDS repentance involves much work on their part, this is not a free gift.

Biblical Christianity teaches that, because of the Fall, every person by nature is dead in sin and subject to God's condemnation (Romans 5:12-19, Ephesians 2:1-3). God made us alive through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-5).

+ Stake

An organizational unit consisting of a number of wards or congregations. The term is derived from Isaiah 33:20 which has the picture of stakes holding down a tent, which Mormons would identify as Zion, or the LDS Church. It is equivalent to a Catholic diocese.

+ Stake House

A common name for their chapels. Technically it the specific chapel which houses the office of the stake president.

+ Stake President

The head of a stake. He has no theological training. He, along with his two counselors, wields great power and authority. He continues to work in his secular occupation while serving as a stake president. Usually, successful business or professional men are the ones chosen. There is no set term of office. Most serve for five to ten years. It is a position of great honor.

+ Standard Works

Synonymous with their canonized scripture: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible.

+ Stick of Ephraim

The Book of Mormon. This identification is based on a misinterpretation of Ezekiel 37:15-19. Mormons identify the stick of Ephraim with the Book of Mormon because it supposedly is the history of Ephraim in the new world (see D&C 27:5). The Ezekiel passage, and the LDS interpretation of it, is one of the first things Mormons learn.

+ Sustaining

A procedure where the entire church body ratifies the calling of persons to various church positions. It is a formality, being almost always unanimous, since they believe the person was called to their position by direct revelation. “When we sustain officers, we are given the opportunity of sustaining those whom the Lord has already called by revelation. … To sustain is to make the action binding on ourselves to support those people whom we have sustained” (D&C Student Manual, p. 54).

T

+ Tea

The Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) forbids the drinking of hot drinks. This has been officially interpreted as coffee and tea. There is some debate over whether this forbids the drinking of iced tea. Also see: Word of Wisdom.

+ Telestial Kingdom

The lowest kingdom of heaven. It is not visited by Heavenly Father or Jesus; only by the Holy Ghost. Although it is the lowest kingdom, its glory, which is symbolized as the glory of stars, is described as surpassing all mortal understanding.

All evil and unbelieving people will go here. “Those who continue in their sins and do not repent will receive a place in the telestial kingdom” (Plan of Salvation, p.14). "The people who live in the telestial kingdom are those who did not accept either the gospel or a testimony of Jesus, either on earth or in the spirit world. . . While on this earth, they were liars, thieves, murderers, false prophets, adulterers, and those who ridiculed sacred things. They were the people who accepted the beliefs of the world rather than the teachings of Jesus. Many people will live in this kingdom." (Gospel Fundamentals, Chapter 36: Eternal Life.)

Biblical Christianity teaches that all who go to heaven will live eternally in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It further teaches that only those who have trusted in Jesus’ perfect work will be in heaven. All others will be in hell (Mark 16:16).

+ Temple

The temple holds the same place of importance to a Mormon as the cross does for Christians. They see it as the gateway to eternal life. Their emphasis on the temple is seen in the fact that many Mormons have a picture of a LDS temple hanging in a prominent place in their homes.

They believe the temple is the gateway to eternal life because in it, and only in it, are the ordinances necessary for exaltation carried out. "The principal purpose of temples is to provide the ordinances necessary for our exaltation in the celestial kingdom" (True to the Faith, p. 170). The specific ordinances which accomplish this are the endowment ceremony and eternal marriage.

Although those ordinances are very important, the most common activity performed in the temple are the ordinances for the dead: baptisms, endowments, and sealings. This activity, also known as temple work, helps Mormons progress toward exaltation.

Mormons refer to the temple as a place of worship, but only in the sense of carrying out these important sacred duties. No worship services, as Christians think of worship services, are held in the temple.

Not every Mormon is eligible to enter the temple. Their local leaders interview them to determine their worthiness. "You will be asked to confirm that you are morally clean and that you keep the Word of Wisdom, pay a full tithe, live in harmony with the teachings of the Church, and do not maintain any affiliation or sympathy with apostate groups" (True to the Faith, p. 172). If found worthy, they are given a temple recommend. This card, which is renewed every two years, gives them access to the temple.

Inside the temple, they must wear white temple clothing. "Dressed in white, you can feel a oneness and a sense of equality with others in the temple, for everyone around you is similarly dressed" (True to the Faith, p. 173). They also wear sacred undergarments at all times to remind them of the covenants they made in the temple. They believe these garments also provide protection against temptation and evil.

Biblical Christianity teaches that the temple was a central component of the Old Testament. It, however, bore no resemblance to LDS temples. Its purpose was to vividly show the people how their sins had separated them from God. It emphasized this by not allowing anybody but the priests to enter it. Even more striking was the fact that only the high priest, and he only one day a year, could enter the Holy of Holies. The ark of the covenant, which symbolized God’s presence, was found here.

The other striking element of the Old Testament temple was the sacrifice of animals. Day in and day out animals were sacrificed to illustrate that only through sacrifice could sin be atoned for. These sacrifices all pointed to Jesus.

When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). In this dramatic way, God indicated that Jesus, through his sacrifice, had removed our separation from God. Now there is no need for physical temples. Instead the Bible tells us the wonderful news that believers themselves are now God’s temple (1 Corinthians 1:16).

+ Temple Garments

1) The special garments worn only in the temple;

2) The sacred undergarments worn at all times which many feel gives them supernatural protection. Only temple-worthy Mormons can wear either of these garments.

+ Temple Mormon

A Mormon who is worthy to enter the temple. Less than 50% of their membership is temple worthy.

+ Temple Recommend

The small card which gives temple-worthy Mormons access to the temple. It is issued by their bishop and a member of their stake presidency. It is good for two years, after which it needs to be renewed.

+ Temple Work

A favorite expression in Mormonism to describe participation in the various temple ordinances.

+ Temple-Worthy

Mormons who are worthy to enter the temple. To be worthy they must keep the Word of Wisdom, tithe, be morally upright, and be supportive of the church leaders. This is determined in interviews with their bishop and a member of the stake presidency.

+ Terrestrial Kingdom

The middle kingdom of heaven where people will be visited by Jesus; not by Heavenly Father. It will be the final destination of honorable people and non-valiant Mormons. "Those who go to the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people. Some of them will be members of the Church, and others will not. They will be those who did not accept Jesus on earth but later accepted Him in the spirit world. The people who will live there will not be part of an eternal family but will live separately, without families" (Gospel Fundamentals, Chapter 36: Eternal Life).

+ Testimony

Having a testimony is one of the most important things a Mormon can have. They believe they receive their testimony, not through facts, but through their feelings. “As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you have the sacred opportunity and responsibility to obtain your own testimony. Having obtained a testimony, you have the duty to nurture it throughout your life. Your happiness in this life and throughout eternity depends largely on whether you are ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus’” (True to the Faith, p. 179, emphasis added).

Every testimony contains the following four parts: (1) Jesus is the true Son of God. (2) Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. (3) The Book of Mormon is the true word of God. (4) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of God. They are encouraged to “bear their testimony” as often as possible. By “bearing their testimony” they also “build their testimony.” Also see: Revelation.

+ Three Witnesses

Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris testified they saw the golden plates which contained the Book of Mormon. Their testimony is printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe their testimony is proof that Joseph Smith told the truth about the Book of Mormon.

+ Tithing

Giving 10% of your income to the church. It is an important requirement for remaining in good standing in the LDS church. It is essential for becoming temple-worthy.

+ Tithing Settlement

A yearly meeting members have with their bishop to confirm they have paid their tithes. It is especially important for temple Mormons. If they are in arrears, they need to fulfill their tithe in order to keep their temple recommend.

+ Tobacco

Forbidden in the Word of Wisdom (D&C Section 89).

+ Translation

Rarely used as it is commonly used by others; as a term to describe the process of rendering something from the original language into another language. Rather it is used to refer to (1) the transmission of the original text over the centuries, (2) the interpretation of the text, and (3) the revision of the text. “By translation is meant a revision of the Bible by inspiration or revelation” (D&C Student Manual, p. 136).

+ Trinity

Mormons do not believe in the Trinity and most misunderstand what Christians believe. Many Mormons think Christians do not believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate persons.

Biblical Christianity teaches that God is triune; that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons but comprise one essence, one God. Thus, three in one.

U

+ Unrighteous Dominion

A LDS expression describing the abuse of power and authority of a priesthood holder. Often used to describe the actions of an overbearing husband or father (See D&C 121:39).

+ Urim and Thummim

The stones Joseph Smith said he used to translate the Book of Mormon. See: Peep Stones.

V

+ Valiant

Common LDS Term for being faithful.

+ Veil

A term for death. Dying is passing behind the veil.

+ Vicarious

As a substitute

+ Vicarious Work

A common Mormon expression describing temple work for the dead. It is most often used in reference to baptisms for the dead.

+ Visiting Teachers

In contrast to home teachers, who are always male, these are women from the Relief Society. Like home teachers they are to visit their assigned women on a monthly basis.

W

+ Ward

The name for a local LDS congregation. Usually more than one ward meets in the same meetinghouse on Sundays. (e.g., one meets from 9­12; the other from 1-4.) Wards vary in size from 400 to 800 members. When a ward reaches 800 members, it is divided. Wards are set up on a geographical basis, with the result that members do not have a choice of what ward they can attend.

+ Word of Wisdom

Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It forbids the use of liquor, tobacco, and “hot drinks” (which have been officially interpreted as tea and coffee). Breaking the Word of Wisdom is one of the more serious sins in Mormonism. Strictly following it is essential for receiving a temple recommend.

It is common practice for Mormons to enjoy hot drinks such as herbal tea or hot cider. They are technically allowed to drink caffeinated drinks such as soda, but it is frowned upon since part of following the Word of Wisdom is not becoming addicted to any substance.

+ Worship

Mormons only worship Heavenly Father and not Jesus Christ. They are taught to "worship your Heavenly Father and express your gratitude for His Son, Jesus Christ" (True to the Faith, p. 188). Since Mormons do not believe in the Trinity, they believe they are following the first commandment of worshipping only one God when they only worship Heavenly Father.

+ Worthy

Worthiness is the underlying factor for receiving all blessings including the forgiveness of sins. It is based on carrying out all the commands and ordinances of the Church. Temporal blessings, or the lack thereof, are typically traced back to whether or not a Mormon has been worthy or valiant in their efforts.

Z

+ Zion

A LDS term with a variety of meanings. Zion is where God dwells. Therefore, it can refer to (1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (2) Utah, (3) Independence, Missouri (since they believe it is where Jesus will return and from where he will rule), or (4) a condition of the heart.