Here it is: the beginning of the long - awaited (I know you've been waiting) Mormon Lexicon! And you thought I forgot . . .
I decided to put together this dictionary of sorts to put you in the loop. This will explain some of the terms I am bound to use while telling a story (as I am a Mormon that has experiences with other Mormons especially now that I live in Utah where they're - I mean we're - everywhere). The fact of the matter is that this will take a number of posts to fully explain. I thought I'd give it to you in smaller chunks so it would be easier for you to swallow (we wouldn't want anyone choking, now would we?) So don't be surprised to see additional installments in the future. I would like to say up front, that though I will poke some fun at our lingo and weird cultural stuff, I believe in the doctrine very strongly. Tone in the written word is sometimes difficult to make out, so I will say right now that unless I specifically indicate, I am not being sarcastic. Most of these jokes will be the kind that are said with a small chuckle. Included in this first edition will be some of the basics of organization and Sunday meetings in our church. Enjoy!
Mormon: 1. Mormon was a prophet in the ancient Americas who abridged the writings of not one, but two ancient civilizations and put them into a record that later became known as The Book of Mormon. It was named after him, because he did a whole lot of the work. Better give credit where credit is due! (Note: Joseph Smith didn't write The Book of Mormon. It was already written . . . in another language . . . that no one knew how to read. This is why God called Joseph Smith to translate it by the power of God.)
2. A nickname for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People started calling us Mormons because we read The Book of Mormon. By the way, we don't mind being called Mormons, but we don't really like our church being called "the Mormon church" because it makes people think we worship Mormon instead of Jesus Christ.
LDS or Latter-day Saint: another nickname for a Mormon. The term, "latter-day saint" does not suggest that the members of our church have achieved sainthood (not even close!). We point to the way the term "saint" is used in the New Testament to refer to members of the early Christian church. Basically we are members of Jesus Christ's church in later days.
ward: a congregation of Mormons in a geographic area. A ward is like a family. Sometimes it's a little crazy, but we love and support each other. In some areas there are specialized wards like singles wards, deaf wards, Spanish wards, Tongan wards, etc. These specialized wards are not created to exclude people, instead they are formed when the leadership finds that the specialization better meets the needs of those ward members especially when it comes to language. Wards are usually split when they get too big. A smaller group is better than a larger one because it is easier to know everyone and their needs. It also gives more people the opportunity to hold callings.
calling: the job/responsibility that you do/have in the church. All worthy members of our church get to help out by serving in a calling. A calling is not paid work; it is service. There are numerous callings in a ward and you can even get a calling that has you serving at the stake, regional, or general level. Callings range from Bishop to Sunday School teacher to greeter to librarian to Prophet. The key is that each calling is important. And though there are different callings with different levels of responsibility, you don't get "promoted". You may go from being in charge of a lot of stuff to teaching 5 year-olds and it is not a demotion. We believe that the call comes through inspiration aka God is choosing what you are doing right now. And because there are so many things to do and you usually don't stay in a calling forever, you have the chance to learn . . . a LOT. I recently taught a Sunday School class entitled "Marriage and Family Relations" to other young, single members of my ward. I loved it. I learned so much while preparing my lessons and from the comments I got from those who attended my class. What a great way to have a positive outlook on something that has so long eluded me! The Lord sure knows what he is doing.
bishop: the bishop is the ecclesiastical leader of the ward, kind of like a pastor. The father of the ward family, if you will. He is actually responsible for everyone within his ward's boundaries whether they are a member of our church or not. Our church has a lay ministry meaning that the bishop is not paid. He has a regular day job to support his family (oh yeah and celibacy is not promoted in our faith. Family is the most important thing for everyone). A bishop may be a lawyer, accountant, garbageman, artist, etc. to pay the bills and then spend 20 hours a week fulfilling his duties as bishop. Bishops really do work so hard. My dad was the bishop for a while and it was tiring work. The good news is that this calling is not forever. Usually a bishop serves for about 5 years. After that, someone else is called.
bishopric: a group of men including the bishop, his two counselors, the executive secretary and clerks. The other members beside the bishop help him do his job. Yay for teamwork!
branch: a branch is like a ward, but smaller.
branch president: the branch president does everything a bishop does, he's just called a branch president because he's over a branch instead of a ward.
stake: a larger geographical area that includes usually about 7-10 wards. The term comes from the analogy used in the Old Testament that the House of Israel was like a tent with stakes spread out.
stake president: a priesthood leader that presides over a stake. Like a bishop, he has two counselors an executive secretary and clerks to help him do his job. The stake president also works really hard and spends a lot of hours on his calling. This is actually what my dad is now. This calling isn't forever either, but the average stake president serves for about 10 years. My dad isn't quite half way there yet. You can do it, Dad! (As you can see, you really don't hope and dream for leadership positions, they take a lot of time and often those who are called feel inadequate for the job, but whom the Lord calls, he qualifies. Each opportunity to serve brings faith building experiences as you rely upon the Lord to help you figure out how to do the job right.)
stake center: the building dedicated to holding stake events. It also serves as a meeting house for at least one ward.
3 hour block: our Sunday meetings last for three hours. I know what you're thinking, "THREE HOURS?!?! Are these people crazy?" But the truth is that it is broken up into three meetings: Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School and the last hour one is either in Priesthood, Relief Society, Young Womens, or Primary (all of these groups will be discussed in later posts.)
Sacrament Meeting: the worship service where all the congregation meets together. The meeting starts with a welcome, then a hymn sung by the congregation and a prayer offered by a member of the congregation who has been asked beforehand. After the prayer, business is conducted (if there is any) and then another hymn is sung to prepare for the sacrament. Sacrament hymns are usually solemn and reverent and the words speak of Jesus Christ and how he suffered for our sins. The most important part of Sacrament Meeting is the sacrament. The sacrament is when bread and water are blessed and passed to the congregation. It is much like the eucharist or communion in other faiths. The bread and water are symbols of Christ's flesh and blood as he explained during the last supper. The sacramental prayer reminds us of the covenants (promises with God) we made when we were baptized. After the sacrament, talks are given by 2 or three members of the congregation who were asked beforehand (usually you get at least a week to prepare unless your dad is the bishop and the person scheduled can't do it for some reason or another). There is usually a rest hymn in between talks which is a chance to stand up and stretch your legs (sometimes). In my current ward, we stand up for the rest hymn EVERY week, which I hadn't experienced before. The meeting closes with another hymn and a closing prayer. Yes, we sing a lot. Which I really don't mind even though I have a terrible voice. The hymns are so beautiful and are so much a part of me, that I love to hear them. Besides, usually there are a lot of people in the ward that have beautiful voices, so I get to hear them sing over my voice.
the church vs. The Church: 1. the actual structure or building where services and activities are held i.e.: "will you be at the church tonight?"
2. short for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints i.e.: "How members of The Church are there worldwide?"
Well that's it for now, please. If any of this confuses you or if you would like to put in a request (you've heard a Mormon say something that didn't make any sense to you) leave a comment or shoot me an email.