Vocabulary, Latter-Day Saint

See this page in the original 1992 publication.

Author: Blair, Robert W.

Although Latter-day Saints share with other Christian faiths a general Judeo-Christian linguistic heritage, "Mormon language" includes many words and phrases that have distinctive meanings. Also, many words commonly used in other branches of Christianity are not common in LDS language.

From scripture and the religious vocabulary of the western world, LDS language inherits such words as "angel," "apostle," "Atonement," "baptism," "covenant," "damnation," "deacon," "exaltation," "the Fall," "glory," "God," "heaven," "hell," "Israelite," "judgment," "Messiah," "oath," "patriarch," "priesthood," "prophet," "redemption," "repentance," "resurrection," "Sacrament," "saint," "salvation," "sin," "soul," "tabernacle," "temple," "Urim and Thummim," and "Zion." Even though these words come from a common heritage, most of them have significantly different connotations in LDS vocabularies, as do many other words.

Conspicuously absent from LDS language, or used infrequently, are many terms of other Christian cultures, such as "abbot," "archbishop," "beatification," "cardinal," "catechism," "creed," "diocese," "eucharist," "host," "limbo," "outward sign," "inward grace," "minister," "parish," "pastor," "preacher," "purgatory," "radio or television evangelist," "rapture," "rectory," "sanctuary," and "Trinity."

LDS language is likewise distinctive in terms of address and titles. Members address one another as "Brother" and "Sister" in preference to "Mister" or "Mrs.," or a professional title such as "Professor" or "Doctor." Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood offices are almost never used as titles of address, with the notable exception of "Bishop" and "Elder," and the latter term may apply to any male Church leader (but is usually reserved for missionaries and members of presiding councils-the Twelve and the Seventy). The only other frequently used title is "President," a term widely used for both men and women in a presiding position in many of the units of the Church.

Unique names found in the Book of Mormon have been carried over into given names for places and persons, such as Abinadi, Ammon, Ether, Korihor, Laman, Lehi, Moroni, Nephi, and Zoram. Alma, usually a woman's name in English and Spanish, is a man's name in the Book of Mormon and in many older LDS families. LDS colonizers honored settlements with Book of Mormon names such as Lehi, Moroni, and Nephi. Other unique or uniquely used LDS words include "Deseret," "Kolob," "Liahona," "disfellowship," and "telestial." Some terms also have specialized meanings in reference to LDS temples, such as "baptism by proxy," "celestial room," "temple recommend," "sealings," "Endowment," and "garment."

Problems with the transfer of English connotations into other languages are extensive. Distinctions in LDS theology have led some LDS translators to avoid literal transliteration of commonly used terms in favor of coining a new word, borrowing the English word, or reviving an archaic term.

Because of the worldwide missionary program of the Church and the immigration of converts from many lands to the United States, there is a high level of language-consciousness among Church members. Brigham Young University has among its 27,000 students an unusually high percentage (up to one-third) who speak and read languages learned during missionary service. The "gift of tongues" is often spoken of in reference to missionaries' ability to learn languages rapidly, although the term is also used in reference to biblical modes of speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues (cf. D&C 46:24-25).

Since its organization in 1973, the Deseret Language and Linguistics Society has solicited papers for its annual symposium on all aspects of LDS language, and a selection of these papers has been published annually since 1974.


Harris, John B., and William A. Wilson. "And They Spake with a New Tongue (on Missionary Slang)." In Conference on the Language of the Mormons, ed. Harold S. Madsen and John L. Sorenson, pp. 46-48. Provo, Utah, 1974.

McNaughton, Patricia T. "Ordinary Language for Special Purposes." DLLS Annual Symposium (Brigham Young University). Provo, Utah, 1979.

Monson, Samuel C. "Some Observations on the Language of Hymns." DLLS Annual Symposium (Brigham Young University). Provo, Utah, 1979.


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