Mormon Vocab

By: Jenny Pate//

Recently we discussed some of the words Mormons try not to say, but there are certain words that we do say that might be worth explaining. I’m not talking about Utah swear-word slang, (heck, fetch, holy cow).  No–Mormons use jargon beyond just swear word substitutes.

Let me explain.

At work, there is another Mormon in my hall. Recently I’ve noticed that as we chat by the coffee maker—drinking ice water—that the words we use are so not normal to anyone overhearing.  Take last week for instance: 

CD:             Morning Jenny, how was your weekend?
JP:             It was great, the weather has been perfect.  Hey, your daughter did a really good job on her talk yesterday.
CD:             Oh thanks, I’ll be sure to tell her.  How are things going in primary?
JP:             I was just telling the Bishop yesterday that it’s probably my favorite calling I’ve ever had.  Our ward is great, all the kids are adorable.

A thirty second exchange and we’ve already dropped several Mormon bombs (M-bombs, if you will). Let me walk you through them: 


Ward: A local congregation, defined by geographic area, that meets together at church on Sundays.  They also plan activities that involve potluck casserole and brownies.  There are “Singles Wards” that are made up of single adult Mormons.  Of the Mormon couples you know, several have probably met their spouse in a Singles Ward.

Bishop: The leader (like a Priest) of a Ward.  He’s unpaid, and spends a lot of hours at the church building.  In some instances Bishops yield samurai swords to scare off intruders, but usually they spend a lot of time at the church and visiting members of the ward.  Bishops also can help families  are struggling financially or help fill kitchen cupboards.  Being a bishop is a calling, and as a bishop he gives others callings.  Which leads us to our next word: 

Calling: An assignment at church.  I believe we’ve covered this before.

Primary: Sunday School for the Niño’s.  My current calling is in the Primary.  My coworkers often ask me how “the kids” are doing, which can be confusing since I don’t actually have children.  Just Primary.

Talk: You may hear a Mormon say, “I gave a talk at church.”  This means they spoke at the pulpit in front of their entire ward.  We don’t often use the word sermon or speech, but they are sort of equivalent.

So you can see, that even just this brief conversation was packed with hidden meaning. While any Mormon listening in would be able to interpret a lot from that, the general public is left wondering what group of professionals meets and gives talks as a ward.

While it may seem strange, Mormon vocab actually comes in very handy.  One summer, Kyle and I were enjoying a Ghirardelli Mint Ice Cream shake in San Francisco.  The table next to us had two couples, very happy-smiley, modestly dressed couples.  We looked for standard Mormon signs but didn’t want to ask outright to see if they shared our religious affiliation.  Instead, we started playing a Mormon version of the 500 Days of Summer Game.  “Temple” I said in a conversation voice.  “Sacrament” Kyle said a little louder, followed by whisper shouting, “Bishop.”  Luckily before I yelled, “Missionary” for the entire tourist population of Ghirardelli’s to hear, they looked over, made eye contact, and all of us at the same time asked, “Mormon?” 

Yes, Mormons are so weird.

But we ended up getting along very well and having a hilarious night (getting drunk on ice cream—remember Mormons really bond over desserts).  So I say cheers to Mormon vocab.

We asked our fellow Normons some of their favorite M-bombs, and received a great response.  A few you should know:

Linger Longer: A slightly creepy term to describe an activity held after church that involves food, and meeting people in your ward.  This is popular in Singles Wards.

Companions:  As a Mormon, you may have an eternal companion (spouse), but you may also have mission companion, a home teaching companion, or visiting teaching companion.  It’s a person you teach with.  You know how Mormon missionaries go in twos? They are companions.


Threesome:  If mission companions get a third wheel, they are innocently called a threesome.

Temple vs. ChapelThe Temple is where we go to worship on weekdays, and the chapel is for church on Sundays (and linger longer, and ward activities, primary, and allll that).


Fireside:  An evening meeting of Mormons, which rarely involves a fireplace.

Quad:  Four books of scripture combined into one heavy book, usually with a convenient snap on the cover.  If you live near Mormons, you usually see them carrying this on Sundays.


And of course there are acronyms:  PPI, BYD, CTR, FHE, LDS, RS, EQP.  It’s like texting lingo…but for church. Lol.

If you can believe it, the list goes on. 

I get that it’s weird.  I especially get it when I’m talking with other Mormons outside of a church setting.  But when I think of other groups I’m a part of (say engineers) I can recall a lot of jargon that sounds strange out of context.  Coupling.  Necking.  POS.  Rigid Body.  Comparing Mormons to engineers probably doesn’t help get us  into the ‘normal’ category, but doctors, dancers, designers and other cool professions have unique vocabularies too.  So tomorrow at work hopefully I can confidently discuss the funny talks given by the missionary threesome, and the ward fireside at the chapel, while I drink my ice water by the coffee maker.

Are there any Mormon words you don’t understand or hear all the time? Leave a comment! 

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