Need to Know

Glossary of LDS Words and Terms

The following is a list of common LDS words and terms along with their LDS definitions. Please be aware that many of the items in this list are not recognized as valid by the historic Christian Church and are not supported by the Bible. For a comparison of some of these entries with the Biblical position, please see Terminology Differences.

Also included in this list are the names of a few prominent people in Mormonism.

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Aaronic Priesthood: The lesser of two divisions of the priesthood in the LDS Church, it includes the offices of deacon, teacher, priest and bishop. The Aaronic Priesthood is usually held by young men from the age of twelve to about eighteen. It is also held briefly by men who are new members of the Church.

Adam-God Doctrine: The teaching, proclaimed by Brigham Young over a period of 25 years, that Adam, the first man from the Garden of Eden, "is our father and our God." Young first taught this doctrine at the April 1852 General Conference of the LDS Church. The doctrine was denounced by subsequent prophets and is not sustained in the Church today.

Agency: The ability and freedom to choose good or evil, right or wrong. Agency is a necessary element of the plan of salvation.

Age of Accountability: The age of a child when s/he becomes responsible for his/her actions. Normally, this is at the age of eight.

Apostasy: Turning away from true gospel teachings. The LDS Church is founded on the premise that True Christianity ceased after the death of Christ's apostles, plunging the Church into total and complete apostasy. Therefore, the true Church -- with its priesthood authority -- needed to be restored. This was allegedly accomplished through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith in 1830.

Apostate: An ex-member of the LDS Church.

Apostle: A member of the Council of the Twelve, the second highest level in the LDS hierarchy. The counselors to the Prophet are usually ordained apostles as well.

Articles of Faith: Thirteen statements of the basic beliefs of the LDS Church, similar to a creed. These articles are considered Scripture and are published as part of the Pearl of Great Price.

Atonement: The sacrificial act of Christ which frees all people from the effects of Adam's fall. It is the Atonement which provides resurrection from the dead. The Atonement also opened the way for people to achieve eternal life through good works and obedience to LDS laws and ordinances. The Atonement was accomplished primarily through the suffering of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, but was completed in His death on the Cross.

Authority: The right to function in certain capacities in the LDS Church. Without the proper authority all spiritual activities are considered invalid; thus, all things, from baptism to the preaching of the gospel, must be performed by those holding the proper LDS authority or they will not be of any benefit.

Baptism by Immersion: The initiatory ordinance of the LDS Church in which a person is immersed in water by someone holding the proper LDS priesthood authority; it is synonymous with being "born again." LDS baptism is necessary for membership in the Church and for entrance into the Celestial kingdom.

Baptism for the Dead: Baptism by immersion of a living person on behalf of one who is dead. Baptism's for the dead are performed only in LDS temples. It is believed that the person for whom the ritual is performed will have the opportunity to accept the LDS gospel in the spirit world and be enabled to progress to a better level of glory.

Bible: Accepted as a book of Scripture, but with reservation. It is generally thought within Mormonism that the Bible is less than trustworthy. The King James Version is most widely used.

Bishop: A volunteer leader of an LDS ward with duties similar to those of a pastor.

Book of Mormon: A book of LDS Scripture recounting the story of people on the American continent from 2200 years before the birth of Christ to 421 AD It is said to contain the fulness of the gospel and to be the most correct of any book on earth, even though it has undergone numerous changes since its first printing. Notably, the Book of Mormon is silent on many of the doctrines espoused by the LDS Church today, and in disagreement with others.

Branch: An LDS congregation which is not large and stable enough to form a ward. Branches often lack some of the programs found in stronger areas of the Church.

Brethren: A fond designation referring to LDS leaders, usually the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

Called/Calling: To be asked or assigned to a duty or position in the LDS Church.

Celestial Kingdom: The highest kingdom of glory in the LDS concept of heaven, available only to Mormons who exhibited complete obedience to LDS laws and ordinances during their entire lifetimes. This is the only kingdom of glory where one may enjoy the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Within the Celestial kingdom there are three levels, the highest reserved for those who were married in the temple and subsequently obtain Godhood.

Chapel: A meetinghouse where LDS worship services and other Church activities are held.

Christian: In a general sense, any person who believes Jesus Christ is a Son of God and tries to follow his example in ethics and morality. Specifically, members of the LDS Church are the only "true" Christians.

Church, The: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claiming to be "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth." (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30)

Church News: A weekly tabloid-size newspaper reporting LDS Church news and events.

Confirmation: An ordinance following baptism through which a person is confirmed a member of the LDS Church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.

Council in Heaven: A council of the Gods held in the pre-existence during which the creation and peopling of the earth was arranged. The plan of salvation was also determined at this meeting and Jesus Christ was chosen to be the Savior. In addition to the Gods who were present, Jehovah, Michael and Lucifer also participated. All of the spirit children of God attended as well, and were given opportunity to accept or reject the plans set forth.

Create: To organize elements that already exist into a new form. Mormonism teaches matter has no beginning, nor can it be destroyed. God does not have the power to create out of nothing, but he can (and does) reorganize eternal elements into things as we know them.

Devil: A spirit son of God, younger spirit brother of Jesus Christ, also known as Lucifer or Satan.

Doctrine and Covenants (D&C): A book of LDS Scripture containing revelations given to Joseph Smith and other latter-day Prophets.

Elohim: The name of God the Father.

Endowment: A special spiritual "blessing" given to worthy and faithful members of the LDS Church in the temple. This ceremony, performed for both the living and the dead, embodies obligations and covenants required at the hands of participants. In turn, they are given key words and signs needed to gain entrance into the Celestial kingdom. The specific elements of the endowment ceremony are sacred to Latter-day Saints; participants must take a vow to never reveal what they learn inside the temple.

Enduring to the End: Complete obedience to God's laws to the end of mortal life--a requirement for gaining salvation in the Celestial kingdom.

Ensign Magazine: A monthly magazine published by the LDS Church containing Church news, events, doctrine and policy announcements. The complete sermons from General Conference are printed in the Ensign in the May and November issues each year.

Eternal Progression: The progressive life-cycle of humans: beginning as unorganized eternal intelligences; being organized (created) by God into spirit-beings; becoming mortal; and ultimately attaining Godhood where the life-cycle repeats with the new God(s) organizing eternal intelligences into spirit-beings who become mortal and eventually become Gods, etc., throughout all eternity. Eternal progression had no beginning and has no end; all Gods that ever were or ever will be must achieve their exalted state in this way.

Exaltation: The attainment of Godhood. It is the continuation of the family unit throughout eternity in the Celestial kingdom. Those who are exalted will create worlds and populations, receive the worship of those people, and rule as Gods and Goddesses over their creations.

Excommunication: The strongest official disciplinary action used against members of the LDS Church. It results in the termination of membership, which blocks the opportunity of gaining an eternal reward in the Celestial kingdom. Repentance with reinstatement to the Church is possible after excommunication.

Fall of Adam: Adam's choice in the Garden of Eden to disobey one of God's commands ("Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.") in order to obey another ("Be fruitful and multiply."). His choice brought mortality to humankind, making progression to Godhood possible. Adam's transgression is seen as a positive act which resulted in great blessings to all of humanity.

Family History: A study of genealogy wherein ancestors are identified for the purpose of having temple ordinances performed vicariously on their behalf.

Fast and Testimony Meeting: A Church meeting held one Sunday each month wherein members publicly bear their testimonies. This meeting includes the collection of a fast offering: money saved by fasting for two consecutive meals and then contributed toward the care of the poor.

First Presidency: The supreme, directing power and authority over the LDS Church; comprised of the Prophet/President and his counselors.

First Vision: The alleged appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1820. This vision is the foundation upon which the LDS Church is built, as well as the source for the LDS doctrine of multiple, embodied Gods.

Full Tithepayer: A person who pays one tenth of his annual increase to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paying a full and honest tithe is required for an individual to hold a temple recommend.

General Authorities: Members of the top three governing bodies of the LDS Church. These include the First Presidency (the Prophet and his two counselors), the Quorum of the Twelve (Apostles), and the Quorum of the Seventy. They are administrative authorities, called by the Prophet to preach the LDS gospel and direct Church affairs.

General Conference: An assembly of LDS membership held in Salt Lake City, Utah each April and October. These meetings are for official instruction, announcements and teaching given by General Authorities and other LDS leaders.

Gentile: Any person who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gift of the Holy Ghost: The right to the companionship of and revelation from the Holy Ghost, received by the laying on of hands, predicated upon individual worthiness.

God: Usually refers to God the Father (Elohim). Once a mortal man, God the Father progressed to become a God through obedience to the LDS system of laws and ordinances. He is the literal father of Jesus Christ (in the flesh) as well as the spirits of all men. He is a being of flesh and bone.

Godhead: Three Gods working in unity -- Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Gospel: The LDS plan of salvation, embracing all that is necessary to save and exalt mankind to the Celestial kingdom (i.e., laws, principles, doctrines, rites, ordinances, acts, powers, authorities and keys).

Heavenly Father: Another name for God the Father.

Hell: The section in the spirit world where the wicked wait in torment for the resurrection. At that time nearly all spirits from hell will gain salvation in the Telestial kingdom; for them, hell will have an end. Only Satan and the Sons of Perdition will be cast into hell for eternity.

Holy Ghost: One of the three Gods in the LDS Godhead, the only one consisting of spirit rather than flesh and bone. He is not omnipresent.

Jehovah: The name of the preincarnate Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ: One of three Gods in the LDS Godhead. He was the literal firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in the pre-existence. He later became the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh. Christ is recognized as a Savior in the sense that he atoned for the sin of Adam and obtained resurrection for all people. Prayers are offered to the Father through the Son and in His name.

Journal of Discourses: A set of 26 books containing sermons by LDS leaders through 1886, including General Conference addresses. Most of the volumes were published under the direct supervision of an LDS General Authority.

Kingdom of God: The LDS Church designates three definitions for "Kingdom of God": 1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on earth; 2) The ecclesiastical and political kingdom which will be ruled and governed by the LDS Church during the millennium; 3) The Celestial kingdom in the eternal worlds.

Latter-day Saints (LDS): Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

Laying on of Hands: The bestowal of special blessings, sealings, confirmations, healings and ordinations conferred on individuals by an LDS priesthood holder placing his hands on the recipient and uttering a prayer or prophecy.

Lucifer: Another name for Satan, the devil. Lucifer is one of the literal spirit sons of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, a spirit-brother of Jesus. Lucifer wanted to be the Savior of this world, but Jesus was chosen instead. Lucifer rebelled against God and now roams the earth in spirit form, wreaking havoc.

Marriage: The LDS Church recognizes two types of marriage: 1) Civil marriage, which binds husband and wife for this life only, ending at the time of death; 2) Eternal marriage, which binds husband and wife for time (this life) and eternity (in the spiritual realm). Eternal marriage is conducted by those holding the proper authority and is available only in LDS temples. This type of marriage is absolutely necessary in order for a person to attain the highest level of the Celestial kingdom; it allows the husband and wife to procreate spirit children eternally. These children will one day populate the worlds the husband and wife create.

Melchizedek Priesthood: The highest of two categories of priesthood power/ministry in the LDS Church, given to worthy male members 18 years old or older. It is the Melchizedek Priesthood power which is needed for exaltation to Godhood.

Mission: 1) An organizational division of the LDS Church comprised of stakes/districts. 2) The period of time in which a member of the LDS Church engages in full-time proselytizing at the direction of his or her ecclesiastical leaders. This is usually between 18 and 36 months in duration.

Mother in Heaven: The wife of God the Father, the mother of his spirit children.

Nonmember: Anyone who is not a member of the LDS Church.

Only Begotten Son: Jesus Christ, the only person of whom God the Father was the father of his mortal body. Since the LDS Church teaches that all humans are begotten spirit children of God, Mormonism usually renders this biblical term as "Only begotten Son of God in the flesh" in order to make it square with LDS doctrine.

Ordinances: Rites and ceremonies which are necessary for eternal progression (Godhood).

Outer Darkness: The dwelling place of the devil and his followers, including humans who once embraced Mormonism but later denied it.

Paradise: A part of the spirit world where deceased Mormons go to await the resurrection. As they wait, these spirits act as missionaries, taking the LDS gospel message to the deceased who are in spirit prison.

Patriarchal Blessing: A pronouncement given to worthy individual LDS Church members, typically once in a lifetime, declaring their lineage. The blessing usually also includes prophetic statements regarding the recipient's future along with cautions, admonitions, and promises conditioned upon a lifetime of obedience.

Pearl of Great Price: A volume of scripture, one of the Standard Works of the LDS Church.

Polygamy: A doctrine practiced in the LDS Church from the 1830s until 1890 in which men were encouraged to have multiple wives in order to receive greater blessings in eternity. Polygamy is no longer a practice of Mormonism, but the revelation which teaches it is still found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 132. Joseph Smith had approximately 40 wives; Brigham Young married at least 55.

Pre-existence: The premortal period of time between the birth of spirit children to God the Father and Heavenly Mother and their birth into mortal life.

Priesthood: A category of ministry in the LDS Church open to all worthy males 12 years of age or older. It is believed to be the power and authority to act in God's name for the salvation of mankind.

Prophet: The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The living prophet is also designated as a Seer and Revelator, and is the only man who can speak and receive revelation for the entire LDS Church. His inspired words are to be accepted as scripture and are fully binding on Church members.

Quorum: An organized unit of the LDS priesthood.

Recommend: A certificate which identifies LDS Church members who have been deemed worthy by their Bishop and Stake President. This certificate allows the bearer entrance into dedicated LDS temples for participation in temple ordinances.

Restoration: The appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith in 1820, joined with Smith's subsequent visions and divine visitations which allegedly reestablished true doctrine and true authority on the earth

Restored Gospel: The LDS Church system with its priesthood authority.

Sacrament: An ordinance practiced weekly by LDS Church members in which bread and water, representing the body and blood of Christ, are distributed. Members renew their baptismal covenants through this ordinance.

Salvation: 1) General or unconditional salvation is simply resurrection form the dead, given freely to all through Christ's atonement. 2) Individual or conditional salvation is attainment of the Celestial Kingdom through individual obedience to the LDS system. 3) Full salvation is synonymous with Exaltation and means the individual's achievement of Godhood through LDS temple ordinances and other works.

Scriptures: Words, both written and spoken, by men receiving divine inspiration. Includes the Standard Works of the Church and words of latter-day prophets.

Sealing: An LDS temple ordinance which unites a husband and wife or parents and children to continue that familial relationship for all of eternity.

Smith, Joseph, Jr.: Founder, Prophet and first President of the LDS Church. Born 23 December 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. Murdered by a mob 27 June 1844 in Carthage Jail, Carthage, Illinois.

Sons of God: All humankind are viewed as literal offspring of God; therefore, everyone is a son or daughter of God.

Sons of Perdition: 1) Those spirits who were rebellious in the pre-existence and therefore punished by never being allowed to gain a body. They were cast out of the Spirit World with Lucifer and now do his bidding. 2) Humans who had once embraced Mormonism but now deny it. These two groups of Perdition are the only beings who will never receive a level of glory in the afterlife, instead being consigned to Outer Darkness.

Spirit Children: Nonphysical beings procreated in the pre-existence by God the Father and his wife, raised by them to maturity in the spirit world.

Spirit Prison: A part of the spirit world where deceased non-Mormons go until they receive the LDS gospel and repent; they are then released from spirit prison into paradise to await the resurrection.

Stake: An organizational division of the LDS Church comprised of wards and branches, similar to a Roman Catholic diocese.

Standard Works: The four volumes of scripture officially accepted by the LDS Church -- Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Telestial Kingdom: The lowest kingdom of glory to which "liars, sorcerers, adulterers and whoremongers" are assigned after death. The residents of this kingdom will be visited by the Holy Ghost, but not by the Father or the Son.

Temple: A sacred building in which special LDS ceremonies are performed for the living and the dead. There are 121 LDS temples in operation or in the planning stages around the world (as of November 2000). People who are not members of the LDS Church and even unworthy Mormons are not allowed in these buildings.

Temple Ordinance Work: Ordinances performed in LDS temples by those who are living --for themselves and for the dead. These ordinances include baptisms, endowments, marriages and sealings.

Temple Recommend: A certificate which identifies LDS Church members who have been deemed worthy by their Bishop and Stake President. This certificate allows the bearer entrance into dedicated LDS temples for participation in temple ordinances.

Terrestrial Kingdom: The middle kingdom of glory to which honorable non-Mormons are assigned after death. The residents of this kingdom will be visited by Jesus Christ but will be separated from God the Father throughout eternity.

Testimony: A recitation of certain perceived "truths." For example, a Latter-day Saint might say, "I know Book of Mormon is the Word of God. I know Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's true Church on the earth."

Ward: A local LDS congregation, usually meeting in a chapel.

Word of Wisdom: An LDS code of health given by way of commandment requiring abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and hot drinks (interpreted as coffee and tea).

Worthy Member: An LDS Church member who obeys the rules of the Church well enough to qualify for a Temple Recommend.

Young, Brigham: Second President and Prophet of the LDS Church. Young was responsible for the migration of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois to present-day Utah. He clearly taught the Adam-God doctrine from 9 April 1852 through 7 February 1877. Young also figured prominently in the early LDS practice of polygamy. He died in Salt Lake City on 29 August 1877 with the name of Joseph Smith on his lips.

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