Aaronic priesthood – the lesser priesthood, sometimes called a “preparatory priesthood”. Its offices include deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop (bishop is considered an Aaronic priesthood office, although bishops generally are high priests), and is usually conferred upon young men when they turn twelve, as well as newly baptized male members. Sometimes the term is used to refer to the teen-aged boys in the ward.
apostasy – in general, it refers to a period of time when people (or an individual) rebel against the prophets of God. More specifically, also called the “Great Apostasy” in this context, it refers to the period beginning sometime after original apostles were killed and ending with the new dispensation granted to Joseph Smith, to reorganize the church.
apostle – an office in the Melchizedek priesthood. There are generally 15 apostles in the church: the quorum of the 12 apostles, and the three members of the First Presidency.
area – a church organizational unit composed of several stakes. There are perhaps 20-30 areas across the world. An area is headed by an area presidency, who are usually general authorities.
baptism – one of the basic ordinances of the church, baptism consists of being completely immersed in water by someone who is either a priest or a holder of the Melchizedek priesthood. Baptism is necessary to become a member of the church.
baptism for the dead – this ordinance is performed in temples, and consists of being baptized by proxy for someone who is dead.
Beehive – the first level in the Young Women’s program, the term refers to 12 and 13 year old girls.
bishop – the leader of a ward, the bishop is responsible for the well-being (spiritual and physical) for all members therein. (responsibility for non-members?)
bishopric – the bishop and his counselors are known collectively as a bishopric.
blessing – one of the priesthood ordinances, blessings may be given by Melchizedek priesthood holders, by the laying on of hands. Blessings may be given for healing, or just for comfort in times of need. See also patriarchal blessing.
born in the covenant – a phrase used to describe children born to parents who have been sealed in the temple.
branch – a congregation which is not large enough to be called a ward (usually less than about 50 active members). Branches are headed by branch presidents, rather than bishops.
Book of Mormon – one of the standard works of the church, this book was translated by Joseph Smith from ancient metal plates, and published in 1829. It deals mainly with the religious history of a group of Israelites who came to the Americas around 600 B.C., and ends around 400 A.D.
Brigham Young – the second president of the church, he is well-known for leading the Saints west.
BYU – Brigham Young University, a large church-run university located in Provo, Utah. Two additional mostly independent campuses exist in Hawaii and Idaho.
calling – since the church has an unpaid clergy on the local level, often members of the congregation are asked to help out in various capacities. Such an assignment, usually assigned by the Bishop of theward, is titled a “calling”. Members are said to have been “given a calling” if they accept. The assignments are normally temporary, often lasting for a few years.
celestial kingdom – the highest of the three degrees of glory, it is compared to the glory of the sun. Those inheriting this kingdom are described in D&C 76 as “they who received the testimony of Jesus… who overcome by faith”. LDS doctrine teaches that such individuals will become like God, and be able to progress eternally.
church, the – a common shortening of the official church name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
confirmation – a basic ordinance of the church, newly baptized members are confirmed members of the church and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
consecrated oil – when a priesthood blessing for the sick is given, the sick person may first be anointed with pure olive oil (i.e., a few drops of oil are placed on his head) that has been “consecrated” for this purpose. Consecrating the oil is done prior to the blessing by a Melchizedek priesthood holder as a separate ordinance.
convert – someone who becomes a member of the church after age eight.
covenant – a sacred promise between men and God, often made as part of an ordinance (such as baptism).
D & C – a common abbreviation for the Doctrine and Covenants.
deacon – the lowest office in the Aaronic priesthood, deacons are typically 12-14 year old young men. A primary responsibility is passing the sacrament during sacrament meeting.
dispensation – an era of time in which the full gospel is present on the earth. The current time in which we live is often called the “last dispensation”.
district – a geographic area (often composed of branches instead of wards) which does not have enough members to support a full stake. Districts are supervised by district presidents, and are considered to be part of a mission.
Doctrine and Covenants – a collection of many of the revelations given to Joseph Smith (and a few given to successive presidents of the church). It is one of the Standard Works accepted as scriptureby the church.
elder – an office in the Melchizedek priesthood. Men are usually ordained elders when they are 18-19 years old. Elder is also frequently used as a title for general authorities and full-time missionaries.
endowment – an ordinance performed in the temple wherein we make additional covenants and receive additional promises of blessings from the Lord. New members are encouraged to “receive their endowment” (i.e., participate in this ordinance) after they have been baptized for at least a year.
exaltation – inheriting the celestial kingdom.
fast & testimony meeting – this is what the sacrament meeting on Fast Sunday is usually called.
Fast Sunday – members are asked to fast (go without food or drink) one day per month, usually the first Sunday, and give the money they would have spent on food to the Bishop as a “fast offering” to help the needy.
First Presidency – the president of the church and his two counselors are called the First Presidency, and together form a quorum.
First Vision – a term for Joseph Smith’s vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ which took place in 1820.
food storage – members have been counseled to be prepared for emergencies by storing a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel, if possible.
genealogy – also called “family history”, this refers to the practice of learning about your ancestors. This information is needed to perform temple ordinances for the deceased.
General Authority – one of the small group of full-time church leaders with church-wide responsibilities. Normally only the apostles, seventies, and presiding bishopric are so designated.
Gift of the Holy Ghost – bestowed after baptism during the confirmation, this gift gives members the right to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion as long as they remain worthy.
high council – a council at the stake level, composed of 12 high priests. Among other things, the high council is responsible for assisting the stake president in carrying messages to individual wards.
high priest – an office in the Melchizedek priesthood. Elders are usually ordained high priests if they are asked to be in a bishopric or on the high council.
home teachers – generally speaking, each elder and high priest is asked to be a “home teacher”, in addition to his other duties. This involves visiting members of the ward once a month, usually with a companion, to impart a lesson and check up on the well-being of the family. Depending on the ward demographics, each home-teaching companionship may be asked to visit 1 to 5 (or more) families. OftenAaronic priesthood members will be assigned as companions to the adult men.
Joseph Smith – the first president of the church. He was born in 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, and killed by a mob in Illinois in 1844, at the age of 38. Notable events in life include his First Vision in 1820, translation of the Book of Mormon in 1829, restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods in 1829 and 1830, founding the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, publishing as the Book of Commandments (later the D&C) in 1833, supervising the construction of temples in Kirtland, Ohio (completed in 1836), and Nauvoo, Illinois (completed after his death), and becoming mayor of Nauvoo in 1839 (which grew to be the largest city in Illinois at the time of his death).
Joseph Smith Translation (JST) – refers to a partial translation of the Bible by Joseph Smith. This “translation” was obtained through divine inspiration, rather than being a traditional translation from old documents. Much of the JST is included in footnotes and as an appendix to the LDS publication of the Bible. Many of the sections of the D&C were revelations obtained by questions arising during the process of this translation.
King James Version – the traditional English translation of the Bible, this is the version used in the LDS publication of the Bible.
Laurel – the third level in the Young Women’s program, the term refers to 16 and 17 year old girls.
law of chastity – one of the teachings of the church, dealing with sexual morality. The law of chastity states that people must have no sexual relations except within a lawful marriage. Following this commandment is a requirement for both obtaining a temple recommend and for being baptized.
laying on of hands – refers to the posture when giving a blessing, conferring the gift of the holy ghost, or performing a number of other priesthood ordinances. The individual performing the ordinance, and those assisting, if any, place their hands on the head of the individual receiving the ordinance.
LDS – an abbreviation for “Latter-day Saint”. Members of the church often refer to themselves as LDS, or as members of the LDS church, instead of using the term Mormon.
Melchizedek priesthood – the greater priesthood, named after an Old Testament high priest. Its offices consist of elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch, and apostle. Among other things, Melchizedek priesthood holders have the authority to give priesthood blessings.
Mia Maid – the second level in the Young Women’s program, the term refers to 14 and 15 year old girls. The “Mia” arises from an abbreviation (M.I.A.) of “Mutual Improvement Association,” the old-fashioned name for the church’s youth program.
mission – a geographic area, usually composed of around 10 stakes or districts, headed by a “mission president”. The mission president’s duties mostly involve directing the full-time missionaries in this area (100-200 young men and women), although in a region with districts, the mission president will additionally supervise the district presidents.
mission field – this refers to the geographical area in which a missionary spends the bulk of his or her mission. Additionally, this phrase is sometimes used to indicate areas of the world where the churchdoes not have a strong presence.
missionary – young men, when they are 19 years old, and young women when they are 21, may elect to become “full-time missionaries” for eighteen months to two years. This involves leaving family and friends behind (no visits home are permitted), and going to an assigned area to teach people about the restored gospel.
Mormon – Mormon was an ancient prophet who compiled the book which Joseph Smith translated, known as the Book of Mormon. The term, “Mormon,” chosen originally in derision of the Book of Mormon, has come to be a nickname, used sometimes to describe either the church as a whole, or an individual member.
MTC – Missionary Training Center. There are several of these training centers around the world, where new missionaries usually spend 3 – 8 weeks before going to their final destination. The largest of these centers, and often the one referred to as “the MTC” is in Provo, Utah.
office – both the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthoods are divided into “offices”. These offices, while not limiting the amount of priesthood an individual has, indicate primary responsibilities. The offices of the Aaronic priesthood include deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. The offices of the Melchizedek priesthood include elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch, and apostle.
ordain – to impart an office of the priesthood to an individual.
ordinance – a sacred rite or ceremony performed by a priesthood holder. There are two types of ordinances, those necessary for salvation (such as baptism), and those which help along the way (such asblessings).
patriarch – one of the offices of the Melchizedek priesthood, each stake usually has at least one patriarch. The responsibilities mainly include the giving of patriarchal blessings.
patriarchal blessing – each member of the church is entitled to receive a one-time patriarchal blessing from the stake’s patriarch. This inspired blessing usually identifies the individual’s lineage (the tribe of Israel the individual descends from/has been adopted into) as well as giving advice and counsel to help the individual throughout the rest of his life.
Pearl of Great Price – one of the Standard Works, this contains a short selection of Joseph Smith’s revelations which were not included in the Doctrine and Covenants.
pioneer – as most often used, this term refers to the early Saints who, after having been forcibly driven out of Missouri and Illinois, made the long trek across the plains to present-day Utah.
plan of salvation – the phrase used to describe the purpose of life and course of our existence. In a nutshell, this includes our premortal life with our Heavenly Father, this Earthly existence, the judgment, and the assignment to one of the degrees of glory. Since we all sin here on Earth (which would prevent us from returning to God), the plan provides for a Savior, namely Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins upon him and made it possible for us to be cleansed of sin if we will follow his teachings.
polygamy – a principle taught in the early days of the church, this refers to a man being married to multiple wives. The practice was discontinued in 1890, after Wilford Woodruff, then President of the Church received a revelation that polygamy should be discontinued, and published a statement (sometimes called the “Manifesto”) to that effect.
premortal existence [pre-existence] – LDS doctrine teaches that we existed as individuals (in a spirit state) before being born. This premortal existence was with in the presence of God.
presiding bishop – one of the general authorities of the church, the presiding bishop primarily deals with secular aspects of the church, such as the welfare system.
president of the Church: Beginning with Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been led by a prophet of God. These prophets also serve as Presidents of the Church and direct the affairs of the Church.
priest – the highest office of the Aaronic priesthood, priests are usually responsible for blessing the sacrament. Newly baptized male members are usually ordained priests, as well as young men when they turn 16 years old.
priesthood – the authority which God gives to men to act as one of His representatives. The priesthood may be conferred on an individual through ordination (by the laying on of hands) by one who already has the authority. All priesthood holders in the church can thus trace their lineage back to Joseph Smith, who, along with his scribe Oliver Cowdery, received the Aaronic priesthood in 1829 from an angel identifying himself as John the Baptist, and the Melchizedek priesthood in 1830 from the apostles Peter, James, and John. The word is also sometimes used to refer to the male members of theward.
Priesthood meeting – part of the normal Sunday instruction, men meet in quorums for an hour while the women are meeting in their Relief Society.
primary – the organization responsible for teaching children. Primary last approximately one hour and fifty minutes, while parents go to Sunday school and Priesthood meeting/Relief Society. Children enter when they are 3 years old and graduate to the young men/women’s program when they turn 12.
prophet – one who has authority to declare God’s will to the people. In particular, members of the church sustain members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as prophets.
Prophet, the – sometimes the current president of the church is referred to as “the Prophet”. Also, Joseph Smith, as the restorer of the church and first prophet in this dispensation is often called “the Prophet” as well.
quorum – a group of priesthood holders holding the same priesthood office. A ward will usually have an elder’s, priest’s, teacher’s, and a deacon’s quorum. There is only one high priest’s quorum perstake, with the stake president as its head, but individual high priest’s groups meet in each ward.
Quorum of the Twelve – a collective name for the twelve apostles.
Relief Society – the women’s organization of the church. Its functions include Sunday instruction, monthly homemaking instruction, and aiding in the welfare program.
restoration – the work of Joseph Smith of re-establishing the church of Jesus Christ is called the “restoration”.
revelation – inspiration from God. Individuals can receive personal revelation, whereas revelation for the church as a whole (or the entire world, for that matter) comes through the prophets.
sacrament – this refers to the bread and water which are passed around the congregation during the Sunday worship service, in remembrance of Jesus Christ.
sacrament meeting – part of the Sunday worship service, this meeting lasts approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. It features talks by members of the ward, as well as the distribution of the sacrament.
Sacred Grove – this refers to the place where Joseph Smith’s First Vision took place. It is now a church historical site in Palmyra, New York.
Saints – members of the church refer to themselves collectively as “saints”, or “latter-day saints”. Sometimes the phrase, “the Saints,” is used as a reference to the entire church.
scriptures – see Standard Works
sealing – this is one of the temple ordinances, where family members are joined together so as to maintain the family bond throughout eternity. There are two types of sealings, one between husband and wife, the other between parents and children. The husband/wife sealing takes place when a couple is married in the temple. When a family with children joins the church, they may have both sealings performed. Both sealings are also performed for the deceased.
seminary – part of the church youth program, teenagers may attend a daily religious class before school (“early morning”) or as a class period (called “release-time”, only available in areas with a substantial LDS population). In areas without many members, a weekly class (“home study”) is sometimes provided.
seventy – one of the offices in the Melchizedek priesthood. It used to be that men given missionary assignments on the local level were ordained as seventies, but now only general church officers are so ordained. There are currently several quorums of the seventy whose members are general authorities.
stake – a level of church organization just higher than a ward. Usually 10-15 wards will make up a stake.
stake president – the leader of a stake. Among other responsibilities, he and his counselors interview members who want to obtain temple recommends.
Standard Works – this refers to the four books accepted by members as canon, known as the “word of God”: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Sunday school – part of the religious instruction program of the church. As the name indicates, it is a Sunday class, usually falling between sacrament meeting and priesthood/relief society meetings. The general course of study currently rotates on an annual basis between Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Church History/Doctrine & Covenants. Alternative classes are often available for new members, as well as those interested in family history.
sustain – after someone is issued a calling, members are asked to “sustain” them by raising their right hands. This indicates their support for the individual in his/her new duties, including providing assistance if it should be required.
teacher – an office in the Aaronic priesthood. Teachers are usually young men between 14 and 16 years old, and they are primarily responsible for preparation of the sacrament.
telestial kingdom – the lowest of the three degrees of glory, it is compared to the glory of the stars. D&C 76 teaches that it will be inhabited by “those who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers”, or those who “received not the gospel”.
temple – a sacred edifice wherein special covenants are made. Temple ordinances include baptism for the dead, the endowment, and sealings.
temple recommend – only members who are keeping the commandments may go to the temple. In order to enter a temple, members must have had a worthiness interview, and have received a recommend signed by both their bishop (or counselor) and their stake president (or counselor).
terrestrial kingdom – the middle of the three degrees of glory, it is compared to the glory of the moon. D&C 76 teaches that the inhabitants of this kingdom will be “honorable men… who were blinded by the craftiness of men”, or those who “are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus”.
three degrees of glory – the collective name for the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms, the places we will be assigned in the hereafter (after the day of judgment). See D&C 76 for more information.
three missions of the church (also known as the “threefold mission of the church”) – some years ago, the goal of the church of bringing salvation to all souls was enumerated as having three components: proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the saints, redeeming the dead. These refer to missionary work, church service, and temple work, respectively.
tithing – this principle teaches that members should donate 10 percent of their increase (earnings) to the church. Following this commandment is a requirement for obtaining a temple recommend as well as being baptized. Money collected in this way is used for building maintenance, constructing temples, missionary work, etc.
tithing settlement – once a year (in December), members are encouraged to meet with their bishops and discuss their tithing contributions, and state whether or not they consider their offerings to be a full tithe. The individual also usually receives a receipt for tax purposes at this time.
Urim and Thummim – an instrument used by prophets to assist in receiving revelation from God and translating divine records. Joseph Smith used one in the translation process for much of the Book of Mormon.
veil [of forgetfulness] – LDS doctrine teaches that we existed as individuals before we were born on the Earth. Our lack of knowledge of a prior life is referred to metaphorically as a veil over our memories.
visiting teachers – the Relief Society sends visiting teachers to visit the female members of the ward once a month. Typically women will both be visited, and will visit others in this capacity.
ward – a local congregation, the basic unit of church organization. Typically a ward will have 100-300 active members.
word of wisdom – a name given to Joseph Smith’s revelation on health, contained in D & C 89. Past and present prophets of the church have clearly stated that the following are proscribed by this revelation: alcohol, tobacco, coffee, black tea, and illegal drugs. Following the word of wisdom is a requirement for obtaining a temple recommend as well as for being baptized.
year’s supply – members of the church are counseled to be independent. Once specific piece of advice from past presidents of the church is to store enough food, clothing, and fuel, if possible, to last for an entire year in time of need.
Young Men – often used interchangeable with the term, Aaronic Priesthood.
Young Women – the church’s program for teenage girls, it is structured much the same as the Aaronic priesthood, with the three divisions called Beehives, Mia Maids, and Laurels.
Zion – another name often used to describe the church as a whole. In particular, stakes are often termed “stakes of zion”. More generally, a “zion society” is referred to as a society in which all people abide by the principles of the gospel.