Mormon Definitions – Part I

Let’s define some words and phrases. This will surely be a growing list, but let’s get started with some essentials.

Mormon Church, LDS Church, or Church of the Latter-day Saints. Attempts to shorthand the formal and official name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mormon. Has a couple of meanings and uses. Mormon could refer to 1) members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; 2) the prophet-historian figure after whom the Book of Mormon is named; 3) fundamentalists who have broken off from the LDS Church. Throughout this blog, I’ll use both Mormons and Latter-day Saints (LDS) interchangeably (not to be confused with #3, which, if ever brought up, will be referred to as Mormon fundamentalists). Check out this page for some additional links and info on uses of Mormon.

Book of Mormon. Religious text held by Latter-day Saints to be scripture, comparable to the Bible. Recounts several ancient Israelite migrations to the Americas – their histories, prophecies, and rebellions and relationship with Deity. Contains an account of the resurrected Jesus Christ visiting these inhabitants. The text originated from a set of ancient metallic records Joseph Smith discovered and translated. Published in 1830 in New York.

Church. Chapel. Meetinghouse. Ward building. Stake Center. Basically, all these refer to a Mormon meetinghouses where Latter-day Saints gather on Sunday for their worship services and which are used for activities such as baptisms, socials, youth activities, athletic events, and dinners. Visitors are welcome. In June 2013, church leaders announced that LDS meetinghouses will now be open for tours during weekdays.

Temples. Temples are different from Mormon chapels, which as noted above, are designated for Sunday worship services. An LDS temple is considered to be the “House of the Lord” by Latter-day Saints. Upon dedication, temples are believed to be sacred structures where essential ordinances, ceremonial rituals and marriages are performed by Latter-day Saints for themselves and their deceased family members. The ordinances and ceremonial rituals reflect Old & New Testament themes and elements. Latter-day Saints visit and worship in temples to make promises with God and draw closer to Jesus Christ.

Ward. An LDS congregation is called a ward. Each ward is defined by a geographic area. Thus, Mormons do not necessarily select the ward they attend each Sunday, only to the extent they choose the neighborhood in which they live. Overseen by a lay bishop and two counselors.

Stake. A group of LDS congregations or wards (usually 6-10). Overseen by a lay “stake president” and two counselors.