Mormons, especially missionaries, have a lot of jargon so I thought I would define some terms to get us all on the same page. If I use any words you don’t know or if you think of words that should be on this page, please let me know! I’d love to do everything I can to make this blog friendly to people of many religious backgrounds.
AP (Assistant to the President)- a missionary who is asked to do administrative work as well as regular missionary duties.
Bishop- similar to a lay pastor or priest, the bishop has primary stewardship over a ward. Being a bishop is a volunteer position that is usually as time/labor intensive as a part-time job and most people serve as bishops for about five years at a time.
BOM (Book of Mormon)- a primary scriptural text in the Mormon canon, the BOM is a record of believers in Christ living in ancient Latin America.
Branch- essentially a smaller version of a ward.
Called to Serve- a hymn that is the unofficial missionary anthem.
Commit- during or at the end of a lesson, a missionary may challenge or “commit” an investigator to taking a new step spiritually, for example by praying, going to church, or even being baptized.
Companion- a fellow missionary you must always be in sight and earshot of, who you teach, study, and pray with. Missionaries switch out companions every once in a while.
Companionship- a unit of two (or three) missionaries who are all companions to one another.
Covenant- a promise someone makes to God with the understanding that God is making promises in return. Covenants are enacted through ritual ordinances.
District- a small subset of a zone (which is a subset of a mission) which consists of usually 2-4 companionships.
DL (District Leader)- a missionary who offers guidance and does some administrative work for a district.
EFY Music- somewhere between MoTab and a Mormon version of Christian pop, EFY music is produced for Mormon teenagers (the acronym means “Especially For Youth”) and is often the closest missionaries get to listening to “worldly” music.
Elder- the title given to a male missionary.
Exchanges- kind of like missionary Wife Swap, when missionaries trade companions for a few days.
Fast and Testimony Meeting (Open Mic Sunday)- on Fast Sunday, the podium is left open to anyone who feels moved to approach it and share what they believe.
Fast Sunday- the first Sunday of the month, when Mormons fast for 24 hours or two meals.
Greenie- a missionary who has just arrived from the MTC.
Investigator (‘gator)- a person who is “investigating” joining the LDS church, or is interested in converting. Most of a missionary’s work is finding and teaching investigators. Sometimes called “‘gators” for short.
Less-Active- a slightly euphemistic term for a non-practicing Mormon.
Mission Home- the house where the mission president and his wife live, where missionaries often gather.
Mission President- someone who has stewardship over the full area of the mission and every missionary therein. My boss, so to speak.
MoTab- the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the classic missionary soundtrack.
MTC (Empty Sea, Prison on 9th)- the Missionary Training Center, where missionaries spend the first weeks of their mission learning the lessons they will be teaching to investigators and a new language, if they are learning one. There are MTCs all over the world, but mine is in Provo, Utah.
Ordinance- a religious ceremony or ritual which usually involves making or renewing covenants.
P-Day (Preparation Day)- the one day a week missionaries get a break to write home, do laundry, shop for groceries, and visit museums.
PMG (Preach My Gospel) the teaching manual missionaries use. PMG contains the curriculum missionaries teach to investigators as well as other resources on how to be an effective teacher and missionary.
Priesthood Blessing- a blessing given by a priesthood holder (almost any adult Mormon man) wherein he places his hands on the head of the recipient, and calls upon blessings they need during a particular time of trial or illness. During a blessing other priesthood holders may also put their hands on the head of the recipient to contribute the power and support of their faith to the blessing.
Quad- the Book of Mormon, Bible, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price (the four texts of the Mormon canon) compiled and bound together as one book.
Released- the opposite of being set apart, when a missionary officially stops being a missionary and rejoins their civilian life.
RM (Returned Missionary- a missionary emerita, so to speak.
RS (Relief Society)- the Mormon women’s organization, of which every Mormon woman is a member. In addition to organizing events and providing support to each other, the Relief Society holds weekly Sunday School classes.
Sacrament Meeting- the primary Sunday meeting which everyone goes to (including children). Sacrament meeting includes talks given by several congregation members (in lieu of a more traditional sermon) as well as singing and the administration of the sacrament, which is similar to communion in symbolism but involves eating bread and drinking water.
Set Apart- to be given a priesthood blessing that separates a missionary from their civilian life and gives them spiritual power to focus completely on missionary work.
Splits- when a civilian Mormon (often a young person preparing for a mission) goes with the missionaries to help teach a lesson.
Stake- a slightly larger geographical area than a ward and an organization through which different wards near each other can offer support and community to each other.
Stake Center (church, chapel)- the primary church buildings where congregations gather for Sunday meetings as well as other activities throughout the week.
Stake President- the person who has primary stewardship over a stake. Both an administrator and a clergyman.
STL (Sister Training Leader)- a sister missionary who oversees the training of other sisters and assists in administrative duties.
Street Contacting- meeting and talking to people on the street to find potential investigators.
“Taking the lessons”- “the lessons” refers to a basic rundown of Mormon doctrine (Mormonism 101, if you will) so someone who is “taking the lessons” is learning the basics of Mormon doctrine, usually because they are considering converting.
Temple- a place of worship where church members attend sporadically. Temples are very different from the church buildings used for Sunday meetings in many ways: while church buildings are very much open to everyone, temples are safe and private spaces for Mormons to gather together in worship and church buildings are oriented toward holding meetings for ministry and community whereas temples are intended to house specific rituals.
Tracting- going door-to-door to meet potential investigators.
Trainer- every missionary’s first companion, who shows them the ropes when they are fresh and new.
Transfer- a unit of six weeks. At the end of every transfer, missionaries expect a call from their mission president to let them know whether they will be getting a new companion and/or moving to a new area or not.
Ward- a Mormon congregation, arranged geographically.
Ward Mission Leader- a civilian Mormon who acts as a liaison between the members of a ward and the missionaries.
the White Handbook (“The White Bible”)- the tiny white book which contains the many, many rules a full-time missionary agrees to live by.
ZL (Zone Leader)- a missionary who offers guidance and administrative aid to the missionaries in a zone.
Zone- a smaller geographical unit within a mission.
Zone Conference- when all the missionaries in a zone gather together to discuss and learn from their own and each others’ experiences.