Common Church Lingo
Here’s a quick guide to some unfamiliar terms and acronyms to help you as you learn about our Church and community.
You may have heard a few words or acronyms you don’t understand. That’s because over the years, a lot of our common terms have become second nature to us—but many are probably foreign to you. We’ve compiled some of these terms and their definitions below to help you feel more comfortable.
The name “Mormon Church” is a nickname others gave to Church members because we believe in the Book of Mormon. The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We use the full name of the Church whenever possible as a reminder that Christ is central to it.
You may have guessed this one. LDS is an abbreviation for “Latter-day Saint,” referring most often to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “LDS Church” is another nickname; however, we have asked people to call the Church by its full name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This way, everyone knows that Jesus is the core of our religion and beliefs. “Latter-day Saints” is a good way to refer to your friends who are members of the Church.
A ward is a local congregation. It’s a group of Church members who live within a specific geographic area. A ward generally consists of a few hundred members and is presided over by a volunteer Church leader called a bishop. You may also hear the term branch. Branches are much smaller congregations in areas with fewer Church members.
A stake is also a geographical unit of the Church, made up of several wards and branches, similar to a Catholic diocese. They have meetings or conferences at the “stake” building or larger meetinghouse. Stakes are presided over by a volunteer group of leaders called a stake presidency.
This is not a Sunday that goes by faster than others. On the first Sunday of each month, Church members fast, or voluntarily go without food and drink for two meals, in order to grow closer to God. The Church encourages members to take the money they would have spent on food and donate it as an offering to help the poor.
Brother, Sister, and Elder
You may hear us use words like brother or sister to address each other, like “Brother Jones” or “Sister Chan.” This tradition stems from our belief that we are all sons and daughters of God, and as such, brothers and sisters to each other.
You will also hear missionaries referred to as Elder and Sister while they are serving as full-time missionaries. This is a small way to show how these young men and women are doing something different and holy with their lives while they serve. Elder or Sister can also be a title for men and women who serve in general leadership positions in the Church.
This is the name of our Church group for children ages 3–11. The Primary children periodically sing as a group during sacrament meeting and participate in other group activities on Sundays and weekdays.
If someone calls a three-year-old a sunbeam, it’s not necessarily because they are a little ray of light (although some would argue that they are). It’s because that’s the name of the children’s class for these young ones. It’s the youngest age group in Primary. The term comes from the song “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” (Children’s Songbook, 60).
CTR stands for “choose the right.” It’s a motto young Primary children learn, and they receive a CTR ring as a reminder to do what’s right. It’s also the name of many of the classes that Primary-age children attend (for example, CTR 4 and CTR 8 are the names of the classes for the four- and eight-year-old children, respectively). Teens and adults sometimes continue to wear CTR rings or necklaces with these three letters.
Don’t bring marshmallows or expect to have a real fire at a Church fireside. Fireside is a name for a special Sunday night meeting that usually involves a guest speaker and some refreshments. Firesides happen maybe once or twice a year and are often held for members of the youth program or those 12 years old and older.
Home evening is a night once a week where families or a group of individuals are encouraged to gather to spend time together, study gospel topics, and participate in fun activities.