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(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with members of the Quorum of the Twelve as he leaves the Conference Center following the Saturday morning session of the 181st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.
Your quick A-to-Z guide to Mormonism
First Published Oct 02 2013 07:19 am • Last Updated Oct 04 2013 09:08 am

Aaronic • Think 12-year-old boys in white shirts and ties passing communion (sacrament, in Mormon-speak) to LDS congregations every Sunday. Think 14-year-old boys, dressed much the same, preparing the bread and water for that ordinance. And think 16-year-old boys, similarly decked out, offering set blessings of the sacrament. These deacons, teachers and priests, ages 12 to 18, belong to the Aaronic Priesthood, a proving ground of sorts for young Mormon males before they go on missions (at least many of them) and receive more responsibilities in the faith’s higher Melchizedek Priesthood.

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Bible• Yes, Mormons have their signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, which they believe is a translated work from gold plates regarding God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants in the Western Hemisphere. And, yes, they have two other canonized books, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. But they also read, revere and believe the Bible — both the Old and New Testaments — as scripture. They use the King James Version and, as an LDS tenet teaches, "believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."

Celestial Kingdom • When Mormons speak of heaven, they usually mean the Celestial Kingdom. It is the highest of three "degrees of glory" in the hereafter, above the Terrestrial and Telestial kingdoms. Within the Celestial sphere are three levels, the top being reserved for those who are wedded or "sealed" to an eternal spouse. That’s why Mormon couples marry in temples, so they can receive this sealing and qualify, if they live righteously, for the highest heaven. So, for Latter-day Saints, marriages aren’t so much matches made in heaven, but rather matches made for heaven. Worthy members who are single and never have the chance to marry in mortality are promised that the opportunity will come to them after death.

Deseret• There’s Deseret Industries (a Mormon-owned thrift store). There’s the Deseret News (a Mormon-owned newspaper). There’s Deseret Book (a Mormon-owned bookstore chain and publishing house). There also are dozens of other Deseret-dubbed businesses. But what does the word mean? Well, its roots date back to the Book of Mormon, in which the word is defined as "honeybee." The beehive, representing work and industry, is found on Utah’s state flag and seal. Mormon leaders originally sought admission to the union as the State of Deseret. LDS pioneer-prophet Brigham Young even envisioned a Deseret Alphabet, with 38 characters. If it had taken hold, this list might read much differently.

Endowment• Mormons go to temples to take part in "endowment" ordinances for themselves and for people who have died. The symbolic ceremony includes ritual re-enactments of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and humankind’s mortal journey and ultimate return to God’s presence. In the Salt Lake and Manti temples, live actors portray these scenes. But in all other Mormon temples, the story is told through film (a new one debuted this past summer). During the ceremony, LDS temple-goers make promises to the Almighty to act, speak and think according to heaven’s commands.


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First Presidency• The governing body in worldwide Mormonism. It consists of the church’s president (the faith’s longest-tenured apostle) and, usually, two counselors (although more can serve and have served). Today, the Big Trio consists of church President Thomas S. Monson along with a first counselor, Henry B. Eyring, and a second counselor, Dieter F. Uchtdorf. All three are referred to as presidents as is the head of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Right now, that’s Boyd K. Packer.

Godhead• Mormons see themselves as Christians, but that doesn’t mean they heed all traditional Christian beliefs. As the church’s name implies, Jesus Christ is the center of Mormon devotion. He is their King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is seen as the Son of God, the Savior of all humanity. But LDS theology differs from historic Christianity. Most Christians preach a Trinity in which God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one substance. Mormons believe God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, are separate beings with glorified bodies. The third member of the LDS godhead, the Holy Ghost, is a spirit.

Home teaching• It’s hard to live in Utah and not hear Mormon neighbors mention, at some point, home teaching. "Did you do your home teaching this month?" "It’s the 30th, we better get out and do our home teaching." "One of my home teaching families needs help moving a piano." What is home teaching? Members of the faith’s lay all-male priesthood are assigned to visit households in their congregation every month to attend to the spiritual and physical needs of these families and individuals. That’s the "home" part of the phrase. These priesthood holders — who go two by two, Mormon missionary-style — often "teach" a brief religious message as well during their visits.

Infant baptism• In short, Mormons don’t perform them. The earliest age at which children can be baptized into the faith is 8. Latter-day Saints do, however, bless babies, and those little ones are counted as members.

Joseph• As in Smith. Mormonism’s founder had a common name but lived an uncommon life. Latter-day Saints believe his path to prophet began at age 14, when a young Joseph, confused about the competing doctrines of the day, prayed to know which church to join. Mormons teach that God and Jesus then appeared to him — in what is referred to as the First Vision — and told the boy to align with no religion and that the true gospel taught by Christ would be "restored" to the Earth through him. For the next 24 years, Smith reported numerous revelations — establishing a church, founding cities, expanding and expounding scriptures, even running for president — before his murder at the hands of a mob in Illinois in 1844. Today, his worldwide followers number nearly 15 million.

Kirtland• For much of the 1830s, this northeastern Ohio town near the banks of Lake Erie, was the principal headquarters of the LDS Church. It is here that Mormons erected their first temple. Today, that edifice is a national historic landmark and is owned by the Community of Christ, the chief offshoot of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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