Monday, October 20, 2008

LDS Missionary Lingo (Revised and Expanded)

William Safire says "Every walk of life and field of endeavor generates its own insiders' lingo." LDS missionary service has definitely its own unique terminology. In an endeavor to help people who haven't served a mission or want to relive their missionary experience I will share terms and their definitions that I found through conversation with other return missionaries and from perusing the current missionary blogs on my sidebar.

"A sidebar — which we fondly remember as a boxed, related article alongside the main newspaper article — is, to a blogger, a column down one side of the screen displaying advertisements, archived links or a list of other blogs called a blogroll." If you think my definition is off please feel free to correct it.

When an LDS missionary is called to one of the 365 missions in the world they are sent to a training center for missionaries called the Missionary Training Center (MTC), which is located in Provo, Utah there are twelve others in other countries. "At the Church's Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, young men and women as well as retired men and women from around the world come together to prepare to serve the Lord.... Missionaries dedicate 18 months to two years to missionary service.... The MTC curriculum consists of up to 12 weeks of studying doctrine, learning to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively, and developing excellent communication skills. When missionaries are called to serve in foreign lands, their training also includes learning a new language. The Provo MTC is well known for its language teaching program. Approximately 50 languages are taught at the Provo MTC." At the MTC missionaries learn gospel principles from a guide called Preach My Gospel. The gospel principles are organized in to missionary lessons or discussions that the missionaries share with someone that is not LDS that they refer to as an investigator. Depending on where a missionary is located they call investigators terms like peeps. In the southern United States they refer to them as gators.

An interesting practice that missionaries do to unwind at the MTC is to ride the Matrix. This is nothing more than the missionary having his or her picture taken while lying, sitting, or standing on an ironing board that extends from a cement wall in a hallway at the MTC. The missionary hides the tube so that people think they are flying. Another missionary presses himself against the ceiling using their strength in the corner by the ceiling. They dress as Neo from the movie the Matrix with dark sunglasses and dark suits in interesting poses while they pretend to dodge bullets and beat the bad guys.

Another interesting custom is to launch oranges or apples with elastic bands that are given all missionaries to exercise. Several years ago the elders' showers weren't divided and were referred to as the Tree of Life. In the Brazil MTC missionaries go mattress surfing where they run down the hall and try to jump over other missionaries with their mattress. A trick in the Provo MTC is to put an elder or sister's mattress in the showers as a prank.

At the MTC they study intensively language if they are going to a non-English speaking mission. Most missionaries insist that the language they are learning whether it be Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian, Albanian, Cantonese, etc. is the celestial language. Mormons have a belief that the language spoken near to God on the closest planet to his throne Kolob is called the Adamic language so missionaries joke that whatever language they are speaking is really the language spoken in heaven.

When a missionary finishes at the MTC he or she flies to their new field of labor where they are met by the mission president and his wife and two mission assistants. Their first day on their mission is referred to as being born. They are taken to a mission home where they receive a meal and have a testimony meeting. In the testimony meeting they express their feelings about being on a mission. My mission president would call new missionaries in to his study and have us sit in a black seat he called the hot seat. When you sat in the hot seat he would tell you of his expectations. At the end of your mission he would tell you that the purpose of the hot seat was to discuss where you should be in the future not your present state of missionary readiness.

The mission president or prez is a man called to preside over a geographic area that usually has between 150 to 250 missionaries. He is a married man that serves for three years and brings his wife and dependent children with him.He serves for three years.

When a young man or young woman goes on a mission they are assigned a companion or comp who is assigned to them for as long as their mission president chooses. A brand new missionary fresh from the MTC is called a greenie or junior companion and their senior companion is called a trainer since they are showing them the ropes or how to do missionary work. The companionship can last from one week to six months and is at the mission president's discretion or inspiration.

Sister Diane Robison shares the following terms:

A 'son' is a new missionary being trained and the 'father', of course, is the trainer. The 'mother' is a new elder's second companion. I even heard one elder, yesterday, refer to himself as a 'test tube baby' because he never had a 'mother' - he went strait from trainee to co companion. 'Brothers' are missionaries trained by the same trainer. There are 'grandsons' and 'great grandsons' as they go down the line of trainers and trainees. Missions have quite the genealogy.

A few terms used by elders are dad=trainer or son=trainee/greenie. A sister missionary calls her first companion or trainer a mom and her first district leader a dad. A grandpa is the elder's trainer's trainer. An uncle is all the senior elders that are in your district. A brother is another greenie trained by your trainer. Your posterity is all missionary companions you served with during your entire mission.

In each mission missionaries are put in to districts which consists of four to sixteen elders. An missionary or elder supervises the district and he is called a district leader or DL. Two to eight districts comprise a zone and includes 2 to 6 districts which has about 35 to 80 elders. The size of a zone varies according to the size of the mission and the preference of the mission president.
The persons who supervises the district leaders are called a zone leaders or ZL. The zone leaders report to two assistants to the mission president called APs or the assistants.

Zone leaders are affectionately called zone lords, number monsters, or zonies. Assistants to the president are affectionately called apes, assistant bots, or overlords.

In a mission, assignments for companionships and to the various areas are made by the mission president in consultation with his two assistants. Missionaries referred to being assigned or moved to another area as a transfer. When a missionary is transferred he usually receives what he refers to as The Call. It is nothing more than a call from the mission assistants or their zone leaders to where their next assignments is. Mission presidents sometimes make the call when it concerns a change in assignment such as being a trainer, or district leader or zone leader or office elder. He almost always calls his two assistants. Usually missionaries are instructed in how to get there such as who is picking them up etc. Missionaries need to pack their few belongings in to suitcases and go at the time they are told.

In some missions they go to the mission home which is also sometimes the residence of the mission president. Mission presidents sometimes live in another location but many times they are combined. In the mission home is a staff of people which usually includes two assistants, a vehicle or fleet coordinator, and a mission secretary. Most of the time full-time elders serve in these positions, however sometimes an older couple might act as fleet coordinator and or a mission secretary.

Missionaries are moved to other areas in different ways. An area is a geographic location usually several miles in distance a large city might be split in to ten or twenty areas. Medium size cities might have one or two companionships. Small cities might only have one set of elders. Occasionally elders work in the country but usually they are in towns and cities. When an elder or sister is transferred they picked up in mission cars or they are sent by train, bus, or airplane. Since they have baggage they usually get a ride to a station or their next assignment. Some missions ask members to provide the missionary with a free ride which is sometimes referred to as a corona. The mission assistants call either the missionary directly or their zone leader who informs them of where they are going and how they are to get there.

Every five to six weeks mission presidents hold what is known as a zone conference. In a zone conference missionaries receive doctrinal or training by the mission president, his wife and staff. Then a testimony meeting is held where every missionary is expected to share his or her testimony for two or three minutes. A lot of times the mission president points to an elder or sister sitting on the last seat and says "The Spirit starts here and goes down the road this way and then that way until we are finished."

Missionaries also meet weekly or biweekly for what is known as a district meeting. In these meetings they discuss what is happening in their areas with the other missionaries in the district.
In some missions they hold special training for district leaders called district leader council. The mission president and his assistants usually trained them. They also hold special training of zone leaders called zone leader council. Usually the training occurs every three to four months.

Every week they are suppose to send an email to their mission president to inform him of what they are doing. Also each week the district leaders make a report to the zone leaders who called the two mission assistants who report to the mission president. The mission president also reports to the members of the Executive Missionary Committee either directly by phone or through a new interface the Mission Office System. This is a sophisticated piece of software that keeps tract of missionary assignments and can do simulations of what might happen by putting together different missionaries in terms of potential conversion success. Information is always flowing up and down the mission channels as well as between the mission and the leaders in Salt Lake City.

On occasion the mission president will met with an elder or sister who has some type of challenge and give them a blessing. A blessing entails using the Melchizedek priesthood and placing their hands on the elder or sister's head and giving them words of comfort or counsel while closing in the name of Jesus Christ. Most of the time they just talk with the elder or sister. Two or three times a year they might hold special training for district leaders in a district leaders' conference and two or three times a year in a zone leaders' conference.

According to Elder Briggs of the Brazil Sao Paulo North Mission these are a few basic terms:
So some fun stuff just for you to know. Mission lingo

Father: Your first companion, your trainer

Mother: The person that took you out working the first night out of the MTC

Born: I was born in Boituva...aka, the first area of your mission

Die: You die when you leave the mission field and go home

Kill: If your companion is going home at the end of his mission, you say thatyou killed them kind of funny, just thought you would find it interesting.

Missionaries have terminology for different time periods in their missions. An Elder is called for twenty-four months or two years. A sister missionary or sister is called for eighteen months or one and one half years. Most senior missionaries are sisters who go for the same period as younger sister missionaries or eighteen months. A missionary couple may go for one year, eighteen months or twenty-four months depending on their personal preference.

When an elder or sister is out for six months an elder refers to it as his bump day. An interesting practice has developed for some missionaries who burn a tie at the six month period. At nine months they refer to it as having a baby. When an elder is out half way or one year they refer to it as their hump day. It is more common for elders to use this term and in some missions they only use this term not the first two. When an elder has arrived at eighteen months he refers to it as either his trunk day or he says he served a sister's mission.

or trunking means they are thinking about home or are getting near the end when they prepare to go home. Missionaries are not encouraged to be trunky since they are suppose to concentrate on doing missionary work. You get your travel itnerary three weeks before you go home and it referred to as trunk papers. When a missionary is ready to go home, a missionary says he or she is dying, which just means he/she is going home. Their last day on their mission is known as dying day or the expiration date.

Missionaries mark the passage of time based on transfers. They talk about transfers all the time. I wasn't transferred or I am about to be transferred or I am being transferred. Each mission has a specific day each week when transfers are called out. Transfers occur every six weeks. Missionaries are affected by transfers since companionships and areas change and occasionally mission leadership turns over. There is no telling how long a missionary will be in an area or even with a companion.

Sometimes two companions even go to a new area or assignment together. A blitz is when a mission president changes all the companionships in an area with all new missionaries. When two elders open a new area it is called white washed. There are several variations that happen depending on what the mission president feels is best for his mission.

When a missionary goes on a mission he is suppose to not think about girls or a girlfriend or boyfriend back home. Spencer W. Kimball a former president told them to lock their hearts. Locking their hearts means they don't think about girls they meet on their missions or that they not fixate on a girl that might be waiting for them back home. When a girl no longer likes the missionary and gets serious with someone else it is customary for her to write the elder or sister what is referred to as a Dear John/Dear Jane letter. Missionaries are only suppose to contact their family and friends once a week and do it usually through an email.

Young women that try to tempt or entice elders are known as snakes. When a missionary has trouble with a girl/boy or has a physical fight with his companion or argues with a member the mission president might give them an emergency transfer or E.T.

Usually on Mondays missionaries have what they refer to as preparation day or p-day. From the time they wake up until 5 p.m they are suppose to clean their apartments, wash their cars or clean their bikes, go grocery shopping, write or email their families, and engage in recreational activities that are not contact sports that give them some exercise.

Sometimes missionaries may do voluntary service for members like help them move and in some missions they volunteer four hours a week to do local community service in places like libraries and hospitals etc. When there is an emergency missionaries volunteers to fill sandbags, clean out flooded houses or do a service project. When a missionary goes outside his or her mission boundaries is called a ding. Missionaries aren't suppose to go outside their own areas let alone cross in to another mission.

Missionaries are very efficient and keep track of their week by planning each day with their companions. They don't have day-timers or Franklin Covey planners but they set up appointments with investigators to teach them on a form provided them. When a missionary has his time from 10a.m until 9p.m. scheduled with appointments and lessons he or she refers to it as push. When they can't get lessons or appointments they then go tracting. Some of them referring to it as knocking doors or pounding the pavement or knuckle busting. When a missionary goes tracting he or she may systematically chose certain streets and knock on all doors for a few block radius or they might do what is called Spirit tracting or tracting by the Spirit. In this approach they follow impressions of where to go and might only knock on one door or a few doors many times not in close proximity and/or speak to selected people that they are drawn to.

If a missionary has a car many times they pick up investigators to take them to church for sacrament or to church for their own baptism. He or she refer to this as a run around trip. When a missionary is injured and cannot ride a bike they are referred to as a red dot.

In some missions mission presidents have certain commitments or promises that investigators must fulfill in order to be baptized. Some promises might include attending church, living the Word of Wisdom for a period of one or two weeks, living the law of Chastity which is abstaining from sex or paying ten percent of their income or tithing. When an investigator has committed to be baptized on a certain day and don't make their commitments the missionary bump their baptism. This means they set a new date and encourage the investigator to honor their commitments.

Missionaries sometimes refer to investigators as an apple (easy), an orange (have to peel back layers) or a golf ball (hit away to get rid of them).

When an investigator is asked by a missionary to come to church or to be baptized missionaries refer to it as an invite. A challenge is when they actually ask the person to join the church and he or she sets a date for baptism. If a family accepts the invite or challenge the missionary informs his leaders and refers to this as marked a family or set a date. After the person is baptized the missionary fills out a certificate showing who baptized and confirmed them which they call baptismal papers.

If an investigator doesn't seem to want to make a commitment the missionaries might drop the investigator or drop off. When an investigator makes an appointment and tells the missionaries to come over and isn't there, missionaries say they bailed on us or dogged us. In the southern U.S. when a person says "yes' mostly they mean "no" and are too polite to turn down a missionary.

Terms missionaries use for baptism include goin' down, getting dunked, getting wet, or going for a swim. When a person says they will be baptized but doesn't join the church the missionaries say we lost our baptism. On occasion a person has second thoughts so missionaries say Satan worked on the person. When missionaries teach someone and they aren't interested he or she refer to it as planting since later some other missionary might come along and have better success.

When an investigator is very enthusiastic and wants to receive the missionary lessons or to be baptized missionaries refer to him or her as golden or a golden contact. When a person is baptized or a good prospect missionaries say the person is choice or special, to them this is a positive not a negative connotation.. If a missionary is really happy he or she says Way Good. In some fields like the Caribbean when an investigator is taught in a member's home they call the discussion Lime (chat).

When the investigator gets ready to be baptized they need to have an interview with the district leader or the zone leader. If they have not committed a major transgression such as fornication, adultery, abortion or murder they are interviewed by the district leader. If they have a serious transgression they might have to speak with the mission president or a local church leader. If they need more time to take care of problems or aren't ready to make a commitment missionaries then bump their baptism which means they change the date for their baptism. When an investigator takes some time the missionary says the person is being tested.

With there being only one baptismal font in LDS chapels or having a portable one it takes scheduling to coordinate member baptisms and convert baptisms. There are a few details in planning a baptism: it requires an hour or two to fill the font, you need two witnesses to make sure it is done correctly also you have to set up a program which consists of a talk on baptism and the Holy Ghost as well as a couple of songs which requires a chorister and a pianist. Plus there are the logistics of getting people to the baptism such as inviting family and friends.

In Chile when William R. Bradford was mission president he would have the missionaries personally ask people about to be baptized who they wanted invited to their baptisms. Missionaries took the names and went personally and invited them. This was called Harvesting or Harvesting the Lord's Way.

A good source of people for missionaries to teach is person where one person in a family is the only member of the church when that person is baptized it is called a part-member baptism. Missionaries have two sources of part-member families, one is a less-active who is a person who sometimes goes to Church a few times a year and the other is an inactive, who is a person who seldom if ever goes to Church maybe once or twice every few years. Missionaries refer to the children of these two groups as low hanging fruit. When a member recommends someone to be taught to the missionaries it is called a referral.

In order to maximize missionary efforts sometimes missionaries go out with members in a ward which is called a missionary exchange. When two missionaries go out with two other missionaries for a night or day or two it is referred to as divisions or splits. It is usually done with district leaders to train senior companions or with zone leaders to train district leaders. Sometimes it just gives missionaries a break from their companions.

In some foreign missions the missionaries call a person an English suck who just comes to talk to them in order to learn English since they are just trying to suck the language out of them.

In some missions a very determined and focused missionary who is controlling is known as an Ammon missionary. He does everything such as teach all concepts of the missionary lessons, give all missionary challenges and invitations, sets the appointment and does all the talking, in essence he does everything himself and never includes his companion. He is usually a know-it all who has to be right and in control. When a missionary is brand-new and overzealous missionaries refer to the elder as having greenie fire.

Some missionaries have conflict with elders who seem to aspire to mission positions. They unflatteringly refer to a missionary who seems to be trying to get ahead as a brown noser or a number muncher or a number fudger. (BTW I never called anyone a brown noser but heard it used a lot at least ten or twenty times in the CTM when an elder was bypassed who thought he deserved a leadership position. I was a junior companion my whole mission so missionaries opened up to me since they thought I would be sympathetic, which unfortunately I never was.) I did know a few elders and sisters that cheated on their numbers. Many did it to advance quicker through the leadership ranks. Most elders and sisters are honest but there are a few that get tempted to get ahead by making up numbers.

Today missionaries report a lesson with a member present, a lesson with no member, and a lesson taught to a new investigator who is usually found by tracting. When a companionship doesn't get any lessons for the day they say they had goose eggs or a snowman.

In some English missions with a large percentage of foreign speaking people sometimes a language missionary is assigned with an English-only speaking missionary, this companionship is called a zebra.

Missionaries are often called on to talk in the LDS sacrament meeting or priesthood meetings. Often they are asked to fill in when speakers cancel due to personal conflicts such as family emergencies. When a missionary fills in they refer to this as an emergency talk.

Missionaries have certain comfort foods that they like and since they depend on members to feed them dinner each night many of them like to receive what they refer to as the package. The package usually contains junk food that they liked such as snickers, peanut butter, cheetos, etc. which is sent to them by their family and friends. It is amazing how a tootsie roll can revitalize them.

I am sure there are other terms I have not thought about since it has been many years since I served a mission and language changes over time and varies by locality and mission. If you can think of some additional phrases or words please feel free to share them with us.


mobile sloth said...

not lingo but, I think this could do with a little expansion in meaning - "living the law of Chastity which is abstaining from sex " - it sounds like no sex at all, no matter what, so an addition of "except within the bounds of legal marriage (between a man and a woman?)" might be necessary for non-LDS reading this.

Dan and Wendy said...

We have one son coming home from his mission in 3 weeks, and another that should be getting his call today or next Friday.

The Wells Family said...

I love your blog. I have 2 son's serving right now, and would love a link to your sidebar to be added. I am the moderator of the Mesa Missionaries blog also. I love being a MM, and serving them.
Here is the link to my son's blogs.

Dr. B said...

Dan and Wendy:

Congratulations on your son's call. My daughter put in her papers this last Wednesday she should receive a call in the next three to six weeks.

The Wells Family:

Thanks for the links I found ten blogs I didn't have.