Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mormonisms

Ponder

Moisture

Righteous

Worthy

Sweet/Tender

You've heard all these words. I'm sure there are more. Please, add to the list.

Look, my point today isn't to make fun. We've all used these words at one point or another, maybe more often than we realize. It's ingrained in our culture. It's in our scriptures, our magazines, hymns, etc. If we are as active as we're called to be, these words will become part of our vocabulary.

I just have to ask: do they have to?

What good does it do us to pray or be grateful for "moisture" instead of just plain ol' rain? Why do we "ponder" and not just "think" or "consider"?

What is the point of these words? I tend to think the use of them disconnects us from the outside world, and while we're not to be "of" the world we are in it, and if we want to bring others closer to Christ, we should speak like people today speak. Sure, every religion has its own little vocabulary (my protestant friends use "worship" and "witness" a lot), but I don't think they add much. It's just weird.

Just because the scriptures speak in thees and thous doesn't mean we have to. I know we're asked to in prayer, but that's not my point. How rote are our talks and lessons? I promise these things will go over better if you speak like you would normally. When "testifying" to non-member friends, drop the Mormon-speak. The Spirit is not derived from the use of "ponder" or any other like words. I promise.

I don't know about the lot of you, but I wince when someone tells me about the "tender" mercies of the Lord, or the "sweet" spirit. It bothers me because this is not how people speak. I hate it even in General Conference. The use of the words are distracting from the message and sometimes downright annoying.

I used to think about the Jehovah's Witnesses who would come to my door, their plastic tense smiles greeting me and laugh because, eeek, right? But we have our own little eerie quirks, our own uber-clean-cut-toothy-smile appearance and our own way of speaking that is foreign to the outside world and there is just no reason for it. Speaking like we're from the 19th Century or like we're of King James' people doesn't make us more worthy or spiritual. It doesn't necessarily bring us closer to God.

I have used these words from time to time, but the more I recognized how much they distance myself from others the more I wanted to run away from them. Experience has shown me that when we speak like regular people (ie: "rain" instead of "moisture"), others will relate with us much easier. Even in Sacrament meeting.

It's a rule of writing, really. Don't use big words to sound smart, and don't use old time words to sound spiritual.

It doesn't work.

16 comments:

Clean Cut said...

What if I truly, sincerely, desired to use certain words, like "tender" mercies? If anything, I like quoting scripture, and "tender mercies" is definitely scriptural:

See Psalms 119: 77, 156, Psalms 145: 9, 1 Nephi 1: 20, 1 Ne. 8: 8, Ether 6: 12.

Kengo Biddles said...

Let's see -- my least fave's are when people don't use thee/thou/thy correctly; when they say shew like shoe (should be show, like sew).

My least favorite phrase? "I know, with EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING."

*barf*

I think this is why I liked the church in France. Much more colloquial, less stilted.

I think that in General Conference, and other "official" type things, I'm okay with some stilt, but when it's a teenager who's trying to sound "smarter", that just bugs me, too.

Clean Cut said...

By the way, I happen to really like the word "ponder". Sometimes no other word fits quite like it. :) Pondering something in my heart/mind is also not only scriptural, but just a little deeper than "careful considering or thinking. To me it entails a deeper spiritual process involving humbly letting Spirit teach me, rather than merely spending time in my own thoughts alone.

I admit to cringing sometimes at certain "Mormon" phrases (ie: "burning in the bosom") and internally rolling my eyes at certain rote phrases in public prayer, but I also wouldn't want to make someone feel uncomfortable about using a particular term if it's meaningful to them. Such nitpicking only robs me of possible simple joy.

On a similar note, I think it goes both ways. Some insist on "thees" and "thous" in prayers, and although I know all the reasons for doing so, I also just don't care that much. I don't mind one bit if someone's prayer uses "you" and "your" if they're being truly sincere and intimate with deity. After all, it's really about the heart. And I can't see what's in someone else's heart, so I try to be as accepting as possible rather than judge.

Lisa said...

Clean: If you're quoting scripture, then quote scripture. I'm talking about just your everyday talk. If you're in front of everyone in sacrament meeting and not quoting scripture, then...eh.

Like I said. Ingrained within us. Are you a life-long member? I wonder what the differences are between convert and lifelong. Personally, I'd never say "tender mercies."

:)

Kengo: It still bothers me in GC, but yes. It's expected. I don't get it, but whatever. I still think it tends to distance the speaker from the listeners.

haha, you're "fiber of my being" thing reminds me. I suppose I could also go into rote, empty testimonies. Maybe another time. Yeesh, that might push a few buttons.

Clean Cut said...

Alright, what about if I happen to like quoting scripture as part of my everyday speech?

By the way, although I've been a member of the Church all my life, the "tender mercies" phrase really only caught on and gained new insight and specificity than the general word of "mercy" after Elder Bednar's conference talk entitled The Tender Mercies of the Lord. Maybe that's why you hear that one a little more commonly now. After all, what better way than to describe the "very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ".

Lisa said...

Well, I suppose it's more a pet peeve of mine, and of course nobody needs to share it. I'd just prefer to find different ways to say something, that's all.

I'm curious for reactions to what I think about this. If it's just me and hubby or more people - by all means, Clean Cut, say ponder. I'll still respect ya in the morning ;)

Shar said...

This drives me nuts as well. The thing that has been bothering me most recently is the title to Boyd K. Packer's book, Mine Errand from the Lord. Why "Mine" errand? Why not just "My" errand? I agree it is an attempt to make something sound more spiritual. Honestly, I just find it fake and pretentious.

That being said, I don't have a problem referring to diety with the terms of thy and thine. But in everyday usage this verbage isn't necessary, and I believe it often has the opposite effect than what is intended.

I second the *barf* with the EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING phrase.

Maren said...

I have some Baptist friends that we spend each major holiday with. They are very spiritual people and I LOVE to hear them pray. When they do so, they speak using regular words...Like they're REALLY talking with God. I have always liked that way of praying and have always said my personal prayers like that.

I'll never forget a sort of recent Primary lesson I had to sit through and I think I rolled my eyes (in a very non-obvious way, of course) through the entire sharing time. The lesson was how our Heavenly Father listens to our prayers and so we need to speak like "this" because it shows respect and it's just how we're taught. I kept thinking...my gosh, doesn't He listen to ALL our prayers regardless of how many Thees, Thines, and Thous we throw in? It's really just a pet peeve I have and nothing more. I'm just glad I didn't have to teach that lesson...I'd be like "look kids...He'll listen and answer your prayers anyway, but here are some fancy words to throw into your prayers so it sounds like you know what you're doing!!"

Grégoire said...

Every ingroup separates itself from the wider world somehow. Mormons tend to do this with vocabulary, syntax and tone.

When we were first married, my wife and I went to Waterton (a park near the Mormon hamlet of Cardston) for a little vacation. Over the radio, she found general conference being broadcast. She laughed her head off for the next hour. "They sound like they're trying to hypnotize you!" she exclaimed. I had never noticed just how bizarre it all was until that day, and I grew up in it. The monotone men, humming their nasals, repeating words like "speshul" and "ritechus" with pronounced emphasis, about every thirty seconds.

How bizarre we all seem to outsiders.

Amanda said...

haha, I've never heard anyone use the word "moisture" for rain. People in my neck of the woods always just prayed for rain.

And I suppose it's because I was a convert, but no one ever told me I was supposed to pray in old english. I knew I was supposed to pray formatted - heavenly father, thanks, requests, in the name of Jesus Christ - and that always bugged me. Coming from the Catholic church, where prayers are recitations, I learned that REAL prayer, and REAL talk with God, should be natural and comfortable, not formatted and dull. No one really means anything when they repeat the same things over and over again. Can a formatted prayer have meaning? Sure, but oftentimes, it's just repetition.

I agree with Clean Cut on the "ponder" thing though. Ponder is very different from thinking or considering. Then again, I'm extremely precise with my words, and act sometimes like a human thesaurus, one of my quirks...

Noe said...

Moisture? WTF?

That's just weird... if someone used the word "moisture" instead of "rain" in a conversation with me I think I would have to make fun of them... In fact, I know I would have to make fun of them.

As for prayer... I have a thing about god. (I don't capitalize that word on purpose) I talk to god like I would talk to anyone else, I see no reason to be formal when I speak with someone who knows me better than I know myself, who created me, who knows my every thought. If I can't call god "dude" then I don't want to talk to him.

Ya know?

Not that I spend much time in prayer... But my agnostic self has moments when I succumb to the belief that there must be a higher power out there somewhere... and the possibility that it actually gives a dam...

Yeah.

Natalie said...

I have to put up a defense for "tender mercies". I love it in 1 Nephi 1:20, and it is just a perfect phrase for how the Lord blesses us.

Other words, though, definitely annoy me, so I can get your idea. It's not a big issue for me, just a silly little quirk that we Mormons often don't even realize we have.

Natalie said...

I should point out that "tender mercies" is also a phrase I've been attuned to for several years because it was a concept that my Mom emphasized to us often during a particularly difficult time for our family.

I do have to chime in and say that I am all about informal prayers. Sometimes I love the sound of really lofty prayers that just make you feel elevated, like you're part of something much bigger than yourself. But in my own prayers, I usually just use "normal-speak". In fact, sometimes, I try to tone it down even more and deliberately talk to the Lord as if he was just my friend and we were having a conversation. It helps my prayers be more meaningful and personal.

But I still do enjoy the occasional Catholic mass for the loftiness. :)

Maren said...

My personal favorite is when we bless the refreshments (usually cookies and punch) to nourish and strengthen us. Not only is it strange wording, but it would take a lot of faith to make that nourishing.

Clean Cut said...

Oh boy, that's the best one right there Maren. I smile everytime I hear that phrase. I've personally just shortened my prayers to "bless the reshreshments" and leave off anything about health and strength. Perhpas the blessing can just be for our enjoyment!

gertie said...

Lisa I am new to your now-defunct blog but I'm reading your archives and I need to tell you how much I appreciate what you have expressed online and how much support you have given me. I often feel excluded from the social 'inner sanctum' of my ward because I don't buy into every generally-accepted belief and I'm a bit of a loud mouth at times (until I hear the voices in my head which warn me about the need to be promptly shutting up.) Despite my frustrations, I don't imagine I could ever leave the church completely because--just as you have stated quite perfectly, this is the religion that most closely reflects my belief system. Anyschways.....re:this post on curious speak among the saints--here's an interesting one for the file: there was a recent ward conf where one of the stake pres. members arose and spoke about(goshdarnit yet again)~missionary work~!!!. And I almost shut down entirely and I was about to ditch.
But then........
For whatever bizarre, uninspired reason, the speaker began and repeatedly used this word choice, "LUBRICATE good feelings with your non member friends"..... Well I've never personally struggled with a pornography habit but there are people out there in the congregation--apparently in massive hordes among our membership judging by the frequency of that topic being raised--who do. There are those who are perhaps coming to church to try to focus spiritually, and if a woman's shoulder is all it takes to tip some folks off, then how bizarre and out of context was that proffered image from the pulpit?! And consequently how effective and inspired was the entire presentation?!
Call me a sicko but even I couldn't keep a straight face.