Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Mormon Phrases

When Skylar moved to Utah in 2016, he basically had to take a Utah-immersion course just to understand basic life. He'd occasionally wander into the house and say things like "what's a CTR ring?"

So I'd explain it. And that would usually prompt more questions. Sometimes I would get defensive and be like "IT MIGHT SEEM STRANGE TO YOU BUT IT'S NOT IT'S WONDERFUL" and he'd respond "no, I think that thing you just explained is terrific" and I'd be like "WELL IT'S NOT IT'S VERY WEIRD" and he'd be like "well, I guess it is a little" and I'd be like "HOW DARE YOU HAVE SOME RESPECT" because that's what it looks like to have complicated feelings about your former religion.

Sometimes his naivety is lovely. In Utah, the predominant religion can be polarizing. Most people who have lived here for very long have pretty strong feelings, one way or the other, about it. But Skylar has no dog in the fight. He's just interested. Nothing else, really.

A few years ago he came home all excited because he learned about an organization called "Encircle" which is an LGBTQ organization in Utah which was created because some of the other national groups weren't as good at understanding the unique dynamics of coming out in a very devout Mormon family and/or community. Educating and providing support to kids and parents who speak a very different language than most of the rest of society requires some special tools, process, and vocabulary.

Not really totally aware of the darker aspects of this history, Skylar heard about Encircle through a totally different set of ears than most people in Utah.

"There's this really cool place where all these families can go and hang out and get to know each other and it's so fun and it's like this cool club . . ."

I suddenly had this moral dilemma--like a parent wondering if it's time to ruin the magic of Christmas for their child--except I had to decide whether I should deflate his excitement over this "cool club" by letting him know it was created because the youth suicide rate is appallingly high in Utah.

He's evolved and learned and it's been fun to watch that process, though. Well, until recently.

It appears someone has decided I'm their enemy and so this person has gone about secretly feeding Skylar various Utah/Mormon phrases and telling him to start using them casually with me. In the last few months he has started saying:

"Remember who you are and what you stand for."

"Return with honor."

"My body is a temple and you don't have a recommend."

A few months ago he told me he wanted to start having "companionship inventory" and maybe even the occasional "PPI" and reader. I almost had a full on panic attack.

Last week he came into the house and said "what does 'the Holy Ghost goes to bed at 10:00' mean?"

I was like, "first of all, the Holy Ghost doesn't go to bed until midnight so whoever told you that one lied to you."

Then I found out how weird "Holy Ghost" sounds to someone who didn't grow up hearing about it all time.

Eli: You see, there's this ghost that's very sacred and it hangs out, like, in good places.

Skylar: Does it haunt people?

Eli: No! It follows them around and whispers things to them.

Skylar: That sounds like a haunting.

Eli: Well, whatever it is, the point is it goes to bed at midnight so kids don't need to be out after that because my mom always said nothing good happens after midnight.

Skylar: So, nothing good happens after midnight because, like, the sacred ghost gets tired?

Eli: I don't know--look, it's just something people used to say. It just means don't hang out late because you might make bad choices.

Skylar: Is that, like, written in the scriptures? About the going to bed thing?

Eli: No. Gah. Who is teaching you these damn phrases? It's not in the scriptures. All of our parents just made it up when we were kids because they were tired.

He dropped it after that, shrugging his shoulders a little and going back to studying.

I have no equivalent way to get back at him by tossing very specific cultural cliches his way. Unless, I guess, there's a catalog of hippie Portland phrases I can tap into.

The point is, please, whoever out there is doing this to me, I need you to stop. I don't think I have the emotional stamina to explain what "baptisms for the dead" are.

So innocent. So lovely. 

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I had totally forgotten the term PPI and felt a little seizure of dread in my bosom, because all a PPI means to me is that my dad or bishop wants to find out if I’m ~self-abusing~

  2. Having grown up in the same godless part of the country as Skylar (I’m kidding! We have religions too! I was raised Lutheran.) I don’t understand half of this article. Can you and Sky please put together a Mormon terminology guide for PNW hippies?!

    I can’t think of any regional slang we have (look i now live in DC and it’s midnight so my brain has gone to sleep) but ask Skylar what a geoduck is. And how to pronounce it.

    1. I’m from Olympia. Sometimes up here you hear “the mountain is out”. That’s about the closest thing to PNW slang I can think of 🤷🏻‍♀️

    2. Yeah I’m from Tacoma, that phrase applies to the entire Sound region at least. But it’s also pretty obvious what it refers to.

    3. I didn’t figure out what it meant until someone later said it meant the clouds weren’t covering the mountain. I thought, “what do you mean it’s out?? How could it have gone anywhere?”

  3. Looked up PPI. Creepy.

  4. You do understand that we now all need to know what a baptism for the dead is, right? Us heathens need to know.

  5. I grew up in Utah - I however was not raised Mormon (LDS - or whatever it is called). So I have no idea what these things are you mentioned. There really should be like an answer key or something for those of us that have questions.

    1. There is. A secret website called where you can type in your questions. Shhhhhhh

  6. My husband and I just had a conversation about this the other day. First-- "Nothing good happens after midnight" is not just Mormon - it's parents. Because both of our parents said it and his are Christian Reformed and mine were atheists. Second -- Isn't it ALWAYS after midnight? It's 11:30 am here right now and that's after midnight . . . at what point do we decided it's before midnight (and thus good is happening?) If it's dependent on sleep, does that mean I can take a 15 minute nap and then resume my shenanigans? Or I can go to bed from 6 PM to midnight and then all is good?

  7. Ok Mormon here and I burst out laughing at "companionship inventory."

  8. Former Baptist from Colorado-most of those phrases were new to me (I second the glossary idea). My church teachers used to say “remember who you are and what you stand for” and the “Holy Ghost goes to bed at 10” but they said 8:30.

  9. I think it would be hilarious if you started saying "Look, the mountain is out!" every time you saw a mountain. Because it's a completely relevant PNW saying, but completely irrelevant in Utah, because the mountains are basically never obscured by fog or rain clouds or what have you.
    I feel like using the phrase "It's just spitting" for when it's only raining a tiny bit is also a PNW thing.
    And constantly wearing NorthFace fleece is so ubiquitously PNW that it should count as a turn of phrase.

    1. I refuse to buy a NorthFace but I happily rock my Birkenstock’s (often with sandals, shamelessly)!

  10. I think it would be hilarious if you started saying "Look, the mountain is out!" every time you saw a mountain. Because it's a completely relevant PNW saying, but completely irrelevant in Utah, because the mountains are basically never obscured by fog or rain clouds or what have you.
    I feel like using the phrase "It's just spitting" for when it's only raining a tiny bit is also a PNW thing.
    And constantly wearing NorthFace fleece is so ubiquitously PNW that it should count as a turn of phrase.

  11. CTR rings are rings that say have the letters CTR on them. It stands for Choose the Right. (Similar to the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets people wear.)

    Baptisms for the dead is the practice of being baptized by proxy for people who have died without being baptized (no dead bodies involved). The reason behind the practice is the belief (similar to that in many Christian faiths) that baptism is a vital step in returning to live with God. So if a person died without being baptized, proxy baptism (in other words, having a living person be baptized for the person who is dead) provides a chance for that dead person’s spirit to choose or reject that baptismal ordinance. (Royal marriages sometimes used to take place by proxy - the royal personages from widely divergent locations would send a stand-in to participate in the marriage ceremony on their behalf. Without the agreement of the person for whom the ceremony was conducted, however, the ceremony would have been void. Baptism for the dead is like that - living people representing those who have died in a baptism ceremony, in order to offer the spirits of those deceased people a chance to accept or decline that baptism.)

    Companionship inventory is a term used by missionaries, who always, you may have noticed, go about in pairs (or sometimes groups of three). Those pairs are missionary companionships. They occasionally sit down together to assess how they are doing.

    PPI is an abbreviation for Personal Priesthood Interview. Intended to be a “How are you doing on keeping God’s commandments and with life in general” checkup with young male members. Term is relatively archaic - isn’t really used anymore.

    Return with honor is rather self explanatory - you’re leaving (home or wherever) and you should conduct yourself honorably while you are gone.

    As for the “My body is a temple and you don’t have a recommend” comment, it’s a culture specific joke of a anti-pickup line, which, like most pick-up lines, isn’t ever seriously meant to be used. Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are houses of sacred worship, and (as such) are only open to members of the faith who are in good standing (which basically means “living the commandments and believing in the teachings of the church”). A temple recommend (which is kind of a “Through interviews with church leaders, this member has been determined to be following the commandments and believes the teachings of the church” card) allows one to enter the temple to worship. The line is therefore a rather tackier-than-intended way of saying “No, we aren’t dating/I won’t hold your hand/Don’t touch me”. It’s mostly said by youngish teens, who have said tackier-than-intended things from time immemorial.

  12. All the things you grow up with and think are normal until someone points out that they aren't... Why is there a picture of Jesus in every room of your house?!

  13. I'm Mormon and just realized that the Holy Ghost does haunt us! That's totally what he does, but its a good thing to us!

  14. Mormon convert here, and everything about this is absolutely hilarious. I grew up in Utah in a non-attending Mormon family though, so I was somewhat familiar with the sayings. I cannot imagine how confused Skylar must have been with the Holy Ghost bedtime omg hahahaha. I was still confused on the companionship inventory / PPI thing though, until Anon explained it so well!

  15. WHOOPS. This is Chaun posting on the mormon convert comment. didn't mean to use my husband's work account :|

  16. And thus it came to pass that Skylar waxed strong in the sayings of the Mormonites. He knew without a shadow of a doubt what all the other Utahites were saying at all times and in all places. With the voice of an angel, he could interact in all conversations and even laugh knowingly when someone asks if Eli was an eight-cow spouse.

  17. I agree that Mormons do have some very funny and weird sayings, which are also outdated and make me cringe when I hear them sometimes. We do hold our religion as very sacred and dear to us. We love reading your posts and appreciate it when you show respect in this area and use humor when doing it. ie: “I can say can’t say that.”

  18. Please show Skylar Johnny Lingo (the original, not the weird remake commercial from the early 2000s). I just feel like he really deserves to call himself an eight cow wife, y’know?

  19. Raised Mormon in the Pacific Northwest!

    Blackberries: Every PNW snacker's favorite invasive species in July and August, when its enormous thickets are laden with delicious fruit. Every PNW hiker's least favorite invasive species in July and August, when its thorned canes are capable of growing eight inches a day and must be regularly turned away from trails so as not to engulf them. (Smaller, native species of blackberry are also present, with an earlier and even more delicious fruit.)

    Cascadia: The region in and to the west of the Cascade Mountains in northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Use of the term affirms the ecological and cultural unity of the region and its distinctiveness from the eastern (and southern) parts of the same jurisdictions. Scoffing at the term may get you a visit from the Sasquatch Militia.

    Conference: Semiannual meetings in which Stake leaders admonish their Stakes (in person) and Church leaders admonish the entire Church (by broadcast), and some organizational business takes place. "General Conference" is the Church-wide one, occupies ten hours of a weekend, and is the referent if "Stake" is not specified. Replaces Sacrament Meeting and displaces Fast Day.

    Convert: 1. Verb, with accent on "vert": To cause someone to become committed to or baptized into the LDS Church. 2. Noun, with accent on "con": 2a. In theory, anyone who has become committed to the LDS Church (but this sense more often "converted"). 2b. In practice, one who adhered to the Church after the age of 8.

    Drizzling: Light rain, likely to last all day, typically from a flat horizon-to-horizon cloud deck.

  20. Fast Day: Typically the first Sunday of each month; may be displaced to another Sunday by a Conference (occasionally the week before, more usually the week after because the Conference caught the decide-and-communicate chain flatfooted). Abstention from two successive meals is accompanied by donating at least the price of those meals to feed the needy, and by Testimony Meeting. Despite the name, does not necessarily pass quickly.

    Fireside: Church meeting in the evening, comprising some kind of special presentation as distinct from ordinary weekly worship services, youth groups, etc., but still in a presenter/audience format as distinct from, say, a potluck dinner.

    Geoduck (pronounced GOO-ee-duck): A clam with a large, fleshy, extremely NSFW siphon. With proper cooking and a sharp knife, a geoduck makes a decent sized appetizer. Did I mention it's NSFW? Very.

    Investigator: One who is not a Convert but seems to be headed in that direction.

    Mission: 1. The most important part of a Mormon kid's life. Considered obligatory for boys, optional but valorous for girls. 2. A geographic area in which said Mormon kids are assigned to find people to convert. May or may not contain Stakes.

    Mission Field, the: Condescending reference to parts of Earth where being Mormon is a choice, not a default; i.e. most of it.

    Misting: Rain in drops small enough that wafting on the breeze is as big a part of their movement as falling to the ground. Dense misting plus a light wind is like being attacked by thousands of tiny bugs, if the tiny bugs peed on you.

    Other Washington, the: The District of Columbia, to which Cascadia periodically exiles a few politicians. Unfortunately, this practice does not adequately deter others from entering the field.

  21. Quad: 1. Single volume book in which is bound the entire canon of Mormon scripture (which has four top-level divisions). See also Triple Combination. 2. All-terrain vehicle (with four wheels), used to appreciate nature by obscuring its sounds, overriding its smells, and blurring its sights.

    Sacrament Meeting: The routine weekly worship service for members of a Ward, at which a communion is taken and Talks are given.

    Sasquatch: Secretive forest-dwelling hominid, elsewhere called "Bigfoot."

    Sasquatch Militia: Secretive forest-dwelling hominids, camouflaged by algae and lichens in their fur as a result of it Drizzling so much, and organized to protect Cascadia (with log-swinging, terrifying howls, and ancient martial arts shared by their Yeti brethren) from southern Californians, eastern Oregonians and eastern Washingtonians, politicians of the Other Washington, geoduck poachers, and other like scoundrels. Formally, only this organization; in practice, also designates coastal defense performed by auxiliary squads of Pacific giant octopus.

    Secret Combination: 1. (Book of Mormon) Formally organized conspiracy to aggregate power and defy the law. 2. (Utah) Anyone opposed to the status quo, presumptively Communist/Marxist. Not to be confused with Triple Combination.

    Stake: Organizational unit of the church, comprising a few thousand members in a defined geographical space with an array of officers.

    Stake house: Church meetinghouse where a Stake's offices are located. Usually at least as capacious as any other meetinghouse in the Stake. Note that "taking your Quad to the Stake house for a Fireside" is not as redneck as it sounds.

    Sunbreaks: Weather with more than 50% cloud cover, but less than 90%, and rain limited to Spitting or less. Widely considered superb, especially for outdoor activities.

    Talk: Sermon, homily.

    Testimony Meeting: Open Mic Sunday. A Sacrament Meeting in which the usual few pre-written Talks by selected amateurs on a selected theme are replaced by a larger number of (usually) extemporaneous Talks by self-selected amateurs on self-selected themes. If you are on your Mission, the most terrifying service to take an Investigator to.

    Triple Combination: Single volume book in which are bound the extra-biblical portions of the Mormon scriptural canon. Not to be confused with Secret Combination.

    Umbrella: A ridiculous contraption employed in other regions of the country. Ties up your Starbucks-carrying hand for the duration of the rain. If walking near an umbrella user, beware its ribs going into your ear or eye.

    Ward: Geographic subdivision of a Stake, containing a few hundred Church members.