2002 Unofficial Utah Winter Olympics Language Guide
by clare goldsberry
A handbook of Mormon-speak for foreigners coming from outside the State of Utah
The following terms are things you absolutely MUST know if you expect to survive your stay in Utah. This handbook is essential to helping you understand various Mormonisms, interpreting Mormon language euphemisms, and keeping you from looking too out of place.
LDS: This acronym could have many meanings, and it is usually asked in a sentence like this: “Are you LDS?” Not to be confused with “Have you done LSD?” My husband was prescribed medication for his high blood pressure once that caused him to get LDS (Limp Dick Syndrome), a condition his doctor had never heard referred to as LDS. My husband then had to explain the difference between BEING LDS and GETTING LDS. You can BE LDS and GET LDS, but I think it’s against church teachings to GET LDS, because if you GET LDS it is difficult to BE-GET children, and everyone knows that it is a rule that to BE LDS you have to have lots of children.
If anyone asks, “Are you LDS?” just smile, and say, “Only when I see fat women in black spandex.” (Leave it up to them to interpret that one)
If you are a woman and someone asks you, “Are you LDS,? just smile and say, “Only when I’m with Dr. Timothy Leary.”
Ward Meeting House: This is a common architectural structure in Utah. In other parts of the world you might call these buildings “churches,” but in Utah, they are Ward Meeting Houses. They can be easily recognized by the slender, phallic symbol atop the spires of each one; these are so you won’t confuse Christian Churches (whose spires have crosses) with the Mormon version of a “church.” The phallic symbol has special meaning in Utah, since polygamy was and still is (among the fundamentalist faction of the sect) a very big thing (so to speak).
Ward: a specific geographic area comprised of about 150 or so families. Chicago also has wards, but only the political kind run by the local Mafia. Mormon wards are run by the Mormon version of the Mafia called the Bishopric. (Yes, you heard right. We’re back to that phallic symbol thing again) I had a Bishop one time who was a prick, but I digress from our lesson.
Stake House: Be careful if someone asks you if you’d like to go to the “stake” house. Make sure it is spelled “s-t-e-a-k” as opposed to “s-t-a-k-e.” Unlike a steak house where you can get charbroiled, medium rare tenderloins and T-bones, the Stake house is a place where you can be roasted by the State President if you haven’t been minding your P’s & Q’s as a good Mormon should. The Ward Bishopric answers to the Stake President, who can sometimes be a bigger prick than the Bishop-ric!
Garments: No, this doesn’t refer to all the outerwear skiers must don before hitting the slopes. These are “Temple Garments,” sometimes referred to as “funny underwear.” It is also sometimes called “magic underwear” because good Mormons who have been through the Temple get special protection by wearing this underwear, which is similar to long-johns with short sleeves and legs that go just to the knees. You may notice the outline of these “garments” under the shirts or blouses of many people in the area, which marks them as VGM (Very Good Mormons), as they’ve been able to get past the interrogation of the Bishopric, and the grilling at the Stake House by the Stake President, and obtain a Temple Recommend (see next term) to go through the Temple and win the privilege of wearing these “Garments.”
Temple Recommend: As noted above, you need to pass two interrogations to obtain a permit to get into the Mormon Temple. It’s a bit like obtaining a driver’s license in that you have to prove you are worthy of the privilege before getting your permit. Obeying all the rules of Mormondom is key to getting a Temple Recommend. No smoking, no drinking, no coffee or tea, and you must be attending church regularly and paying a full tithe (see next term) to be allowed a Recommend.
This Recommend is only good for one year, unlike your driver’s license, which is good for 10 or 20 years. The state trusts you to remain a good driver for longer than the Mormon Church trusts you to be a good Mormon.
Tithe: Unlike most church organizations that depend on donations, Mormons require a full tithe, which means a full 10 percent of your GROSS income. Can you believe? Even the IRS cuts you some slack and requires you only pay taxes on your NET income. No wonder the Mormon Church is the wealthiest religious corporation in the known world. You have all these people like ex-quarterback Steve Young, hotelier J. Willard Marriott’s family, and baseball hero Orel Hershiser paying huge chunks of their GROSS income to the church. That’s GROSS, all right!
Temple Square: This is a famous Utah landmark. It is a section in downtown Salt Lake City that is the site of the Mormon Temple, built by the pioneers in the late 1800s. It’s noticeable because of the gold statue of the “Angel Moroni” on one of the spires. If you go to Temple Square, beware of young men and women in suits, smiling way too much for people who’ve been conscripted to tell you a strange story of angels bringing gold plates from heaven and dead Apostles appearing to deliver “truth” that only people on LSD (not to be confused with LDS) could make up.
You can tour the visitor’s center, but don’t ask to go through the Temple. They’ll tell you that you need a Temple Recommend to do that, and if you refer back to that term, you’ll know it’s really something you want to take a “pass” on. Besides, if you or any of your relatives are Masons, you pretty much get the drift of what goes on in the Temple.
The “Y”: This refers to BYU or Brigham Young University, in Provo, just south of Salt Lake City—not The “Y” as in YMCA, known for giving swimming lessons to its members. In Mormon-dom, The “Y” is an important place. It’s where young men go to for an education, and where young women go to hunt for an educated, prospective husband. So, don’t go looking for The “Y” in order to do a few laps in the pool, because most likely all you’ll find at The “Y” in Utah is a bunch of young women looking for husbands.
Word of Wisdom: You will not see Mormons drinking tea, coffee or alcohol, or smoking tobacco, which might strike you as odd. This is due to a Mormon rule known as the “Word of Wisdom.” Obedience to this rule is critical to one’s standing in the Mormon Church, and part of the test one must pass to get a Temple Recommend. Although they avoid coffee and tea, Mormons are known to get their caffeine fix in other ways, such as the guzzling of Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Jolt or other caffeine-laden sodas that the church doesn’t forbid. Chocolate is also okay. Alcohol has been a bone of contention in Utah for decades. Olympic attendees are lucky that Utah changed its liquor laws to accommodate winning the Games, or else you’d be stuck with having to cart cases of your favorite drink into restaurants, then be forced to drink the entire stash before leaving. The whole thing has to do with Mormons not wanting other people to enjoy life and have fun. After all, if they can’t have fun, why should anyone else? But, Mormons’ reward is their ticket into the Temple, where they can receive all the secret passwords to get into heaven. It doesn’t get much more fun than that!!
So, when you come to Utah this winter to enjoy the Winter Olympics, print out a handy copy of this guide and keep it in your pocket for quick reference in the likely event that a nicely dressed, smiling young man or woman will approach you and ask, “Are you LDS?”