Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have their own terminology and vocabulary. Visitors, investigators, neighbors, friends, and the press are often confused by it. Members regularly spew out terms that make nonmembers wonder what on earth they are talking about.

Just a few of the more common terms and phrases in our vocabulary are Stake Center, Ward, Stake, Patriarch, Relief Society, General Conference, Ward Conference, Personal Progress, Duty to God, Preach My Gospel, Choose the Right, Family Home Evening, Handcart Company, Prophet, Moroni’s Promise, Angel Moroni, Quorum of the Twelve, First Presidency, Home Teaching, Visit Teaching, Word of Wisdom, Priesthood, Elders Quorum, Patriarchal Blessing, Senior Missionaries, Temple, Utah Mormon, Stake President, Jack Mormon, Mormon Trail, Pioneers, Endowment, Family Proclamation, Institute, Seminary, Release Time, 72 hour kit, funeral potatoes, Green Jell-O, Pioneer Day, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, Bloggernacle, Mormon Times, Ensign, Nauvoo, Kirtland, Admon-ondi-Ahmon, Beehives, Sunbeams, Fast Sunday, Plan of Salvation, Mission Field, Return With Honor, Temple Work, and the list goes on and on.

In addition to terms used by members, the outside world often uses terms to describe us or events the Church or members of the Church have been associated with, some of which some are not always flattering. Those terms and phrases include Joe Smith, polygamy, cult, “are not Christians”, Utah, Salt Lake City, Mormons, Brigham Young, Mormon Bible, and more.

Yet more terms and phrases are added to the mix from things The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or prominent members may have done or been involved with in recent times. Examples of these include Mormon Helping Hands, Proposition 8, “and I am a Mormon”, Mormon Ads, Mitt Romney, Harry Reid, and more.

With the Church having its own lexicon and those outside the church using a limited number of terms and phrases to describe the Church and its members, an opportunity exists to follow the popularity of those terms and phrases as they work their way into mainstream news, literature, and culture. Some terms rise quickly and fall away, others stay for the long haul, while still more are replaced by others.

With much of the world’s news, literature, discussions, and interactions now online, and a flood of online tools, it is now possible to quickly gain a sense of how LDS terms are being used in today’s culture.

Among the online historical record data sets are:

  • News media
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Online Conversations – discussion groups, email, twitter, Facebook and other Social Media, images (Flickr), etc.
  • Search Engine use – frequency terms are searched for, value of search words, number of sites ranked for a term, where the people searching for those terms live, etc.
  • Web site traffic – level of traffic sites very strongly associated with a term or phrase are receiving
  • Blogs
  • Maps- LDS place names
  • Naming of Children – using of LDS names
  • Tags – terms used to tag blog posts or images with content

Previously, we used wordles to analyze individual Church talks to identify prominent words, now we are going to be turning to some other tools to chart the historical frequency and trends of LDS / Mormon terms and phrases in popular culture.

Among the tools we anticipate using are Google News Archives (covers historical news), Google Trends (covers recent trends), Google Ngram (covers books), Internet Archive, and Factavia (an information provider).

In addition, we anticipate pursuing some general religious terms as well, such as Jesus Christ, God, Heavenly Father, religion, church, heaven, hell, etc. For instance we noticed one Ngram (analyzes frequency of terms in books) titled “God is Not Dead, He Just Needs a New Press Agent” noting the frequency of the use of God in books has drastically fallen off over the last century. A quick look shows the same could be said for “Jesus Christ” as shown in the Ngram below.

God and Jesus Christ Ngram

God and Jesus Christ Ngram

The use of Ngrams is detailed in our post titled, Google Ngram Viewer Charts Trends in Use of Mormon / LDS Terms, Words, Phrases, & Vocabulary. Very basically the chart represents the percentage of words or two word phrases in all books published in English that year that that were respectively “God” or “Jesus Christ”.

Of particular interest in the God and Jesus Christ Ngram above are the “bumps” near Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1820. Joseph Smith himself spoke of that time in Joseph Smith History:

Joseph Smith History Verse 5

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, a“Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

A broader expression of that same wave of religious interest is shown in the use of the terms “God” and “Jesus Christ” in the English books published just before and after that time. The books published just before then probably helped incited it and the books proceeding it reflected the surge in interest in religion. With the country growing and expanding it took time for cultural changes and interest to propagate across the land.

In recent years with the strong online presence and Search Engine Optimization efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with encouraging its members to blog and to respond to others online, and with the Church publication arm of Deseret Book, the large amount of secular content itself is becoming a recognizable fraction of ALL published content. Thereby, some words predominately only used by members are working their way into a recognizable online presence.

We plan to explore Mormon terms further in the future using the tools available and will post the results of our findings from time to time in the Mormon Terms category of MormonCharts.com.

With the Church being a worldwide organization, we anticipate studying how some of these terms and phrases work their way into other languages as well.