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Retro Posting

See retro posting: Relief Society is Raucous

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mormon Shorthand

I always claimed that English wasn't my native language, Mormonese was. Mormons have their own way of speaking. We use words no one else has heard of. We also use words everyone has heard of and give them different meanings.


So, if you want to be a Mormon you have to learn the language. Orson Scott Card did his best to make all this explicit in Saintspeak: The Mormon Dictionary.


My beef this week is what I call Mormon shorthand.


Too often, people abbreviate words in order to get everything down in a small space, especially a Sacrament meeting program. What results is an illegible, puzzling mess that is sure to confuse new members, non-Mormons, the less active and even people like me -- a lifer. Lifer is my term for someone who was born in the Church.


If I'm confused then the problem is serious.


Here are some examples:


"YM/YW Joint" -- This means the Young Men and Young Women program are having a joint activity, probably on a weekday evening.


"PEC" -- Priesthood Executive Council. This is a meeting for local church leaders.


"Stk Youth Con." -- Stake Youth Conference. This means that all the youth, ages 14 up to 18 years old are going to have a three day event somewhere with a variety of spiritual and social events planned. Twelve year olds are generally not allowed to go to Youth Conferences.


"PPI" -- Personal Priesthood Interview. This means a private meeting with your priesthood leader to review how you are doing in your life and in your callings (church jobs).


"EFY" -- Especially For Youth. This means an expensive conference type experience for young people sponsored by BYU -- Brigham Young University.


"GA" -- General Authority. This means the leaders of the world wide church.


"FHE" -- Family Home Evening. This means quality time spent with family on Monday nights.


Being a single woman at the time PEC and PPI came into existence these terms got by me even though I was active at the time. It wasn't something we covered in Relief Society.


Most of the Mormons shorthand I can figure out if I puzzle over it long enough. But, why should anyone have to puzzle? Why are we making things difficult for anyone to understand?


Studying usability and graphic design in school, all my sources counseled us never to abbreviate anything if we could possibly avoid it.


Besides all the typical abbreviations you see at the church wide level, you end up with local abbreviations that make no sense to anyone but natives.


Abbreviated local parlance can be deadly. For example, in Kansas it took me a while to discover that OP meant Overland Park and LX meant Lenexa. No one ever included an address to these chapels. You just had to know where they were. 


"Pot Luck" meals are sometimes referred to as "Pitch In's" or "Covered Dish Dinners."


The worst local parlance probably occurs where Mormons are the most abundant -- Utah. For example, in one of my stakes, people referred to meetinghouses as the "Red Chapel" or the "White Chapel" or the "River Bottoms Chapel," etc. After having been in the "Red Chapel" I fully understood why it had that name. All the accents were in red.


Can you imagine how someone new would feel when encountering this Mormon shorthand for the first time? Why throw up barriers in front of people? It is pointless and self-defeating.


Couple this with throwing names and titles around like everyone knows everyone and the barriers just accumulate.


I'll give you another recent example from my own experience. A branch social event was being held at Calloway Park. I guess we were all supposed to know that park was in Elwood, Indiana without being told. I didn't know that. Did I go? No I didn't. With all the barriers people threw at me, I really doubted they wanted me there.


I'll close with a "two word sermon"
Stop it!

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