Some things uniquely LDS

Words, titles and expressions unique to the LDS culture may cause newcomers, as well as outside observers, to scratch their heads in befuddlement.

The apostle Paul told converts, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Eph. 2:19.)While that is undoubtedly true, it is conceivable that references to beehives, cottage meeting and stakehouse have evoked more than one blank look from those new to the faith.

Adding to the confusion in some cases, the meaning of what might be called Mormonisms more or less has evolved over the years, as with roadshow and fireside. Oxymorons such as stationary roadshow and satellite fireside are a product of such evolution in meaning, as well as changing times and conditions in the Church.

Even such antique terms as Old Folks Day, Gold and Green Ball and M Men and Gleaners occasionally surface in the consciousness and conversation of long-time Church members, puzzling their newer brothers and sisters in the gospel.

And as the years go by, those newer members have become increasingly predominant. Of the more than 8 million members in the Church today, nearly half were baptized since 1976 and more than one-fourth since 1986.

For such Latter-day Saints - and others who may be interested - here are some of the words they may encounter as fellowcitizens in the household of God.


Added to these are associated constructions such as stakehouse, wardhouse and stake dinner.

Actually, the Church encourages the use of the terms stake center and meetinghouse for its houses of worship, but that has not halted the common use of the more colloquial terms.

A non-LDS city manager in a western state told of a conversation he had some years earlier with a neighbor, an LDS stake president. The neighbor was inquiring about the procedure to obtain zoning clearance for construction of a "stakehouse."

The city manager, having in mind the kind of "steakhouse" that serves porterhouse and top sirloin varieties, said, "Well, Bill, you ought to build your steakhouse on some of that choice property down there by the freeway, where you could catch the tourists."

It took several moments for the two men to figure out why they were not communicating.

As used by Latter-day Saints, the term stake has a scriptural derivation. Regarding the establishment of Zion in the last days, Isaiah proclaimed: "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes. . . ." (Isa. 54:2-7.)

In keeping with the tent imagery, stake is used in several references in the Doctrine and Covenants - and is continued today - as a name for areas of Church population and strength, which sustain and uphold the restored Zion. (See Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie, p. 764.)

Ward springs from the days of the Church in Nauvoo, Ill., which was divided into three areas of Church jurisdiction, known as the upper, middle and lower wards. (See Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia by Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., pages 624-625.)


It was one of those coincidences that occur from time to time. As the Church News staff was researching the term fireside, a letter arrived from Stoy V. Miller of Springfield, Mo., with this inquiry:

"There is one thing that has puzzled me for a long time. What is a fireside? In what way is it different from any other meeting?

"In almost every issue of the Church News there is mention of a fireside, and in many cases it involves quite a large group of people. I doubt very much if there is any fire involved.

"Perhaps you could publish a brief article explaining this."

According to the recollections of current and former faculty members at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, firesides were begun in 1935 by Lowell L. Bennion, the founder of the institute. On Sunday nights he would invite students to come into a room with a fireplace in the old University Ward meetinghouse and discuss the gospel.

Those early discussions likely spawned the following incident recounted in a 1961 article in The Improvement Era by Florence B. Pinnock:

"Early one Sunday morning in 1938 the M Men and Gleaner committees of the general boards met to plan activities for the young people of this age. They wanted these girls and boys to meet together often and enjoy each others' company. After sacrament meeting on Sunday night had become a time for many of them to gather in cars, on street corners, or in a show. Sunday had been a Sabbath up until this hour; now what could be done about it? Often many heads are better than one, and on this Sunday morning the idea was conceived to gather our young people in homes after Church. The name `fireside' was suggested, and these gatherings have been so called for 20 years."

The practice of holding firesides spread to other MIA age groups, and for many years they retained the same identity: small, informal gatherings of young people in homes on Sunday for gospel discussions and refreshments. A glowing hearth was an attractive - but optional - embellishment.

It is difficult to say just when the scope of the typical fireside expanded. But it is noteworthy that in January 1960, a series of 12 weekly firesides was launched, to be broadcast over radio from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. President David O. McKay spoke at an opening assembly in the Tabernacle, and his message was carried "by direct wire or tape recording to the largest gathering of Church youth in history." (See Church News, Jan. 2, 1960.)

Perhaps that was the beginning of the notion that a fireside could transcend the walls of a home. Today's firesides seldom are held in locations smaller than the chapel of a meetinghouse. Often they can be as large as the BYU Marriott Center. Firesides nowadays are even broadcast over satellite from the Salt Lake Tabernacle to gatherings in thousands of meetinghouses. Firesides are still held on Sunday nights usually, but not always.

What has become of the small, informal, Sunday-evening gatherings of youth held in years past? An item in a recent Church bulletin to priesthood leaders carried this instruction: "Sunday evening discussions give bishoprics an opportunity to discuss relevant matters with the young people in their wards. These discussions should be held periodically, as needed."

"Sunday evening discussions" seem very much like the "firesides" of yesteryear.


Occasionally, one still hears of a Gold and Green Ball being held in one of the units of the Church, the last vestige of what was once a pervasive custom in stakes and wards. The balls were best-dress dances put on yearly. Within the confines of limited budgets, the best band available was hired and the cultural hall decorated as lavishly as possible. Sponsored by the MIAs, the dances typically attracted young and old. In later years, most people had forgotten the significance of the colors gold and green, but the dances continued to be popular until changing tastes in music and dancing made it somewhat difficult to put on a dance that appealed to both adults and youth.

"Actually," wrote Harold Lundstrom in the Jan. 26, 1949, Church News, "Gold and Green Balls were first introduced to the MIAs of the Church through a recommendation of Pres. Oscar A. Kirkham, then a member of the YMMIA general board. He proposed that each year the Mutuals sponsor a formal dance with the highest and most beautiful standards possible. Clarissa A. Beesley of the Young Women general board suggested using the names of the MIA colors, green and gold.

"These suggestions, adopted at the suggestion of Ellen Wallace Green, stands for youth and growth; gold stands for purity and perfection - combined, they symbolized the young men and women of the Church and their MIA program. Some years later, by official action of the general boards, the order of the words was changed from green and gold to gold and green so that they would be more euphonious."


"Most of you have never heard of Old Folks Day," Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve correctly observed in an address at last April's general conference.

"It was a unique Utah Mormon institution. It began in 1875, when Charles R. Savage, the pioneer photographer, persuaded Presiding Bishop Edward Hunter to declare a day for honoring what we now call senior citizens."

The annual celebration was held in nearly every community in Utah and other areas in the Church, put on by standing stake or ward Old Folks Day committees. The event included travel, entertainment and refreshment provided free to anyone 70 years of age or older, according to a monument that stands near the Temple Square wall on the corner of Main Street and South Temple.

As Elder Oaks noted, the Churchwide committee directing Old Folks Day celebrations was dissolved in 1970, and the responsibility was passed to stake presidents. Many stakes still observe the custom, holding events with such names as "Senior Citizens Day" or "Golden Years Banquet." However, one sister in her 70s commented: "I would much rather be called an old folk' than asenior citizen.' "


Sources universally agree that the roadshow is a unique, LDS institution, although the name and concept undoubtedly are derived from the old theatrical tradition of "getting one's act together and taking it on the road."

The current Theatre Manual published by the Church defines a roadshow as "a miniature musical comedy - usually from 10 to 15 minutes in length, having a story line with a conflict that is resolved at the end. It may be a variety show with central ideas but no story. The central idea is expressed through music, dance and speech. The action is fast moving; the costumes, scenery and lighting are imaginative and creative."

A Roadshow Handbook, published in 1974 but now discontinued, cited reports of roadshows in the Granite, Utah and Ensign stakes in 1924.

The handbook noted: "The first official record of roadshows appears on the YWMIA annual reports for 1927-28; 11 stakes reported holding what they called roadshows. . . .

"Roadshows became an official part of the MIA general board programming during the 1949-50 season. According to Marba Josephson, `the drama committee undertook their direction, making them an integral part of the ward and stake drama program. Presentations of suitable roadshow acts were presented at June conferences to stimulate the local units to better creation and production of these popular acts.' (History of the YWMIA, p. 273.)"

Roadshows today are still produced - part of a variety of theatrical forms that characterize the activities of ward and stakes. Although the tradition is for each ward roadshow to travel from meetinghouse to meetinghouse until all members in a given area have seen each roadshow in the stake, the Theatre Manual includes the option of "stationary" roadshows, presented to a single audience.


After watching the young women of the Church grow in the Young Ladies' Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association (organized in 1869 by Brigham Young), President Young called Junius F. Wells in 1875 to organize societies among the young men "for their mutual improvement. . . . There is your name - the `Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association,' President Young said.

And so a name was born. In 1877, the name of the young women's organization was changed to Young Ladies' National Mutual Improvement Association to coincide with the young men's organization. The organizations were then nicknamed Mutual or MIA. In 1974 the programs were renamed Young Men and Young Women.


But what does M Men stand for? At a June conference in 1922, John A. Widtsoe was introduced as chairman of the newly created M Man Department. He asked those assembled at the conference to guess what the "M" stood for. Many said Mutual Men, Manly Men and Mormon Men. Showing great diplomacy, Elder Widtsoe announced that it stood for all good things that started with the letter M and was not limited to any one meaning.

The origin of the name Gleaner may be a little more obvious, but it still makes an interesting story. Ruth May Fox, serving as first counselor in the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association in 1924, suggested Gleaners be the new name for young women ages 18-23. The name was taken from the story of Ruth in the Bible.

"Gleaners . . . could do no better than to follow in her [Ruth'sT footsteps and glean in the various fields of life, choosing only the best in their gleaning," according to the History of the YWMIA by Marba C. Josephson.

Variations of the names were added for specific groups such as the Master M Man and Golden Gleaner, but both the M Man and Gleaner names met their fate as time went on. Church members of that age are now known as simply the Young Single Adults.


Some Church members may have visions of beehive hairdos as a requirement for young women ages 12 and 13 who are members of the Beehive class. But perhaps Church leaders in 1915 had the right idea when they decided to make the beehive the symbol of the "lively" and "busy" girls.

The Beehive Girls program was organized in 1913 as the sister organization to the Boy Scouts for girls ages 14 to 17. The program began as a summer program of studies, literature, parties and hiking, according to the History of the YWMIA.

The young women began studying the life of the bee and its examples of service. Soon Church leaders wrote the Spirit of the Hive, which was to have faith, seek knowledge, safeguard health, honor womanhood, understand beauty, value work, love truth, taste the sweetness of service and feel joy.

Requirements to achieve three ranks - Builders in the Hive, Gatherers of the Honey and Keepers of the Bees - included knowing the vertical line test for correct posture of the body to knowing the proper use of hot and cold baths.

More advanced requirements included a girl learning to float in the Great Salt Lake, propelling herself 50 feet and getting on her feet unassisted. To match its name, the Beehive girls could meet a requirement by caring successfully for a hive of bees for one season and knowing their habits, according to A Century of Sisterhood, published by the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association.

Although the name Beehive has quite a history in the Church, it can be confusing for new members of the Church and non-members as well.

In the early 1970s, for example, 19-year-old Rossalynn Hill and her older sister, Sherraden, were investigating the Church in Cudahy, Calif. The missionaries had invited the two young women to attend sacrament meeting, which happened to be a fast and testimony meeting.

During the meeting, the young women listened attentively as people rose and expressed their testimonies, and were especially interested in the testimony of one sister in the ward.

The Beehive adviser stood and expressed a deep love for "her Beehives."

"I love my Beehives and enjoy being with them, teaching them and taking them places," she said, emotionally. "We recently loaded the Beehives in my station wagon and went to the beach, where we had a wonderful time. They had so much fun that they didn't want to leave. It was hard to round them up and bring them home, and they were extra noisy during the trip. I'm so thankful for my Beehives. I just love them."

While the sister spoke, Rossalynn leaned over and whispered to a member sitting next to her: "Why would that lady take her beehives to the beach?"

"Because," the member responded, "that's where they wanted to go."

Rossalynn scooted closer to her sister, wondering what the people at the beach would think of this woman, unloading her "swarming beehives."

Both young women later had their misconceptions cleared up and subsequently joined the Church.

Rossalynn Hill Montague now teaches the Mia Maids in the Ogden 27th Ward, Ogden Utah Mt. Ogden Stake, and has taught the Beehives herself - but has never taken them to the beach.

By 1950, the MIA program realigned its age groups into Beehives, 12-13; Mia Maids, 14-15; Junior Gleaners, 16-18; and Gleaners, 19-29. Each age group developed its own requirements and programs.

A major part of the Mia Maid program was the class symbol of the rose. A requirement to achieve a rose pin in the Mia Joy program even included planting a rose.

A special Mia Maid rose was soon developed by a plant breeder from California. The rose, a delicate pink color, was a cross between the Charlotte Armstrong rose and the hardy Signora rose.

But perhaps among the three names, Mia Maid causes the most difficulty today in translation for a worldwide Church, said Jayne B. Malan, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency.

Young women and their leaders have written to the general Young Women offices asking what Mia Maid stands for so they can translate it or at least understand the translation.

A group of members from one country guessed that perhaps the MIA in Mia Maid stood for "many intellectual adults."

The Junior Gleaners name was changed to Laurels in 1959 and was named after the laurel tree with glossy, aromatic leaves. The laurel is a symbol of honor, distinction, and accomplishment, according to the Laurels Manual published in 1971-72 by the Church.


For many years, through much of the 20th century, cottage meetings were used to provide a relaxed, personal setting for teaching the gospel to non-members. Such meetings were typically conducted in the homes of Church members and were a significant part of the missionary effort.

According to the May 1961 issue of the Instructor: "Whether there is only one person or whether there are several persons in the home, a cottage meeting may be held when the missionaries are allowed to give a prayer and a lesson in the home.

"A cottage meeting gives the missionaries an opportunity to come close to the people whom they meet and to help instill within these people a knowledge and love of the gospel. Here the missionaries can bear their testimonies and can call upon the Spirit of the Lord to be in the home of those contacted. Many people have been converted to the Church through the wonderful spirit found in these meetings as they have learned the truths of the gospel."


Early pioneer meetinghouses in the western United States had a variety of expressions, with most being patterned after New England Puritan structures. Buildings typically had steeples and consisted of a single, large room for worship. Many were called tabernacles.

During these early years of the Church, Relief Society halls and other separate buildings, including homes and schools, were used for auxiliary meetings and for social functions.

As time went on, many of the larger 19th century meetinghouses had what was called an amusement hall, according to Form Function Relationships in the Development of LDS Architecture by Ebbie LaVar Davis. The amusement hall was a room perhaps 15 by 30 feet in the basement. It served as a multipurpose room for small meetings, classes and activities. However, these rooms proved too small for the general activity programs of wards and stakes.

The amusement hall eventually had to be expanded to provide for Church activities including sports, dances and drama productions, but there was little opportunity for expansion as long as the hall remained in the basement. The hall was eventually moved out of the basement and made a companion module to the chapel, on ground level. It continued to be enlarged as subsequent buildings were constructed. Stages were added, and basketball standards included. It evolved into a combination auditorium, gymnasium and ballroom, which it resembles in many standard meetinghouses today.

In the early 20th century, the amusement hall become known as the recreation hall, and was eventually given the name cultural hall, which it bears to this day.


Missionaries throughout the world often refer to their sets of scriptures as "sticks," sometimes to the bewilderment of puzzled investigators.

But Ezekiel in the Old Testament, in foretelling the coming forth of the record of Joseph, referred to the stick of Ephraim, and said it would be joined with the stick of Judah and the two records would become one stick in the Lord's hand in the day of the gathering of Israel. (Ezek. 37:15-28.)

"Here then was a symbol," Elder Orson Pratt said, "represented before their eyes in language that could not be misunderstood; it was a symbol of two records; for it is well known that records were kept in ancient times on parchment; rolled upon sticks, the same as we keep our maps at this day. All the prophecies of Jeremiah for many years were written and rolled round a stick, and were called a book; so in Ezekiel these sticks represent two records, one the record of the tribe of Joesph, and the other of Judah." (Journal of Discourses 2:290-291.)

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