Mormon Lexicon
© 14 Jan 2013 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
other posts

Three words repurposed by Mormons: Gospel, Testimony, and Prompting.


In any community with a shared interest an internal vocabulary arises. I’ve written before about jargon in general and about the Mormon use of the word “‍atonement‍”. Today I’m adding three more words to my Lexicon of Mormon jargon.


“‍Gospel‍” comes from the old English for “‍good news‍”. Where it is commonly used to mean Christ’s sacrifice, Mormons use “‍the gospel‍” more generally to refer to all timeless revealed truth. I am not clear on when or why this difference of usage arose.


Prior to the 1930s, “‍Testimony‍” was used by Mormons like it was by everyone else: “‍the contents of your proffered witness.‍” But by the 1940s it had shifted to mean “‍those elements of church doctrine to which you may personally bear witness.‍” The current usage also connotes that the knowledge in a testimony came from a spiritual witness (as opposed to reason, experience, or trust in another’s witness). Examples explaining this idea from before the word attained its current meaning can be found in Alma 5:45–46 and this quote (the highlighted paragraph) by Lorenzo Snow.

Testimony is an important concept in LDS teachings and I am unaware of another word for it. “‍Knowledge‍” and “‍belief‍” don’t suggest a spiritual source. “‍Faith‍” doesn’t connote the same level of confidence and has additional meaning of motivating to action that testimony alone does not possess (see, e.g., James 2:18–20). “‍Revelation‍” refers to a single event, not the sum total of many spiritual witnesses, and need not be restricted to “‍gospel‍”.


As used by Mormons, “‍prompting‍” almost always refers to a personal injunction or suggested action from by the Holy Ghost. There is often an implied uncertainty in discussing promptings, an unspoken understanding that they are not always easy to identify or interpret.

Looking for comments…

Loading user comment form…