Sorry about that, Japan! – The Dictionary!

Baptism – The ultimate goal of any Mormon missionary. Achieved by carefully teaching impressionable, potential converts about God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Ghost, Joseph Smith, Paying 10% of Their Income to the Church (Tithing), having them swear off Alcohol, Tobacco, Tea, Drugs, Unnecessary Abortion, and having them Repent of all their sins. A this point, assuming the interested party still wants in, the missionary has the great honor of donning a white jumpsuit, filling up a giant bathtub with lukewarm water (built into the local church, no less), and dipping the now-saved soul underwater while reciting a holy incantation.

Interestingly enough, Baptisms are essentially one of the sole measurements of a missionary’s success and status once they return home. Baptising 3 people in Japan or Korea is a fairly respectable amount, but anything less than 10 would probably be looked on with great shame if the missionary had served anywhere in South America, for example.

Book of Mormon – A book that purports to be a second testimony of Jesus Christ, by way of a few lost cultures from the Americas which theoretically descended from ancient Israelites and, back in the day, were believed to be the ancestors of the Native Americans. Copies a few sections wholesale from the New Testament, but otherwise does a rather passing job of imitating holy writ, replete with side-stories, wars, and other interesting threads of narrative stretching more than a thousand years. Tends to overuse the phrase “And it came to pass…”

Companion – The official missionary term for the 24/7 missionary assigned to you, same gender, of which two companions together form a missionary pair. Missionaries are not allowed to be without their companion except when showering or using the bathroom. In other words, the Church would rather not have its missionaries going off and sleeping with the locals (which is a great way to get ex-communicated, btw), and finds that guilt and mutual shame are strong motivators to keep the fires of the Lord’s work burning. Also referred to as Significant Others, Ball-and-Chains, and Doryos (the Japanese word, which sounds just as effeminate as you think it would).

And somehow the Church believes that this structure does not encourage homosexual behavior, which is rather frowned upon by the uptight old guys who run the Church.

Elder – The official title of a male missionary, where a female’s is Sister. For example, if a given missionary named John Smith were serving in Japan, he would be called Elder Smith. Or, in Japanese, Smith-chouro. The literal meaning of which is “old respected person,” which everyday Japanese people probably find quite alarming given the average age (19-21) of a male missionary.

Gaijin – The catchall term for a foreigner in Japan, pronounced: “Guy-jean.” The official word is “gaikokujin” – so this particular word is taken somewhat derogatorily, but ranges in connotation. Some foreigners just can’t stand it that they’ll never actually be Japanese, despite mastering the language and culture, and can quickly get rubbed the wrong way  when they hear it. Missionaries, on the whole, don’t care, and profit off the popularity of Kent Derricott, a famous bit-comedian you’ve never heard of from America whose both famous in Japan and a Mormon himself.

Good News – A.K.A. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which literally means “The Good News of Jesus Christ.” E.g. “Hey, God loves you. Seriously, he loves you. Be nice to each other. It’ll work out.”

Missionary – A volunteer Mormon missionary dedicates 2 years (if male) and 1.5 years (if female) of their lives to serving the Lord by attempting to preach the gospel in a foreign (or at least distant) setting, often having to learn a new language. Missionaries spend all their time working for the Church, with several hours on one day a week dedicated to such necessities as doing laundry (which often is co-opted to doing something fun instead), and even having to work on Sunday. (“Why would you rest from serving the Lord on His day?” Goes the reasoning.)

Missionaries wear formal and specified clothing, have a small allowance (that they, in fact, probably paid for in the first place by giving their missionary money up front to the Church (which is then distributed “equally” amongst all missions)), are known for their upbeat attitudes (despite the soul-crushing weight of their work), tend to be found on bicycles, always travel in pairs (or threes), and generally can’t catch a break. But they’re generally well fed, grazing off the kindness of local church members and attempting to guilt them into helping convert their work friends.

Because hey, it beats knocking on doors.

Temple Garments – also known as magical underwear, undies, or underoo (in Australia and New Zealand), are a token of the sacred covenants a Church member can undergo in the Temple, one of the holiest places in Mormon-dom. They are a token of chastity (worn even after marriage, but taking them off for procreation is heavily encouraged), they’re worn for life, and you can only buy them from the local Mormon provision store (a total racket, btw, but it rakes in the dough!).

Coincidentally, all missionaries are required to go through this process whether they’re ready or not, so it’s a great way to hook them into eternal guilt about never leaving the Church and also keeping them from touching themselves, since you can’t take them off. Unless you need to use the bathroom, but even then the oldschool kind had bottom drawers that you could detach like a baby’s onesie.

Ok ok, you can take them off to shower and procreation within the bounds of your marriage.

And just to be clear, there are two parts: a top and bottom. So no matter what ladies, you’re just not gonna get to wear nice dresses anymore, and guys, you look like you’re wearing undershirts for the rest of your life.

Tracting – the generic term for handing out “tracts” (i.e. pamphlets or literature about the Church) that has evolved into the mind-numbing and nearly futile but famous knocking on of doors, and talking on streets that makes Mormons so scary to approach.


One response

29 12 2010

Thanks for the definition clarifications for all of us non-Mormons!

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