One of my favorite language sites is the “Eggcorn database,” a compilation of a certain kind of spelling error in which a word or phrase is transformed into another that sounds the same, but has a different meaning. The name “eggcorn” comes from a misspelling of “acorn,” but the misspelling is logical semantically — an acorn vaguely resembles an egg, and is a seed like corn, so it could well be called an “eggcorn.”
Long time readers here on Motley Vision may remember that I’ve had an ongoing project (you might say neglected project….) to create a list of terms that are Mormon in some way and to define those terms — essentially creating a Mormon dictionary. While I don’t put as much effort into it as I should, I am still committed to it.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this effort is the decision of when a word is Mormon, and in what sense. There are several well-known taxonomies for classifying words (formality–formal, informal, jargon, slang, etc.; part of speech; usage frequency–archaic, rare, etc.; subject area; etc.), but I believe that there may be additional taxonomies that apply when we talk about Mormon words.
Several months ago my 9-year-old daughter joined a large children’s choir here in New York City. The choir is so large that it involves more than 100 children grouped into several age-level divisions–requiring, therefore, no small amount of coordination of the children and parent-volunteers to make sure that children make it to rehearsals and performances and to make sure that the children are dressed as required. As a result, we now get forms and calendars handed to us and in regular mailings, all addressed to my daughter: “Dear Chorister”¦”
William explores the term “enduring to the end” in the context of Mormon life and discusses why there’s a lot in there that has yet to be expressed in narrative art.
The classic ending for a comedy is marriage, for a tragedy is death. Another standard story set up is leaving home on a quest and coming home changed (or finding a new home).
In Mormon fiction, we have some additional milestones (and these aren’t unique, of course, to Mormonism in how they function). We have mission stories (which are also quest stories). We have rite of passage stories: baptism/confirmation, ordination, engagement, marriage, becoming parents. All worth telling.
We also have conversion stories (or deconversion stories) — and I’m speaking of conversions on a major scale here: gaining a testimony or joining the LDS Church (and vice versa).
All of those are fine. But often those stories are the province of childhood through one’s twenties. In some ways, the overall culture of Mormonism has that problem: you get baptized at eight, ordained at 12 (if you are male), go on a mission at 19, take out your endowment (either pre-mission or sometime in your late teens through mid-twenties), marry in the temple sometime between 19 and 26, and have your first child (usually before age 30). So what next? Enduring to the end. Yawn.
What a wretched phrase. First of all, it makes the bulk of life sound pretty lame and boring. Second, it means that once you’ve hit all those other milestones, you’re pretty much done . And third, I’m not sure what it really means — or rather that it means what we hope to mean. I mean, if all we’re doing is enduring, just gritting and hanging on, then I don’t know that we’re really living up to the measure of our creation or magnifying our callings and talents, etc.
I’m thinking a better term would be: progress to the end.
But whether we call it endure or progress (and, of course, it’s both), I think that dealing with how this plays out in the lives of active Latter-day Saints is ripe ground for Mormon narrative art. It’s more difficult to tell these stories — you don’t have the easy hooks of mission or marriage or death. But I think that it’s worthwhile, and it’s an area where we can really help each other understand bits and pieces of the modern Mormon experience.
And, of course, there are Mormon writers who have tackled this part of the journey. But not as many as I would like. Looking at my bookshelf, there are a lot of comedies and tragedies and missions and courtships and deaths and conversions there.
Am I crazy here? What’s your favorite piece of Mormon narrative art that deals with “enduring to the end”? What issues or moments or situations have you been hoping someone would write about?
What do we mean when we use the word exaltation? Is what we mean different than what those who are not Mormon mean when they use this word?
Off and on for the past few years I’ve worked on a kind of dictionary of Mormon Terms (this link is to website where this project is hosted–free registration and login required), an attempt to define the language that is unique to Mormons and those who discuss Mormonism or that is used more often or in different ways by Mormons than others. This includes individual words and phrases, slang and Church-specific terminology–anything that might not be understood well by those outside of Mormon culture.
I plan to post about specific terms from time to time as I come across things that might be of interest, or as I feel the need to give a boost to my own efforts and interest. And perhaps in doing so, I might also persuade others to give a hand to help this effort along. Today I’m posting about exaltation, a word I chose at random from among those not yet defined.
Mormons give the word exaltation a definition that is, at least, more specific than the definition used by others. Our use of the word may even be unique to Mormonism. And, Joseph Smith, in one of his most famous addresses, gave the word a definition that even most Mormons today don’t use.
What will the LDS market look like 20 years from now? Will there even be an LDS market? Will there still be LDS books, music, film and other cultural goods? If they exist, will they simply be sold as part of the national market in the U.S.? What about outside of the U.S.?
As I have gone through the Conference Addresses pulling together references to the books mentioned, I couldn’t help but also look for a few other things, including terms that might become common among Mormons–words and phrases that could be added to Mormon Terms. So I’ve compiled a list of phrases that stood out in the addresses I read.