Is ‘Celestialized’ a Mormon word?

8.28.09 | | 14 comments

While working on a translation of Nephi Anderson‘s Added Upon earlier this week, I came across a passage where he uses the word Celestialized. Of course, I couldn’t find the word listed in my bilingual dictionary, and it occurred to me that this must be a fairly unique word–one that isn’t used very often outside of Mormonism.

Here’s how Anderson uses the term:

“Death is simply the losing of our earthly tabernacles for a time. We will be separated from them, but the promise is that our elder brother will be given power to raise them up again. With them again united we shall become even as our parents are now, eternal, perfected, celestialized beings.”

I did find Celestialize in a few English dictionaries, always with the somewhat ambiguous definition “To make Celestial.” Without going into too much theology, the definition is what made me wonder how “Mormon” the word is—I have the impression that we have a much more rich idea of this concept than other religions. We believe things can and are being made celestial, that many of us will also be celestialized. And I wonder if this doesn’t give the word an additional or perhaps a slightly different meaning for Mormons than simply “To make Celestial.” I suspect that we now use terms like “exhalt” in the places where we would use “celestialize.” As far as I can tell, only Mormons use Celestialized to modify people and planets.

While we never use the word Celestialize these days, Celestialized is still used. The most recent use in lds.org’s Gospel Library is in Robert Millet‘s January 1994 Ensign article The Man Adam. Celestialized does show up regularly in BYU’s index of conference addresses and the Journal of Discourses (which goes back to about 1840) especially in the early Utah period (1859 to 1885) and after 1940.Oddly enough, Anderson’s use of the term apparenttly comes at a time when the term wasn’t being used in General Conference.

I also tried to get a sense for when it was first used (I don’t have access to the OED at home, so I haven’t checked that) by searching Google Books. There, I found about 200 uses prior to 1860, the earliest from 1814. But there were many that were from Mormon-related sources (in the Millennial Star 1850, 1853, 1854, 1858, 1859, and in books by non-Mormons about Mormonism, 1852, 1857, 1858).

So, its clear that the word didn’t come out of Mormonism, but perhaps there is a specific Mormon context or meaning to the word because of our theological views.

I may be making too much of this. Most of my interest is in deciding whether or not to include it as a “Mormon Term” in the Mormon Terms online dictionary, and in the wording of the definition. But even outside of Mormon Terms, I’m fascinated by the use of this term.

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14 comments: “Is ‘Celestialized’ a Mormon word?

  1. Wm Morris

    The OED has: “1826 SOUTHEY in Q. Rev. XXXIII. 390 Celestialized humanity. 1830 Blackw. Mag. XXVIII. 863 Was there ever a face in this world so celestialized by smiles?”

    Southey would be Robert Southey. So the references there are contemporaneous with Joseph Smith.

  2. Kent Larsen Post author

    Thanks, William.

    It is interesting that Google Books actually gives an earlier reference:

    The reasonableness of setting forth the most worthy praise of Almighty God: according to the usage of the primitive church; with historical views of the nature, origin, and progress of metre psalmody by William Smith, 1814

    Both of the references you list from OED are listed on Google Books. So perhaps Google Books is a good source for information on word usage (although I would still want to check OED).

  3. Kent Larsen Post author

    FWIW, the earliest Mormon use I can find is in a Times and Seasons article, Funeral of Caroline Smith (Times and Seasons, v6, #10, p319, June 1, 1845):

    We believe that spirit is as much a substance as the earth on which we move, yet it is of a more refined substance and nature;—so refined that mortal eyes cannot behold; but when our sight becomes celestialized and strengthened, then can we behold spirit as distinctly as we can now behold one another.—

    Caroline Smith was the wife of William Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve (he left the Church soon after this). The quotation comes from the report of Elder Orson Pratt’s funeral address.

  4. Wm Morris

    I have found that Google books brings up too much sometimes, but for something like this, it’s a great resource. Now I’m trying to think of other words we could look up.

  5. Kent Larsen Post author

    You could look at the list of terms on Mormon Terms. Not all of them are all that interesting, but I’ll be more than a few will be.

    How about “Ancient of Days” or “Blood Atonement” or “Center Place of Zion”?

  6. Lee Allred

    Actually, William, I came across one just a couple days ago during a writing session. Not so much a new word as a Mormon-specific definition: “translated” (as in “translated beings.”

    I don’t think we use “translated” quite the way that others do.

    I’d be glad to be wrong in this case; I need to use it in this context but am worried a Gentile (yeesh! Another Mormon-specific defiination) reader might not get the term.

  7. Wm Morris

    Here’s one that’s very Mormon heavy: telestial (715 results).

    Translated is unique but not search friendly — at least not until contextual search is more powerful. Translate being brings up a workable number of hits, however.

  8. Lee Allred

    Thanks, Katherine!

    Using Davies’s OED corpus, this was the sixth hit:

    1387 A.D.
    Higden (Rolls) II. 213 And so schulde ðe body.. be translated and chaunged in ðe blisse of heuene wið oute deienge and deeð.

    Even by Tennessee windage standards, my Middle English is weak at best, but this looks like the right context. If anyone could provide a translation better than my guestimate — “And so should the body be translated and changed in the bliss of heaven without dying and death”??? — I’d appreciate it.

  9. Eugene

    On an episode of Bones–that takes place at a funeral home–Agent Booth decides that talking openly about the investigation would be rude. So instead of saying the victim was “murdered,” they will say he was “translated.”

    Angela Montenegro: Hey, you stole the body?
    Agent Booth: No. No. No. No. We didn’t steal it, you see? We borrowed it. Okay? Cam and Bones think it was translated.
    Angela Montenegro: Uh, what?
    Agent Booth: Translated. It’s code for murder. That’s how we’re saying it today. Translated.

    They keep this gag going for the whole show. It’s so funny from a Mormon perspective I have to believe a Mormon dreamed it up.

  10. Jonathan Langford

    On a more lighthearted note: Has anyone but me encountered “twinkled” (as in, “changed in the twinkling of an eye”)? It may be a coinage of my mother’s…

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