One-Minute Answers by Stephen R. Gibson

Contents of One-Minute Answers

Does "Mormon" Mean "Gates of Hell"?

Question: Isn't it true that "Mormon" in Chinese means "Gates of Hell?"

This gross misrepresentation can be heard in The God Makers movie and from anti-Mormons parroting the falsehood which it foisted upon them. Robert W. Blair, professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University, is one of several scholars who have answered that charge. He explained that in the Chinese language foreign words are converted into characters which, when read aloud, more or less approximate the sound of the foreign word. In the case of "Mormon," it is represented by two characters that closely approximate the English pronunciation of "Mormon."

The second symbol used for "Mormon" would mean "gate," "door," or "way" in the pure Chinese. Professor Blair said the same symbol would be used to represent the second syllable of the names Simon, Truman, Naumann, Gohrmun, or Siemen. The first syllable of "Mormon" could have been written with one or two syllables, depending on the emphasis desired for the "R" sound. The two-syllable choice would have placed more of an accent on the R: "Mo(are)Men." Instead, the Church selected a symbol that reflects an "r-less accent" or "Mo-Men" sound.

In selecting a Chinese character to represent the first syllable of Mo-Men, almost any one of about 30 Chinese characters that are read as "Mo" could have been chosen. Let us quote from Professor Blair's research:

The symbol that was actually selected is the character specifically used to represent a like sounding syllable in foreign words. When not used to render a meaningless syllable of a foreign word, this character suggests "smoothing something with the hand." (If one were to take this literal rendering seriously, one could explain Mo-Men as meaning "hand-smoothed Gateway," or "way smoothed by hands." Further, interpolation might suggest that it was the bleeding hands of Jesus Christ that smoothed the way to salvation!)

What the crafty enemies of the Restored Church have done is to pervert the facts in such a way that only those knowing Chinese can see their fraud. From the thirty characters which have the reading Mo, they substituted one which means "devil" (and which is not the character used by the Church) and then propagated the lie that in Chinese the word "Mormon" means "Devil's gate," or "Gateway to Hell."