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7 Gospel Words that Sign Language Makes More Powerful

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Members of the church come from a variety of places and speak a variety of languages, but one group of Latter-day Saints are especially unique because of their signed language. The first Deaf branch of the church was established in Ogden Utah in 1917 under President Joseph F. Smith. And the LDS Deaf community has only grown since then. In fact, temple sessions, general conference, and many church pageants in the United States now offer American Sign Language interpretation in addition to other widely-spoken languages like Spanish. 

Because ASL is a visual language, it is no surprise that signs can convey layers of meaning in a matter of seconds. As you check out the following gospel-related signs, you may be surprised to find your understanding of their English translations become a little more powerful and memorable. 

1. Jesus Christ

The sign for “Jesus” has reference to the crucifixion. Touch one palm with the middle finger of the opposite hand, and do the same for the other palm with the other middle finger. 

To sign “Christ,” use sign for “c” in the ASL alphabet, tapping one shoulder and going down to tap the hip diagonal from the starting shoulder. This sign is very similar to the sign for “king,” which uses a “k” sign instead of a “c” sign.

So when you put the together, the sign for Jesus Christ reminds us that Christ the King was crucified for our sakes.


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2. Redeemer

Another unique sign for a name of the Savior is the one for “Redeemer.” This sign is made by starting with both arms crossed in front of you, both hands in the “r” sign. Arms are then uncrossed and brought straight down at your sides. 

This is an example of a compound sign. The first part of it, uncrossing arms, is the sign for “free,” but uses the “r” sign instead of the “f” sign. The second part of the sign, arms coming straight down with flat palms is the sign for “man.” Which means a rough English translation might be “the Man who frees.”

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3. Devil/Lucifer 

This sign is made by putting your extended thumb and first two fingers of one of your hands near your forehead before bending your index and middle finger twice. This sign is unique because it is the same sign that represents the word “mischievous” or "sneaky," which is a pretty accurate description of Satan.

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4. Revelation

There are two accepted ASL signs for this word. The one with the most significant English interpretation, however, is done by making the “r” sign with both hands and moving them past each other from your head to the space slightly above your head. 

Since signs related to God are usually performed in the space slightly above your head, this sign reminds us that revelation is a personal process of receiving knowledge between God and an individual.

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5. Mission 

Make an “m” sign and circle it over your heart to signify the word "mission." As near as I can tell, this sign is based on the sign for “morals," reminding us of the high standards missionaries have.

Though the sign for "mission" is used across many religions, the same sign using an “e” is more uniquely Mormon and symbolizes the word "elder"—also reminding us of the missionary tags the elders wear.

Mission:

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Elder:

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6. Liahona

When talking about the Liahona, make an “L” sign with both hands. Then, turn the hands sideways on top of each other before making the fingers go first perpendicular and then parallel. 

We know that in the scriptures the Liahona was a compass that the Lord gave to Lehi’s family to help guide them to the Promised Land. The “L” identifies the Liahona, and the moving shapes remind us of the needles on a compass.

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7. Repent

The sign for repentance requires making the “r” sign with both hands. Place the the base of the palms together with one set of fingers forward and the other behind. Then make the fingers switch places, keeping the palms together. 

The base for this sign comes from the sign for “change,” which is done the same way but with curved pointer fingers, reminding the Latter-day Saints that repentance means making a change.

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