Images of Hate - Ministers of Fear
DOES 'MORMON' MEAN
'GATES OF HELL'
In which Lori MacGregore once more
exposes her linguistic ignorance, or
'Any Lie Will Do!'
Lorri MacGregor makes the claim that "Mormon" in Chinese means "the Gates of Hell, and that is why they do not make many converts in China!"
Helen Hughes former lecturer in the Staff Training Centre of the Baotou Iron and Steel Company Baotou, Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China, was asked whether MacGregor's interpretation of "Mormon" was correct, or whether it was another case of careless scholarship being hawked in an attempt to injure the Latter-day Saint Church. In a letter dated 6 December 1993 Hughes addressed the question.
About "Mormon" in Chinese:
Foreign names are given rough phonetic equivalents in Chinese characters (which of course are not phonetic but pictographic, simplistically speaking). So the "meaning" is arbitrary. However, Chinese does not have many actual sounds, even with four tones, and there are many more homonymns than in English.
The advantage of a pictographic script is that you can distinguish between words with the same sound but a different meaning. (We do this to an extent with English e.g. bear, bare; but Chinese is not limited by alphabet, there can be any number of character with the same sound).
"Mormon" is rendered as "mómén". The character for "mén" is , which means "door" or "gate" or "entrance." My dictionary has nine characters corresponding to mó. One of them is , which means "evil spirit" or "demon." This is not the character used in "mómén" Mormon, however. The one used is , which means either 'touch'; 'scrape'; 'rub'; alternatively 'mull over'; or 'study'.
(Most Chinese characters have a "phonetic" and a "meaning" element. Here the part that is similar in both will be in the "phonetic" element: , and the other part, and respectively, will be the "meaning" bit).
So you see MacGregor's statement is as much tripe as the other linguistic nonsense she mentions relative to the Hebrew phonetic meaning of "peh leh el." Even though the meaning of the translated name is arbitrary to an extent, I'm sure translators take care not to choose a character that would have an adverse association."
Unfortunately, I do not have access to representative Chinese characters, so cannot fill in the blanks, as Helen did in her letter.