Changing How We Refer to Ourselves

Former and proposed logos for the Church of Jesus Christ choir in the DC Area

This past August, President Nelson asked us to embrace the formal name of the Church. 1

We’ve now had several months to adapt to this change in our individual interactions. With the advent of the Christmas concert season, we’re formally seeing how these changes are being embraced by musical groups that used to include “Mormon” in their titles.

Last night the renamed Washington DC Temple Choir performed for hundreds of dignitaries, including the Ambassador of Paraguay and Elder Holland. Though the website and official logo have yet to reflect the change, the local choir has begun the shift to distance themselves from the “Mormon” moniker which has been used in the past.

I’d be interested to hear of:

  1. New names for groups where “Mormon” used to be part of the name
  2. Instances where you have been pleased with how adaptation to President Nelson’s request has opened dialogue
  3. Situations where you used to use the term “Mormon” and have yet to find a satisfying alternative

Notes:

  1. See the M* post of 8/17/2018, “Christians formerly known as Mormons.”
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

25 thoughts on “Changing How We Refer to Ourselves

  1. The interesting thing I’ve picked up from historians is that the Mormon moniker has really only been retained by “Brighamites” or Mountain Saints and those who are culturally involved in that tradition. So “Mormon” as a nickname only referred to a segment (albeit the most populous) of those who honor Joseph Smith as a founder of the restored gospel of Christ.

    FairMormon is one of those “use cases” where abandonment of the term “Mormon” is significantly problematic. One question would be the new name by which they would wish to describe themselves and their mission. Even were they to find a new name, it would take an extended period of time to make the shift.

    For example, look at how long it has taken the RLDS Church to make the shift to Community of Christ. Even now, Lachlan Mackay told me the legal name remains The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint (RLDS), though they are doing business as (dba) COC.

  2. Interesting, the FairMormon website explains that The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, Inc., or FAIR, was established in 1997 and they didn’t adopt the name FairMormon until 2013. So it seems odd that five years of having a name would seem so difficult to change.

    As for me, I’ve enjoyed having the chance to explain that we’ve been asked to step away from the moniker “Mormon,” because apparently most people I talk to didn’t know the name of the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ (I usually stop there).

  3. I’ve found that when in normal conversation with non- members of the church of jesus christ of latter day saints, I’ve dropped speaking of the church entirely. Because to use mormon would be wrong, but to go into a long explanation about what I’m talking about would also be wrong/ mildly rude, when the point of the conversation is something else entirely. The whole thing feels just completely awkward and since I’m socially awkward anyway, I’ve given up.

  4. So, Lehcarjt, what would you have said back in the days before August that you can’t say now?

  5. Oh it’s usually something simple. Like trying to coordinate drop offs after a kid event. In giving driving directions, I might say, “She lives in the neighborhood by the Mormon Church.” Most people in my town would know exactly where that is. If i said the full name of the church, I’d then have to go into an explanation of what i meant and why I was (randomly to them) complicating the name of a well known institution of our town. When all they really wanted to know was whether or not the kid in need of a ride was on their route and thus why was it so difficult to give a simple answer that provides the info they need. (This actually happened. Way easier to just give the street name. )

  6. President Nelson did not say we should no longer refer to ourselves as Mormons. He did say that when referring to the name of the Church—we should say the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—not “LDS Church, Mormon Church, or Church of the Latter-day Saints.” The title of his talk in the 2018 Nov Ensign is “The Correct Name of the Church.” Mormon is not a forbidden word, never to be used anymore when referring to ourselves individually. It is a beloved and cherished word to us. Indeed my Webster Dictionary defines Mormon as “a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

  7. I find myself opting to not say anything because it is too long in the conversations I want to have if I’m trying to quickly give information. I would have used LDS or Mormon before.
    When speaking to members, I can substitute “church members.” “None of my son’s friends are members of the church.” But sometimes I forget and for instance would like to plan a get together for the Mormon kids at our high school that are in 3 wards but 2 different stakes so they don’t know each other. 4 years ago it was easy to call them “Jackson High LDS Familes” but I don’t relish writing an invitation for “Jackson High Families who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
    I am mad at Christians for having that. Can’t we use Jesusians?

  8. I just call myself Christian. Nothing about mainline Christianity breaks if you casually add restored doctrines regarding broad topics. The Atonement is still the Atonement. Charity is still charity. Ministry is actually even easier, because it’s a widely familiar word already. Most mainline Christians know so little about what passes for their doctrinal stances that restored doctrine just makes intuitive sense when it’s not prefaced by “Mormons believe” and it’s just presented as obvious Christianity. Which it is. 🙂

  9. One small change, but possibly more significant than I had thought, is using the term ” former members of the Church” instead of the somewhat dismissive ex-Mormon or even more derisive exmo.

  10. I would suggest using “LDS Christian” or “Christian (LDS)” for the two use cases cited above. It’s worth a conversation to explain the shift.

    So here is the proposed conversation for the use case where “Mormon church“ was previously used:

    “She lives over by the church on [street name].”

    “Oh you mean the Mormon church?”

    “Actually they’ve been asked to not use the Mormon term anymore, because it’s the Church of Jesus Christ.”

    “Oh.”

  11. Yeah, that’s the exact awkward conversation that felt somewhat rude when I tried it. As if I were hijacking a conversation about kid-rides to push my church. But again, I am not particularly good at these things, so it may work just fine for others.

    ‘Christian’ has such an ugly connotation for me (and well deserved in my area, and so linked with some really obnoxious, pushy evangelicals) that I would never use it. Which is sad, because it’s a great word. Totally poisoned though.

  12. @Meg Stout: It is really interesting that, with such an easy fall back that doesn’t use “Mormon”, they don’t just change their name back to FAIR. Perhaps it reflects that FAIR without other modifier could apply to any religious group or any subset of a religious group. Without the Mormon modifier, they could be doing pro-Baptist apologetics, or pro-Catholic apologetics, or pro-Islam apologetics. With the Mormon modifier, it is pretty clear that FAIRMormon is doing pro-Mormon — pro-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — apologetics.

    I think this is an interesting criticism I have seen of some of these name changes — like the one in the OP. With the logo, it’s probably still clear, because the architecture of the D.C. temple is so unique that it should still be clear that we are talking about a choir associated with the LDS temple. Without the logo, it could be unclear exactly which temple this choir represents. I don’t know how my search engine “personalizes” my results, but an internet search for “temples near washington dc” returned first a Jewish temple, second a list of Hindu temples, and the LDS temple was listed third. How many of our attempts to drop Mormon from our self-references are going to make it more difficult to connect individuals and institutions to the Church?
    @custer: Maybe that is part of the confusion here — whether or not Pres. Nelson’s counsel applies to us as individuals and unofficial groups loosely associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It seems that many have taken his counsel as a desire to strike Mormon from the vocabulary. Sites like mormonhub changed their name. If his counsel is really intended for a narrow “official Church organizations only”, then there are a lot of us overzealously looking beyond his mark.

  13. To restate the conversation

    “She lives over by the church on [street name].”

    [note that you haven’t had to use “Christian” and this response allows further discussion if the other person wishes, but does not demand additional discussion.]

    “Oh you mean the Mormon church?”

    [This is the other person opening the door to more discussion.]

    “Actually they’ve been asked to not use the Mormon term anymore.”

    [Here you are using “they” because it’s the Church asking the world to step back from the Mormon term. You’re putting yourself in the same population as the person with whom you are conversing.]

    “”What’s the new name?”

    [This is the other person engaging in conversation.]

    “It’s the Church of Jesus Christ.”

    [Short and concise, given that they’ve asked.]

    “Oh.”

    [If they continue the conversation, that’s at their initiative.]

  14. The iconic Mormon Helping Hands. Well, iconic especially for those living on the Gulf and eastern coasts of the US.

    EVERYONE knows those yellow shirts indicate polite, hard-working volunteers will come to your aid.

    I know the Church has looked at the enormity of it all and is probably assessing which changes can be made in the next 3-6 months and which ones will take longer.

    Seriously think about this – the Church has over 400 social media accounts worldwide (language specific). FOUR HUNDRED potentially new social media account names and ip addresses (in a multitude of languages). I gladly wait patiently for the changes and pray for those who work in the media departments!

  15. How does the name change of the DC choir reflect the church’s proper name per Nelson’s instructions? How does it reflect the place of Jesus Christ in the church (or does it?)? What has this name change actually accomplished? Does the name change have any effect on anyone at all other than the members who are burdened with making this make sense to themselves and others?

  16. Well, it moves away from the Mormon moniker (check) and points to the temple, which is the unique symbol of the restored gospel.

    This was informed by the new name of the former Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is now the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

  17. If in the middle of a fast-paced interchange one can think through how to carefully craft language to avoid Mormon and work in Jesus Christ in a natural way, I say go for it. It’s a skill I lack, which I know from many years of trying to pre-plan conversations that never go as planned.

  18. I’ve had the benefit of decades of avoiding Church lingo in favor of generic Christian terminology:

    Congregation in lieu of ward
    Children’s ministry in lieu of Primary
    Youth ministry in lieu of YW/YM or MIA
    Women’s ministry (though Relief Society is also cool).

    At any rate, the most recent ask builds on a core of capability for me.

  19. I’m much the same. The prelude language-shift, “Ministry,” is what makes the big move away from “Mormon” not just possible, but totally doable.

  20. To custer and ji,

    I think you are not quite correct to infer that President Nelson did not request that we minimize use of the term Mormon. On the other hand, it isn’t as though we were presented a concise term to replace “Mormon,” given that “LDS” as a stand-alone moniker is also being discouraged.

  21. Well, you deep-sixed my comment, indicating that you had no answers. Although I didn’t learn what the answers to the concerns I raised were, I certainly did learn something: the stuff that doesn’t have an apologist’s answer simply isn’t permitted to come up.

    I will read all future discussion with that in mind when everything seemingly — seemingly being the key word — gets tied up in neat little bows. Henceforth, I will simply have to imagine how many topics have how many concerns also deep-sixed.

  22. I see I also missed a comment or two.

    To the discussion that Mormon was a specific term, where temple or saint is not, I will mention that in the DC Interfaith community, the symbol for the Church has been the temple.

    Tangent. I like to obtain urls when I have projects in mind. I’ve been wanting to create a site where people could post stories related to their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. Something like StoryCorps but focused on members of the Church.

    I originally decided that MormonStory was the best option, even though it was too close to John Dehlin’s MormonStories name. After reading President Nelson’s comments in August, I realized that the new best option would be SaintStory.

    I like that SaintStory would allow for stories from all three of the major Church of Jesus Christ variants (Mountain Saints, or LDS; Prairie Saints, or CoC/RLDS, and Sylvan Saints, or Bickertonites). Also, SaintStory doesn’t seem as likely to collect angry stories from those who have distanced themselves from belief. It’s one thing to call oneself an ex-Mormon. It’s another thing to proclaim oneself an ex-Saint.

    Alas, this project is on the back burner. But it is an instance of where I’ve found value in the ask to distance ourselves from the term Mormon.

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