Christians formerly known as Mormons

President Nelson thrilled many of us with the sweeping changes announced last April.

In that vein, President Nelson has announced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will move away from the term “Mormon” and “LDS” to describe the Church and adherents of the Church. Apparently this shift was announced to leadership a few weeks ago, and the full import of the shift will be announced in months to come. I expect we will hear more in October conference.

It will be interesting to see where this goes in coming months. Given that people are lazy, I doubt that our new manner of referring to ourselves will be long. Perhaps it will be as simple as referring to ourselves as Christians. In which case, we would come to see ourselves as engaged in Christian ministry.

In the past the Church has attempted to move away from the moniker “Mormon.” There are a couple of factors that suggest this attempt may be more successful:

  1. This is a change that is coming from the prophet directly, couched as revelation.
  2. This change is occurring in the midst of other significant terminology changes.

An amusing fall-out, mentioned by someone tongue-in-cheek, is that this makes all former Mormons now “ex-Mormons.” The line that has previously excluded the disaffected has now been drawn around the entire population of those who ever considered themselves Mormon.

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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.

27 thoughts on “Christians formerly known as Mormons

  1. While I fully support our prophet I also doubt that the term “Latter-day saints” sounds in any way better to non-members than the term “Mormons”. It might indeed even sound more “cult like” than Mormons.

    LDS is an abbreviation that most non-members are not familiar with. It is my impression that this term has mostly been used within the church and not necessarily so much outside of it. But yes, it is certainly a very good idea to get rid of it for good.

    As set forth in the updated style guide the term “Church of Jesus Christ” is also a preferred reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is encouraged to use this term. I personally like this a lot. We are after all HIS church, the church of Jesus Christ.

  2. I just thought it was funny (ironic?) that I saw the announcement on the church’s “Mormon Newsroom” Instagram account. So they’ll have to rename that, I guess!

  3. Yes I fully support the Prophet in this and have tried myself to limit the use of Mormon. Whenever I have identified myself it has been the term “Latter-day Saint” and only “Mormon” for clarification. Not only that but I have always called it the “LDS Church” for non-LDS audience (although I almost posted non-Mormons) and “The Church” for insider discussions.

    Still, I don’t think these changes will work. It isn’t a new idea since first declared in a similar form by Pres. Hinckley, and others after. The same problems will persist. The length of the name isn’t easily usable past the first mention. Non-members will persist in using the nickname “Mormon” with no repercussions for easier reference. Those who don’t believe will never use “The Church” or especially “The Church of Jesus Christ” for obvious theological and identification reasons. Even someone like myself who would love to find a way to follow more exactly the counsel have at the least grammatical concerns with its consistent usage. I will have to see what the extended changes are for more guidance.

  4. The path to the Newsroom on the Church”s website is now as follows:
    – Inspiration and News
    – Stay Informed
    – OFFICIAL Newsroom
    and the top of the page simply has
    “Newsroom”

  5. In that vein, the list linked above includes truthrestored.org, which currently is mormon.org content.

    Maybe we’ll see a full renaming there?

    The Lord’s Tabernacle Choir? Lotab?
    The Gospel Tabernacle Choir? Gotab?

  6. I do not understand the meaning of this sentence: “Given that people are lazy, I doubt that our new manner of referring to ourselves will be long.”

  7. It’s doubtful the external world will accept it in any reasonable time-frame, if ever. In the short term this is probably aimed mostly at the active members. The point would be to emphasize that we are fellowship of believers, not a newly forming ethnicity or a cultural association.
    Otherwise, maybe, it will soften other denominations towards us and increase cooperation with them. In any case its best not to give offense if you can avoid it.

  8. I am fine with using the proper name of the Church wherever appropriate. However, I think it is a poor decision to wholly abandon our claim to the word “Mormon” — that will leave others in sole possession, and I think that will work against us.

  9. I’ll make a case why it’s not a poor decision to move away from Mormon as much as possible.

    I’ll make a comparison to the much hated (rightly so) n-word. The scale of abuses against members of our church does not compare, but there is some similarity in the historical social acceptance of the word.

    My assumption is that the n-word is connected to Spanish/Latin for “black”. It was commonly applied, even self applied for generations, sometimes even now with an element of pride. But by and large it’s regarded now as a word which while descriptive quickly became an epithet designed to other-ize and set a whole class of people apart. The word was intended not just to describe but to put people in their place.

    Now how much do we understand our own culture when we are in the midst of it? How much can we see that the above concepts apply in principle to Mormons.

    Yes, we tried to make lemons out of lemonade for years. But where does that get us? Right exactly where those who used the word originally intended — other izing us.

    To call us the Church of Jesus Christ would make plainly clear who we worship. But by obscuring his name from references to us makes it all to easy to reject us as Christians. We are easier to make different, in a bad way calling us Mormons and rejecting the name of our church and faith.

    Now, I do not claim this is the intent of every use of the word Mormon. But the intent doesn’t matter when the consequences are what they are.

    We owe it to our descendants to try our best to stamp out the use of the word as far as I’m concerned. We all used it. All self applied it. We all adopted that false consciousness of the hegemonic culture that rejected us and in many ways still wants to reject us.

    Society is very rapidly using post modern constructionist tools to exclude us — we ought to recognize that the sword cuts both ways and use their own tools to carve out a space for us which allows us to define our own concepts of existence.

    After all, it was the progressives that enshrined into the law the idea, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence.”

    Personally, I wouldn’t normally adopt such a position as this comment, but as the Lord has brought our Church’s name to the attention of multiple authorities over the years. We owe it to them and ourselves to try our best to make it clear how inappropriate it is to refer to us at Mormons.

  10. Ce – that’s an interesting way to think about it, but I don’t know that it actually applies to anyone who isn’t Mormon. Most non-mormons have no idea of the history and because we’ve been so back and forth in our usage, think that mormon is what we want to be called because it’s a positive thing. (I’m thinking specifically of the I am a mormon campaign) And with our scripture being called The Book of Mormon, I don’t know that we want to demonize the word the way that was done with the descriptor for black Americans.

    My friends know Mormons as the people who have specific lifestyle standards, show up in emergencies, do a lot of community service, and volunteer in all the youth Community programs and at the school.

    Negative connotations of Mormon where I live are not historical, or at least not historical going back very far. The polygamy thing has become a joke more than a negativity . True negative views have to do with seeing the church as anti-gay and homophobic. I don’t think changing the name we are known under changes that as we’re not changing any of our stances on homosexuality.

    I’m a bit iffy on the name change affecting whether or not people see us as Christians. In the literature I’ve read from anti Mormons, I don’t know that I’ve ever run into anyone seriously complaining about the name being the problem. We are considered nonChristian because we understand Christ in a way that other church find unacceptable.

    I don’t feel strongly about the name change oneway or the other, although my personal identity is Mormon and changing that to being a member of TCOJCOLDS feels like a loss of something internal to myself. For me self-identity and group identity are different. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and what is said at conference.

  11. I agree with waiting until General Conference to see how this is framed.

    As for prior attempts to distance ourselves from the nickname, everyone knows that in any good story, success doesn’t occur for the first attempt. Just as the attempt on the part of leadership to rescind the policy regarding priesthood restrictions couldn’t be rescinded without significant preparation and effort.

    If the Church were to go for use of “Christian” as a major part of the new terminology, it will be interesting to see how other world religions respond. I suspect it will quickly highlight which benighted backwaters retain the bigotry that was documented during Mitt Romney’s presidential bids.

  12. I predict* that the subtitle to the Book of Mormon — Another Testament of Jesus Christ — will be printed as the supertitle, or whatever you call it, giving the Lord “top billing” on the cover of the missionary editions of the BoM.

    This idea has been occurring to me for several years. Now it seems to be well within the scope of Pres Nelson’s goal of giving the Savior precedence/”top-billing” over “Mormon.”

    I’m confident that Mormon himself (ie., Moroni’s dad) won’t mind giving the Lord top billing on the book cover.

    You heard it here first.

    *This is not a prophecy, I’m just playing “Yankee guesser.”

  13. Meg wrote:
    “If the Church were to go for use of “Christian” as a major part of the new terminology, it will be interesting to see how other world religions respond. I suspect it will quickly highlight which benighted backwaters retain the bigotry that was documented during Mitt Romney’s presidential bids.”

    Brigham Young said the church needs a little persecution, or we get too lazy.

  14. “mormon is what we want to be called because it’s a positive thing. (I’m thinking specifically of the I am a mormon campaign)”

    Plenty of African descendants called themselves with pride by various nwords in the past (and some small minority now) that are beyond the pale now. They took a word applied by a biased and hegemonic culture and self applied it part ignorance — ignorance of the detrimental effect that it’s continuing use would further marginalize future generations. Our use of the word Mormon, tracks somewhat similarly (obvious differences as well).

  15. “with our scripture being called The Book of Mormon, I don’t know that we want to demonize the word the way that was done with the descriptor for black Americans”

    By many persecutors in our past it was exactly the books name that served as the description for our demonization.

    Similarly for our use even of the word black. We are uncomfortable with it. Look up the spanish word for black. I’m sure a very similar argument could be used for why we shouldn’t stop using a variation of the n-word.

    The book is the book. Not the people. Seeking to define is by the book is the point. We are actually committed to Christ and love our lives in his name. Yet the world (and as the Lord points out, we mistakenly) wants to define us not by our commitment to Christ but by a book which they reject as a deceptive fraud.

  16. I for one like the new direction, I feel it makes us and others take things more seriously. The term “Mormon” can be flung around for both good and bad by both friends and foe. But when it comes to using the name of the Savior things suddenly get a lot more serious.

    P.S. Bookslinger, I like the thought of putting “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” maybe above the title of the Book of Mormon. But is it only me that thinks it should say “An Additional Testament of Jesus Christ”?

    Some can say we don’t believe in the Old and New Testament because we have “another” testament.

  17. We spent some time on this in our Teacher Councils yesterday, and there was general agreement that if Mormon were around today he’d probably be the first to object to people calling themselves members of “his” church. Based on the actual writings of Mormon (as opposed to the large abridgements in the Book), I have a suspicion that Mormon himself might even speak against such a practice with … intensity.

  18. I would be quite happy for “Latter-day Christian” and “Latter-day Christianity” to replace “mormon” and “mormonism”, respectively. (And I wouldn’t have any trouble with “Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir”, either.)

  19. If we’re making book on this, my money is on fresh emphasis on the word “restored”.

  20. After serving a four year mission to the Hawaiian Islands, young Joseph F. Smith, while returning home on foot after he reached San Francisco—-was confronted by an armed, angry man who declared that “it was his duty to exterminate every Mormon.” He pointed his pistol at Joseph F. Smith and asked, “Are you a Mormon?”

    Without hesitation, Joseph F. Smith replied, “Yes siree, dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through!”

  21. Custer: McConkie’s rejoinder, I admit, comes under the heading “that was then, and this is now”, but the principle he invokes is applicable to all changes in doctrine or policy, whether it be polygamy, come-to-Zion-vs-stay-where-you-are, blacks and priesthood, 3 year vs 2 year vs 1.5 year vs 2 year missions, 19 vs 18 year old missionaries, no-gentiles vs gentiles (Peter’s vision), Law of Moses versus higher law, Saturday sabbath vs Sunday sabbath, go to Kirtland vs go to Missouri vs go to Nauvoo vs go to Utah, whatever.

    “And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

    We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.”

    https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/bruce-r-mcconkie_alike-unto-god-2/

  22. Bookslinger: It appears that we must agree to disagree on this subject. I interpret the recent announcement by Pres. Nelson differently than you. There is some confusion, and even division on this issue. Hopefully, there will be clarification at October Conference. In the meantime, I believe we should be patient with each other, and not point fingers at those who some think are not following the Prophet.

  23. custer, sorry. McConkie said it a tad stronger than I would have worded it. I wanted to illustrate a quick and 180 degree reversal. And you’re right, we need even further instruction/details on what it all means, etc. It may end up being a major shift in terminology, or may not. It may be quick, or slow.

  24. Bookslinger: Thanks. I certainly concur with Elder McConkie—I just don’t know if his instruction is applicable to this particular situation. We will find out.

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