So – help me follow the prophet here.

This is not to complain, just asking for help from the M* audience.  How do I avoid “Mormon” without being super clunky?

For example, in the past, I have published two article on the TV Show Battlestar Galactica.  One was titled “Why Your Mormon Neighbor Knows More About This Show Than You Do” and the other was “Epistemology and Ontology in BSG and Mormonism.”

Now, “Why Your Neighbor who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Knows More about this show than you do” is waaaaaaaaaaaaay to clunky of a a name.  Even saying “Latter-day Saint Neighbor” is a bit too much, and it doesn’t include the name of the savior.

“Latter-day Saint theology” would also avoid the name of the savior, but “Epistemology and Ontology in BSG and the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is also far too long and clunky.  It makes for a terrible title, especially on an academic conference program (one reason I’m not sure about Pres. Nelson’s optimism that the media will come along – “Mormon” is just too short and concise when it comes to headlines – sort of like how “Catholic” would probably stay the default even if the Pope started insisting on  “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” as the default).

Anyway, I’m at a loss, but if anyone has suggestions, I would like to hear them.

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About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was over 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has six kids and four stepkids.

26 thoughts on “So – help me follow the prophet here.

  1. I’ve long used the term “Latter-day Saint Christian” to define myself as a follower of Christ AND as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s still kind of clunky, but a bit shorter.

  2. But DeeAnn, that Omits Jesus Christ, which I thought was kind of the point. I’m not disagreeing with you, just wondering If I missed the point!

  3. I wouldn’t worry about substance of the message as to who we are and represent over form. The substance must include the name of Jesus Christ and that is what our Prophet most likely meant when he stated that is name of Jesus Christ is “everything” or the substance of our message to others.
    Fred

  4. I am with Chuck, we need to embrace the clunk. I actually introduce myself as a non-trinitarian Christian when I want to stir the pot.

  5. May I take a flying leap at this? I also agree we are going to have to “embrace the clunky,” meaning use the full name in our references. I also agree that it IS clunky, and many news outlets and non-members are going to scoff and smirk at our “pedantic” efforts to be what they will think of as overly (and fussily) precise. But is that not the point? Is President Nelson not sharing with us the desire of the Savior that we actually become the peculiar people we supposedly are by identifying that distinct peculiarity in our name? I do not use the term “peculiar” to suggest “condescending” or “arrogant” or any other term that suggests we think we are superior to anyone else. I use it only to suggest a people who has become peculiar because they choose to take the Lord at His word, enlist under His banner and follow his cause, whether doing so leads to rejection and ridicule or not. (Even if it leads to mutual respect and understanding!) This clunky, awkward, lengthy name doesn’t trip off the tongue neatly, it often trips up the tongue, especially when we are in the midst of an informal conversation or exchange that is going along swimmingly and would lend itself to verbal shorthand. But certainly, if we are going to be witnesses for Christ in all things, we ought to be able to start with the name of His church. This is just as hard for me to retrain my head and tongue around as for you, but I see the wisdom in it. If WE require of ourselves the right reference to our church and begin, with politeness, patience, humor but firmness to require it of others, the point will slowly begin to seep down into the general consciousness of those around us that something more spiritually alive, more responsive, more “awake” is going on. Of course, we can all fall back on our old habits of shorthanding our “Mormon references,” but then how can we look the Savior in the eye? If we are too lazy to retrain ourselves to this higher level of discourse, perhaps we’d better look ourselves in the eye and ask when our testimonies of the truth turned into tepid pablum — nothing hard to digest; don’t give the world any grey hairs concerning what those “Mormons” are up to, because they aren’t really up to much. I think President Nelson wants us to surprise the world and surprise ourselves by readjusting our perspective and then our daily habits in referring to the church. So! If someone says “Are you a Mormon?” we could say “You know, that’s kind of misleading. I’ll be happy to tell you where the name comes from, but it’s a personal name, not the church name. If you are referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yup, I’m a member. A committed member. A believing member.” (Too long? Sure! but it corrects a misconception, opens up a dialogue and doesn’t stomp on the other party for using the nickname.) And if somebody happens to simply refer to somebody in the church, such as “Oh, yes — I knew him in high school and he was LDS even then,” you could take a moment to say “You know, there’s a reason we aren’t using just the initials anymore,” and then go on to explain if they let you. WE have to be the ones to decide that “clunky” is both creative and courageous and that we are going to abide this course correction and use it to draw closer to the Savior by our honest efforts, instead of worrying about whether non-members or news media or skeptics are going to look down on us. The fullness of the gospel is here, back on earth. Let’s be wonderfully trite, put our shoulders to the wheel, and get going!

  6. “Why Your Fellow Christian Saints Know More About This Show Than You Do.” Too far off the mark or ambiguous?

    “Epistemology and Ontology in BSG and the Restored Church of Jesus Christ.” With scientific words like Epistemology and Ontology, not going to be a catchy title anyway…!

  7. “Fellow Christian Saints” is too ambiguous, since it’s the “Mormon” elements that really make the first iteration of Battlestar Galactica unique. “Restored Church of Jesus Christ” is fine as a second reference after the full name of the Church, but in a title, it’s just going to confuse people.

    The real problem for me is publishing. When writing essays for non-CoJCoLDS people, clunky, confusing, and/or ambiguous titles will make it hard to not only get published (I’m pretty sure the editors will insist on something more concise, clear, and easy to get for the audience), but for the audience to even get. On a symposium program, their eyes will drift to other, punchier titles. In a book, it will likely cause many to skip the essay (if it has a clunky title, it suggests a clunky essay).

  8. Black is less clunky and frequently more accurate than African American, but African American is often used. Native American is now the preferred term instead of Indian.

    Yes it’s only two words. How about LGBTQ and now LGBTTQQIAAP. Clearly you’re not using the latter.

    Just give it a go. “Epistemology and Ontology in BSG and the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” only loses its punch because we have a shorthand word that people use to otherize us into a curiosity. The official name sounds holy and religious. Who wants to read about Jesus theology? The Mormon name sounds curious and click baity. Bring on the magic underwear!

  9. Does anyone have a problem with using “Mormon” when referring to cultural and historical topics not linked directly with the Church itself? For instance, the use of “Mormon” in the titles of organizations like the “Mormon Historical Association” or the “Association for Mormon Letters”?

  10. In the spirit of D&C 107:3-4, and 63:61, we need to still exercise reverence and not become flippant in saying His name.

  11. The challenge I see is letter count. I’ve written several articles where the editors have given me only so many letters for the title. The name of the church alone takes too many characters to meet the specifications, let alone referring to the topic I’m trying to address. (Full disclosure, I’ve never actually written about the church but have run into the problem in other areas. ) I think those that are saying to go with the clunky haven’t worked with stickler editors. Go with the clunky only works of you are 100% in control of the medium yourself. It’s a bit of a conundrum.

  12. I’m seeing a LOT of misunderstanding of President Nelson’s invitations. It’s everywhere. According to the updated style guide published by the Church in response to President Nelson’s invitation, it’s perfectly fine to use “Latter-day Saint” when referring to members of the Church.

    For example, “Why your Latter-day Saint neighbor …” is a perfectly acceptable way to talk about it. I think that “Latter-day Saint theology” is probably acceptable, but “Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ” might be preferable in some contexts. Here’s how I might write your title: “Epistemology and Ontology in BSG and Latter-day Saint worldviews.” Or, “How Battlestar Galactica and the Restored Gospel Adopt a Shared Epistemology and Ontology.”

    At Latter-day Saint Philosopher, I have occasion to deal with this a lot. Now I say things like, “How philosophies of the world converge and diverge with the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ…” or, “One key aspect of worldviews adopted by Latter-day Saints is…”, or “Latter-day Saint belief and practice requires us to…” or “The Restored Gospel invites us to reconsider…” These are all contexts where I might formerly have used “Mormon.” I actually think the result is better.

    On a related note, a number of people — here and elsewhere — are under the presumption that the name of Christ must be included EVERYWHERE. Facebook groups are on fire with people people insisting the name of Christ be included in their group name, lest God be offended at the omission. “Latter-day Saints United” Facebook group is under fire by participants for not including Christ, and by not including Christ, Satan scores a victory.

    This is a misunderstanding. President Nelson said that God is offended when Christ’s name is left out of the name of the CHURCH. Not the name of every ancillary group remotely related to the Church or formed by Church members. In fact, God might be offended if Christ’s name were attached to every “LDS Conservatives”, “LDS Liberals”, or “LDS Libertarian” group imaginable, considering the kind of discourse that often goes on therein.

    “Latter-day Saints” is a perfectly acceptable usage, per President Nelson and the style guide. In fact, the style guide even states that the name of Christ be used when talking about the *Church*, not necessarily members or related things. It’s the *Church* that we need to refer to by its name. The style guide further clarifies that in colloquial and personal use, we should expect some give in the matter. I expect a clarification on that front soon enough, as the misunderstandings continue.

  13. Be clunky the first time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and then refer to it as The Church…

  14. The style guide says “Latter-day Saints” is acceptable for members of the Church, so actually “your Latter-day Saint neighbor” in the title isn’t all that clunky. Not quite as elegant, but it works well enough.

    “Be clunky the first time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and then refer to it as The Church…”

    That’s fine for the body of an essay (as long as it’s only about The Church and doesn’t discuss other churches), but not for a title. As Lehcarjt noted, we have editors to work with and often space limitations. Not to mention that the audience’s attention is your most valuable resource when writing, and while readers will often allow for some small clunkiness in the main essay if there’s a good reason, clunkiness in titles and section headers is death to attention.

  15. “Facebook groups are on fire with people people insisting the name of Christ be included in their group name, lest God be offended at the omission. ”

    That one bugs me. For example, “Memes for Mormons” had nice alliteration. “LDS Memes” or “Latter-day memes” or “Memes for Latter-day Saints” would be acceptable, but instead to avoid the attacks for “more faithful than thou” types, they went with “Memes for Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” which is too long of a name for a fb page, really. (“Memes for Members” would be too ambiguous and open to weird interpretations).

  16. “Memes for Latter-day Saints” would have been perfect. No need to confuse people by making 90% of the group name the same as the Church’s name.

  17. When asked, “what are you?” my recent responses are:

    I’m Christian.
    I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    Throughout modern scripture members of the Church are universally referred to as saints, think of how D&C 89 talks of “the weak and weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”

    Memes for Saints works for me. It’s even shorter than Memes for Mormons.

    Music groups formerly known as Mormon Choir/Chorale/Orchestra of [Place] are thinking about what they should call themselves, now that Conference discussions have clarified that retaining the Mormon moniker isn’t appropriate. I have suggested Saints Choir/Chorale/Orchestra of [Place], which could also easily be adopted in general meetings, e.g., “The music for this session is provided by a Saints Choir assembled from the youth of the Lehi and Saratoga Springs Stakes…”

    There are a couple of other groups who already use the Church of Jesus Christ terminology. There’s a Church of Jesus Christ of Washington DC which has been established for nearly 90 years. I am not sure how large the congregation is from what I can see online. There is the Church of Jesus Christ which followed Sidney Rigdon following the death of Joseph Smith, which is the third-largest cohesive group arising from Joseph Smith’s teachings at ~20,000 adherents. The second-largest cohesive group arising from Joseph Smith’s teachings is the Community of Christ at ~250,000 adherents. Another group that identifies itself as the Church of Jesus Christ is the congregation in Independence that followed Alpheus Cutler after the death of Joseph Smith.

    I say, embrace “Christian”, “Saint”, and “Church of Jesus Christ” moving forward.

  18. According to the style guide, it seems appropriate for certain organizations to retain their current names, e.g., the Mormon History Association.

    That said, I would suggest that various groups that have established chairs for the study of the restoration movement originating with Joseph Smith might consider updating their “[Famous Person] Chair of Mormon Studies” positions to “[Famous Person] Chair of Mormon and Latter-day Saint Studies”. This reflects the reality that studies will largely be associated with a past where the term Mormon was embraced as well as a secondary reality that contemporary studies of those adhering to the restoration originating with Joseph Smith are predominantly within (or reacting to) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  19. The only thing that possibly bugs me about this, really, and I’m sure the prophet would make an exception and “grandfather” it in (since we have video of Ezra Taft Benson singing this), is the song “I am a Mormon Boy” (although the phrase “how very queer I feel” might need some changing, but “I might be envied by a king/for I am a Mormon boy” is just a great line). I can’t find the video of it (though I recall seeing it), but this link has the audio:

  20. I recall the old “homefront” ads that used to have “The Mormons” in big letters with the full name of the church in small letters, but over time changed to “The Mormons” is small letters with the Church’s full name in bigger letters, to eventually just the name of the church. I think it’s going to be something similar here – I’ll likely have to do a lot of full name of the church with “aka Mormon” in parenthesis for a bit, and then hopefully after a bit if it catches on, stop having to use Mormon except very occasionally.

  21. I think it’s a bit like ripping off a bandage that has needed to come off for a while.

  22. Would “The CoJCoLDS*” in the [short] title work, if the first line of the piece was:

    *The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    ?

    Do any outsiders criticize the use of capital “The” when not the first word of a sentence?

    And do you write:

    “bla bla bla the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bla bla”

    or:

    “bla bla bla The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bla bla” ?

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