The church that is traditionally known as the mormon church, the same church that ran a global campaign about their mormon.org website full of member profiles saying “I’m a Mormon” now discourages (by way of its leaders) the use of the very terms mormon or mormonism. This preference is now codified in the latest General Handbook updates:
Referring to Church members by other titles, such as “Mormons” or “LDS,” is discouraged.
Mormon is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon. It is also correctly used as an adjective in historical expressions such as “Mormon Trail.”
The term Mormonism is inaccurate, and its use is discouraged. When describing the combination of doctrine, culture, and lifestyle unique to the Church, the phrase “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” is accurate and preferred.https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/38-church-policies-and-guidelines?lang=eng#title_number183
The church leaders discourage using the term Mormon and Mormonism and are working to make this a permanent fixture by adding the official discouragement to the handbook. This is the handbook that lay church leaders are encouraged to study and follow as the “Gospel” of the church. The Handbook contains all the policies and procedures that have been decided upon by General Authorities and other leaders via correlation and surely legal teams. Ironic that the word ‘Mormonism’ is canonized in Mormon scriptures though. In the D&C section about the killing of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith in Carthage jail, the scriptural statement claims their blood is affixed to Mormonism! At least they put it in quotes, but will they remove it eventually?
… their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth …D&C 135:7
The PR of The Church
This feels more like another effort to correct a main pet peeve of the current church president Russell M Nelson. His latest focus includes new church domain names, logos and a re-emphasis on using the full name of the church. He does have a history of these efforts, as Nelson pleaded even in 1990, that when referring to the church we should “reverently consider the feelings of the Heavenly Parent who bestowed that name”. As if when we referred to the church as the “Mormon church” we were hurting God’s feelings? He had a whole talk focused on this at General Conference. More recently, in 2018, he made headlines when he said using the term Mormon is a “major victory for Satan” and “if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, [the Savior] is offended”!
Nelson states that the effort is not a “name change”, “rebranding”, “cosmetic”, “a whim” and last but not least, it is “not inconsequential”.
Flipping a 180
Let’s not forget that the church itself led the charge just a few years earlier to “own” the Mormon “nickname” by promoting it in 2010 for the next few years into 2013 and beyond! The church plastered cities the world over with billboards directing people to mormon.org. They targeted large cities like New York and London among others. Russell M Nelson must not have been consulted, or his objections must have been vetoed by the leadership of the day. But we must not apply presentism, as his revelations today must trump the revelations of earlier times, even if those days are in our collective & recent memory. How fickle our God is to flip a 180-degree turn in just a few years’ time. Note to self, this 180 flip was in 5 years, but there are others that are shorter… (November policy of 2015 to the reversal in April 2019, that’s only 3.5 years)
The Church’s national media campaign called “I’m a Mormon” (launched in 2010) included television spots, billboards, and ads on buses and on the Internet. The ads give a glimpse into the lives of Latter-day Saints from all over the world and refer people to the mormon.org website, where they can read the profiles of tens of thousands of Mormons, chat live with representatives who will answer questions about the faith and watch dozens of videos about members of the Church.‘I’m a Mormon‘ Campaign, Church Newsroom
The faith had embraced and promoted the term Mormon over the past several years, using it in a documentary and TV and billboard ads. A church webpage that was up before Nelson’s announcement had described the term as an “unofficial but inoffensive nickname for members.”
Nelson, who in January took over the top post of the Utah-based faith with 16 million members worldwide after the previous president died, rejected what he called “worldly arguments,” including the benefits of internet search engine optimization with the word “Mormon.”Mormon leader: Nicknames for faith are ‘victory for Satan’, AP News, October 7, 2018
So before and after the famous, or should we say infamous, I’m a Mormon campaign we have statements from Russell M Nelson that try to get us to rise above the silly offensive nickname. The first he makes in the 1990 April General Conference, and then next conference we have the then president Gordon B Hinckley basically refuting his message by saying it’s all ok to him. Then the church fully embraces the term and advertises itself as such to the world! A few years pass and Russell M Nelson is at the helm and now, no one is there to veto his power and his claim to revelation. He then rejects “worldly arguments” about keeping the Mormon moniker since it seems to have stuck, but in reality, the arguments he is rejecting and calling worldly are none other than those of Gordon B Hinckley.
President Nelson has essentially rebuked the entire church and all of the deceased presidents who preceded him, particularly President Hinckley, for all those satanic victories. President Hinckley’s if-we-can’t-beat-em-we’ll-join-em attitude informed the notion that while “Mormon” was an incomplete nickname, members of the Church could redeem the word by doing “more good” in the world.The name ‘Mormon’: Why all the fuss, and why now? Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood
Culture vs Doctrine Debate
Another important takeaway is that “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” includes not just doctrine, but culture and lifestyle according to the handbook. How many times have we heard “Oh, that’s just the culture” when a member’s negative church experience is called out? So many debates contrast various shelf items as mere cultural issues within the church and not doctrine or part of the church. This inclusion of the culture and lifestyle as forbidden to be called “Mormon” culture actually reinforces the argument that the church culture is more than just that, and that it’s intentional and something the leadership claims authority over (and thus responsibility for).
Calling out that the “doctrine, culture, and lifestyle unique to the Church” is also a trigger reminder that what is good in the Mormon church is not unique; and what is unique in the Mormon church is not good.
What About The “Mormon Moment”
Both Gordon B Hinckley and Thomas S Monson were nearly proud to be called Mormons. They led the church is a charge to embrace the nickname and even made efforts to own the definition! Hinckley had a whole talk that could today be categorized as a victory for satan, the talk makes the case to “re”-define Mormon, it’s called Mormon Should Mean “More Good” back in 1990. This seemed like wisdom at the time, but listening to current church president, Russell M Nelson, it is evil and folly. The times sure change in a matter of 28 years the wisdom of the church president of the time Gordon G Hinckley makes the best of the nickname, he makes lemonade of lemons. He even addresses the talk from RMN the same year that points out the proper name of the church. “regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the Church.” He then refutes this notion saying “I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon” and “they could do worse”.
Mormon means “more good.” I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But his was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception. And, as we all know, our lives are guided in large measure by our perceptions. Ever since, when I have seen the word Mormon used in the media to describe us—in a newspaper or a magazine or book or whatever—there flashes into my mind his statement, which has become my motto: Mormon means “more good.”Gordon B Hinckley
The church is actively removing references to Mormon. They discourage and even vilify using the word Mormon to describe the church. The famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been renamed “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square”. Another example, is the church youtube account which hosted all the “I’m a Mormon” campaign videos (which are being redone). The church media department sees the value in the videos, but the Mormon parts are being redacted. The videos are being edited and renamed and re-uploaded under the ComeUntoChrist.org rebrand.
This one you can see is updated to another nearly identical video 2 seconds shorter. What’s the difference? They’ve cut out the phrase in the conclusion where she says “and I’m a Mormon”. They changed the title as well, to remove the phrase. But, they’re keeping the content around at least. It’s a different story than the website of mormon profiles they pressured every member to create and then removed from the internet entirely.
Presumptuous Request to be Called the “Restored Church”
He also claims that “Responsible media will be sympathetic in responding to our request.”Which is a dig at basically every media outlet that is not owned by the church. It implies if the media doesn’t refer to the church as they prefer, they are not being responsible media. Which is more like a company rebranding than a church PR policy. Calling the church what they want to be called is basically begging the question. Requesting to be called “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” seems rather presumptuous to those who do not believe in or belong to the church. It’s like naming your restaurant “the best restaurant” and crying foul when people don’t always refer to it as you want them to. Calling it the restored church of Jesus Christ equates to agreeing that it is what it claims to be, and that’s not what a “responsible” church would do.
This is problematic for reporters and writers. It is not the job of a religion-neutral media to adopt or validate the truth claims of whatever religions they’re writing about. Some denominational names do have truth claims already baked in—is Roman Catholic really catholic, meaning universal? Is Orthodox really orthodox, meaning doctrinally pure? Have Reformed Christians and Reform Jews actually changed from the traditions that preceded them? Etc.—but in those cases, the truth claims have been part of the religion’s name for centuries. With Mormonism, “the restored Church” is a term of comparatively recent vintage, as seen in this index of General Conference talks.
What’s more, people outside the Church don’t associate this term with Mormonism, making it virtually useless to journalists who want to serve their readers’ needs. What does serve journalists’ needs is the term Mormon. For every time “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is searched on Google, “Mormon” is searched between 75 and 100 times. (Interestingly, the term “Mormon” enjoyed a noticeable spike of search activity during and after General Conference. That’s a lot of victories for Satan that seem to have been inspired by the church’s own insistence at correcting its name.)The name ‘Mormon’: Why all the fuss, and why now? Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood
The “Mormon” church Led By Unchanging God
We can see that the push to remove the church nickname is more a personal matter from the current church leader, much work and emphasis is being made to set the record straight. In the end, Mormons are forced to only follow their current prophet. We can study previous church leaders but we are required to follow living leaders with priority. But also, we are to forget that earlier leaders may have differed in opinion. Is it just that? Opinion? It makes sense that the current leader gets the revelation “trump” card and is able to enforce their views, even if they see them as the will of God. So interesting to see these issues in light of following only the current church leader, because we can remember the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. We remember the effort leaders at the time put into rising above the stigma of the Mormon term. We were encouraged to think in terms of “more good”. But now these same words are deemed offensive to god and a victory for satan! Is God changing his mind or is it just the will of the man in charge? We can’t have it both ways, unless we’re living in 1984 and working in the ministry of truth and skilled at doublespeak.
We can literally hear the church leaders argue their personal interpretations in this video that pits Gordon B Hinckley against Russell M Nelson:
We, the Irregulars, Can Have the Mormon term
The Church ™ (as they would like to be called) has announced (once again) that they’re taking back the last twenty years of embracing “I’m a Mormon” and “Mormon.org” and “Mormonsandgays” and a hundredish years of the “Choir Formerly Known as Mormon” and ask us to Please Stop calling us that!
To many this seems like a small silly nonsense thing for them to care about, but for me it’s a relief, if they don’t want “Mormon” then we, the irregulars, can have all the peculiar Mormoniness for us! Mormon is all ours now!!Please Call Me Mormon, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Well, if the church doesn’t want to claim the term Mormon, we can use it how we please. It is left for those of us who are no longer controlled by the church. We can be ex-mormons, post-mormons and was mormons. This change is in fact one of the things that inspired the creation of this site.
Related reading to the Church working to stop being called Mormon:
- What happened to Mormon.org?
- The Church Leaves the Term Mormon, But Can’t Leave it Alone