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When Should and Shouldn't We Use the Term "Mormon": What the Church Has Said About It

by | Aug. 16, 2018

In striving to do member missionary work or writing about faith, one conundrum always pops up: When and how should I use the word "Mormon"?

Because let's face it, that is the term most of the world knows us by. Yet in 3 Nephi 27:8 we read these words given by the Savior: "And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel."

Recently, President Russell M. Nelson released a statement, saying: "The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will."

As a Church News article noted, the problem with using the term Mormon or many shortened names for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that it cuts out the central focus of our religion—Jesus Christ.

But what does that mean for Mormon Newsroom, mormon.org, and Church News? Mormon Newsroom has already changed its title to Newsroom, and President Nelson noted that future changes and information will become available soon.

In the meantime, how can we know what terms we should be using?

Luckily, the Church has outlined some clear guidelines to help us navigate these concerns. 

Side note: While it is good to be mindful and aware of these guidelines, when it comes to sharing our faith and the gospel, we shouldn't let technicalities or these concerns keep us from speaking out and sharing what the Spirit is guiding us to say. Never let your fear of accidentally saying the wrong words, title, or name keep you from sharing Christ's goodness and light.

Using the Term "Mormon"

About the use of the term "Mormon," Newsroom clarifies: 

While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation "LDS" or the nickname "Mormon" as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in "Mormon Church," "LDS Church," or "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
When referring to Church members, the terms "members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "Latter-day Saints" are preferred. We ask that the term "Mormons" not be used.
"Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as "Mormon Trail."
The term "Mormonism" is inaccurate and should not be used. When describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term "the restored gospel of Jesus Christ" is accurate and preferred.

Another article on Newsroom clarifies the history of the term "Mormon":

The most common way for the public to identify members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by the term "Mormons." How the Church feels about that term and its appropriateness in classifying members or aspects of the Church is a common topic of conversation. . . . 
People began referring to Latter-day Saints as "Mormons" in the 19th century shortly after the Church was established. The word comes from the Book of Mormon, a sacred book of scripture used by Mormons in addition to the Bible. The nickname stuck and has been used by Church members ever since as a shorthand version of "Latter-day Saints."
The term does not replace the proper name of the Church, however. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the name mandated in scripture in 1838. Calling it the "Mormon Church" or "LDS Church" leaves out the most central part of the Church: Jesus Christ. Consequently, the Church does not refer to itself as "the Mormon Church" and discourages use of that term.

Referencing the Name of the Church and Its Members

“As the Church grows across boundaries, cultures, and languages, the use of its revealed name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see Doctrine and Covenants 115:4), is increasingly important in the responsibility of the Church and its members to proclaim the name of the Savior throughout all the world,” Handbook 2 states. “Accordingly, references to the Church should include its full name whenever possible. Following an initial reference to the full name of the Church, the contractions ‘the Church’ or ‘the Church of Jesus Christ’ are acceptable.”

Newsroom outlines these specific guidelines for talking or writing about the Church:

  • In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
  • When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or the "Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged. The "restored Church of Jesus Christ" is also accurate and encouraged.
  • While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation "LDS" or the nickname "Mormon" as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in "Mormon Church," "LDS Church," or "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
  • When referring to Church members, the terms "members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "Latter-day Saints" are preferred. We ask that the term "Mormons" not be used.
  • "Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as "Mormon Trail."
  • The term "Mormonism" is inaccurate and should not be used. When describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term "the restored gospel of Jesus Christ" is accurate and preferred.
  • When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, it should be stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with polygamous groups.
Lead image from Newsroom
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