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

by | Mar. 13, 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."

As a Church News article recently 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 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also runs media outlets known such as Mormon Newsroom, mormon.org, and Church News. Why is that, and 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," Mormon Newsroom clarifies: 

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." . . .
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.
The Church reemphasized that position in February of 2001, when it publicly encouraged the news media and the public to use the proper name of the Church. Bottom line: It's OK to use the term "Mormons" in referring to Church members, but we added: "Please don't use 'Mormon Church' as a substitute for the 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.' "
The Internet has brought an added dimension to this issue. Since people looking for information on the Church mostly enter "Mormon" into their search engines, the Church has to accommodate that reality. Consequently most stories and headlines on Newsroom use" Mormon" or "Mormons" regularly, so Church statements, positions, policies, and stories are more likely to be picked up by casual Internet searchers.

As the Church's official Handbook 2 states: “The word ‘Mormon’ will continue to be used in proper names like the Book of Mormon and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It will also continue to be used as an adjective in phrases such as ‘Mormon pioneers.’ In addition, it may be necessary to use the word Mormon to identify the Church as it is commonly known in some countries.”

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.”

Another article on Mormon 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."
  • Please avoid the use of "Mormon Church," "LDS Church," or the "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
  • When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged.
  • When referring to Church members, the term "Latter-day Saints" is preferred, though "Mormons" is acceptable.
  • "Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as "Mormon pioneers."
  • The term "Mormonism" is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture, and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Lead image from Mormon Newsroom
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