What’s in a Name?

Old LogoLike many others I found it hard to avoid the humor in the Church’s statement downplaying the use of LDS and Mormon. This isn’t the first time the Church has tried to get people to stop using such terms. Pres. Hinckley back in 1995 changed the logo design of the Church’s name to emphasize Jesus Christ. He also in 2001 in a letter sent to all wards asked members to refer to ourselves as Latter-day Saints and to use the full name of the Church.

Of course Hinckley, being rather media savvy, knew this wasn’t going to be fully adopted. Likewise Pres. Nelson, who has now re-emphasized this request, most likely knows people will still use the nicknames. The reasons are fairly clear. Brevity is the main reason. The other reason, as many noted, is that Mormon and LDS can be adjectives as well as nouns. So for modifying a word, they work in a way most other terms don’t. Of course Hinckley had anticipated that in 2001 and suggested we use Latter-day Saint.

New LogoWhile it’s easy to make fun of the request, it’s also clear this is a long standing issue. It gets repeated every few years. Why this is important seems clear. Many people, hearing just occasional references in the press, don’t realize how central to our faith Jesus Christ is. So from a missionary perspective, it’s important to emphasize that. That’s why Hinckley changed the logo back in 1995. It also carries with it a subtle framing of doctrine so that members in our thoughts focus more on Jesus Christ.

The biggest reason for the change though is to distinguish ourselves from other groups broadly in the restorationist movement. It’s worth noting that several years ago the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renamed themselves the Community of Christ. While I suspect that was primarily done to emphasize Christ, it also helped clarify their distinctiveness from our church.

In recent years various polygamist groups, often tied to distasteful practices or crimes, have been confused with our Church under the rubric of “Mormon.” Asking someone who knows little or nothing about us to recognize the difference between FLDS and LDS is probably asking a bit much. By emphasizing the full name, we avoid the ambiguities of “Mormon” when many different sects consider themselves Mormon in some fashion.

Will this all work? Probably not. Again brevity in discussion is a huge matter. The full name of the Church is anything but short. After Pres. Hinckley’s re-emphasis of the full name of the Church, the Church again embraced our nickname during the so-called “Mormon moment” around the time of Mitt Romney’s presidential run. I suspect we’ll see a similar cycle here. It’s worth noting though that hoping the press emphasizes our full name isn’t really expecting nicknames to disappear. Further there really are pretty good reasons to emphasize the full name.

12 comments for “What’s in a Name?

  1. I agree, it probably won’t change much. But I would be interested to see if the COJCOLDS (is that how we’re supposed to abbreviate it now) is also committed to the name change by changing the urls of their websites from lds.org, mormon.org, mormonnewsroom.org to something else. It seemed that during the Monson years, the church owned label of Mormon and proudly boasted themselves as such. Pres. Monson gave a memorable talk in Oct. 2011 in which he encouraged faithfuls to “dare to be Mormon.” Plus, by telling members not to use LDS, they are really stripping the failthfuls of the vocabulary to refer to the church, at least in distinction from other churches, from brevity.

  2. It’s worth noting that Pres. Hinckley, who last really did a big push away from Mormon and lds, also promoted the nicknames. He knew they weren’t going away even as he emphasized the full name. So I don’t think there’s as big a difference here as some do. Further, this is pretty cyclical. While not as big of a push as today, 2001 or 1995, back in 2011 there was an other emphasis on the full name. Figures like Elder Ballard or Pres. Nelson then made the same emphasis.

    I should also note that most of the humor of the past day has really hinged on how inescapable the terms Mormon and lds really are.

  3. I wonder if the leadership of the church has ever considered that part of the problem just might be that one can frequently be found attending a sacrament meeting of the church and, outside of the sacrament blessing and prayer closings, never once hear the name of the Savior spoken. Trying to convince members and the media to use the correct name of the church, isn’t going to change that. While he’s at it, why doesn’t Pres. Nelson encourage the real, legal name of the church – The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

  4. Friend: What church do you belong to?


    Friend: Oh, I’m sorry. Here’s a Kleenex. Now about the church you belong to…

  5. Troy, I have a hard time believing that. I’ve attended a lot of wards over the years and while I’ve heard that claim it never seems to be true. I recall back in college someone claiming this about my ward so I took a pad and started recording the number of times the names of Jesus were spoken. There was a huge number. The number of times he was spoken of indirectly were even larger.

    What I think happens is some people just what a different level or kind of rhetoric and instead portray this as Jesus being neglected or ignored.

    That’s not to say rhetoric doesn’t matter nor that there may not be dysfunctional wards out there. Just that I’m more than a little skeptical.

  6. “The biggest reason for the change though is to distinguish ourselves from other groups broadly in the restorationist movement.”

    This doesn’t seem quite right. An interesting conjecture though.

  7. I can’t recall where I saw it on social media, but MOTAB is now COJCOLDSTAB or COJ COLD STAB.

  8. A few years back I started wondering if members of the church would one day be known as Reservists.

  9. Slightly off topic: On our family road trip through the west last summer, I saw at least two chapels with the old logo. One of them was in a prominent city near Utah. The other one might have even been IN Utah, but I don’t remember. What’s up with the old signage in the [Latter-day Saint] corridor?

  10. To be honest, as a convert who was baptized on 12/20/2014, I never understood why devout Christians outside of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints would think we’re not Christian. So, I applaud Heavenly Father and Prophet Nelson for making it crystal clear our Lord, Jesus Christ, does have top billing and we are simply His humble followers as Latter Day Saints! The sadness for me is that this misunderstanding was perpetuated for SO long. But, Heavenly Father has His plan and we are in the midst of His continued revelations!

  11. The difference between current efforts to get away from the nicknames and the current one is that the current effort is being treated as revelation and explicitly as God’s will. That could change how we Mormons talk about the church or ourselves, but I don’t see it having much effect on the news media or general public.

  12. “Will this all work?”

    I think it depends on what you are measuring. If you are looking to the media taking the lead in changing things, it may not work. But what if that isn’t what the goal is?

    What if the goal is broader and deeper than changing media references? What if it’s about changing us?

    I dunno. This time feels different from anything I’ve seen in the past. I’m intrigued and excited to see how things unfold from here.

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