On 16 August 2018, the Newsroom website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released an official statement that set off a significant discussion that, by all indications including additional commentary on the Newsroom site that came later, will be ongoing for quite a while. The statement begins with the following words from President Russell M. Nelson: “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.” The quotation continues and the statement reiterates that more information about implementation of this directive is forthcoming.
Accompanying the statement, the Newsroom piece links to an updated style guide for how to reference the church (asking journalists and its own employees and members to follow this, as well) that encourages the use of the church’s full name whenever possible and choosing something other than “Mormon” or “Mormonism” to refer to individual church members or the religious tradition as a whole. It also asks all to eschew the use of the acronym “LDS.” Another bulleted item that has generated a good deal of reaction reads: “. . . 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.”
In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by two experienced and articulate church watchers—Mark Crego and Taylor Petrey—to discuss these matters, including their own reactions as well as those of others with whom they’ve been speaking with in person or at church or whose thoughts they have encountered online. The conversation also takes us into early Christian history to try to discern the way the earliest followers of Jesus referred to themselves, how important it was to them what they were called, and if so, did their name choice emhasize being a follower of Jesus or was it coming to live in a new way that focused on practices centered on loving and forgiving others, sharing resources, assisting those in need, and so forth. It then takes the elements of that dive and relates them to the present moment of the new statement and emphasis.
Beyond that, the panelists wonder about how the leaders and members might implement what is being asked, guess about possible reactions by journalists and members and leaders of other Christian churches (Will they go along with it? Will they be offended by the preferred designations?), as also discuss the provocative claim in the bulleted point about including the “culture and lifestyle” unique to the church in what they should refer to with the term, “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.” Finally, they discuss the form in which this official statement came forth, an announcement emphasizing that this initiative is based on an impression received by President Nelson rather than putting it in terms of it having been an injunction that emerged from the full processes that typically involve careful vetting by and unanimity among the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Even if you’ve already begun to formulate your own thoughts about this new push to emphasize the church’s full name and de-emphasize monikers that have been around for a long time, you’ll be surprised by much that’s here in this episode, as it goes into topic areas that are not yet being fully explored in depth. Let the conversations continue!
Colorado Faith Forums website. Learn about its annual symposium, 15 September 2018, Parker, Colorado
Mormon Matters Retreat, 12-14 October, Salt Lake City. Click here for details, registration information, and about scholarships to attend or to help others attend.
Other links forthcoming
At the beginning of the episode, I heard a lot about the church’s previous name pushes (e.g. 1980s, 1990s, 2001, etc.) I don’t remember any of those. Do you have some references/links?
Really? That was the discussion?
Why after all these years is Mormon suddenly a bad moniker?
If Mormon is now widely regarded as a fictional character, then obviously it’s a good idea to phase out its use.
Doesn’t our prophet have more inspiring message for a world that is falling apart? Really? We need to focus more on a church name?
I have not seen the transcript of President Nelson’s talk, but I am not aware of an examples of “Nazarene” or “Nazorene” used as a pejorative term, nor of any concerted effort to erase the name of Jesus or Christ from the first few centuries CE.
There are mixed feeling about dropping Mormon reference which is unique and stirs up a lot of curiosity. Telling people I’m a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sparks no curiosity whatsoever.
Focusing on the church’s name was a great stunt to blow out the momentum that Sam Young was fasting for.
Sadly saying I’m part of the restored gospel no longer excites me anymore. I probably won’t be excited about my faith again until it can acknowledge more of its flaws beyond the way which we identify ourselves.
Taylor, That was my understanding also. It’s like it was being pulled out of thin air. I had never read or heard that before.