“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

April 2, 2010

The term "Mormon" is back in vogue among Mormons

I have studied Mormon theology and history for nearly 25 years now (yes, I know that's an uncommon hobby for a Catholic), during which time I've seen a marked shift in the attitudes of many Mormons toward the moniker "Mormon."

While it was for many decades a generally accepted name for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (A.K.A. the Mormon Church), I recall meeting increasing resistance to the name from members of that Church. Many times I was gently admonished by them for calling them Mormons, rather than the preferred "Latter-day Saints" or, for short, "LDS."

Well, times they are a changin'. I was fascinated to read today about how the name "Mormon" is now back in vogue, mainly because the Mormon Church's study of search-engine data shows that, by far and away, more people search for "Mormon" than for any other variant.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

After a decadelong moratorium, Mormon is back. The name, that is. It will be on display everywhere this weekend as thousands gather for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 180th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City.

Where LDS leaders once were pushing members to call themselves Latter-day Saints, rather than Mormons, now the church-owned Deseret News has created the Mormon Times. "Mormon Messages" is on YouTube. The "Mormon Channel" is on the radio. And the faith's missionary Web site is mormon.org.

So what has changed for the nearly 14 million-member church? The Internet.

Last year, some 26.8. million people searched for the word "Mormon," 5.3 million hunted for "Mormons," and 1.3 million scouted for "Mormonism," noted Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs.

Although about 32 million searched for "LDS," church officials believe most of those were members. Few search for the official name.

"It's simply a reality that people think of Mormons, they don't think of Latter-day Saints," Otterson said Thursday. "Mormon is here to stay."

In fact, this weekend's two-day conference will be followed closely on blogs such as "Feminist Mormon Housewives," "Mormon Matters" and "Mormon Stories." (In the so-called bloggernacle, "Mormon" outpaces "LDS" in blog names by 3-to-1.)

Some wonder why the Utah-based church tried to jettison the nickname in the first place, especially after spending years and untold millions creating a "Mormon" brand. The tag line for its award-winning "Homefront" TV spots, for example, was, "Brought to you by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons."

"Branding is a very difficult, lengthy and taxing process of attempting to influence the consumer mind at a basic level," said Kenneth Foster, a marketing research expert in Salt Lake City and a Mormon. "The church can't really back away from the use of the term Mormon, given the ingrained history of the term and resources the church used to establish it. A better strategy may be to embrace and revitalize it." . . . (continue reading)


  1. I'm still trying to figure out if the article was meant as an April Fool's joke or not.

    I'd like it to be true. As a Mormon, I always thought it was a hopeless cause to get people to use our full name - just because it's too freaking long for normal use.

  2. "Mormon theology" is an oxymoron. I did a postdoc at "the Y" for two years, 81-83, and they made a point of saying they have a department of "religion" -- not theology.

    Dangerous to think about it too much, apparently.

  3. Feel free to call it what you'd like, Joe. I'll stick with "theology" because that's the most precise term to describe the study of Mormon doctrines.

  4. Joe, 1st and 2nd century Christianity didn't do formal theology either. It wasn't until after Nicea that Christian theology and apologetics really got into full swing.

    Sure, you had people like Tertullian. But he wasn't really doing theology in the modern formal sense. His writings were more apologetic in nature - solely geared toward defending Christianity from pagan assaults.

    The modern LDS Church is only around 2 centuries old as well. So if you wish to criticize the state of our own theology, keep in mind the state of Christian theology in the first 200 years of its own existence.

    All things considered, the Mormons have been making good progress and I would hold the fundamentals of our theology up against any established world religion.

  5. Not to mention that it's a lot easier to type "Mormon" into the Google search window than it is to type "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"!

  6. Depends on who's defining the word martin.

  7. Glenn Beck, a Catholic. now claims to be Mormon. Patrick
    have you msde direct or indirect contact with Glenn Beck
    to bring him home. I pray that you do.

  8. With the Mormon's having to do away with plural marriage, drinking, and other vices. I wonder if Joseph Smith could get into his own church with the vices and habits he is known to have harbored, like stealing other mens wives, drinking, and going to jail. I've lived here in Utah all my life (I'm 59), and do not see anything dedicated to old Joe, but Brigham Young is their banner. Maybe they are not known as latter day saints because they are not. Still Catholic in Utah.

  9. "The modern LDS Church is only around 2 centuries old as well. So if you wish to criticize the state of our own theology, keep in mind the state of Christian theology in the first 200 years of its own existence."

    Yes, especially when you have gems like this from eminent theological minds such as Origen:

    "God, the Logos is surpassed by the God of the Universe…. The Son is in no respect to be compared to the Father…. The Father who sent Jesus is alone good and greater than he who was sent.” -- Commentary on John (II, 3; XIII, 35;VI, 23)

    Which actually sounds strikingly Mormon. The idea that Jesus was a lesser, separate divinity from the Father was quite common back in the day and can't be easily brushed aside. The concept that Jesus and Lucifer were spirit brothers is also not that far out there. In Job, Lucifer is numbered among the sons of God; in the Gospels, Jesus is called the Son of God. Who can blame the average reader for concluding that the sons of one Father are brothers?

    By the way, I'm Catholic, and I think the book of Mormon is complete bunk stitched together from a stolen historical novel and plenty of apocryphal tales from early Christianity made widely available by your local, public library.

  10. You are correct that Christ and Lucifer are brothers in the sense of both being children of God - as are all of us.

    What I do not understand, is why this is so objectionable.

  11. Good point, Seth R. Perhaps those who find a remark like yours objectionable forget (or fear that it erases the fact) that Christ was "begotten, not made" unlike any creature whether Lucifer, unfallen angels, or "all of us."

  12. The Mormons are Protestants and therefore are not a Church, but a denomination.

  13. Micha, I can understand that concern, but it doesn't exactly apply to LDS theology.

    Mormon doctrine rejects creation ex nihilo.

    Therefore, you might well say that there isn't any such thing as a "created being" in LDS theology - at least, not the way traditional Christians mean the term.

    We do not believe that God created Jesus out of nothing - no more than we believe he created you and me out of nothing, or Lucifer for that matter.

  14. Mormons do not believe in a Triune God.

  15. Actually, our scriptures do demand a Triune God.

    We just don't believe in homoousios. LDS theology could probably be usefully described as "social trinitarian."

  16. That is considered an Arian heresy, Seth R. by the Roman Catholic Church and by Protestant sects as well.

  17. Since we don't believe that Jesus Christ was created, we can't be perpetuating the Arian heresy, now can we? You have to believe in creation ex nihilo to be an advocate for the Arian heresy.

    We don't believe in creation ex nihilo.

  18. Seeing as Mormon theology does not believe that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God, composed of three persons whose only differentiation is in their relationship to each other, and seeing as they believe that God has the potential to change (which means that He is not pure act), they do not believe in a Catholic, nor even a Christian, view of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, you cannot be Christian--that is the fundamental dogma of the faith. If you mess up the Trinity, you mess up the understanding of literally all the rest of your faith.

  19. Define "One God" Samuel. Define "persons."

    Otherwise, it will be impossible to really know what exactly you are talking about.

    Secondly - a question:

    How does messing up the doctrine of the Trinity mess up your faith in, say... miracles for example?

  20. And for an article that refutes an article by Patrick, see http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/1999_Mormonism_in_the_Early_Jewish_Christian_Milieu.html

    Mormonism is not "Protestant," but a member of the Restorationist movement. LDS theology rejects Penal Substitution; imputed righteousness; the diminished view of the will that Calvin and Luther held; sola and tota scriptura, etc.

    As for Arianism, LDS theology rejects creation ex nihilo (as do a growing number of non-LDS scholars, such as Oord and Mark S. Smith in their recent volumes), and in LDS theology, everyone, including Christ, actually pre-existed as intelligences and all the attributes thereof (cf. D&C 93 and Abraham 3). So, bye bye to that charge.

    As for the trinity, I would suggest Blake T. Ostler's "Of God and Gods" (SLC: Greg Kofford, 2008) that soundly refutes the metaphysical trinity and related issues (Patrick--have you read this volume? Any comments?)