Mormons don’t want to be called Mormons anymore. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is a bit of a mouthful—a bit like “the United States of America,” come to think of it—but in August the president of the church, Russell M. Nelson, issued a written edict about using the church’s full name. More recently, he made the announcement at the church’s semiannual general conference that the name change is not optional. Lest we forget that church members also consider Nelson a living prophet, he declared the name change is a “command of the Lord” and went on to say that the use of any nicknames—“the LDS church,” “Latter-day Saints”—“is a major victory for Satan.”
Welp—settles that question.
But Nelson also seems to expect the media and the rest of the world to honor this command. That might be a bit of a problem. While the name of the church was never officially the “Mormon church,” the church still follows the teachings of the Book of Mormon—the text church founder Joseph Smith claimed to have found buried in upstate New York after being visited by an angel named Moroni—and church members have historically had no problem referring to each other as Mormons. The church itself has permitted the term in various ways; hence, for example, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
We don’t relish the role of backseat prophet here, but what’s this all about? Major name changes are ordinarily about rebranding after an institution’s reputation has suffered. Mormonism has not always enjoyed a status of high respectability in American culture—there were the bloody feuds, a small war with the federal government, and perhaps one or two other issues—but these things are long past. Theological disputes aside, Mormon is a compliment.