By Eric Johnson
Check out this week-long series on Viewpoint on Mormonism: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 August 27-31, 2018
In 2018, Russell M. Nelson, the 17th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claimed that Jesus is offended whenever shortcut terms are used in reference to the church, its teachings, or its people. The “style guide” was also revised to advise against using the terms “LDS,” “Mormon,” and “Mormonism.”
Speaking at the October 2018 General Conference, Nelson declared the new rule to be a “command of the Lord” and that “the name of the Church is not negotiable.” He stated, “And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.”( The Correct Name of the Church” For more on this rule change, click here.)
Update at the April 2020 General Conference
In the Saturday evening session of the April 2020 conference, Nelson provided an update to the new policy and described the success that the church had in eliminating these “offensive’ nicknames. He explained,
I have spoken previously about a needed course correction in the way we refer to the name of the Church. Since that time, much has been done to accomplish this correction. . . . Church leaders and departments, related entities, and millions of members—and others—now use the correct name of the Church. The Church’s official style guide has been adjusted. The Church’s principal website is now ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Addresses for email, domain names, and social media channels have been updated. Our beloved choir is now the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. (“Opening the Heavens for Help,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2020, p. 72. Ellipsis mine).
Nelson was not finished, adding,
We have gone to these extraordinary efforts because when we remove the Lord’s name of His Church, we inadvertently remove Him as the central focus of our worship and our lives. When we take the Savior’s name upon us at baptism, we commit to witness, by our words, thoughts, and actions, that Jesus is the Christ (Ibid. Italics in original).
Apparently in Nelson’s mind, church members are brought closer to Jesus Christ when nicknames are prohibited. Many agree with this edict and are critical of outsiders who continue to use nicknames, including Mormon Kristy Burtenshaw Lmt Si from Utah who made the following comment on an MRM Facebook post on June 7, 2020:
. . . but if you’re going to properly name this group, it would technically be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We are not “mormons” that was a nickname given our people by vicious mobs, whereas Christ commanded us to use His name in His church.
Si makes an all-too-common mistake in not using the church’s proper name (“Latter Day Saints” instead of “Latter-day Saints”). She claims that the word “Mormons” was “a nickname given our people by vicious mobs, whereas Christ commanded us to use His name in His church.” A 2018 LDS history book documents that, in early days, members were once called “Mormonites” (The Standard of Truth, p. 94). Later this term was apparently shortened to “Mormons.” It is true that enemies of the church regularly used Mormonism and Mormons to describe the religion, its teachings, and its followers. Still, for more than 190 years both church leaders and their members have also used these very same terms!
The use of “Mormon” throughout the years by church members
Why should any Latter-day Saints make a big deal out of the church’s name having “Jesus Christ” in it when there were several years in the 1830s when his name was missing? MRM founder Bill McKeever explains,
If Mormons wish to use this argument, they must answer as to why their own church was called merely “The Church of the Latter-day Saints” from 1834-1838. By their reasoning their own church must have been in apostasy for at least four years. Those who belonged to the early Christian church were known more by their geographic location rather than an “organizational” name. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul addresses “the church of the Thessalonians.” Are we to assume that Paul was addressing a false church? Source
If this is the case, should we assume that the name of the church was “negotiable” at this time in history? Was Jesus offended when Joseph Smith agreed to removing his name in 1834?
Concerning Nelson’s 2018 edict, it needs to be pointed out that there was history behind it. Back in April of 1990, Nelson gave a conference message titled “Thus Shall My Church Be Called.” As he did in 2018, he admonished members to call their church by its proper name. At the very next general conference in October 1990, Gordon B. Hinckley, at the the time a member of the First Presidency, gave a follow-up talk titled “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good.’” Hinckley made it a point to mention Nelson’s previous conference message, but it was clear that he did not take the subject as seriously as Nelson. In fact, President Hinckley seemed to take a light-hearted approach to the issue:
I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the Church. Because of the shortness of the word Mormon and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon church, and so forth. They could do worse. More than fifty years ago, when I was a missionary in England, I said to one of my associates, “How can we get people, including our own members, to speak of the Church by its proper name?” He replied, “You can’t. The word Mormon is too deeply ingrained and too easy to say.”
He went on,
I’ve quit trying. While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church which bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.
Hinckley’s acquaintance then said,
“Look, if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say—‘Mormon means more good.’” (The Prophet Joseph Smith first said this in 1843; see Times and Seasons, 4:194; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300.) (Source)
Notice it was church founder, Joseph Smith who claimed the word “Mormon” means “more good.” In fact, Smith used nicknames more than once. One time he stated, “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true ‘Mormons’” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316). He also said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may” (History of the Church 5:499).
Concerning Smith’s obvious tongue-in-cheek definition of the word “Mormon,” President Hinckley continued:
His statement intrigued me—Mormon means “more good.” I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But his was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception. And, as we all know, our lives are guided in large measure by our perceptions. Ever since, when I have seen the word Mormon used in the media to describe us—in a newspaper or a magazine or book or whatever—there flashes into my mind his statement, which has become my motto: Mormon means “more good.” We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.
Although it is obvious that Nelson disliked church nicknames at that time, President Hinckley apparently did not agree. Could the apostle have been stewing for close to three decades, waiting for his turn to become the top leader so he could institute this directive? It sure looks that way from this outsider’s point of view. Still, if Jesus is offended by the use of these nicknames, one would think that at least one of his sixteen predecessors would have received the same memo from God and initiated a ban on nicknames. Imagine for all those years how bad God must have felt whenever:
- the “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” performed
- somebody watched “The Mormon Channel” on cable TV (now called “Latter-day Saints Channel”)
- someone on the Internet checked into the once-popular PR “I’m a Mormon” campaign website? (See the church’s newsroom website)
- the group of men and women (more than 500) who were recruited by the US government during the Mexican War were called the “Mormon Battalion—it’s still called the “Mormon Battalion Historic Site” even today!
- a person went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City (home to Russell M. Nelson) beginning in 2014 through 2017 and watched the movie Meet the Mormons in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building movie theater.
- a student registers for the “Claremont Mormon Studies” program at Claremont Graduate University in California. Even in 2020, it remains “Mormon Studies”; the first paragraph of its description reads, “The rapid growth and expanding influence of Mormonism — and especially its largest institutional manifestation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have awakened a strong interest within the academic community and the world at large to understand its roots, its history, its doctrine, and its culture. That desire to better understand the LDS Church and the broader Mormon tradition is at the heart of the emerging academic field of Mormon.” Notice how many rules set up by President Nelson were broken just in this one paragraph!
Speaking of the “I’m a Mormon” campaign; are Latter-day Saints to assume that President Thomas S. Monson did not prayerfully seek guidance regarding this project? If he did, shouldn’t we suppose that he got a “green light” from Jesus to move forward? If so, why wasn’t Jesus “offended” back in 2010 when this campaign was launched? The same could be said for the LDS movie titled, “Meet the Mormons” that was produced by the church in 2014.
Below are citations from a number of important LDS leaders who have used nicknames such as “Mormon,” “Mormonism,” and “LDS” to refer to the church and its members. Nicknames like these don’t seem to bother many Latter-day Saints. Consider Apostle James E. Talmage, who penned two of the most popular books on Mormonism ever written: Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith. In a book titled The Vitality of Mormonism (note the title!), he wrote the following under the chapter “What’s in a Name?”
It should be borne in mind that the term ‘Mormon’ with its several variants was first applied by way of nickname to the people now so designated. But nicknames may be so sanctified by effort and achievement that they become titles of respect and profound significance (p. 22).
Referencing Acts 11:26 and how the early believers were called “Christians” by opponents and later “hallowed it by sacrifice and righteous deeds,” Talmage added on the next page,
The “Mormon” people do not resent the misnomer by which they are commonly known, and which has been put upon them by popular usage. They deplore, however, the possible misunderstanding that the Church to which they belong professes to be the church of Mormon . . . The “Mormon” Church affirms itself to be in no sense the church of Mormon, nor the church of Joseph Smith, nor of any man other than the Savior and Redeemer of the race.
After Nelson instituted the ban on the terms LDS, Mormonism, and Mormon, the IT department in charge of the church’s websites must have certainly been behind schedule. It almost appears that they found out about the new policy after their president made his initial announcement in August 2018? Otherwise it is hard to explain why it took so long for the church techies to make a transition as Mormon.org and LDS.org continued as live domains for months into 2019!
Today, anyone logging onto lds.org is automatically redirected to “churchofjesuschrist.org,” which, technically is not the official name of the church! In his April, 1990 conference message, Nelson stated that “Surely every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord is precious. So each word in this name must be important—divinely designated for a reason.” Later in that same talk, he said, “The first two words of the name the Lord chose for His earthly organization are The Church. Note that the article The begins with a capital letter. This is an important part of the title, for the Church is the official organization of baptized believers who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ.” However, a person trying to say true to the title, and inserts the word “the,” will be directed to a splinter group based in Pennsylvania!
All in all, it just seems nonsensical to take the best brand name the church (Mormon) ever had and discourage others from using it while banning it themselves. It would be akin to Coca-Cola saying that nobody should refer to its product as “Coke,” Pepsi-Cola saying it is wrong to call its main drink as a Pepsi, or Frito-lay saying that its chips are to never be known as “Fritos.”
Despite the ban of church nicknames in mid-2018, it could take years before the church will be able to completely scrub all of the hundreds of articles that contain the now prohibited terms. Some articles that have been revised, continue to have the word Mormon in the page address (URL).
As of mid-2020, there were several online articles at churchofjesuschrist.org that had not gone through a revision. As an example, consider:
- Found under the definition of the word “Mormonism”: “A common term used to describe the teachings and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Is God offended that this word appears to be fine to refer to the church’s teachings?
- “Mormon Messages” are short videos to help teachers in their lessons
- “Mormon Messages by Topic” advertised “short messages about values and principles important to society”
Besides Joseph Smith, church presidents throughout the decades have also used terms such as “Mormon” or “Mormonism.” Here are just a few examples:
Brigham Young, 2nd president (JOD stands for Journal of Discourses):
- “Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1997, p. 264).
- “‘Mormonism’ embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical” (January 12, 1862, Journal of Discourses 9:149).
- “Do not say, ‘You are Mormons, and we do not want to hear anything about you.’ Wait until you have searched and researched and have obtained wisdom to understand what we preach, or to prove it to be untrue” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 435).
- “But ‘Mormonism’ has opened up light. Removing the curtain from the broad sunshine, it has lighted up the souls of hundreds of thousands, and they have been made to rejoice in the light of truth. JOD 8:129” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 448).
- “I feel happy. ‘Mormonism’ has made me all I am, and the grace, the power, and the wisdom of God will make me all that I ever will be, either in time or eternity. JOD 8:162” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 448).
- “’Mormonism’ has done everything for me that ever has been done for me on the earth; it has made me happy; it has made me wealthy and comfortable; it has filled me with good feelings, with joy and rejoicing. . . . JOD 3:320” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 452).
- “’Mormonism’ keeps men and women young and handsome; and when they are full of the Spirit of God, there are none of them, but what will have a glow upon their countenances; and this is what makes you and me young; for the Spirit of God is with us and within us. JOD 5:210” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 455).
John Taylor, 3rd president in his classic book The Gospel Kingdom:
- “How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view” (p. 6).
- “… I have not yet found a man that could controvert one principle of Mormonism upon scriptural grounds—JD 5:239, September 13, 1857” (p. 6).
- “Now I come to us, Mormons. We are the only true Church, so we say” (p. 50).
- “We call ourselves Christians, that is, we Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Mormons, we all call ourselves Christians. Well, perhaps we are, and then, perhaps we are not” (p. 75).
- “. . .when Mormonism was presented to me, my first inquiry was, ‘Is it scriptural? Is it reasonable and philosophical?’ . . .I think if we, as Mormons, hold principles that cannot be sustained by the scriptures and by good sound reason and philosophy, the quicker we part with them the better, . . .—JD, 13:14-15, March 14, 1869” (p. 236).
Lorenzo Snow, 5th president:
“Mormonism cannot be destroyed. What have we to fear with regard to persecution and with regard to attempts that are made to destroy the principles of ‘Mormonism.’ We know they cannot be destroyed. Our enemies, if permitted, may kill the President of our Church, they may kill his Counselors, and the Twelve Apostles, they may destroy the Seventies, and even the whole of the Priesthood, but the principles of ‘Mormonism’ they cannot destroy. The principles of ‘Mormonism’ are eternal; they emanate from the God of heaven, and never can be destroyed. (Deseret News, Nov. 22, 1882, 690.)” (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p. 230. Bold in original).
Joseph F. Smith, 6th president:
- “I thank God for ‘Mormonism,’ so-called; it is the power of God unto salvation” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 97).
- “MORMONISM” DEFINED. I desire to say that “Mormonism,” as it is called, is still, as always, nothing more and nothing less than the power of God unto salvation, unto every soul that will receive it honestly and will obey it” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 72).
Heber J. Grant, 7th president:
- “If Joseph Smith did not have that interview with God and Jesus Christ the whole Mormon fabric is a failure and a fraud. It is not worth anything on earth” (Conference Reports, April 1940, p. 128).
- “Time and time again my heart has been melted, my eyes have wept tears of gratitude for the knowledge that He lives and that this gospel called Mormonism is in very deed the plan of life and salvation, that it is the only true gospel upon the face of the earth, that it is in very deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gospel Standards, pp. 197-198; given in General Conference, October, 1918).
David O. McKay, 9th president:
“It is my sincere belief and testimony that the Latter-day Saints commonly called ‘Mormons,’ are Christians in the truest and fullest sense of the term, and that this Church is world-wide in its comprehensiveness, in organization, and in its blessing and salvation of the human family. As true Christianity should and as it did in the days of the Savior, ‘Mormonism’ combines the essential elements in the teachings of Israel’s prophets, priests and sages; and in accepting the Jehovah of the Old Testament as the Savior of mankind, it fulfils the noblest aspirations of the Hebrew race, thereby indicating a world-wide scope so far as Israel’s people and Israel’s God are concerned” (Conference Reports, April 1927, pp. 104-105).
Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th president:
“The Latter-day Saints, so commonly called ‘Mormons,’ have no animosity towards the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an ‘inferior race’” (Answers to Gospel Questions 4:170).
Harold B. Lee, 11th president:
“So we try to say, ‘It will be wise for . . . Mormons to marry Mormons.’ Therein is the safest course” (“First Businessman Leader of Mormons to Rely on Revelation,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1972. Cited in The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 234. Ellipsis in original).
Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President:
“One man said the other day, the only thing he didn’t like about the Mormon Church was that it claims to be the only one through which a man could be saved. I said, ‘Oh no, we make no such claim. We say that every good religionist and every good man who is not a religionist will be saved but there are degrees of salvation’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, p. 7).
Ezra Taft Benson, 13th president
- “The message of Joseph Smith—the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the message of Mormonism—is the most important message in this world. And Joseph Smith the Prophet, who lives today, continues to have an important part in the direction here on earth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 2014, p. 110).
- At the April 1989 General Conference, Benson sang “A Mormon Boy”
Howard W. Hunter, 14th president:
- “My faith and testimony hinges upon this simple story, for if it is not true, Mormonism fails. If it is true–and I bear witness that it is—it’s one of the greatest single events in all history” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, pp. 96-97).
- “We should marry within our faith.Young people–we do marry our ‘dates.’ If our religion means anything to us, we will not be happy without a Mormon marriage, a Mormon family, prayer and harmony in the home” (“Except Ye Be Agreed,” Youth Fireside Series, April 10, 1962. Cited in The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 125. Bold in original).
- “My testimony of its divinity hinges upon the simple story of the lad under the trees kneeling and receiving heavenly visitors. If it is not true, Mormonism falls. If it is true–and I bear witness that it is–it is one of the greatest events in all history” (“Joseph Smith the Seer,” Joseph Smith Memorial Service Address, Institute of Religion, Utah State University, December 15, 1969. Cited in The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 189. Bold in original).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president:
- “There is no predestination in Mormon theology” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 55).
- “Mormon is a nickname for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just as converts to the Church of Christ in the first century came to be called Christians, so in the nineteenth century those who professed belief in the Book of Mormon were called Mormons” (What of the Mormons? A Brief Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 7).
- “For many years a Catholic broadcast has followed a Mormon program each Sunday evening over the city’s largest radio station, and all other denominations have been afforded time on a population-ratio basis, entirely without cost. Incidentally, the station’s stock is owned largely by the Mormon Church.” (What of the Mormons? A Brief Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 12).
- “The formal creeds and confessions of the Roman and Protestant churches are not found in their theology. This is to be expected since Mormonism is not an offshoot from any present day church” (What of the Mormons? A Brief Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 17).
Thomas S. Monson, 16th president:
“She simply told Dick, ‘Dick, I think you’re wonderful, but we would never be happy dating together.’ ‘Why not?’ he countered. ‘Because you’re not a Mormon.’ . . . One year later, Lucy and Dick entered the house of the Lord. Lucy lived the truth of the verse: Dare to be a Mormon; Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to make it known. Plan your future with purpose” (Pathways to Perfection: Discourses of Thomas S. Monson, p. 69. Ellipsis mine. Italics in original).
A number of other general authorities also used these terms to describe to their church or their followers:
- Apostle Orson Hyde: “What the world calls ‘Mormonism’ will rule every nation. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young will be the head. God has decreed it, and his own right arm will accomplish it” (Journal of Discourses 7:53).
- Apostle Orson F. Whitney: “. . . Mormonism be it true or false, holds out to men the greatest inducements that the human mind can grasp . . .” (June 9, 1895, Collected Discourses 4:336-337. Ellipses mine).
- Whitney: “Mormonism teaches that God was once just like ourselves” (May 6, 1892, Collected Discourses 3:45).
- Seventy B.H. Roberts: “Some of the sectarian ministers are saying that we Mormons are ashamed of the doctrine announced by President Brigham Young, to the effect that Adam will thus be the God of this world. No, friends, it is not that we are ashamed of that doctrine. . . . (Mormon Doctrine of Deity, pp. 42-43). (Notice the title of the book!)
- Apostle James E. Talmage: “Today the ‘Mormon” Church is known, by name at least, throughout the civilized world . . . ” (The Vitality of Mormonism, p. 14). (Notice the title)
- Talmage: “‘Mormonism’ affirms itself to be the embodiment of the essential requirements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .” (The Vitality of Mormonism, p. 21).
- Charles Penrose, First Presidency: “Mormonism does not tend to debase God to the level of man, but to exalt man to the perfection of God” (cited in The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 107).
- Apostle Milton R. Hunter: “Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar that through which we are now passing” (The Gospel Through the Ages, pp. 104-105).
- Hunter: “Interpreted in this light, we are brought face to face with the powerful Mormon doctrine which declares that ‘As man is God once was, and as God is man may be’” (Conference Reports, October 1945, p. 111).
- Apostle John Widtsoe: “Mormon history and doctrine have been carefully preserved in the published records of the Church—and all has been published” (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, pp. 256-257. Ellipsis mine).
- Apostle Melvin J. Ballard: “WE HAVE frequently said that perhaps the grandest thought that has ever been brought forth to the children of men is the Mormon truism, namely: ‘As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.’ The foundation of that truism is in this revelation and these words we have just read. Let me read them again: ‘Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God’ — Now, I would like to say a word or two about that Mormon truism, namely: ‘As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.’ Note that it is not to the effect that man will become, but man may become, and I wish to say that few men will become what God is. And yet, all men may become what he is if they will pay the price” (Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, p. 238).
- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, who wrote a book titled Mormon Doctrine, said, “Mormonism is Christianity; Christianity is Mormonism; they are one and the same, and they are not to be distinguished from each other in the minutest detail” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 513).
- McConkie: “Mormons are true Christians” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 513).
- Apostle Mark E. Petersen: “We Latter-day Saints have that new revelation. We have a new prophet and new scriptures also, which, added to the Bible, now point the way. This new revelation brought with it the true understanding of the nature of God and a restoration of primitive Christianity. That restoration is Mormonism. It came about through the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jun. He saw God and communed with him, even as did Moses” (Conference Reports, April 1964, p. 19).
- Seventy Rex Lee: “I am a believing, practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church . . .” (What Do Mormons Believe?, p. 1).
I’m sure someone might say, “Yes, these nicknames were used by these leaders, but notice how they used quotation marks around the terms.” For many of these examples, this is a correct observation. It must be understood, though, that many of the quotes were given orally, such as at talks at General Conference. Therefore, the audience would not have known these terms were “quote unquote.”
On the church website is an article titled “Are Mormons Christian?” No quotation marks are used around the word “Mormon.” Of course, a person could say that the article utilizes “Latter-day Saints” throughout, which is true, but this does not solves the problems. After all, the words “Latter-day Saints” in reference to members of the church do not contain “Jesus Christ.” Thus, what is the difference between using “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint” to describe a follower of the religion. Isn’t this just mere quibbling?
The terms Mormon and Mormonism are also used a number of times in the 2018 church-produced history book titled Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Vol 1: The Standard of Truth (1815-1846) (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018). Here are some examples:
- Page 173: “Samuel Lucas, a county judge and colonel in the Jackson County militia, was livid when he read the letter in The Evening and the Morning Star. In Samuel’s mind, William was inviting free black people to become Mormons and move to Missouri.”
- Page 255: “As John and Parley rode up to the Fieldings’ home, they saw Mercy and Mary run to a neighbor’s house. Their brother stepped outside and greeted the men coolly. He said he wished they had not come. His sisters, and many other people in town, did not want to hear them preach. ‘Why do they oppose Mormonism?’ Parley asked. ‘I don’t know,’ Joseph said. “The name has such a contemptible sound.’ He said they were not looking for new revelation or any doctrine that contradicted the teachings of the Bible.”
- Page 263: “For Phebe, though, the decision to come to Kirtland had been spiritual, not economic. Her parents had opposed her baptism, and after she announced her plans to gather with the Saints, her mother protested. ‘Phebe,’ she had said, ‘will you come back to me if you find Mormonism false?’”
- Page 344: “As reports of Mormon aggression spread, citizens across the state wrote him, urging action against the Saints.”
- Page 346: “The documents gave Boggs everything he needed to make a case against the Saints. Soon after the confrontation at the Crooked River, he ordered several divisions of Missouri militiamen to quell the Mormon forces and bring the Saints into submission.”
- Page 352: “If that is the case, I refuse to go,” said Mary. “Where they die, I will die, for I am a full-blooded Mormon, and I am not ashamed to own it.”
- Page 363: “I’m more satisfied with him a hundredfold than ever I was before,” Heber continued. “I tell you Mormonism is true, and Joseph is a true prophet of the living God.”
- Page 391 (speaking about Joseph Smith): “In letters to Edward Partridge and the Saints, he testified boldly of the latter-day work. ‘Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of Mount Vesuvius,’ he declared, ‘yet shall Mormonism stand.’ He was sure of this. ‘Truth is Mormonism,’ he exclaimed.”
- Page 558 (citing Phoebe Woodruff): “I would not give up the faith of true Mormonism if it cost me my life within one hour from the time I am writing this, for I know of a surety that it is the work of God.”
In the second volume for the series that was printed in 2020 (Saints: No Unhallowed Hand (1846-1893), Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018), there are not as many references to these nicknames. It appears Nelson’s edict has affected the history books. Yet, as the first volume attests, the terms were regularly used by church leaders and others throughout church history, as documented in the first history book.
President Russell M. Nelson’s 2018 edict prohibited the use of “Mormon,” “LDS,” and “Mormonism” by the church and members. He has made it very clear that using these nicknames should be considered offensive to God. Banning these terms now doesn’t explain why the church used these “offensive” terms throughout its history. If these terms offend God post-2018, should they not have offended God pre-2018?
Based on his April 1990 conference talk, Nelson knew about the problem at least a quarter century before, but other church leaders—including President Gordon B. Hinckley—did not take his advice seriously. Will the church ever repent for using these substitute terms throughout its history? This is highly doubtful. And will the church back away from prohibiting these terms once Nelson passes away? Only time will tell.
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