From Mormon to LDS in international perspective

October 19, 2004 | 38 comments
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I first had the title “We love the Mormonettes!”, but that would have covered only a tiny piece of my long text. But if you want to get to the Mormonettes, read on!

Are you Mormon or LDS? In Utah, but also elsewhere in the U.S., the shift towards the use of LDS is inescapable. Language use has its own laws, stronger than official guidelines. Indeed, those guidelines are clear, as stated in the Church Style Guide for the Media, directly related to a statement from the First Presidency:

“Please avoid the use of “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “the Church of the Latter-day Saints.” … When referring to Church members, the term “Latter-day Saints” is preferred, though “Mormons” is acceptable. “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as “Mormon pioneers.” The term “Mormonism” is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

According to these guidelines, “LDS” is out of the question. Except for “Mormon” in the expression “Mormon Church”, the M-word is acceptable: members may be called “Mormons”, the adjective “Mormon” may be used, and “Mormonism” is an adequate identification, standing proudly next to Catholicism or Buddhism. Not LDS.

But who cares? The Deseret News calls the Church the LDS Church and anything Mormon is LDS. In The Ensign you will read about LDS temples, LDS Chaplains, LDS friends. We have the LDS Church Archives. And, oh yes, the official Church site is www.lds.org. Though www.mormon.org was added later, but… geared towards non-Mormons.

The reasons of the shift to LDS are varied: it’s a euphemism to let a certain “Mormon” past fall behind us; it’s part of an acronym-culture sounding as dynamic and multinational like IBM or CBS; it’s short and handy (and thus liked by the media). And, except for the very adjective Mormon, “limited to expressions such as Mormon pioneers” (and which others?), there is no alternative adjective that the guidelines suggest. The holding of a Latterdaysaintish General Conference or the building of a Churchofjesuschristic chapel will not work.

Historically, LDS took more than a 100 years to become so pervasive. As far as I could find out, the first official occurrence dates back to 1889 when the Salt Lake Stake Academy became the L.D.S. College. A more general application to Church membership came during the Second World War with L.D.S. Servicemen to identify Mormon soldiers and the publication of L.D.S. Hymns. Nowadays, at least in Utah and partially in the rest of the English-speaking Mormon world, LDS, used both as a substantive for the members and as an adjective for anything contemporary, has almost completely supplanted Mormon.

Outside the Church, the choice between the two words remains value-laden: those not sympathetic to the Church tend to continue to use “Mormon”, while positive or neutral sources refer to the “LDS Church” and things LDS. Note that our enemies are thus more in line with Church guidelines!

Is the shift from Mormon to LDS an important issue? Apparently not to Utah and the Mormon corridor. About everybody knows that LDS means Mormon, so why bother?

But certainly when it comes to the international Church in the non-English sphere, things are different.

The official name of the Church, and thus the acronym LDS, translate differently in every language. Latter-day Saints are Heiligen der Laatste Dagen, Saints des Derniers Jours, Svjatich Pospednich Dnei, Orang-orang Suci Zaman Akhir, Au Paia a Aso e Gata Ai… And LDS is JUNS, OSZA, HLD, SPD, HLT, SDJ, KMNAKN, FMMMHN…

The abandonment of the word “Mormon” in English texts emanating from the Church is also more and more reflected in Church language abroad, for translation follows the trend. Within the Mormon international communities, the words Mormon Church and Mormons are slowly disappearing. No big issue for those members: they know who they are.

But there seem to be other, far reaching consequences.

The first problem is that the non-members in the foreign country do not relate those peculiar names to Mormons and Mormonism. Who would that tiny group of Svjatich Pospednich Dnei well be? Consider also that Latter-day Saints cannot be translated in four short syllables. In translation it is rendered as “the Holy Ones of the Last Days” or “the Sanctified Beings of the Final Period”. Must be another eccentric cult… Church PR tries to change that image, unrelentlessy. No, they tell the press, we as Orang-orang Suci Zaman Akhir are part of a World Church, the Gereja Yesus Kristus dari Orang-orang Suci Zaman Akhir, with twelve million members, etc. But usually without mentioning the name Mormon, in an effort to emphasize the real name.

The second problem is that the words Mormon and Mormonism have not disappeared in those languages. But when they are used in the media or in books, they are almost invariably tied to scandals, child marriages in polygamy clans, Tom Green, the Lafferty’s (Krakauer’s book is being translated in many languages), etc. Those weird Mormons live in Colorado City and in Salt Lake City. Yes, twin cities on the shore of a big salt lake in the middle of a vast desert.

Next, an unexpected backlash of Church PR’s efforts to avoid the name Mormon is that some press articles or internet sites will warn their readers: attention, those SPD, HLT or SDJ are actually Mormons, trying to hide who they really are! Beware of that cult and its deception!

Our avoidance of the M-words leads to the loss of major opportunities to counter those negative images. We give the field away to our enemies and detractors, for they are free to tie only scurrilous stories to these words. Sprawling anti-cult websites do their share in bashing anything Mormon, sometimes even with the word “mormon” in their URL.

And so much could be done to tie good things to the M-word abroad.

Take the amazing BYU groups – International Folk Dance Ensemble, Ballroom Dance Company, Dancer’s Company, Young Ambassadors, etc. – which travel abroad on goodwill tours and participate in major festivals and competitions. Tens of thousands see them yearly, hundreds of thousands hear of read about them in the media. But in those countries nobody outside the Church knows they are Mormon. This past summer the Folk Dancers performed during a full week in the major international folk festival in Schoten, Belgium: immense success! But not one mention was made, anywhere in the program or in the media, that this group had a connection to the Mormon Church. Even the local Mormon ward members did not know the group was performing close by and that they could have taken friends to see them. If they were just called The Mormon Folk Dance Ensemble…

And we would have the Mormon Ballroom Dance Company, and the Young Mormon Ambassadors, etc. The only “Mormon” group we have is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but its effect internationally is very limited (I heard that a few years ago, in the Church’s internal Mormon anti-Mormon movement, a name change to “Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir” had been planned, but finally called off. Now a book, a CD and a DVD promote the name America’s Choir, once given to the choir by Ronald Reagan. With such a name, the choir loses its Mormon connection just as well and, moreover, equates itself with the U.S).

Ah, and if the BYU Cougarettes, one the most spectacular modern dance groups in the world, would just change their name to The Mormonettes. With their quality, they could get during their tours on TV-channels abroad, even if only for five minutes guest group entertainment in national primetime shows. I can picture the effect on the image of the Church as a vibrant organization appealing to the youth. I remember how much the Osmonds, always identified upfront as Mormons, contributed to Church PR in their international star years in the seventies and how they brought tens of thousands into contact with the Church. And thousands were baptized. My wife, for one. And scores of her teenage peers all over Western Europe. Many of them are now local Church leaders and parents of second-generation Mormons. And the Osmonds are succesfully working on a comeback in Europe. Donny is again very visible in Britain, while Merill is planning European concerts in 2005.

Familysearch.org, Family History Centers, Humanitarian Services and more of these Church entities are present in many places in the world. None carries the word Mormon in its name. The vast majority of people are totally unaware of their connection with the Mormon Church. What a missed opportunity.

So, in my opinion, the major consequence of our abandoning “Mormon” on the international scene is a distressing effect on the image of the Church in the world. I have seen it in Western Europe where our image is much worse than twenty years ago. The situation reinforces the Church’s isolation and its identification with weird cults. It also fragments the Church in dozens of different names.

While on the other hand Mormon and Mormonism have a universal ring to them, being uniquely recognizable in all languages and used in dictionaries and encyclopedias as the primary, if not the only, entry for the Church since the middle of the 19th century. Mormons and Mormonism, words officially sustained by the Church, deserve to be promoted. World religions like Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism also have a short and unique root name, universally recognizable in any language.

Of course, the official name should have precedence! But LDS is not the official name. And Mormon is “acceptable”. How much does the Church gain and how much does it lose in the unofficial shift from Mormon to LDS? Is there more to it? Is the shift the outward sign of a deeper identity crisis? Quite a few American members seem upset to be called Mormons, as if ashamed to be still identified with that peculiar people.

I am proud to be a Mormon. For years I’ve fought in the mission trenches to deserve that title and to make it shine. Would we dare to say that Mormons who call themselves LDS are ashamed to be Mormons?

By the way, Mormons is the name Joseph Smith himself coined to replace the original nickname Mormonites.

And Gordon B. Hinckley said in General Conference, on October 7th 1990:

“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.

We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.

All of this places upon us of this Church and this generation an incumbent and demanding responsibility to recognize that as we are spoken of as Mormons, we must so live that our example will enhance the perception that Mormon can mean in a very real way, ‘more good’.”

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38 Responses to From Mormon to LDS in international perspective

  1. Ronan James Head on October 19, 2004 at 11:00 am

    That, brothers and sisters, is about the smartest thing I’ve heard in a long time. We cannot rebrand ourselves, we are Mormons to the world. And it’s not just an issue outside of the US. Many people I know here in Maryland have no idea that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Mormon church are one and the same.

    What would Google be if it was “Really Good Search Engine Without Adverts”? Keep it simple. Stick with Mormon. Well done, Wilfried.

  2. Russell Arben Fox on October 19, 2004 at 11:04 am

    Hooray! Fabulous post Wilfried! I don’t particularly believe that Mormonism, at least as presently constituted, can entirely fulfill our need for identity; so long as the State of Deseret and pure Adamic is on hold, we’re stuck with being part of the languages, cultures and nations of the world. But that doesn’t mean being “Mormon” is meaningless. It’s the name which historical developments–some of which we encouraged, some of which we resisted–stuck our church and people with. So we should embrace it! It’s a great name, easily identifiable, carries with it a host of associations which can be used productively to mark us out for who we are and what we stand for, and–as you note–is a lot easier to handle in other languages. (In Korean, our offical name becomes “Jesus Christ’s Last Day Church,” or some such thing.) Say it with me, and say it loud: I’m Mormon, and I’m proud.

  3. john fowles on October 19, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    “Latter-day Saint” is a more politically correct term that also describes more accurately who we are than the slanderous nickname “Mormons” (a derogatory term meant to obfuscate what our beliefs really are). Sure, we good-naturedly took over the calumnous epithet. But this is not the Church of Mormon. We believe in Jesus Christ and the appellation Latter-day Saints serves nicely to establish firmly in the mind of the hearer the connection between this Church and the Primitive Church, whose members were also denominated as “saints.”

    Prof. Decoo wrote Would we dare to say that Mormons who call themselves LDS are ashamed to be Mormons? What an insulting suggestion. I know the Church is true and will live and die according to this belief and by the teachings of this Church. I am not ashamed of the Gospel in anyway; by the same token, I am personally slighted by insults to the Church (including the victory of the Church’s enemies in forcing us to adopt their misleading nickname). Just because I want to eschew an epithet and insist on the same standard of political sensitivity cannot be construed as being ashamed of my Latter-day Saint identity. Remember, our evangelical “friends” spit the word “Mormon” like racist southerners spit the word “n_____.”

    Prof. Decoo, this shift towards Latter-day Saints is not unique to the English-speaking sphere. As early as the late 1980s many missionaries in Germany were trying to move away from “Mormons” in favor of “Heiligen der Letzten Tagen” (as reported to me by my ward mission leader in the mid-1990s in the Berlin Marzahn ward).

    I don’t disparage those members of the Church who wish to retain the epithet Mormon to describe themselves or to hold themselves out to the world by the antiquated term for their desire to do so, but why should other members who want to modernize the Church’s image, clarify the Church’s doctrine, and more accurately describe themselves through use of the proper term :Latter-day Saints” feel the brunt of their criticism?

  4. Wilfried on October 19, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you, John, I agree with you!

    But I think you missed the point:
    – It’s not about “Latter-day Saints”, it’s about “LDS” and JUNS, OSZA, HLD, SPD…
    – It’s precisely about countering those who spit out the word “Mormon”.
    – It’s about understanding what Pres. Hinckley said: “We may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster.”

  5. Matt Evans on October 19, 2004 at 12:50 pm

    Excellent points, Wilfried. From a branding, marketing and PR perspective, I’m sure you’re right that it would be more cost-effective to add luster to Mormon than to try and create brand awareness for dozens of acronyms.

    John, I don’t understand your negative view of the word Mormon. Evangelicals call other Christians “Lutherans” or “Calvinists,” after leaders in their churches, in the same way that they call us by the prophet Mormon. I don’t believe they are attempting to insult Lutherans, Calvinists or Mormons by using these names. If some people spit the word Mormon, they do so not because of any fault in the name, but because of the negative associations they have about the church.

    Because there are many Christian churches, it’s inevitable that we’ll invent labels to distinguish them. And from a marketing perspective, having a dozen different brands is terribly inefficient. That’s why multinational corporations tend to keep their same name around the world. For these reasons American Airlines isn’t Aerolineas Americanos, and Burger King isn’t El Rey de los Hamburgesas, even in Argentina. Ditto Volkswagen in the US. As communication systems and globalization have made the world smaller, the trend toward a single worldwide brand has only increased. One of the new tasks of marketing firms is to create words that work in many languages.

    One alternative to using Mormon as the sole brand would be to use LDS Church uniformly around the world, regardless of language, like American Airlines does. But this would, it seems to me, aggravate the perception that we’re an American church, whereas the term Mormon is an invented word.

  6. john fowles on October 19, 2004 at 1:13 pm

    My issue with “Mormon” is that it obscures our belief in Jesus Christ, leading the hearer to think that we put our faith in “Mormon.” Although most Latter-day Saints believe that Mormon was a real person and that he played an important role in prserving the record for us, they would not claim to worship him.

    Prof. Decoo has pointed out that I misunderstood the thrust of his post, which he clarifies was aimed mostly at the acronyms of LDS, HLT, SUD, etc. I have no problem with that except that I think it is silly to worry about using “LDS” as a useful descriptive adjective.

  7. Janey on October 19, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    So who’s going to tell Church PR to go back to calling us Mormons?

    A few years ago, I remember a push to refer to the Church as “The Church of Jesus Christ” if we needed a shorter term than the whole title. That puzzled me. The name of the higher priesthood was changed to “Melchizedek” to avoid the too frequent repetition of the holy name of Christ. Why would the Church want to splash that same sacred name on everything when the term “Mormon” identifies the same group of people just as well? We’ve gotten awfully paranoid about insisting that we’re Christians. We’re never going to be mainstream Christian, and we don’t *want* to be mainstream Christian, so let’s just be content with being Mormons.

  8. Bryce I on October 19, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    I don’t love the term “Mormon,” not because it has any negative connotations for me, but because it doesn’t work linguistically for me. Sure, you have your Lutherans, your Calvinists, your Buddhists, but they’re all people being described by some adjectival form of someone’s name. Mormon is a proper noun that has been pressed into similar service. The difference is subtle, but telling. Instead of identifying myself as a follower of Mormon and his teachings, I’m somehow taking his name upon myself, which is just weird to me. We’re asked to take the name of Christ on ourselves. How did Mormon get in there?

    I suspect that part of what is going on is that the final syllable of “Mormon” does the work of “-an” in “Lutheran” or “Tongan” or “American”. How would things be different if we had the Book of Moroni? Would we be the Moroni Church? I suspect not. Of course, “Mormon” doesn’t do the same work in other languages, but as a loanword, it doesn’t have to.

    Wilifried makes some great observations. For one thing, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints could make sure that its name is appropriately translated into other languages — the Japanese translation also make reference to the last days (see Russell’s comment above).

  9. Marc D. on October 19, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    People in Belgium don’t know much about LDS. The missionaries had invited a man to come to our church and he was there for sacrament meeting. Afterwards I talked to him together with some other members. He said: ‘This was a good meeting, totally different than those crazy Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons.
    We looked at eachother and said. Yeah, well, you know…
    So, we had some explaining to do.
    When I was a missionary in the Belgium Brussels Mission a man let us in when we presented ourselves as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints.
    That was already an accomplishment because most of the time they closed the door halfway the churchname.
    Everything went fine untill I showed him the Book of Mormon. He shouted: ‘you are liars, you are not Christians, you are Mormons and out we went.
    People look strange when you say you are a saint. Of course Catholic saints are a little bit different than we are.
    Latter days translated in Flemish is: ‘the last days’. That sounds very secterian.
    So I would often say: ‘we are from the Church of Jesus Christ’ and if I’m not mistaken this was the name they used in the early days of the Church.
    I don’t really think it will make a lot of difference which name we use as long as people see that we love them.

  10. Greg on October 19, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    Great post and comments. I’m with Russell that we should embrace “Mormon.” Of course, I may be under the influence of a strange little ditty that has been running through my head for 25 years now:

    I’m a Mormon, yes I am,
    And if you want to study a Mormon, I’m a living specimen.
    Maybe you think I’m just like everybody else you see,
    But trust in my word, you’ll be quick to observe,
    I’m as different as can be!

    (Anybody know the other verses??)

  11. Ronan James Head on October 19, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    John,

    The Jews are happy to be called Jews even though a) it has a history of being spoken with venom and b) if they were to reflect their belief in God they should call themselves “Yahwists”. Remember too that “Christian” began as a term of slander.

    *Of course* we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that should always be emphasized, but like in the old church TV ads we should also quickly say “the Mormons”. I think that Wilfried was asking for some consistent branding, and that for good or ill most people know us as Mormons. Maybe I’m sensitive about this because I’m not even sure what nationality I am: am I English, British or a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK-ite?)?!! I meet many people who don’t understand the meaning of these terms. And it’s funny: the UK (or is it British, or maybe English) tourist board recently did a survey in America to see what name most people knew my country by!

    Back to the Church: is the not the Church encouraging this? Why “mormon.org”?

    In Jerusalem the BYU center is univerally known as the “Mormon University”. that’s a good thing as it allows the locals to attribute the good work of BYU (which they don’t know) with the Mormons (which they do).

    One last thing: what’s the LDS/Mormon penchant for huge names all about? My personal favourite is “The Brigham Young Univesity Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts”. Phew!

  12. Kim Siever on October 19, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    “Prof. Decoo wrote Would we dare to say that Mormons who call themselves LDS are ashamed to be Mormons? What an insulting suggestion…I am not ashamed of the Gospel in anyway”

    JUst to be a nitpicker, being ashamed to be ‘Mormons’ and being ashamed of the Gospel are not the same thing.

  13. D. Fletcher on October 19, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    It’s pretty simple for me. I’m “Mormon” to non-Mormons. To other members of the Church, I’m “LDS.”

    I did have a funny experience with LDS, though. I had a t-shirt from a youth conference that said “LDS Forever” on the front. Somebody at a restaurant asked me if I knew that LDS was spelled incorrectly.

    (they thought it should be LSD, duh)

  14. Rosalynde Welch on October 19, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    Marc, doesn’t your first anecdote suggest that the use of LDS (or its French equivalent) was a good PR move? Your investigator might never have come to church in the first place had he associated you with “those crazy Mormons.”

    Very interesting comments, Pr. Decoo. I’d never thought of these issues in this light. Where I served my mission, in Portugal, the term SUD was used frequently by members–having the advantage of being easily pronounceable in Portuguese. “Mormon” was at least as likely to be associated with cults, if not more so, than SUD. However, the difficulty of branding the many language-specific variants of the acronym is an important factor I’d never considered.

    On the other hand, I think the distinction between “Mormon” culture, history, and sociology and “LDS” theology, congregations, and administration is a useful semantic tool. There are crucial differences between culture and structure in the church, and having separate terms for these spheres takes some of the ideological pressure off “Mormon” (or LDS, whichever you choose.)

    I personally must cast my vote for “latterdaysaintish” as the adjectival term for our church–that’s right up there with “bloggernaccle” for felicity of phrase.

  15. Rosalynde Welch on October 19, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Greg–

    I’m a Mormon, through and through
    And if you think that I am peculiar in the things I say and do,
    Remember I know the rules, the do’s and don’ts
    For happy, happy living
    I’ve learned to say “I will,” “I won’t”
    I try to be forgiving.
    Maybe you’d like me to tell you about the things that I know are true–
    Then you can be a Mormon too!

  16. Keith on October 19, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    A few notes about this topic:

    Journalist and others were requested that the Church not be called the Mormon Church or the LDS Church but that the whole name be given at first, and then “The Church” or “The Church of Jesus Christ” be used as shortened, subsequent uses. This request appeared sometime before the Olympics came to Salt Lake City. For all that this was seen as silly or annoying to some, reports I remember seeing were that this was a great help in explaining the Church and establishing who we are to a worldwide audience–to those who simply had a bad stereotype or virtually no knowledge.

    The Church owned KSL and Deseret News frequently refer to the Church as the LDS Church (not quite following the rule).

  17. Greg on October 19, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    A thousand thank yous, Rosalynde. Priceless.

  18. Justin B. on October 19, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    I found an MP3 file of the “I’m a Mormon” song. Pretty catchy marching band tune there.

    http://www.planbmag.com/blogs/frances/archives/00000035.php

  19. Wilfried on October 19, 2004 at 7:45 pm

    Great find, Justin!

    The direct link to the music is
    http://tinyurl.com/58axp

  20. Greg on October 19, 2004 at 8:12 pm

    Now you, too, can be haunted with this inane tune!! I notice that Rosalynde’s memory of the lyrics was a little better than mine.

  21. Rosalynde Welch on October 19, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    Every lyric from Janeen Jacobs Brady’s later albums and U2’s early albums are permanently imprinted on my brain. I’ve recently been deliberating about the propriety of introducing my three-year-old to either of these formative musical experiences… thoughts?

  22. Gilgamesh on October 19, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    I remember this same issue coming up in the early 1980’s then President Benson announced that his favorite song was “I’m proud to be a Mormon boy.” End of argument for his tenure.

  23. Bryce I on October 19, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    I vaguely recall getting out of school one day in fifth or sixth grade so I could go sing “I’m a Mormon, Yes I Am” with some other kids in the ward at an interfaith lunch in my town.

    I seem to have escaped without lasting mental damage.

    You can do a lot worse than the Brite tapes. My kids like them.

  24. Ashleigh on October 19, 2004 at 9:50 pm

    I like to say “I’m Mormon” with non-members. Saying anything else feels like I’ve got something to be ashamed of, or that I’m avoiding the obvious choice of words, thus casting “Mormon” in an unnecessarily negative light.

    Which is what Wilfried said, I think.

    And I also agree that all the substitutes are long and awkward. And I like simple.

  25. Nate Oman on October 20, 2004 at 12:49 am

    Russell: The name of the Church in Korean is literally “Last Day Saint Jesus Christ Church.” I actually think that “Mal Il Sung Do” (Latter-day Saint) roles off the tongue much more nicely than “Mol Mon Een” (Mormon) ;->

  26. Jim F. on October 20, 2004 at 12:57 am

    “Latter-day” doesn’t necessarily translate well because it contains a very nice ambiguity in English that disappears in many translations. In English it can mean that these are the last days, or it can distinguish the Church of the Former days from the Church of the Latter Days. In other words, “latter” has two sense, an absolute end, and a relative position (the thing that came after something else). The nice thing about “Mormon,” even when it is difficult to pronounce, as in Korean, is that it doesn’t have to be translated. Transliteration is enough.

  27. Steven Suhr on October 20, 2004 at 4:58 am

    LDS is not alone as a frequently used abbreviation for the name of a church. Some other examples are AME, ELCA, and C of E.

    Two things that I like about Mormon in comparision to LDS are that it works equally well as a noun or as an adjective and that it seems to have a stronger identity. Given the teaching in the Book of Mormon that a church has to be called after the name of Jesus Christ to be his church, it would be nice to have a better substitute for the long full name of the church, but some of the obvious alternatives are already taken, and I have never seen a positive use of the more complete abbreviation COJCOLDS.

  28. Wilfried on October 20, 2004 at 7:59 am

    Thank you for all the comments thus far. The main idea of my post was of course missionary work and how we can get people interested in the Church and the Gospel in international perspective. Mark D told the anecdote of how a man came to a sacrament meeting and afterwards said: “This was a good meeting, totally different than those crazy Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons.” Mark also told how people slam the door or throw the missionaries out as soon as they hear the word “Mormon”.

    That is the whole point. By avoiding the word “Mormon” we ourselves have allowed our detractors to tarnish that name to such an extent that in the mind of the average people the word Mormon stirs up images of a weird cult, to be avoided by all means.

    Based on an analysis of press reports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, I found that overall the image of Church improved between approx. 1920 and 1980, thanks to a constant stream of positive elements tied to the word “Mormon Church” and “Mormon”. The Church never tried to avoid the word “Mormon”, on the contrary. Mention was made of the TV-spots, which we saw for years, also in other countries, where the full name of the Church was displayed, with under it: “The Mormons”. There are numerous examples of these well directed efforts by the Church to tie positive images to the word Mormon. Until it was decided to stop that practice.

    After approx. 1980 there is a sharp decline in positive press reports. The problem has been compounded by various factors, one of course our own avoidance of the word Mormon, the other the rise of a strong anti-cult movement. That had to do with the bloody events in a number of cults and the subsequent action governments took to curb the “danger of the cults”. Self-appointed vigilantes started watch organizations, often fed by Evangelists, that make sure the Mormons are mentioned as part of the dangerous cults. The internet has made their influence pretty strong. Another factor is the continued tendency of journalists to prefer scandals and scurrilous stories. Tom Green, the Lafferty’s, polygamist enclaves are the top stories where “Mormons” are mentioned in the international press.

    Hence the need, from a PR standpoint, to counter this imagery with positive elements tied to the word Mormon. We know that opens doors. I mentioned the example of the Osmonds. There were many others in past decades. We still have easy and far reaching opportunities to do so, like adding the name “Mormon” to BYU groups traveling abroad. Of course, once the door is open, those people will hear about Christ, the Restoration, the fullness of the Gospel. And with a positive ring to the word “Mormon, converts will have fewer negative reactions from their family, friends and environment.

    Any other suggestions to improve our image internationally and get people to open their doors when they hear the word “Mormon”?

    Janey mentioned “So who’s going to tell Church PR to go back to calling us Mormons?” Well, I am sure the discussion in also on their mind.

  29. Mark B on October 20, 2004 at 8:13 am

    Gilgamesh remembers correctly the reference by Pres. Benson to the song “A Mormon Boy” which was written by Evan Stephens. I remember vaguely singing it a few times late in my primary years (mid-60’s) but not since. Here are all the lyrics I could find in a quick Google search:

    A “Mormon� boy, a “Mormon� boy,
    I am a “Mormon� boy;
    I might be envied by a king,
    For I am a “Mormon� boy.
    My father was a “Mormon� true,
    And when I am a man,
    I want to be like him and do
    Just all the good I can.

    I found another reference to the song in an October 1997 conference talk by Elder Haight, who said he wished that we could hear it more often.

    One comment about Pres. Benson’s reference to the song: In his Bear Lake accent, it would have come out “Marmon boy” which might have confused non-Mormon antique car buffs into thinking that he was talking about the old car company, which manufactured automobiles from 1902 until it closed up shop in 1933. A Marmon (not a Mormon) won the first Indianapolis 500 (in 1911) and the company was noted for several innovations in automobile manufacture, including the first rear view mirrors.

  30. Justin B. on October 20, 2004 at 2:25 pm

    Wilfried,

    Your articles in Dialogue and Journal of Mormon History demonstrate that you have many interesting and promising ideas for ways to get people interested in the church in Europe.

    A question for you, if you don’t mind: have church leaders in Salt Lake City ever contacted you regarding those ideas or otherwise shown interest in implementing some of them? Or even gone ahead and put some of them into action?

    (A side note: I’d be interested in learning more about your involvement with Horizon in the early 1980s and the history of the publication.)

  31. Wilfried on October 20, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you for the question, Justin.

    Yes, there is a definite interest from Church leaders in ideas and suggestions from the basis. Yes, I have been asked to write reports based on my experience. Church leaders ask for such feedback often from experts and from members with experience in certain fields. But next, you must wait and see what will happen in the long run. Some ideas and suggestions will materialize, in their due time, and often in different forms. I believe therefore members should think and exchange ideas about issues that can help the Church forward (see my questions in comment 28 supra), but always carefully and constructively. And accept that the final decisions are not yours.

    Horizon was a great experience: it was a Dutch “magazine for the Mormon community” as it was subtitled. I did it to show the need for such a magazine. It was very succesful. It is also another example of interest in such things by Church leaders in SLC: I was asked to write a detailed report about it. I believe it had some effect on the changes in format and content of the Liahona in the 80s. Even so, the need for such a binding, more local magazine remains, especially in countries where members have little access to news about the World Church. The Internet, of course, has changed much for many people, but not for all.

  32. Matt Evans on October 20, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    Wilfried,

    Is there an Internet site that fills the need that Horizon met?

  33. Wilfried on October 20, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    To answer your question:

    Some time ago mention was made in T&S of Mormon sites in various languages that fill the need for local news and that bring FARMS and other material in translation. I cannot remember on which thread it was.

    An excellent French site is http://www.idumea.org/ .
    For the Dutch saints there is e.g. http://mormonen.beginthier.nl/ (note the word Mormonen in the URL!)
    More and more local Young adults have their own sites, e.g. http://communities.msn.be/jovosAntwerpen

    I am sure many of our T&S friends can point to similar ones for other languages in the world.

  34. Adam Greenwood on October 21, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    Huzzah.

  35. Juliann on October 26, 2004 at 1:04 am

    Claremont Graduate University is in the midst of their Positioning MORMONism Conference, http://www.cgu.edu/pages/1621.asp . The story told in introducing Grant Underwood was that when the scholars and LDS Council were at loggerheads over titles, Grant stepped in and explained what was at stake in such a seemingly simple thing for both sides. Obviously, they came to an agreement.

    Wonderful conference, by the way.

  36. Wilfried on October 26, 2004 at 7:36 am

    Thanks, Juliann, for that mention.

    It’s good to know that the terms the Church has approved as acceptable (Mormons, Mormonism and Mormon as adjective) are being used instead of LDS (which has not been approved). Of course, no illusion that we can change the local “LDS tradition” in Utah, but we can do our best to promote the official words by using them.

    It would be nice to know how many official organizations, centers, conferences there are that use the word Mormon.
    – Center for Mormon Studies (UVSC) with their annual Mormon Studies Conference
    – Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (BYU)
    – Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference
    – a certain “… onymous Mormon group blog in history”

    I thought there were other centers for Mormon Studies at some universities. Who can fill in?

  37. Asa Allred on December 22, 2004 at 11:46 am

    I sang that song when I was a littlte boy and want the words to all of it so I can teach it to my grand Kids. I remember the tune very well and some of the verse. If some one knows all of the words and perhaps the music too I would appreciate a copy. Asa Allred

  38. Wilfried on December 22, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Hello Asa

    I guess the text is in
    http://www.aml-online.org/reviews/b/B199713.html

    Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People
    Edited by Jack M. Lyon, Linda Ririe Gundry, Jay A. Perry, Devan Jensen
    Deseret Book, 1996.

    Maybe others would know other sources.