Mormons without the Mormon Church

October 5, 2011 | 67 comments
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In his recent conference address, Elder Ballard emphasized that we must avoid the name “Mormon Church” and instead use as much as possible the official, full name of the Church. His message stems from two concerns:
(1) the missing association with the name “Jesus Christ”, hence no immediate recognition of the Church as Christian.
(2) the potential confusion with other groups, in particular polygamist groups, that are referred to as “Mormon.”
 
Elder Ballard identified the official name as “wonderfully brief, candid, and straightforward.” He analyzed each of the nine words as it forms a “descriptive overview” of what the Church is and stands for.
 
Indeed, all true, but doctrinal logic does not always coincide with other realms in the reality of our international world. Some considerations:
 
- To refer to the Church in daily communication, nine words is still much too long. All churches are referred to with a simple adjective: Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, Greek Orthodox… , even if their official names are different and much longer. Pragmatically, a short moniker to identify a church is unavoidable. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not yet offered a simple solution to this quandary, while rejecting the one easy name – Mormon Church – that has been used since the 19th century, also by Church leaders. The present official Style Guide is well-meant, but it is contrary to writing habits because the simple adjective is missing. Requesting to use the shortened “The Church of Jesus Christ” is perhaps attainable with the Associated Press in the American context, but hardly elsewhere.
 
- What makes a church recognized as “Christian”? The name of “Christ” in it? None of the churches just mentioned has it and all are known to be Christian. How then to reinforce the connection between Mormon Church and Christianity? Yes, among others, by stressing the official name of the Church. But then there is the contradiction between, on the one hand, the desire to be viewed as Christians, to see the Church accepted as “a Christian church”, and, on the other hand, the uncompromising assertion that it is “THE Church of Jesus Christ,” the only one that can claim His name, as often stated. The latter viewpoint can be perfectly acceptable from our internal perspective and in missionary work, but other churches may not find it so agreeable in the interreligious context. One may even wonder if the strategy to impose the official name does not make us less credible as Christian partner. Since “Mormon Church” will not disappear, no matter how hard we try, what other things could be done to reinforce its connection with the Christian family?
 
- Elder Ballard calls the official name of the Church “wonderfully brief”. The nine English words, expressed in eleven syllables, could be viewed as such. But in other languages… Gereja Yesus Kristus dari Orang-orang Suci Zaman Akhir…
 
- In connection with those languages, by rejecting “Mormon” as moniker for the Church we give up the key element of our international brand name, recognizable in all languages. The official name fragments the Church identity in as many languages. As for a first encounter, Latter-day Saints does not translate well in many languages — read: I am a Holy Being of the Almost Final Period.
 
- Is “LDS Church” better? Also to be avoided, says the Style Guide. And, indeed, LDS is worse than Mormon: a letter-acronym has a corporate ring; letters do not convey any content; they are confused with LSD; they lead to an even stranger multi-lingual fragmentation: JUNS, OSZA, HLD, SPD, HLT, SDJ, KMNAKN, FMMMHN… 
 
- What about other “Mormon” groups that trigger confusion? A few claim to be “Mormon” (though the worst confusion does not seem to come from “Mormon”, but from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ … – FLDS).  But, to counter this confusion, would the Church not better strengthen its grip on the “Mormon” moniker by stressing “The Mormon Church” as an official alternative to the full name? It would mean to claim “Mormon” as our own trade mark. Now it seems we decline the name and then complain about others using it.
 
- By explicitly rejecting the term “The Mormon Church” as a denominator, to what extent do we allow others with some Mormon connection to legally claim it? Can anyone claim the internet domain “Mormon church”? In fact www.mormonchurch.com does not belong to the Church, but is, fortunately, in the hands of faithful “Mormon Church members”. From my experience in Europe, it took time before the Church realized how important it was to claim national domain names with the name “Mormon” in it. In Germany, an ex-Mormon had started the subversive website www.mormonen.de. In 2002 the Church sued to reclaim it. The defendant argued the Church itself had explicitly stated that “Mormon” was not its official name, hence it was for grabs for anyone. The trial was not easy to win, but the court finally agreed that the nickname belonged lawfully to the Church — as the Church had pleaded.
 
- It may well be that by further disconnecting “Mormon” from the name of the Church, confusion will worsen. For outsiders, especially in foreign lands, two different entities may emerge semantically: the well-known Mormon Church and a church with a long weird-sounding name. “Do you belong to the Mormon Church? – No, I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is not exactly clarifying.
 
- The Church has launched a PR campaign that emphasizes the word “Mormon,” in particular “I am a Mormon,” as it pertains to members. But there is no “Mormon Church” to whom they belong… Would “the Mormon Church” not be the natural semantic bridge to bring people from the individual to the organization, where they will quickly learn the full name of the Church?
 
These considerations do not question the fundamental truth that the revealed name of the Church is what it is. Also, that very name “indicates the unique position of the restored church among the religions of the world,” as Elder Ballard stated. He explained well how that name contains the essential components of our faith.
 
At the same time, we live in a complex, international, often inimical world in which we must find ways to optimally make our identity known according to different and changing circumstances.

67 Responses to Mormons without the Mormon Church

  1. Kaimi Wenger on October 5, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Wonderful thoughts, Wilfried. I think you articulate very well the potential problems with abandoning Mormonness.

    It seems clear to me that the problem is conflicting goals. The name Mormon is short and catchy, easy to translate, and has fantastic name recognition worldwide. In terms of marketing, it is far superior to the church’s official name or initials. There’s really no question.

    But, there’s one important drawback, which is that the name “Mormon church” is used by evangelical anti-Mormons (anti-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-Day-Saints-ians?) to bolster their argument that Mormons aren’t Real Christians and don’t really believe in The Real Jesus.

    For many Mormons (including Elder Ballard), there seems to be a perception that the church’s official name is itself a stand-alone refutation of that criticism. It’s a view that “of _course_ we’re Christians — just look at the church’s name!”

    I don’t think this actually rebuts evangelical critiques in 2011. Yes, some of the dumber counter-cult arguments focus on the church’s name. But the substance of evangelical critiques in 2011 is on Mormon Christology, not on naming. Things were different a few decades ago. These days, most critics are aware of the church’s name, and it doesn’t change their views on our Christology.

    And really, it _shouldn’t_. It is silly to expect name to trump theology. Just because someone names their Hindu temple “the Hindu temple of Jesus” doesn’t make it a Christian church.

    But I think it’s clear that these anti-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-Day-Saints-ian criticisms really bother some church leaders, and that there is a perception that a focus on the church’s official name will undercut those criticisms.

  2. Brad on October 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

    1. Gereja Yesus Kristus dari Orang-orang Suci Zaman Akhir – Indonesian?

    2. mormon.org – should it be churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints.org?

  3. Jeff on October 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

    You make a compelling argument, but you seem to have missed the point. Read the passage Elder Ballard cited, Doctrine and Covenants 115:4. The Lord states, quite unequivocally, “[T]hus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He does not say, “thus shall appear on the Church’s official signs and letterhead.” He does not even say, “thus shall my Church be named.” What He says is:

    “Thus shall my Church be called.”

    That’s a commandment, Wilfried. “Thus shall” is the same construction as “thou shalt,” and as is often pointed out, “thou shalt” does not connote suggestion. It’s all well and good to help people associate the slur “Mormon Church” with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that doesn’t mean we should be promoting the moniker.

  4. Jeff on October 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Brad,

    ChurchOfJesusChristOfLatterDaySaints.org is the web site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Try as we may, I doubt we’re going to get a hold of that one, any time soon. Interestingly, that church also owns ChurchOfJesusChristOfLatter-daySaints.org and TheChurchOfJesusChristOfLatter-daySaints.org, which seems highly problematic to me. (Of course, theChurchOfJesusChristOfLatterDaySaints.org redirects to Mormon.org, so perhaps we could initiate a swap?)

  5. RickH on October 5, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Very well said. I just wanted to add to your point about other languages. In Bulgarian (???????? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ???????? ?? ?????????? ???)we’re looking at a very un-brief 19 syllables. And if you were to try to refer to yourself as a “Latter-day Saint” — well, because of the Orthodox tradition there, “saints” are specifically people who were so good in this life that they can perform miracles if you pray to their icons. So calling yourself a “saint” implies that you consider yourself on a par with St. John the Baptist, St. George, and all the others, and that you expect to be able to have people pray to you after you die. So when you mention the full name of the church, you also have to include a sentence or two about how in the early church, anyone who tried to follow Christ’s teachings was a “saint” – and that it didn’t mean “someone who can work miracles on your behalf.” So any succinctness the name of the church might have is based wholly on having a common understanding of each of those words.

    Unless maybe we all start carrying a small, business-card sized copy of Elder Ballard’s talk around and handing it out whenever we use the name of the church?

  6. NewlyHousewife on October 5, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Generally speaking in my experience those that use the phrase “Mormon Church” are not interested in a discussion. The easiest thing people can do though is simply change their Facebook beliefs to state “Latter-Day Saint” (which gives you a picture of Joseph Smith) than “Mormon”.

    Neither help the Christian label, but we’ve lost that war long ago.

  7. KLC on October 5, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Wilfried, it’s nice to hear from you again. When I first discovered Morm… I mean TheChurchofJesusChristofLatterdaySaints blogs and T&S your international views were always something to look forward to. I also agree with your analysis.

    And why is Elder Ballard commenting here as Jeff?

  8. Kaimi on October 5, 2011 at 11:08 am

    In Spanish, it’s “La Iglesia de JesuCristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias.” The church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days. 21 syllables, and very unwieldy.

    And Spanish is an incredibly important language for the church.

  9. RickH on October 5, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Huh. My Bulgarian didn’t seem to go through. Sorry about that. The English transliteration would be “Tsrkvata na Isus Hristos na Svetiite ot Poslednite Dni.” And as you mentioned, “SPD” doesn’t really work well either.

    BTW, I tried going to the Bulgarian site on lds.org – and the only name of the Church there is in English. Maybe we’re going about this all wrong? Maybe we should convince other languages to use the English version of the Church name, after all? I mean, lots of church names maintain their original language. If they translated into the vernacular, we woudln’t have Islam or Muslims, we would have (roughly) “to submit” and “Ones who submit”. Taoism might become “Path-followers”, where Shinto might be “Followers of the Path of the Gods”.

    Things might get a little dicey between the Unitarian Universalists and the Catholics (Now also something along the line of “Universalists”). But hey, religions always find a way to work things out amicably, right?

  10. chris on October 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

    To add to what Jeff said,
    “For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church…” so clearly, if a church is called “Mormon church” then it is Mormon’s church.

    KLC – It’s “ok” to say Mormon blogs, yes I recognize you’re sarcasm, but Mormon blogs is an ok description because it’s not referring to “the church”.

  11. Mathew on October 5, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Good point Jeff. The owners of the domain names LDS.org and Mormon.com need to STOP BREAKING THE COMMANDMENTS. The owners of those sites may have good intentions, but as you point out–calling the church by its right name is a commandment, not a suggestion! (Perhaps in the future editions we will see an addendum to D&C 115:4 allowing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to refer to itself by the slur “Mormon” on an as-needed basis.)

  12. Amira on October 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Thanks, Wilfried. I suppose it’s safe to admit here that I don’t know the official name of the Church in either foreign language I speak well enough to claim. Unless they already have a connection with the Church, anyone I have met in the Middle East and Central Asia knows only the name Mormon if they’ve ever heard of the Church. I can’t imagine using the official name of the Church in Arabic or Russian or Uzbek- it doesn’t tell anyone anything.

  13. Amira on October 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

    And Wilfried, it’s good to read a post from you again.

  14. chris on October 5, 2011 at 11:38 am

    RickH – I like what you said about just leaving the English name, since it was revealed that way. Of course, that supposes the name in other languages was not revealed to the 12/FP, and I would assume when the church is establishing itself in foreign lands revelation is received. I think there are more revelations being received (and not published) than we assume.

    You almost sound like George Albert Smith who said, “It appears that God in His divine wisdom revealed the gospel in the English language…It is very desirable that all of our brethren who are not acquainted with the English language should learn it.” (of course back then in a gather to Zion-Utah situation it made sense, so I don’t think it’s fair to mock it…)

  15. Julie M. Smith on October 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Wilfried, great post and great to hear from you again.

  16. Steve Evans on October 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Jeff’s right. We should insist on the revealed English name regardless of the language as well.

    p.s. if you consider being called Mormon a slur, maybe you should bring that up with Joseph F. Smith. He was OK with it.

    p.p.s. you kind of sound crazy.

  17. Petra on October 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Great post! My heart is warmed that you used Indonesian as an example, and twice no less (both the full name and the acronym, OSZA). And of course the foreign language examples are insightful on several counts–first, that the names aren’t wonderfully brief, and second, that the names aren’t necessarily very transparent, either. Not only does the Indonesian example translate somewhat awkwardly, as you said, the words used in the translation aren’t very common, and their order is even less common. (“Zaman akhir” is more typical than “akhir zaman” in discussions of the last days, for example.) I met many Indonesians who had difficulties parsing the meaning of the official name, and in those cases it was just easier to introduce the entirely foreign term “Mormon” and explain “it’s a Christian church.”

  18. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you all for comments up to now. I’ll comment on some in a moment.

    But first, this: It’s always a challenge when a commenter brings up the obedience factor as if… However, I said in my post: “These considerations do not question the fundamental truth that the revealed name of the Church is what it is”.

    Perhaps this can ease the concern: 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’.”

  19. Dave on October 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Wilfried, your post makes me wonder whether the talk itself will even translate adequately into languages besides English.

  20. geoffsn on October 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I thought that a lot of the rationale behind avoiding saying “the mormon church” was that there are many mormon churches, and thus there is not one “Mormon Church.”

    Jeff is on to something though, I mean everyone knows that when God said the church was the “only true and living church” was when it was called the “Church of Christ.” Then a few years later it was changed to the “Church of Latter-day Saints.” Obviously at that point it ceased to be the same true and living church. Then finally by section 115 we learned the name had to be changed to include both of the former names. Perhaps we can expect another revelation in which we learn about a new preface to the name, or a subtitle. Probably either:

    “The Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”

    or

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    The True and Living Mormon Church”

  21. Kevin Barney on October 5, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Great post, Wilfried. I agree on all counts. I had similar thoughts, but had not taken the time to sort them out, and now I don’t have to.

    Really, I thought the Church had gotten over this when they realized that in the internet context at least they simply can’t avoid “Mormon.” Apparently the angst over that word continues…

  22. Lorian on October 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Kaimi #1 said:

    But, there’s one important drawback, which is that the name “Mormon church” is used by evangelical anti-Mormons (anti-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-Day-Saints-ians?) to bolster their argument that Mormons aren’t Real Christians and don’t really believe in The Real Jesus.

    This is true, but I’d just like to point out that evangelicals also use the name “Catholic” to similarly impugn the Roman Catholic Church’s Christian status. Despite the fact that “catholic” simply means “universal,” evangelicals claim that “Catholics are not Christians, like us.”

    The thing of it is, though, that to many evangelical and fundamentalist groups, NO one who does not espouse their exact doctrines and dogma qualifies to use the term “Christian.” They are equal-opportunity scoffers, as a rule.

    Perhaps the *best* method of dealing with those who say, “Mormons aren’t Christians” is the old adage, “I’m rubber, you’re glue…”

    ;)

  23. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Once again, thanks! I’ll respond to comments in the order of arrival. Not all at once, so bear with me.

    Kaimi (1), I agree with your interpretation. “There is a perception [among Church leaders] that a focus on the church’s official name will undercut those criticisms [that we are not Christian].”
    It’s explicit in Elder Ballard’s talk.

    Defending the official name of the Church because it is the revealed name is one thing (and absolutely useful to remind us of fundamentals); defending it to show to our detractors that we are Christian is another thing (and useless). Our detractors know the full name of the Church just as we do and our emphasis on Jesus Christ this past decade has not gone unnoticed. But there is little chance it will change the viewpoint of hardcore anti-Mormons.

  24. Ms. Jack on October 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Good post, Wilfried. My thoughts:

    (1) There’s nothing brief about “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Look at the names of some other churches: Evangelical Covenant Church, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Free Church, Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, etc. Most churches have 3-5 words in their names, not 9-10. The LDS church probably has one of the longer church names in the United States.

    (2) Emphasizing the words “Jesus Christ” in the church’s official name is never, ever going to do anything to convince other Christians that Mormons are Christians. Names are superficial. Anyone can slap the words “Jesus Christ” or “Christian” in their organizational names if they want to. Christians care about what you teach, not what you call yourself.

    (3) Abbreviating to “the Church of Jesus Christ” just sounds presumptuous. In my own writing, I never abbreviate the name of the church as such because I’m part of the church of Jesus Christ, too. Two billion other people on this planet feel the same way—which is the other problem with that abbreviation. Nicknames are only really effective if they’re distinctive, and it isn’t all that distinctive to claim to be “the church of Jesus Christ.”

    Personal anecdote: When my husband and I did our interview with Religion & Ethics Newsweekly last year, the reporters were adamant that we call it “the Mormon church,” not “the LDS church” or anything else. They said the average person has no idea what “LDS church” means and we needed to keep it simple. We had to do several cuts and re-takes because I’m so used to calling it “the LDS church” and I kept calling it that.

    I think the best strategy for Mormons is to embrace the nickname “Mormon” and emphasize that there are radically different kinds of Mormons out there just as there are radically different kinds of Presbyterians and Baptists.

    I don’t think there’s anything Mormons can do to get other Christians to see them as Christian, at least not without a major overhaul of LDS theology. I also don’t think that the fretting over this makes much sense in light of what the church teaches about itself. If I thought my church were the only “true” church in existence, I certainly wouldn’t care what the pretenders to the throne thought of us.

  25. geoffsn on October 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    #23, I like your thoughts. I wonder who is being helped by us screaming to be recognized as Christians. Many people already accept us as Christians. Those who don’t won’t be convinced otherwise.

    Additionally, are we even making progress in church growth in the Bible-belt or other regions which would consider not being “Christian” a liability? Would church growth in non-Christian regions of the world possibly benefit from not being considered Christian?

  26. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Brad (2), yes it’s Indonesian, as Petra (16) has pointed out meanwhile.

    RickH (4, 8), great to have the Bulgarian input! Well, even the Svetiite ot Poslednite Dni are ours… You raise two interesting items:

    1) the meaning of “saint” in other languages, and I would add “latter-day” to it. One could argue those words give an immediate opportunity to explain them to outsiders, hence to do missionary work by using the official name of the Church. But one does not change semantics that quickly for all who hear or read the name of the Church. Moreover, a word like “latter-day” is, even in English, difficult to relate to its real Mormon meaning. I know of no foreign translation that renders this word correctly. So, to read that this Church belongs to the “Holy Beings of the Almost Final Period” (which is what one may understand in a foreign language) is for an outsider weirder than recognizing the (in)famous Mormons.

    2) “Maybe we should convince other languages to use the English version of the Church name, after all?” Yes, indeed, and since we were reminded of the divine injunction that “Thus shall my Church be called”, perhaps translation is inadmissible, especially because a word like “latter-day” is non-translatable and “saints” means something else. English-only in the wordwide Church… Ironical, but the remark shows the relativity of words.

  27. chris on October 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Wilfried,
    Every language sounds strange if you insist on transliterating it like you have with “Holy Beings of the Almost Final Period”.

    Google offers up the correct “translation” BTW, although it’s probably be intelligently informed. But Suci translates according to google as holy, saintly, consecrated, spiritual, or saintlike. Zaman Akhir according to google is “Latter-day” but again however ridiculously you try to transliterate the words to make them sound funny in English, they apparently have the same connotation in Indonesian.
    http://ebook-harunyahya.blogspot.com/2008/08/045-presentation-end-times-and-mahdi.html
    As simple googlig will reveal that Zaman Akhir is frequently used to connote end of times, or this latter-day period, or the final dispensation.

    And going even further, it would seem to suggest you are bothered by the fact that the language used doesn’t really have the same meaning for the other cultures (apparently it does as shown above). But even if that were the case, it is entirely appropriate and makes this talk all the more relevant to start inventing that usage of the word/term now and laying the foundation for its usage in the native language now.

    Dave in #18 made me think how actually helpful this talk would be in other languages, because it actually lays out to many other nationalities, “why do we have this long name again?”

    This post actually muddies the water instead of clarifying it…

  28. P McKay on October 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    As a missionary in Brazil, we did use FREQUENTLY the Church’s official name: A Igreja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Últimos Dias. I was a pretty fierce defender of the official name and used it at every approach.

    This may be a viable approach for missionaries, but for average ho-hum members of the church, I just don’t think that’s the wisest way to do missionary work. In Brazil members often use “SUD” as their nickname, which, as mentioned by Wilfried, comes out meaning “A Holy One of the Last Days”. (Not to mention the fact that the whole country is at least vaguely familiar with the catholic tradition of saints, thus adding even more confusion to the mix.)

    I like the idea of OFFICIAL things (letterheads, mission calls, business transactions, etc.) using only the OFFICIAL name of the Church; however, I do appreciate the need for a solution to the problem posed by President Hinckley: 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.

    I feel that solution has been reached between the Mormon.org campaigns. I think Elder Ballard’s point may concern more of the aspect of tying the whole thing together. He knows that people (that general mass) will never stop calling us Mormons. EVER. (I guess millenially, maybe?) So let’s tie up all the loose ends, LDS, Mormon, Church of Jesus Christ, gold-bible-believers, etc. by referring each nickname back to the original name of the Church, and sort of…just leaving the option of name-calling in their hands.

    One last comment: I did hate it when people referred to us as “Mórmons” because in my area of Brazil everyone had a negative image of the “Mórmons” (I mean, they would hide in their house, or throw water on you, or yell “no one’s home!”, or run away from you IN BROAD DAYLIGHT) whereas, no one knew who members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were. Which is great if your looking for converts.

  29. Peter LLC on October 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Indeed, all true, but doctrinal logic does not always coincide with other realms in the reality of our international world.

    Amen. I realize the core of the church is going to be the US for the foreseeable future, but I think it’s time for all speakers at general conference to realize that their audience extends far beyond native speakers of American English.

  30. chris on October 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Atonement

    In Indonesian google lists it as
    penebusan dosa

    Which appears to be:
    Penance, Repentance, or the words imply “remdeption [from] sin”

    In the BoM the word for atonement is:
    pendamaian

    Which google calls a reconciliation.
    But parsing that word in google… damaian is “peace” and peda is “opinion”. Which would seem to imply bringing two opinions into peace. But with the religious connotation, bringing us into peace/reconciliation with God.

    Now I get I’ve just hacked up the language, but that’s no different than what you’ve done with “final period”.

    Iit’s clear you recognize translation is hard. I think what you did with the church’s name could easily be applied to many words used in scripture. All the more reason to have a talk trying to break it down and explain it so the words can be elaborated on using alternate words and terms, like was done in the talk. If it was translated well, it could be very effective.

  31. Hans in California on October 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    In Norwegian it’s “Jesu Kristi Kirke av Siste Dagers Hellige”.

  32. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Oops, I need to keep up with the many comments.

    NewlyHousewife (5), you mentioned that in your experience, generally speaking, those that use the phrase “Mormon Church” are not interested in a discussion. I would agree that in the American context or in contexts where people know the Church more or less and are aware that “Mormon Church” may sound like a more negative nickname that “LDS Church”. But I think that in many other foreign contexts, the use of “Mormon Church” does not preclude interest in the Church. Much depends on the image the media have tied to the name of the Church.

    Amira (11), thanks for the welcome back. I am a “retiree” now and so will have more time to post. You mention the problem of “knowing the official name of the Church in either foreign language I speak well enough to claim.” It’s an interesting remark I concur with. I have been in foreign countries where I tried to locate the church (now it’s easier of course with the internet). Town hall or tourist offices were usually quick to find a location for the Mormon church, while the official name of the Church would not ring a bell. It’s just the international brand name that did it. As the Church has been expanding, things have changed of course in some countries. In that sense it is good to know that the official name of the Church has also become more visible.

  33. RickH on October 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Chris, I don’t think this post muddies the waters nearly so much as it shows how easily the waters are muddied (or how muddy they already are). The fact is that words, even “when translated correctly” have very different connotations in different languages.

    Here’s another, even more relevant example from Bulgarian. For a very long time, the subtitle of the Book of Mormon was translated directly – and correctly – from “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” But that translation introduced problems. In Bulgarian, the word for “Testament” (as in “Old,” “New,” and “Another”) is Zavet, which more accurately translates into modern English as “Covenant.” People would read it, and think, “I know the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant from the Bible, but what’s this ‘Other’ Covenant?” It had a very foreign, almost sinister connotation to it to the Bulgarians. When the new translation was released (about 1999), the subtitle read “Yet one [more] Testimony of Jesus Christ.” In other words, in order to convey the meaning, they abandoned the original words – even though they were technically correct.

    You can’t just invent (or change) usages of words or terms just because you feel like it, especially when you’re a tiny minority. In 1997, we had a grand total of about 150 active members in a country of 8 million. How much power do you think we held over that language’s lexicon? Pretty close to zero.

  34. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Chris (13), yes, indeed, this relation between English as the lingua franca of the Church and other languages is in continuous development. You mentioned George Albert Smith who encouraged the members worldwide to learn English. Even still in 1973, president Harold B. Lee told 14,000 European members in an area conference: “Now brothers and sisters, it is impossible for the General Authorities to learn seventeen different languages, the number of languages in which we are teaching the gospel today. But how simple it would be if all of you would try to learn English besides your own mother tongue. Surely you could learn one language, English, rather than to expect the General Authorities to learn seventeen different languages”.

    In the subsequent October General Conference, Pres. Lee praised the European members: “Apparently somebody listened because we have been hearing since that in their fast and testimony meetings in these countries they have said, “Now we have been told that we should learn English, so we had better get busy and do something about it.” And I think that is the feeling that has been engendered. These people came wanting to know clear signals of what they ought to do.”

    And, indeed, I remember how in the 1970s we had all these English classes going for local members.

    Things have changed since. Nowadays the Church is using enormous resources to translate material in other languages. But correct translation, in particular as it pertains to Scriptures and to Mormon key words, is one of the most challenging endeavors the Church faces.

    And in spite of all the translation, let’s say it honestly: if you do not read English fairly fluently, you miss out on a lot that is happening in Mormondom.

  35. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Petra (16), Chris (26, 29) and RickH (32), thanks for touching upon the problems of translation. It’s a large topic and a thread on its own so we must be careful not to be carried away too far here. But I did open the discussion myself by pointing at the connotations of “saint” and “latter-day.”

    Chris, I apologize if my “funny” translation of Latter-day Saint seemed to ridicule the concept. That was not my purpose, only to show the challenge of meaning in other cultures. Really, this is the way some translations come across in other languages. Connotations are tricky things. Even if a dictionary gives a one-to-one word, it does not mean that it is understood the same way in another culture. That’s especially true with more abstract and religious words such as expiation, atonement, repentance, sacrifice, confess, etc. And some words pose peculiar challenges, such as in the official name of the Church. Is “latter-day” the same as “of the last days”? Most translations render it that way for they have no adjectival use for a noun such as “latter-day.” Why change day into days? What about the value of the hyphen? Is the English word “latter” understood as on a complementary, a gradable, or a serial scale? The choice will determine the “best” translation, if a translation is possible.

    RickH, you pointedly mentioned the translation problem of “Another testament of Jesus Christ”. What does the polysemic word “another” mean in English in this context? “Complementary”, not “different”. The author who added it should perhaps have used “One more testament” to avoid the ambiguity. For the translation of “another” in some languages I know it became “A different testament”. Then when some realized the problem, it was changed to another word (or even a whole structure) that expressed the concept of complementarity. Next comes the correct translation of “testament”, etc. It certainly obliges to start thinking about what these words could mean in English.

    Yes, indeed, better English-only in the Church :) !

  36. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    The African Methodist Episcopal Church (a Protestant church that serves American blacks) is often abbreviated as the “AME Church”. And obviously out in Utah where there is an LDS Hospital and lots of headlines that use “LDS” there is no confusion as to who it refers to. Any word has only the semantic content that has been assigned to it within a community.

    The fact that the Church has a web site that is oriented towards investigators that is named “Mormon.org” and an ad campaign whose tag line is “I’m a Mormon”, without any subtitles, or additions with the full name of the Church, shows that the practical concerns about communicating easily with others have mitigated the emphasis on use of the full name of the Church when communicating with those who don’t know what WE mean when WE say “the Church”. I understood Elder Ballard’s talk as sort of a concession that “Mormon” is a legitimate term, while trying to maintain a distinction between its use for the members of the Church (who are officially Latter-day Saints or LDS) and the name of the Church itself.

    We should not be surprised about the prevalence of name recognition of “Mormon”, because it is the name of the two most widely known products of the Church: the Book of Mormon, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. When we hand out millions of copies of the Book of Mormon, and broadcast weekly performances by the MoTab to the nation, we are underwriting the value of the name Mormon. Indeed, if the Church got into a legal tussle with various splinter groups claiming to be Mormon, the best legal evidence of ownership of the name Mormon is the vast investment made in promoting books and recordings with that name. The current ad campaign reinforces that brand name.

    This may not be helpful, but perhaps one way to connect the widely known brand name “Mormon” with the official and proper name of the Church is to tell people, including in the heading to the Mormon.Org home page, and in a FAQ listing, the actual origin of the name, according to Mormon himself:

    Mosiah 18: 17, 30–
    And they were called the church of God, or the achurch of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.

    30 And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the awaters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall bsing to his praise forever.

  37. Ronan on October 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Wilfried,
    I think you know what I would say so I won’t even bother.

    Great to hear from you.

  38. Clean Cut on October 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Just want to say I appreciate this thoughtful post, Wilfried. Thanks. This can be a real mind-numbing topic, but your perspective adds greatly to the conversation.

  39. Ben H on October 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    The international branding of the proper name-based “Mormon” never really occurred to me, but this seems an important point to think about in a media context. In Japanese, Catholics are Katorikku, and people mostly recognize Morumon Kyo (Kyo meaning Church), but Matsu Jitsu Seito Iesu Kirisuto Kyokai (something like 18 syllables), not so much. Of course, as another commenter suggested, that can be a good thing when other churches are passing out flyers that all say at the bottom, “We are not the Mormons, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Christian Scientists.” : )

    You know when people say something like that, whatever they are referring to must be something bad, right?

  40. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 5, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    (I accidentally punched the submit button before comopleting my comment.)

    In other words, Mormon was, for Mormon himself, a shorthand referring to the blessed restoration of the Church of Christ among the Nephites, one that evoked for the editor of the book, and the leader of the Church in his own day, an ideal Church society. It is a term similar in import to the City of Enoch.

    There is precedent for making this identification between a shorthand term and a longer one that refers to a sacred institution. We are told in D&C 107:2-4 that–

    Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    If there is value in NOT repeating “the name of the Supreme Being” with “too frequent repetition of his name”, that should also be a consideration in using the name of the Church, which of course contains another name of the same Supreme Being. Just as Melchizedek’s name was chosen as an official nickname for the higher priesthood by God, because that man was an outstanding example of a person who exercised that priesthood, the name Mormon is an exemplary example of the Church of Christ, and its further association with an exemplary leader of the Church, who preserved and transmitted to us so much essential information about the Church of Christ, and Christ himself, in the book of that name, and is a worthy stand-in for the full, God-ordained, sacred name of The Church.

    Clearly, Mormon waxes rhapsodic in his sixfold repetition of what he feels is a sacred name, Mormon. For him, it evokes becoming reconciled to our Redeemer, Christ. Perhaps we Latter-day Saints should learn to have the same emotional response to that word, and strive to make that its meaning to the rest of the world.

    The Melchizedek Priesthood is not the priesthood of a man, even though it bears his name. The Book of Mormon is likewise not the scripture of a man, even though it bears his name. Every person who is baptized into the Church has been adopted into the family of Christ and bears His name, a fact emphasized in the Sacrament and in the Endowment.

    Rather than thinking that the name Mormon demeans the full name of the Church, perhaps we could take the position that the Church of Christ sanctifies the name Mormon, as the name of an ancient prophet who spoke with Christ, a sacred book that testifies of Christ, and most essentially of an ancient place that was, at its time, the home of the Church of Jesus Christ.

  41. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Dave (18) said: “your post makes me wonder whether the talk itself will even translate adequately into languages besides English.” Pertinent remark! Church translators should get a pay raise.

    geoffsn (19), first, thanks for reminding us that the official name of the Church was also the result of a growth process. One of the unique features of the Church is continuing revelation, even to the point when the seemingly unmovable can move. “Forget everything that I have said …” So we cannot exclude later changes.

    Next, you mentioned: “I thought that a lot of the rationale behind avoiding saying “the Mormon church” was that there are many Mormon churches, and thus there is not one “Mormon Church.” That’s an interesting point in the concept of the “wide tent” of Mormonism, but I doubt that Elder Ballard would consider other groups as “Mormon” churches. In fact, he denied them the label.

    Kevin Barney (20), Ronan (36), my good old friends, I appreciate your visiting this thread. I am being reactivated …

    Lorian (21), well said that “to many evangelical and fundamentalist groups, NO one who does not espouse their exact doctrines and dogma qualifies to use the term “Christian”. And so, indeed, why should we bother if some do not call us Christian?

    MsJack (23), that was a well thought-out and detailed comment. If anyone did not read it yet, go back to 23! Your anecdote with that press interview is telling. From my experience in Belgium, the best PR we could do was to frequently tie the name “Mormon Church” to model persons and positive events. That’s what Pres. Hinckley, who had such a keen realistic vision, meant when he asked us to make the word Mormon “shine with added luster.”

    Geoffsn (24), I appreciate your contribution reminding us that we do make progress in being recognized as Christians. In fact, one may wonder if our public complaining that some do not recognize as Christians is helpful at this point.

    P McKay (27), you remind us timely that we cannot generalize beyond our own region. A peculiar area in Brazil is not Holland. The name “Mormon” can trigger pretty different reactions according to local media impact, anti-cult activities, presence of Mormon public figures, etc. If the environment is ideal to only use the official name of the Church, that should of course be our preferred approach.

  42. Petra on October 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Chris, I don’t want to hijack Wilfried’s thread just with discussions of Indonesian, but Google isn’t always your best bet for translations; for one, you’re definitely parsing “pendamaian” wrong, since it has nothing to do with “opinion”; it’s just a nominalized form of the root word for “peace.” Also, I have to correct a typing error in my #16–while “zaman akhir” can be used for “last days,” I managed to reverse what I wanted to say, which is that “akhir zaman” is more commonly used (and thus has more normal “end of days” connotations for Indonesians). Chris, that’s also a comment on your #26–the Indonesian name may not be as “funny” as Wilfried makes it sound, but it’s still pretty “funny” to native speakers, which is part of Wilfried’s ultimate point re:translation.

  43. Ben H on October 5, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Raymond (#39), these are very interesting thoughts. I love your reminder of the waters of Mormon! One of the most beautiful scenes in the Book of Mormon. Palmyra and Kirtland have similar associations for us, or specifically the sacred grove, or the Hill Cumorah, and more recently Nauvoo, Salt Lake City and for me Manti. As much as we admire Mormon the prophet, somehow his name doesn’t carry the same magic for me as some of these. Maybe because the Book of Mormon ends in a somewhat sobering manner. If we think of ourselves as named after the waters and forest of Mormon, the reference is to the restoration of the priesthood, ordinances, and church. In a way Restorationist is a label that would capture what we are about; unfortunately, that is a category already identified in the study of religion and in such a way that it includes other churches.

    I do wonder how to connect your line of thought with Christ’s admonition to use his name to refer to the church. Christ seems to be criticizing those who name their churches after someone else.

    But when we are talking to others who claim Christ as their Lord, to say that we are the ones who are truly Christian, and attach that significance already to our name (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or even more, if we shorten it to “Church of Jesus Christ”) seems a bit combative. Do we expect people to concede our exclusive theological claims in order to even refer to us in conversation? I’ve honestly felt some discomfort about this in trying to talk with friends who have deep faith in another church. I don’t want to imply that their devotion to Christ is insincere, or is not truly oriented toward Christ, even if I think their manner of devotion is in some ways mistaken.

    So, with that in mind, I think it is hard to avoid having an official name that we use ourselves, in official and formal contexts, and attach a certain meaning to, and another name that is less charged, that people can use more casually without taking a stand on whether or not we are the true church of Jesus Christ, or even really thinking about that question on most occasions. I don’t see how anyone sincere in another Christian church could call us the Church of Jesus Christ, full stop, with a straight face. Christ has made it clear that we are to take upon ourselves his name, but I think we have to be kind of mellow about that in casual conversation.

  44. mapman on October 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Brad says: “mormon.org – should it be churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints.org?”

    KLC: “When I first discovered Morm… I mean TheChurchofJesusChristofLatterdaySaints blogs…”

    Matthew: “Good point Jeff. The owners of the domain names LDS.org and Mormon.com need to STOP BREAKING THE COMMANDMENTS.”

    Steve Evans: ” if you consider being called Mormon a slur, maybe you should bring that up with Joseph F. Smith. He was OK with it.”

    Kevin Barney: “Really, I thought the Church had gotten over this when they realized that in the internet context at least they simply can’t avoid “Mormon.” Apparently the angst over that word continues…”

    I’m baffled by the fact that people thought that Elder Ballard said we shouldn’t use the term “Mormon.” If you were actually listening the only term he said that we shouldn’t use was “Mormon Church.” He specifically said that it was alright to use Mormon when talking about members of the Church and other Mormon things. He specifically said that it was alright to call ourselves Mormons and that is how we should refer to ourselves to others (initially) so people know what we’re talking about. Seriously, did you guys even watch conference? Criticizing an apostle over something he didn’t even say seems like bad form to me.

  45. Wilfried on October 5, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Midnight in Belgium! Going to bed. Be kind to each other here the next hours.

  46. chris on October 5, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    petra – I don’t really want to debate this much, but I’ll go one more round on it. It’s kind of periphery to the argument, but my point was that these words are not so incredibly foreign that we should avoid using them. You are just saying perhaps we aren’t using them correctly, which is also what RickH pointed to with the Bulgarian testament example. Which BTW, testament means covenant in English as well, so it’s easily just as misunderstood by someone who uses that definition in their mind… but “testimony” was certainly a better choice. To me that’s just picking a better choice of word, rather than having some issue overall with the name sounding weird no matter how you pick the words.

    Point taken on Zaman Akhir vs. Akhir Zaman. Google says 200k hits for the one and 3million hits for the other. Again, it’s not that these words are just foreign and unfamiliar, but perhaps that the phrasing could be refined. Any idea why we switched them around? And again, the OP’s point was that these words are just wrong because they don’t make any sense in the vernacular of the culture (you might as well say the same about latter-day or even saint in our own culture — that doesn’t mean it should be tossed out the window). Apparently they are good words, and in the best case can be slightly improved upon (I’m not denying that).

    As far as the tangent of my tangent about atonement… I freely admitted I butchered the word to examine some possibilities of the meaning. I’m not suggesting anyone in the culture actually views pendamaian as meaning opinion so I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear. But I think it is interesting that “penda” shows up as opinion. And clearly in order to have a reconciliation, there must be two opinions previously at odds.

    I’ve found a lot of meaning looking at words used in other language/editions of the scriptures and parsing them. Covenant (English) vs. Alliance (French) is one that is pretty neat, if I’m remembering it right since I last looked at a French BoM.

    Just because a word isn’t “exactly how” it gets used in that culture, also doesn’t mean you can’t dig a little deeper. I definitely think the role of opinions even informs ones understanding of atonement or reconciliation, or unity, or oneness. I’m bringing my wayward actions, which were based on my own opinions of what was good for me inline with the Lord’s opinion of what is good for me.

  47. Matt Evans on October 5, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I interpreted Elder Ballard’s talk as showing that he’d been on the losing side of the internal debate among the brethren over their decision to green light the new mormon.org and “I’m a Mormon” PR campaigns, which reversed the 30-year trend of moving away from the use of Mormon, and being his attempt to minimize what he sees as the negative consequences of the church’s decision to re-embrace the term Mormon.

    I thought his demonstrating how to give a two-minute answer to a person’s simply asking us if we’re a member of the Mormon church was misguided, and actually modeled an excellent way of ensuring the person will decide not to ask us any more questions about religion. It would be so much more effective to respect the questioner by answering directly, and then continuing the conversation. For example,

    Q: Are you a member of the Mormon church?

    A1: I am. Have you known many Mormons before?
    A2: I am. Which church do you attend?
    A3: I am. I’m curious to know how you guessed.
    A4: I am. I’m curious to know what you’ve heard about us.

  48. Mark N. on October 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    The South Park guys on Broadway would be so disappointed if the name of the Church was changed: they love the double use of the word “of” in the title.

    Seems to me, though, the best shortened version of the name is “The Latter-day Church of Jesus Christ”. With the “double-of” in there, one could make the argument that the double possessive resolves itself to mean that the Church really belongs to the latter-day saints, and not to Jesus Christ.

    ((Church) of Jesus Christ) of Latter-day Saints

  49. mapman on October 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Matt Evans said: “I interpreted Elder Ballard’s talk as showing that he’d been on the losing side of the internal debate among the brethren over their decision to green light the new mormon.org and “I’m a Mormon” PR campaigns, which reversed the 30-year trend of moving away from the use of Mormon, and being his attempt to minimize what he sees as the negative consequences of the church’s decision to re-embrace the term Mormon.”

    I am so confused. Do you have any justification for thinking this? I mean he said in his talk that we should use the term “Mormon” when talking about members of the Church so that people know who we are, and that that was why the Church was using mormon.org and “I’m a Mormon.” He was actually endorsing the Church’s media campaigns.

  50. Matt Evans on October 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Yes, I thought his purpose was to limit the scope of the renewed use of “Mormon”, so he wanted to frame the current campaigns as distinguishing the use for members and the use for the church. It’s the best way to do damage control in a situation like this. If you can’t beat it, narrow it!

  51. Ben H on October 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    I don’t know, Matt—those sound like fairly innocent responses to me. I mean, for each one I can imagine cases where it might make someone feel put on the spot, but it all depends on context. I can see how just saying “yes” and then proceeding as though they didn’t ask could also seem weird in some contexts.

  52. Curious on October 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Mr. Decoo,

    I am very genuinely wondering what the purpose of this post was. What are you trying to accomplish?

    Perhaps it was not your intent to do so, from where I sit you seem to systematically go through and write down all the reasons why what Elder Ballard said to us in his capacity as a special witness of Christ, speaking to the world in His name, during General Conference on His behalf, actually has no idea what he is talking about. It seems as if you are saying to your internet audience that a person such as Elder Ballard, well-intentioned though he may be, has no concept of the state of things as they are in the “real” world and that therefore his council may be taken with a grain of salt.

    If we are not to take the message from Elder Ballard’s talk that, when referencing the church to which we are members we should use the full name of the church whenever possible, what message WOULD you have us take from this talk?

    I am genuinely curious what you feel would be the appropriate take-away from Elder Ballard’s address in light of your comments.

    I suppose I wonder what helpful suggestions you might make in the alternative to accompany your criticisms?

    Thank you.

  53. jader3rd on October 6, 2011 at 12:10 am

    I was thinking about this too. If we were to pull one word from the name of the church as the usable reference it would probably be Saint. “I’m a Saint”, “I’m from the Saint Church”, etc. But it sounds a bit too prideful, and it really doesn’t work.

  54. Wilfried on October 6, 2011 at 12:34 am

    I’m back to respond to comments. Thanks, Raymond Takashi Swenson (35, 39), for your excellent contribution. Indeed, “the practical concerns about communicating easily with others have mitigated the emphasis on use of the full name of the Church”. Your references to Mosiah 18 and to the reason why we speak of the Melchizedek Priesthood broaden the horizon and do throw much light on our topic. Indeed, in ancient days, the question of naming sacred entities appropriately was just as real as now.

    Ben H (38, 42), thanks for reminding us the basic issue of the media context and of missionary work. The whole matter is indeed how we come across. As you said, it also depends whom we talk to. “But when we are talking to others who claim Christ as their Lord, to say that we are the ones who are truly Christian, and attach that significance already to our name (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or even more, if we shorten it to “Church of Jesus Christ”) seems a bit combative.” Indeed, and Pres. Hinckley had a pretty realistic view on how to communicate effectively, and therefore differently with insiders and with outsiders.

    Mapman (43), yes, you are right, Elder Ballard confirmed that “Mormon” is acceptable when referring to members. But I wouldn’t chastise a few of our commenters for some quick tongue-in-cheek comments.

    Matt Evans (46), you say it bluntly, but you are probably correct: “… that he’d been on the losing side of the internal debate among the brethren over their decision to green light the new mormon.org and “I’m a Mormon” PR campaigns, which reversed the 30-year trend of moving away from the use of Mormon, and being his attempt to minimize what he sees as the negative consequences of the church’s decision to re-embrace the term Mormon.”

    Of course, we do not like to suggest there are opposing viewpoints among the brethren, and “losing side” expresses it perhaps too negatively, but it is undeniable that the new media experts who now work for the Church have some trouble convincing all on the top… On the other hand, no doubt it is also good to have restraining views among the brethren, for if we let some media experts loose, who knows in what direction they make take us…

  55. Wilfried on October 6, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Mark N (47), you appropriately raise the question of the correct value of the two possessives in the official name of the Church. We’re so used to say and hear it that the complexity does not really strike us. It becomes even more complex in translations where often a third possessive is added: “of the last days”. Your suggestion for a shortened “The Latter-day Church of Jesus Christ” would indeed echo the known “The primitive (or: original) Church of Jesus Christ”. But in translations the challenge would remain with “latter-day”, when it cannot be rendered as a word with adjectival value like in English.

    It reminds me to say a word about the choices of “The Mormon Church” in translations. Most languages translate Mormon as adjective, like the Dutch “Mormoonse kerk” or the French “Eglise mormone.” But a few other languages, which allow agglutination, can take “Mormon” to refer to members, like the German “Mormonenkirche” (= Church of the Mormons), instead of Mormonische Kirche. In English it could be “the Mormons’ Church.” That somehow solves the problem that we can use “Mormons” to refer to members. But, of course, language is never changed upon an individual’s wish. It is the frequency of use that determines the rules. Pres. Hinckley understood that well: “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.”

  56. Cameron N on October 6, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Great post Wilfred and comments. I think part of our frustration with church names is related to our frustration with misinformation. We may lament ‘O that I were an angel and could tell everyone the name of our church, how it was divinely inspired by revelation from Jesus himself, then all the Christians would recognize our Christianity and would immediately convert.’

    But alas, we do err in that wish. For it is our lot as members of Christ’s fully endorsed organization to have the special attention and troublemaking of the adversary and along with that comes misinformation and various degrees of hostility stirred up in the hearts of well-meaning folks. I don’t think it’s by accident that we never really seem to make headway in this department, although I don’t think that means we should stop trying, and so I support ongoing and evolving efforts to do what we can.

    The part I liked best about Elder Ballard’s talk was when he recounted his personal response/explanation to his Mormon identity – something like ‘I’m a Mormon. That mean’s I’m a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.’ This illustration is helpful in reminding us that this effort is best executed on a personal, case-by-case basis, line upon line, etc.

  57. Wilfried on October 6, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Curious (51), I appreciate your input and I take your comment and your question seriously. You raise an important issue, which goes to the heart of much of the Mormon blogging that takes place. I understand your point: anything that seems to criticize what one of the Brethren said in conference is unacceptable.

    The first thing to do is to read my post carefully. From the onset I confirmed that what Elder Ballard said is “all true.” And I concluded: “These considerations do not question the fundamental truth that the revealed name of the Church is what it is. Also, that very name “indicates the unique position of the restored church among the religions of the world,” as Elder Ballard stated. He explained well how that name contains the essential components of our faith.”

    What I did between those two caveats was to express a number of considerations and questions from different perspectives. I understand how even such can raise eyebrows among some members and I respect your reaction. But over the years I have learned that most of the Brethren are grateful for carefully worded input from the rank-and-file, in particular as it pertains to the challenges of internationalization of the Church. I have been a member for almost 50 years now, intensely involved in the Church’s work, and my exchanges with some at the top have reassured me as to their openness to listen and take worthwhile suggestions into consideration. Moreover, since a number of years, we have seen an even greater interest from the top in what is happening in the real world of the members. The Brethren are showing increasing concern for the cultural and socio-economic diversity of the members around the world. The online questionnaires now submitted to members confirm this attention to our problems, our needs, and our ideas. The Bloggernacle also has such an informational function.

    I do not know if you have been around on T&S for a long time, but perhaps reading some of my previous posts since 2004 will clarify my overall intentions (click on my name on top of the post). Thanks again for your candid comment.

  58. Chino Blanco on October 6, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Just an aside, but Mormons aren’t the only ones mulling their church’s name: the Southern Baptist Convention is currently asking its members to Suggest a New Name for the SBC.

  59. Wilfried on October 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Cameron N (55), thank you for your input. Indeed, misinformation about the Church is often what compels to adapt our reactions. If negative images are being tied to the M-word, all the more reason to counter with positive images tied to that very word, while at the same time referring to the real name of the Church.

    Chino Blanco (57), good to see you still around. Thanks for the information!

  60. Curious on October 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Wilfried,

    Thank you very much for your response. It is true that I happened upon your post by chance and therefore do not have much familiarity with what you have previously posted. I suppose I am one of those people who feels that criticism of a recently given conference address is cause for pause and evaluation. (Although I would not go so far as to say “unnacceptable”.) I also value very highly the fact that we are not expected to follow our leaders blindly and recognize the need for people to give voice to their opinions and concerns.I appreciate that you took the time to clarify your intent to a person who is not already famiiar with your blogs and your purpose.

    Please know that I was not calling into question your conviction that what Elder Ballard said was true and I am sorry if I gave that impression. Mostly I was unsure how you intended your audience to take that particular portion when read in conjunction with your other comments. You have explained very nicely and I am grateful to you.

    I am glad to know that in your experience church leaders listen to suggestions and comments, and commend those who are willing to openly voice their feelings and concerns. I also want to remark that I am pleased by the respect demonstrated one to another by the author and those commenting. I have come across other comment threads on other blogs which lack that component, a component that I feel is crucial for an uplifting and productive conversation.

    So thanks again for answering my question and keep up the good work all.

  61. Curious on October 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I see some typos slipped through. Embarrassed apologies.

  62. Wilfried on October 6, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, Curious. Please continue to visit us at T&S!

    (Oh, and I should admit that our conversations are not always so nice; the dynamics of quick comments and overreactions are part of the nature of blogs. But we try to do our best at T&S to keep it as civil as possible!)

  63. aquinas on October 8, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Thank you for the insightful post, and thanks to all the great comments made. There are too many good ones to specifically point to all of them.

  64. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Chuno Blanco: Thanks for the link to the SBC name change. Apparently they think it is helping cause the decline in members seen in the last five tears.

  65. Chino Blanco on October 9, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Looks like Glenn Beck didn’t get the memo. He just told the crowd at VVS11 that he’s “a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

  66. anonlds on October 10, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Doesn’t anyone else see a problem with complaining about other churches not allowing us the moniker of christian when we believe in Christ, while in the same talk dissallowing others to use the moniker Mormon who believe in the Book of Mormon?

  67. Chadwick on October 11, 2011 at 7:15 am

    I was not at all surprised to see this topic addressed in conference. Years ago we were asked to shy away from the term Mormon. Then suddenly pops up this new-fangled, shiny ‘I am a Mormon’ campaign! Seems contradictory at first blush.

    Hence the clarification. We can be Mormon, but the church should not. I guess it works?

    I still don’t get all the hullaballoo. I mean, shouldn’t our actions speak louder than our name? And for those that think calling us by the lengthier name somehow changes the minds of those that do not think we are Christian, well, I would re-think that. Can you imagine having someone tell you that you are not Christian, only to show them the full name of the Church? Do you really think that will change their mind?

    Interesting thing is, call us whatever you want here in Bangalore. Still no one has heard of us. We could use an ‘I am a Mormon’ campaign here.

    As for language nuances, when I served a mission in Hong Kong in 1999-2001, the Church did change the name! We went from the church of the last days to the church of the later days. Small change. Not sure it really made a big difference. Those that liked us liked us still and those that didn’t hardly seemed to sit up and pay attention. But I suppose the change overall was for the best.

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