Back in October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a public request: to have people stop using the term “Mormon” to refer to them. (See my post from back then for more information.) Five months into the switch, how are things going? Considering the church just announced it’s finally changing its web and social media presences as well, it seemed like a good time for me to revisit the topic.
First, the new changes. Gone are the mormon.org and lds.org sites, replaced by churchofjesuschrist.org and comeuntochrist.org. Mormonnewsroom.org is now newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org. More changes will follow, just as these changes have followed other significant ones (like changing “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” to “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.” As I said before, it’s clear to me the church is not messing around with this change. It’s gone into it headfirst, holding nothing back, really.
So how has it gone, practically speaking?
I still find myself slipping up and referring to myself as “Mormon” or “LDS” now and then, but for the most part I’ve made the transition to referring to myself as a “Latter-day Saint” instead, eschewing the acronym, as requested. I’ve seen the term “Mormon” continue to be used in most news stories from official outlets even. I imagine it will take time and continued effort to get the change to really take root.
Interestingly to me, one of the strongest sources of opposition I’ve heard has come from church members themselves. I’ve heard quite a few members say they don’t see what’s wrong with continuing to use the term “Mormon,” objecting that language doesn’t work that way, or citing the numerous times the church has tried to switch its name in the past. I certainly understand the arguments, but at the same time, I think we’ve come to a point in society where people (for the most part) try to respect other people and use terminology a particular group requests. If we’re trying to use the right pronouns, for example, how hard is it to switch something like a slang term for a religion?
But perhaps that’s what’s caused some of the bristling in some of the cases: a sense that this is part of a general movement of switching how we use language elsewhere. If that’s the case, I’d hope people would change their mind. I continue to believe all people should be allowed to be called by whatever name or pronoun they wish. My mom had a kid in her school growing up who went by “Wild Thing.” Everyone called him that as his name, though I’m sure it wasn’t the one his parents gave him. So what? If that makes a person happy, what does it cost you to do it? A friend of mine in college decided she wanted to go by “Delia” as her name. I flubbed it a couple of times, but then it was just second nature. (In fact, I can no longer remember what her “real” name was.)
Anyway, from a linguistics perspective, it’s been an interesting journey so far. I’ve enjoyed observing how people navigate the switch, but I continue to hope the switch will ultimately be made. When I first heard about it, I was squarely in the “why does this matter?” camp, but the more I think about it and the justifications for it, the more in favor of it I am.