How to Use the Terms Mormon and LDS Correctly

Guidance to Reduce Confusion and Promote Understanding

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Can someone be Mormon, but not LDS? Can someone be LDS without being Mormon? Is the Mormon Church the same as the LDS Church?

Real confusion exists over using these terms. If you are experiencing this confusion, read and follow the guidedance below. You should then be able to use the terms correctly.

Clear Up the Confusion Over the Church's Official Name

The official name of the church is the following:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This official name came to Joseph Smith through revelation.

The word "The" is not an article. It is part of the official name. It should always be capitalized. We do not believe that Jesus Christ has many churches on this earth. There is only one official church at any one time. This is it.

Jesus Christ established His church when he walked the earth. Over time, His church became corrupted and lost its authority and power. This power and authority was restored and reestablished in our modern day. This is His church now.

The phrase "of Latter-day Saints" simply distinguishes His modern church from the New Testament church. Saints simply refers to members.

Are Shortened References to the Church Okay?

Admittedly, the official name is a mouthful. The Church prefers it's official name be used. If it must be shorted, then they encourage the following two options:

  1. The Church (preferably after a full reference)
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ

This has not stopped references such as the Church of Latter-day Saints, Mormon Church or LDS Church. However, these references are misleading and inaccurate. They obscure the point that this is Jesus Christ's only official church.

No shortened reference should eliminate the name, Jesus Christ.

Membership in the Church is Official and Tangible

Unlike many other religions and denominations, membership in the Church consists of an actual membership record, not a feeling of affiliation or identification. You either have a membership record or you do not. There is no gray area.

A membership record is created when someone is baptized into the Church and confirmed. Membership records are handled by the Church's central headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah (USA).

Members are usually referred to as members, Latter-day Saints, LDS, being LDS, Saints or Mormons.

How the Mormon Label Originated

Mormon was a Book of Mormon prophet from the fourth century. He abridged and recorded his people's religious and political history onto metal plates. These plates were later translated by Joseph Smith and published as the Book of Mormon.

The term "Mormon" quickly became a negative nickname used by our enemies. In effect, it started out as hate speech. However, it has evolved into an inoffensive and identifying nickname now.

Actual members of the Church can be referred to as Mormons. They often self-identify as Mormons as well. However, there is nothing official about this term.

Mormons Prefer to be Called LDS or Saints

We prefer to be known as LDS or as saints. This is not unusual. Members of the New Testament church were also referred to as saints.

Saints is a generic term to LDS members. There is no canonization or special status associated with it in LDS parlance, although it may contain such in other religions.

Mormon is More of a Cultural Term

The Church does use the term Mormon in some official labels like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Mormon Channel, and so forth. It is more of a cultural term applied to historical, lifestyle and some doctrinal issues.

Some splinter groups and apostates continue to use the term, Mormon, to describe themselves even though their official membership in the Church was revoked or simply never existed.

A person who has been excommunicated, or formally left the Church, may still refer to their Mormon heritage or upbringing, even though they are no longer a member.

Any official member of the Church is correctly identified as Mormon. Whereas, excommunicates and apostates can only embrace Mormon culture or a Mormon lifestyle, for example.

Using the Terms in the Press

Members of the press should be careful when using these terms. The Associated Press Stylebook stipulates that:

The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other … churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death.

So, according to the Stylebook, splinter groups and apostates are not entitled to use Mormon as a term. Press stories and reports should not use the term to refer to them. Therefore stories that refer to Mormon fundamentalists or Mormon polygamists, for example, are misusing the term and violating official, professional standards.

If journalists were careful about following their own rules, much of the confusion over these terms would disappear. LDS members also need to be consistent in how they use these terms.