Why Do They Call Latter Day Saints Mormon?

Have you ever wondered why the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often referred to as Mormons? This article aims to shed light on the origin of this nickname and explore the reasons behind its continued usage. Learn about the historical significance of the term and the role it plays in shaping the unique identity of the Latter-day Saints community.

Table of Contents

Origin of the Term ‘Mormon’

Introduction to the term

The term ‘Mormon’ is widely recognized and associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). It has become an integral part of the church’s identity and is used to refer to its members, beliefs, and practices. However, the origin of this term and its significance are often misunderstood. In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of the term ‘Mormon’ within the LDS community and its impact on public perception.

Association with the Book of Mormon

The term ‘Mormon’ is closely linked to the Book of Mormon, a sacred text revered by Latter-day Saints alongside the Bible. The Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith, is believed to be a record of ancient civilizations in the Americas and is considered scripture by LDS members. It derives its name from a prophet named Mormon, who is one of the key figures in the book. The emphasis on the Book of Mormon in LDS teachings has contributed to the adoption of the term ‘Mormon’ to describe the church and its followers.

Origins in early church history

The term ‘Mormon’ was not initially used to describe the early members of the LDS church. In fact, it was originally used derogatorily by opponents of the faith to mock and ridicule the followers of Joseph Smith. However, as the church grew and its teachings spread, early members began to embrace the term and use it to identify themselves. Despite its negative origins, ‘Mormon’ became a unifying label for the growing community of believers.

Alternative names used by Latter-Day Saints

While ‘Mormon’ is the most commonly used term, Latter-day Saints also identify themselves with various alternative names. One such name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the official name of the church. This name emphasizes the central role of Jesus Christ and highlights the restoration of his gospel in the latter days. Other denominations within the broader LDS tradition, such as the Community of Christ, use different names to distinguish themselves from the traditional LDS community. These alternative names reflect the diverse nature of the LDS movement and the various branches that have emerged over time.

Introduction to Latter Day Saints

The belief system and practices of Latter Day Saints

Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, adhere to a unique set of beliefs and practices within the broader Christian tradition. Central to their faith is the belief in the restoration of the gospel in the latter days, which includes the belief in modern prophets and ongoing revelation from God. They consider themselves to be a restorationist movement, aiming to restore the original teachings and practices of the early Christian church.

LDS members place a strong emphasis on personal spiritual experiences, striving to live a virtuous life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. They adhere to a strict moral code, including abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful substances. Additionally, they place a strong emphasis on family, viewing it as central to eternal progression and salvation.

Brief history of the church

The history of the LDS church dates back to the early 19th century when Joseph Smith, a young man from New York, claimed to have had a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. This vision led to the founding of the church in 1830, with Joseph Smith as its first president. The early years of the church were marked by persecution and migration, as members faced hostility and legal challenges due to their distinct beliefs and practices. However, the church continued to grow and establish communities in various regions, eventually settling in Utah, where it remains headquartered today.

Key figures in the church

Joseph Smith is considered the founding prophet of the LDS church and plays a central role in its history and teachings. He is believed to have received numerous revelations from God, including the translation of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the church. Another key figure is Brigham Young, who succeeded Joseph Smith as the president of the church and played a pivotal role in leading the Mormon pioneers to Utah.

In addition to these prominent leaders, the LDS church has a hierarchical structure with a system of priesthood authority. This includes various levels of leadership, from local bishops to a president who is considered a prophet, seer, and revelator. The teachings and influence of these key figures have shaped the beliefs and practices of the LDS community throughout its history.

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

Role of Joseph Smith in the founding of the LDS church

Joseph Smith is the central figure in the founding of the LDS church and is regarded by its members as a prophet, chosen by God to restore the true gospel. According to Mormon teachings, Joseph Smith first encountered divine beings at the age of 14 when he received a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. This pivotal experience, known as the First Vision, marked the beginning of his prophetic calling.

Joseph Smith went on to translate the Book of Mormon from ancient golden plates, which he claimed to have been guided to by an angel named Moroni. The Book of Mormon is considered by Latter-day Saints to be an additional witness of Jesus Christ and an essential component of their scriptural canon.

Overview of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is a sacred text that, according to LDS belief, was compiled by the prophet Mormon in ancient America. It spans a period of several hundred years and contains the religious history, teachings, and prophecies of different civilizations that inhabited the land.

The narrative centers around the visitation of Jesus Christ to these civilizations after his resurrection. It emphasizes the need for faith in Christ, repentance, and adherence to his teachings for salvation. The Book of Mormon supplements the teachings found in the Bible and is considered to be another testament of Jesus Christ, reinforcing LDS beliefs in his divinity and role as the Savior of mankind.

Significance of the Book of Mormon in LDS beliefs

The Book of Mormon holds immense significance in LDS beliefs and practices. It is seen as a literal historical record and a witness of Jesus Christ’s ministry in the Americas. LDS members regard it as scripture along with the Bible, and they study its teachings alongside other religious texts.

The Book of Mormon serves as a spiritual guide, providing insights into the nature of God, the purpose of life, and the principles of salvation. It reinforces the belief in continuous revelation and highlights the importance of seeking personal inspiration and communication with God.

The book also plays a central role in the missionary efforts of the LDS church. Missionaries frequently share copies of the Book of Mormon with individuals and encourage them to read and pray about its message. Many converts to the LDS faith attribute their initial interest and subsequent conversion to their encounter with the Book of Mormon.

Early Usage of the Term ‘Mormon’

First uses of the term

The term ‘Mormon’ originated as a nickname given to the early members of the LDS church as a means of mockery and derision. It emerged during a time of religious fervor and sectarian disputes, when new religious movements were often met with skepticism and hostility. Critics used the term to belittle the followers of Joseph Smith and imply that their beliefs were strange or absurd.

Embracing the term by early members

Despite its negative origins, early members of the LDS church began to embrace the term ‘Mormon’ and use it to identify themselves. They saw it as a badge of honor and a symbol of their faith and commitment. By adopting the term, they were able to reclaim it from its derogatory roots and imbue it with their own meaning.

Widespread usage in the 19th century

During the 19th century, the term ‘Mormon’ gained widespread usage and became more commonly recognized. This was partly due to the growth of the LDS church and its missionary efforts, as well as increasing media attention. The term became synonymous with the church and its members, often used interchangeably to refer to both.

Popularization through literature and media

The popularization of the term ‘Mormon’ was further fueled by the publication of literature and media that focused on the LDS church and its beliefs. Books such as “Roughing It” by Mark Twain and “The Mormon Prophet” by Lily Dougall played a significant role in shaping public perceptions of Mormons and further cemented the usage of the term. The media coverage of controversial events such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre also contributed to the public’s familiarity with the term ‘Mormon.’

Evolution of the Term ‘Mormon’

Shift in official terminology

In recent years, there has been a shift in the official terminology used by the LDS church. Leaders of the church have expressed a preference for using the full name of the church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and discouraging the use of the term ‘Mormon’ as a shorthand or substitute. This change reflects a desire to emphasize the church’s focus on Jesus Christ and its doctrinal teachings.

Explanations for the change

The change in official terminology is driven by a desire to clarify the church’s identity and differentiate it from other religious and cultural phenomena associated with the term ‘Mormon.’ It is also an effort to align with the teachings and revelations received by the current leaders of the church, who have emphasized the importance of using its full name. By using the full name, church leaders aim to emphasize the central role of Jesus Christ in their beliefs and practices.

Official name of the church

The official name of the church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reflects its core beliefs and identity as a Christian faith. It emphasizes the belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer, highlighting the church’s commitment to his teachings and example.

Responses and opinions within the LDS community

The change in terminology has generated a range of responses and opinions within the LDS community. Some members have embraced the shift and actively support the use of the church’s full name. They see it as an opportunity to more accurately represent their faith and to emphasize its Christian identity. Others, however, continue to use the term ‘Mormon’ as a familiar shorthand and feel that the change is unnecessary or impractical. This diversity of perspectives is reflective of the broader complexity and openness within the LDS community.

Perceptions and Misconceptions

Impact of the term ‘Mormon’ on public perception

Throughout its history, the term ‘Mormon’ has had a significant impact on public perception of the LDS community. This impact has been shaped by a variety of factors, including media portrayals, historical events, and cultural stereotypes. The term has often been associated with misconceptions and misunderstandings, leading to biases and prejudices against Latter-day Saints.

Common misconceptions about Latter Day Saints

Numerous misconceptions persist regarding the beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints. Some of the most common misconceptions include the idea that Mormons practice polygamy, that they are not Christians, or that they are a secretive or exclusive religious group. These misconceptions arise from a lack of understanding and inaccurate information about the LDS faith.

Efforts to clarify the church’s identity

In response to the misconceptions surrounding their faith, many Latter-day Saints have made efforts to clarify the church’s identity and challenge stereotypes. These efforts take various forms, including public outreach, educational initiatives, and online resources. The LDS church has also launched media campaigns to address common misconceptions and promote understanding of their beliefs and practices.

Challenges in distancing from the term

While the LDS church has made efforts to distance itself from the term ‘Mormon,’ there are challenges associated with such a transition. The term has become deeply ingrained in public consciousness and has shaped popular perceptions for centuries. Additionally, the sheer size and diversity of the Mormon movement make it difficult to completely separate from the term. However, the ongoing dialogue and clarifications from church leaders are contributing to a more nuanced understanding of the LDS community.

Contemporary Usage and Debate

Current usage of the term ‘Mormon’

Despite the shift in official terminology, the term ‘Mormon’ continues to be widely used both within and outside the LDS community. It remains recognizable and is used as a shorthand to refer to the church and its members. The term is still found in official and unofficial contexts, including websites, social media platforms, and popular culture. While its usage has declined in some official channels, it remains a part of the everyday lexicon for many.

Views within and outside the LDS community

Opinions about the appropriateness and accuracy of the term ‘Mormon’ vary within and outside the LDS community. Some members continue to identify as Mormons and feel a strong connection to the term, while others prefer the use of the church’s full name. Outside the community, there is a mix of perceptions, ranging from those who recognize and respect the LDS church’s preference for the full name, to those who continue to use ‘Mormon’ as a widely understood label.

Debate on appropriateness and accuracy of the term

The ongoing debate surrounding the appropriateness and accuracy of the term ‘Mormon’ reflects broader discussions within the LDS community. Supporters of the term argue that it is recognizable, inclusive, and reflects the historical identity of the church. On the other hand, proponents of the full name emphasize the doctrinal significance and clarity that it provides. The debate continues to evolve as the church seeks to clarify its identity and respond to changing societal contexts.

Arguments for and against continued usage

Arguments for continued usage of the term ‘Mormon’ emphasize its historical and cultural significance, as well as the practicality of using a recognized label. Proponents argue that the term has become a recognizable and inclusive umbrella term for the diverse LDS community.

Arguments against continued usage focus on the desire for clarity, accuracy, and alignment with the church’s official teachings. By using the full name of the church, proponents argue that a more accurate representation of its beliefs and practices can be achieved.

Recognizing the Diversity of Latter Day Saints

Different branches and denominations within the LDS tradition

The LDS tradition encompasses a diverse range of branches and denominations that have emerged over time. These include the mainstream LDS church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as smaller denominations such as the Community of Christ and various fundamentalist groups. Each branch has its own distinct beliefs, practices, and leadership structures.

Variations in beliefs and practices

While there are core teachings and practices that are shared among different branches of the LDS tradition, there are also variations and nuances that distinguish them from one another. These differences often stem from interpretations of scripture, historical events, and evolving doctrinal understandings. Despite these variations, there is a common thread of LDS teachings that unites the different branches.

Distinct identities and names within the faith

In addition to the different branches within the LDS tradition, there are also various distinct identities and names within the broader faith community. This includes terms such as ‘Mormon fundamentalist,’ which refers to individuals or groups who adhere to earlier practices and doctrines of the LDS church. There are also organizations and communities that identify as ‘Latter-day Saints’ but have chosen to distance themselves from the traditional LDS church. These diverse identities reflect the dynamic nature of the LDS tradition.

Common thread of LDS teachings

Despite the diversity within the LDS tradition, there are fundamental beliefs and teachings that unite its various branches. These include a belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer, the restoration of the gospel in the latter days, and the importance of ongoing revelation from God. While interpretations and practices may differ, these core teachings form the basis of LDS identity and provide a sense of unity among its followers.

International Perspectives

Perception and usage of ‘Mormon’ in international communities

The perception and usage of the term ‘Mormon’ vary across different international communities. In some regions, the term is widely recognized and used to refer to the LDS community, while in others, it may be less familiar or not commonly understood. Cultural and linguistic factors play a significant role in shaping perceptions and usage of the term.

Cultural and language considerations

Cultural and language considerations have a significant impact on how the term ‘Mormon’ is interpreted and understood in international communities. In some languages, direct translations of the term may not accurately convey the full meaning or historical context. Additionally, cultural associations and preconceptions may influence how the term is received or perceived.

Alternative names used in non-English speaking regions

In non-English speaking regions, alternative names and translations are often used to refer to the LDS community. These names may align more closely with the full name of the church or emphasize specific aspects of LDS teachings. Examples include Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días in Spanish-speaking regions and Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage in German-speaking regions. These alternative names help to ensure accuracy and clarity in different linguistic and cultural contexts.

Challenges in translating and adapting terminology

Translating and adapting terminology presents challenges, particularly when it comes to religious and cultural concepts. Words and phrases may not have exact counterparts in different languages, requiring careful consideration and interpretation. Additionally, the cultural and historical context in which terminology is used can impact how it is understood and received by individuals from different backgrounds.


In conclusion, the term ‘Mormon’ has a rich and complex history within the LDS tradition. From its origins as a derogatory nickname to its widespread usage and recognition today, the term has played a significant role in shaping public perceptions of the LDS community. While there has been a shift in official terminology, the term ‘Mormon’ continues to be widely used and recognized.

The ongoing debate surrounding the term reflects the complexity and diversity within the LDS community. By recognizing the diverse branches, identities, and beliefs within the broader LDS tradition, a deeper understanding of the faith and its teachings can be gained.

As the LDS community continues to evolve, so too does its relationship with the term ‘Mormon.’ While efforts are being made to clarify the church’s identity and align with its official name, the term ‘Mormon’ remains a symbol of a rich heritage and a shared sense of belonging for many LDS members. As with any label or term, its ongoing significance will continue to be shaped by historical, cultural, and theological factors.