Why Latter-day Saints Are Also Called Mormons?

Latter-day Saints, also commonly known as Mormons, have a rich history and unique beliefs that have often sparked curiosity and interest from those outside of the faith. In this article, we will explore the origins of the term “Mormon” and the significance it holds for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gain insight into the reasons behind this moniker and discover how it intertwines with their religious identity. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of the LDS faith and uncover why Latter-day Saints are also called Mormons.

Origin of the Term ‘Mormon’

The Book of Mormon

The term ‘Mormon’ originated from the Book of Mormon, which is a sacred text in the Latter-day Saint tradition. This religious scripture was said to be translated by Joseph Smith from ancient golden plates that were given to him by an angel named Moroni. The Book of Mormon is believed to contain the teachings of ancient prophets who lived in the Americas, including the resurrected Jesus Christ himself.

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter-day Saint movement, played a significant role in the origin of the term ‘Mormon’. As the individual responsible for translating the Book of Mormon and establishing the Church, he became closely associated with this religious text. It was through his leadership and teachings that the term ‘Mormon’ became synonymous with the followers of the faith.

Mormon as a nickname

Although initially used as a derogatory nickname for the members of the Church, the term ‘Mormon’ eventually became embraced by the Latter-day Saints themselves. The dedication and commitment of the early members, as well as their adherence to the principles outlined in the Book of Mormon, led them to embrace the term as a badge of honor rather than an insult. Over time, ‘Mormon’ became a recognizable identifier for the followers of the faith.

Doctrinal Background

The Book of Mormon as a Restoration Scripture

The Book of Mormon is considered a vital component of Latter-day Saint theology. It is seen as a restoration scripture that complements the Bible and provides additional insights into the gospel of Jesus Christ. The teachings of the Book of Mormon are seen as a divine revelation to guide and instruct the Latter-day Saints in their spiritual journey.

Mormon as a Prophet and Historian

Mormon, after whom the term ‘Mormon’ is derived, is a significant figure in the Book of Mormon. He was a prophet and historian who compiled and abridged the ancient records contained in the book. His writings provide a historical account of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and their interactions with God. It is through the teachings and writings of Mormon that the Latter-day Saints draw doctrinal understanding and spiritual guidance.

Significance of the Book of Mormon in Latter-day Saint theology

The Book of Mormon holds profound importance in the religious beliefs of Latter-day Saints. It not only provides a historical narrative but also expounds upon essential doctrines and principles of the faith. It serves as a witness of Jesus Christ, testifying of His divinity and Atonement. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, and the role of the Holy Ghost in the process of salvation. The Book of Mormon is seen as a companion to the Bible, fortifying and expanding the teachings found therein.

Early Usage of the Term

Informal usage by members of the Church

Early on, the term ‘Mormon’ was informally used by members of the Church to refer to themselves. It served as a shorthand way to identify one another and recognize their shared beliefs and practices. This informal usage reflected the sense of camaraderie and unity among the early Latter-day Saints, leading to the eventual adoption of the term as an accepted identifier.

Recognition by outsiders

As the Church grew, the term ‘Mormon’ gained recognition among outsiders. It became widely known as a distinct religious identity, attributed to the followers of Joseph Smith’s teachings. The term ‘Mormon’ was used by non-members, scholars, and journalists alike, often without any negative connotations. The expanding recognition of the Church and its members contributed to the increasing usage of the term ‘Mormon’ in mainstream society.

Official adoption of the term

The Church officially embraced the term ‘Mormon’ in the late 20th century, recognizing its widespread use and the cultural significance associated with it. This acceptance solidified ‘Mormon’ as a recognized name for the organization, as well as its members. However, recent developments have prompted a reevaluation of the use of the term in official contexts, as the Church shifts its focus towards emphasizing its full name and doctrinal identity.

Historical Evolution of the Term

Shift in focus from ‘Mormon’ to ‘Latter-day Saints’

In recent years, the Church has made a deliberate effort to emphasize its full name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraging members and the general public to use it in place of ‘Mormon’. This shift in focus is intended to emphasize the central role of Jesus Christ in the faith and to avoid potential confusion with other groups that may use the term ‘Mormon’. While ‘Mormon’ continues to be used colloquially, the Church’s formal nomenclature now places greater emphasis on the name of Christ.

Emphasis on Christ’s name in the official name of the Church

The decision to emphasize Christ’s name in the official name of the Church reflects the central belief that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the faith. By placing His name front and center, the Church seeks to reinforce its commitment to following the example and teachings of the Savior. This emphasis also serves as a reminder to members and outsiders alike of the true focus of the religion.

President Nelson’s counsel on using correct terminology

President Russell M. Nelson, the current leader of the Church, has expressed the importance of using the correct terminology, particularly in the context of the faith. He has encouraged members to refer to themselves as ‘Latter-day Saints’ rather than ‘Mormons’, emphasizing the need for consistent and precise language to accurately represent the Church and its teachings. President Nelson’s counsel has sparked a renewed discussion about the use of the term ‘Mormon’ and its implications for the identity of the Church.

The Term ‘Mormon’ in Popular Culture

Media portrayals and references

The term ‘Mormon’ has been widely used in popular culture, with various media portrayals and references shaping public perception. From plays and movies to television shows and literature, ‘Mormon’ has been a common identifier for characters and storylines representing the Latter-day Saint faith. While some portrayals have aimed for accuracy and balanced representation, others have perpetuated stereotypes and misconceptions, influencing how the general public perceives the Church and its members.

Positive and negative perceptions

The term ‘Mormon’ carries both positive and negative perceptions in popular culture. On one hand, it is associated with values such as family, community, and moral integrity. The Church’s welfare programs, disaster relief efforts, and emphasis on service have garnered respect and admiration. On the other hand, negative stereotypes, misunderstandings, and controversies surrounding the faith have led to inaccurate and unfavorable portrayals, contributing to a mixed perception of ‘Mormons’.

Impact on the Church’s identity

The portrayal of ‘Mormons’ in popular culture has had a significant impact on the identity and public image of the Church. It has shaped how the Church and its members are perceived by the broader society. The Church’s efforts to clarify its doctrinal beliefs, values, and practices are often met with preconceived notions influenced by media portrayals. As the Church seeks to establish its identity on its own terms, the term ‘Mormon’ continues to play a role in how it is both understood and misunderstood.

Challenges and Controversies

Avoidance of the term ‘Mormon’ by some members

In light of the Church’s emphasis on its full name, some members have chosen to avoid using the term ‘Mormon’ altogether. They believe that by using the preferred terminology, they can more accurately represent their faith and avoid potential confusion or misunderstanding. This linguistic shift reflects a desire among some members to align themselves with the Church’s official standards and teachings.

Misunderstandings and misrepresentations

The term ‘Mormon’ has often been accompanied by misunderstandings and misrepresentations, both within and outside the Church. The association of ‘Mormons’ with polygamy, for example, is a common misconception that stems from historical practices that are no longer part of the Church’s beliefs or teachings. These misunderstandings and misrepresentations further complicate the Church’s efforts to clarify its identity and beliefs.

Rebranding efforts

To address the challenges and controversies surrounding the term ‘Mormon’, the Church has undertaken rebranding efforts aimed at reinforcing its official nomenclature. This includes updates to its digital presence, encouraging the use of phrases such as ‘Restored Church of Jesus Christ’ or ‘Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’, and emphasizing the faith’s core beliefs and values. These rebranding efforts aim to align the Church’s identity in the public sphere with its official teachings and doctrinal framework.

The Continuity of ‘Mormon’ in Descriptive Contexts

Continued use in descriptive terms

While the Church’s rebranding efforts seek to prioritize its full name, ‘Mormon’ continues to be used in descriptive terms to refer to cultural, historical, or community aspects associated with the faith. For example, references to ‘Mormon pioneers’, ‘Mormon history’, or the ‘Mormon Tabernacle Choir’ are still used to describe significant aspects and contributions of the Latter-day Saint community and its heritage.

Community and social implications

Within the Latter-day Saint community, the term ‘Mormon’ often holds a sense of shared identity and kinship. It serves as a cultural and community marker, representing a common heritage, values, and traditions. However, the community aspect of being ‘Mormon’ extends beyond labels and terminology. It encompasses the relationships, service, and shared experiences that bind members together.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir as an example

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is an iconic example of how the term ‘Mormon’ is used in descriptive contexts. Despite the Church’s rebranding efforts, the internationally recognized choir has maintained its traditional name. While the official name of the choir is currently being reviewed for possible changes, the ‘Mormon Tabernacle Choir’ continues to be recognized globally, representing the exceptional musical talent and spiritual experience it offers.

The Church’s Position on the Term

President Nelson’s statement on the Church’s name

President Russell M. Nelson made a statement addressing the importance of the Church’s name in a worldwide broadcast in August 2018. He emphasized the need to use the correct name of the Church, stating that the use of the term ‘Mormon’ in reference to the Church and its members was no longer appropriate. President Nelson’s statement marked a significant shift in the Church’s stance on the term, further reinforcing the emphasis on the official name of the Church.

Encouragement to use the full name of the Church

Since President Nelson’s statement, Church leaders have consistently encouraged members and the public to use the full name of the Church in order to accurately represent its beliefs and teachings. The continued use of ‘Latter-day Saints’ as the preferred descriptor emphasizes the central role of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of the gospel in the faith.

Balancing historical identity with official nomenclature

While the Church places an increased focus on its official nomenclature, it also recognizes the historical and cultural significance of the term ‘Mormon’. The challenge lies in striking a balance between a historical identity rooted in the ‘Mormon’ tradition and the need to align with the Church’s official teachings and identity. The Church’s position reflects a conscious effort to align its language and terminology to better convey the essence of its doctrine and beliefs.

Understanding Why ‘Mormons’ Refers to Latter-day Saints

Widespread usage and recognition

The term ‘Mormon’ has been used to refer to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for well over a century. Its widespread usage and recognition in various contexts, including media, academia, and popular culture, have solidified its association with the faith. While the Church seeks to reframe its identity through its official name, the term ‘Mormon’ continues to be used colloquially, largely due to historical usage.

Long-standing historical use

The historical use of the term ‘Mormon’ to refer to Latter-day Saints began during the early days of the Church and persisted throughout its development. It was used both by insiders and outsiders, contributing to its adoption as a widely recognized identifier. The long-standing historical use of the term underscores its rich and complex association with the faith, making it difficult to dissociate entirely from the Latter-day Saint community.

Continued relevance in modern society

Despite the Church’s efforts to emphasize its official name, the term ‘Mormon’ still holds relevance in the modern context. Historical and cultural references, as well as the cumulative impact of media portrayal, contribute to its continued usage. While the Church actively encourages the use of its full name, it acknowledges the ongoing use of ‘Mormon’ and works to ensure accurate understanding and representation in light of its doctrinal framework.


The term ‘Mormon’ has a rich and evolving history within the context of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Originating from the Book of Mormon and closely tied to the teachings of Joseph Smith, the term gradually went from being a derogatory nickname to an embraced identifier for the faith. While the Church has recently emphasized its official name, the term ‘Mormon’ continues to be used colloquially and has become deeply ingrained in popular culture and the public’s perception of the religion. The Church’s position on the term reflects a balancing act between historical identity and a desire to accurately represent its beliefs and teachings. Ultimately, the ongoing use and recognition of the term ‘Mormon’ exemplify the complexity and nuance of the Church’s identity in contemporary society.