The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints conjures up plenty of different images. Some people equate the Latter Day Saints with bland, middle-of-the-road public figures like Mitt Romney or (if you’re old enough) the Osmonds. Others may think of polygamy. Still others may recall those eager, if dorky, young missionaries making their way through town in their short-sleeve white shirts and ties.
The LDS church has a reputation for serving the community, particularly the poor and needy. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the finest religious musical entities in the world. The Latter Day Saints are some of the foremost genealogical researchers on the planet, and the reputation of their large, close-knit families — again, like the Osmonds and the Romneys — remains sterling. But most of all, people know this faith by one short name: Mormons.
But not for long, if the Church has its way. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has released its new style guide, which avoids nicknames and abbreviations. The church’s president, Russell Nelson, made an announcement coinciding with the release. “The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said. “We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so.”
The style guide notes that the church prefers media outlets to use the full name of the church whenever possible, and it makes clear the verbal shorthand to avoid when referring to the church or its members.
- While the term “Mormon Church” has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation “LDS” or the nickname “Mormon” as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church,” or “Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
- When referring to Church members, the terms “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” or “Latter-day Saints” are preferred. We ask that the term “Mormons” not be used.
- The term “Mormonism” is inaccurate and should not be used.
The guide also emphasizes the importance of clarifying that the Church does not promote polygamy when journalists write articles on those who do practice plural marriage.
Sheri Dew, executive vice president and chief content officer of Deseret Management Corporation, told Deseret News that the new focus on proper names for the Church is a large and important step. “This appears to be a more seismic shift than just a reinforcement of a former policy,” she said. “It seems that the president of the church is saying that, surely, if we expect anyone else to get the name of the church right, we better start by getting the name of the church right ourselves, and one major problem with every nickname we have all used and fallen into is that they cut out the name of Jesus Christ.”
A handful of nicknames are acceptable, according to the style guide. “When a shortened reference is needed, the terms ‘the Church’ or the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’ are encouraged. The ‘restored Church of Jesus Christ’ is also accurate and encouraged.”
But here’s the thing: the Mormon faith is not the true church of Jesus Christ, and to say so threatens to lead untold numbers of people astray. The truth is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is completely incompatible with biblical Christianity. John Piper has declared that the Latter Day Saints, along with other sects that fall outside of mainstream Christian doctrine, deceive people by “piggybacking on biblical Christianity and keeping their unbiblical views of Christ hidden at the beginning of their inroads.”
At The Gospel Coalition website, Joe Carter pointed out how Mormon theology is nothing short of heresy:
Unlike Christian Trinitarianism (one God existing in three Persons), Mormons believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate gods. They also believe the Father and Son each have a “body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” but that the Holy Ghost “has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.” According to Joseph Smith, when Adam was formed in the image of God, it was a physical image. God the Father was once a mortal who lived on an earth. He died, was resurrected, glorified, and grew into his deified status. (According to Joseph Smith, there is a “God above the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
Edmond Gross of Ligonier Ministries demonstrates how the semantics of the Latter Day Saints’ doctrine comprise one of the many ways that the Mormon faith is a cult built squarely on false teaching:
Are biblical terms used but given a different meaning? To be aware of this redefinition of terms is essential if one is to understand how LDS doctrine differs from biblical Christianity. Consider the following (with a Scriptural response). Mormonism views sin as specific acts, not as man’s basic nature (Rom. 5:6–8; Eph. 2:3). The Gospel is explained as the teachings and church ordinances restored by Joseph Smith (1 Cor 15:1–4). Being born again is baptism into the LDS Church (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23).
The apostle Paul told the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” And he told the Corinthian church, “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Yet the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does preach a different gospel, set on a false foundation. For that reason, style guide or no, the Mormons cannot claim to be the Church of Jesus Christ in any way. Sadly, the Mormons will continue to lead people astray by claiming to be followers of Jesus and his teaching because of this approved abbreviation.