I have studied Mormon theology and history for nearly 25 years now (yes, I know that’s an uncommon hobby for a Catholic), during which time I’ve seen a marked shift in the attitudes of many Mormons toward the moniker “Mormon.”
While it was for many decades a generally accepted name for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (A.K.A. the Mormon Church), I recall meeting increasing resistance to the name from members of that Church. Many times I was gently admonished by them for calling them Mormons, rather than the preferred “Latter-day Saints” or, for short, “LDS.”
Well, times they are a changin’. I was fascinated to read today about how the name “Mormon” is now back in vogue, mainly because the Mormon Church’s study of search-engine data shows that, by far and away, more people search for “Mormon” than for any other variant.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
After a decadelong moratorium, Mormon is back. The name, that is. It will be on display everywhere this weekend as thousands gather for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 180th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City.
Where LDS leaders once were pushing members to call themselves Latter-day Saints, rather than Mormons, now the church-owned Deseret News has created the Mormon Times. “Mormon Messages” is on YouTube. The “Mormon Channel” is on the radio. And the faith’s missionary Web site is mormon.org.
So what has changed for the nearly 14 million-member church? The Internet.
Last year, some 26.8. million people searched for the word “Mormon,” 5.3 million hunted for “Mormons,” and 1.3 million scouted for “Mormonism,” noted Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs.
Although about 32 million searched for “LDS,” church officials believe most of those were members. Few search for the official name.
“It’s simply a reality that people think of Mormons, they don’t think of Latter-day Saints,” Otterson said Thursday. “Mormon is here to stay.”
In fact, this weekend’s two-day conference will be followed closely on blogs such as “Feminist Mormon Housewives,” “Mormon Matters” and “Mormon Stories.” (In the so-called bloggernacle, “Mormon” outpaces “LDS” in blog names by 3-to-1.)
Some wonder why the Utah-based church tried to jettison the nickname in the first place, especially after spending years and untold millions creating a “Mormon” brand. The tag line for its award-winning “Homefront” TV spots, for example, was, “Brought to you by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Mormons.”
“Branding is a very difficult, lengthy and taxing process of attempting to influence the consumer mind at a basic level,” said Kenneth Foster, a marketing research expert in Salt Lake City and a Mormon. “The church can’t really back away from the use of the term Mormon, given the ingrained history of the term and resources the church used to establish it. A better strategy may be to embrace and revitalize it.” . . . (continue reading)