The most common way for the public to identify members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by the term "Mormons." How the Church feels about that term and its appropriateness in classifying members or aspects of the Church is a common topic of conversation. For instance, earlier this month, a front-page article in The Salt Lake Tribune addressed the issue.
People began referring to Latter-day Saints as "Mormons" in the 19th century shortly after the Church was established. The word comes from the Book of Mormon, a sacred book of scripture used by Mormons in addition to the Bible. The nickname stuck and has been used by Church members ever since as a shorthand version of "Latter-day Saints."
The term does not replace the proper name of the Church, however. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the name mandated in scripture in 1838. Calling it the "Mormon Church" or "LDS Church" leaves out the most central part of the Church: Jesus Christ. Consequently, the Church does not refer to itself as "the Mormon Church" and discourages use of that term.
The Church reemphasized that position in February of 2001, when it publicly encouraged the news media and the public to use the proper name of the Church. Bottom line: It's OK to use the term "Mormons" in referring to Church members, but we added: "Please don't use 'Mormon Church' as a substitute for the 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.' "
The Internet has brought an added dimension to this issue. Since people looking for information on the Church mostly enter "Mormon" into their search engines, the Church has to accommodate that reality. Consequently most stories and headlines on Newsroom use" Mormon" or "Mormons" regularly, so Church statements, positions, policies and stories are more likely to be picked up by casual Internet searchers.
The Church has frequently and prominently used the term during the past decade. In October of 2001 -- the same year the Church reemphasized its official name -- it also launched a major new Web site, Mormon.org, to reach people who are interested in learning more about Mormonism.
Overall, we're pleased with the fact that the media is using the full name of the Church much more frequently than in the past and that writers are correctly using the word "Mormon."