Mormon leader: Nicknames for faith are ‘victory for Satan’
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The president of the Mormon church reiterated Sunday that he wants members, the media and others to use the faith’s full name, saying nicknames are “a major victory for Satan.”
Addressing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ twice-yearly conference in Salt Lake City, Russell M. Nelson said the church’s name “is not negotiable.”
“When the Savior clearly states what the name of his church should be, and even precedes his declaration with, ‘Thus shall my church be called,’ he is serious,” Nelson said. “And if we allow nicknames to be used and adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, he is offended.”
Nelson, 94, who is considered a prophet, reiterated that his instruction is not a name change, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“It is a correction,” he said. “It is the command of the Lord.”
Nelson’s speech came after the church announced Friday that the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been renamed the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. It’s the first big change since Nelson announced guidelines in August asking people to stop using previously accepted shorthand names.
The faith had embraced and promoted the term Mormon over the past several years, using it in a documentary and TV and billboard ads. A church webpage that was up before Nelson’s announcement had described the term as an “unofficial but inoffensive nickname for members.”
If people use Mormon to describe the church or its members, Nelson on Sunday urged adherents to “be courteous and patient” in their efforts to correct them.
Nelson, who in January took over the top post of the Utah-based faith with 16 million members worldwide after the previous president died, rejected what he called “worldly arguments,” including the benefits of internet search engine optimization with the word “Mormon.”
The faith believes that God revealed the full church name to founder Joseph Smith in 1838. The term “Mormon” comes from the church’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, which followers believe is based on the record-keeping of an ancient prophet named Mormon.
The entry about the church in the Associated Press Stylebook, which many news outlets follow, remains unchanged.