Mormon is a term used to describe the adherents, practitioners, followers or constituents of Mormonism. The term most often refers to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which is commonly called the "Mormon Church". The LDS Church believes that "Mormon" should properly be applied only to its members. However, the term is often used more broadly to describe any individual or group that believes in the Book of Mormon, and other Latter Day Saint groups. According to the Book of Mormon, Mormon is the name of the prophet who compiled the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon.

Origin of the term

The term "Mormon" has its origins in the Book of Mormon [ [|The Book of Mormon] ] , which is believed by Latter Day Saints to be a religious and historical record translated from golden plates by Joseph Smith, Jr. into English by divine inspiration. Joseph Smith stated that he was instructed by the Angel Moroni to go to the hill Cumorah in upstate New York where he found the ancient record. He was given stewardship over its translation in 1827. The book relates a history of three civilizations in the Americas from approximately 2700 BC through 420 AD, written by their prophets and followers of Jesus Christ. It contains the teachings of Jesus Christ to the people in the Americas as well as recounting Christ's personal ministry among the people of Nephi after his resurrection. [] Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is another scriptural witness of Jesus Christ that is comparable to the Bible [] , which they also believe to be the word of God. [ [ Article of Faith #8] ] The book gets its name from Mormon, the prophet said to have abridged the record during the 4th century.

According to the "Oxford English Dictionary", one of the earliest published usages of the term "Mormon" to describe believers in the Book of Mormon was in 1833 by the Louisville (Kentucky) "Daily Herald" in an article, "The Mormons and the Anti-Mormons". ["Oxford English Dictionary", s.v. "Mormon".]

Popular usage

The term "Mormon" is most often used to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The LDS Church holds that it is incorrect to apply "Mormon" to other groups or their members. [ [ Mormons and Polygamy] , LDS News Room.] The AP Stylebook agrees, specifying that the term "Mormon" is not properly applied to other Latter Day Saint groups founded after the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. [Associated Press, "The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law", 2002, ISBN 0738207403, p.48]

Nevertheless, the term is also often used to refer to fundamentalist groups who continue to practice plural marriage, [The term "Mormon fundamentalist" appears to have been coined in the 1940s by LDS Church Apostle Mark E. Petersen: Ken Driggs, "'This Will Someday Be the Head and Not the Tail of the Church': A History of the Mormon Fundamentalists at Short Creek", "Journal of Church and State" 43:49 (2001) at p. 51.] a practice that the LDS Church officially abandoned in 1890. [The LDS Church now strictly prohibits polygamy and any member practicing it is subject to excommunication. For description of the dispute over the term "Fundamentalist Mormon," see cite news|title=Plural lives: the diversity of fundamentalism | url=,1249,645199994,00.html | author=Carrie Moore and Elaine Jarvik| publisher="Deseret Morning News" | date= 2006-09-09] [Some confusion has been caused in the media by fundamentalists clarifying their status as breakaway sects. The confounding of the term is similar in principle to the reciprocal excommunications of Roman and Eastern Orthodox pontiffs, with each sect claiming to be the original and authoritative church; this led to the originally external adoption of the distinctive labels "Roman Catholic" and "Greek Orthodox" for the sake of clarity among people not involved in schismatic propaganda.] These groups, while numerically much smaller than the LDS Church, continue to use the term "Mormon" and claim to represent "true Mormonism" as taught and practiced by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, though this is rejected by members of the LDS Church. These same offshoots have different teachings than the LDS church in order to follow what they believe was taught by the same early leaders.

The term "Mormon" is generally disfavored by other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, such as the Community of Christ, which have distinct histories from that of the LDS Church since Smith's death in 1844.

The terms "Mormon" and "Mormonite" were first used in the 1830s as pejoratives to describe those who followed Joseph Smith and believed in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon.

"Mormon Church"

The official name of the Salt Lake City, Utah-based church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While the term "Mormon Church" has long been attached to the church as a nickname, it is an unauthorized title, and its use is not encouraged by the church, although the use of "Mormon" in other contexts is not generally considered offensive and is commonly used by the church's members. [ [ LDS Church Style Guide] .] [Gordon B. Hinckley, " [ Mormon Should Mean 'More Good,'] " "Ensign", Nov. 1990, 51.] [See cite web |url=,15606,4043-1---15-168,00.html |title=Style Guide - The Name of the Church |accessdate=2006-12-04] LDS leaders have encouraged members to use the church's full name to emphasize the church's focus on Jesus Christ. [Russell M. Nelson, " [ Thus Shall My Church Be Called] ," "Ensign", May 1990, 16.]

Scholarly usage

Some scholars, such as J. Gordon Melton, in his "Encyclopedia of American Religion," subdivide the Mormons into "Utah Mormons" and "Missouri Mormons". In this scheme, the Utah Mormon group includes all the organizations descending from those Mormons who followed Brigham Young to what is now Utah. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by far the largest of these groups, and the only group to initially reside in Utah. The Missouri Mormons include those who chose not to travel to Utah, and the organizations formed from them — the Community of Christ, Church of Christ (Temple Lot), Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and others.

The terms "Utah Mormon" and "Missouri Mormon" are problematic because the majority of each of these branches' members no longer live in either of these U.S. states. Although a majority of Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS Church has a worldwide membership with the majority of its members outside the United States. Nor are most "Missouri Mormons" based in Missouri. Notable exceptions include the Pennsylvania-based Church of Jesus Christ, which considers Sidney Rigdon to be Joseph Smith's rightful successor, and the Wisconsin-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite), which considers James J. Strang to be Smith's rightful successor.

Addressing some of the limitations of the Utah/Missouri designations, some historians have now coined the terms "Rocky Mountain Saints" and "Prairie Saints" to rename the "Utah" and "Missouri" branches of the movement. These new terms have begun to gain a following among historians today, but similar to the above mentioned titles, they are not of common usage among the majority of those who call themselves Mormons.

Meaning of the word

The May 15, 1843 issue of the Mormon periodical "Times and Seasons" contains an article purportedly written by Joseph Smith, Jr. where he extols the following meaning of the word "Mormon" (T&S 13:194): [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300]

It has been stated that this word [mormon] was derived from the Greek word "mormo." This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon.... [The] Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, "I am the good shepherd;" and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to "bad." We say from the Saxon, "good"; the Dane, "god"; the Goth, "goda"; the German, "gut"; the Dutch, "goed"; the Latin, "bonus"; the Greek, "kalos"; the Hebrew, "tob"; and the Egyptian, "mon." Hence, with the addition of "more," or the contraction, "mor," we have the word "mor-mon"; which means, literally, "more good." [ [ Religious Education Archive: 19th Century Mormon Publications : Compound Object Viewer ] ]

B. H. Roberts removed the quote from the "History of the Church", claiming to have found evidence that W. W. Phelps wrote that paragraph and that it was "based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic." ["Defender of the Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story", pp. 291–292] LDS Church Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley noted that the "more good" translation is incorrect but added that "Mormon" means 'more good'" is a positive motto for members of the LDS Church. [Gordon B. Hinckley, [ “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good’,”] "Ensign", Nov. 1990, p. 51.]

Meaning in the Book of Mormon

According to the Book of Mormon, a man named Mormon compiled nearly 1000 years of writings as well as chronicled events during his lifetime. The text of the Book of Mormon consists of this compilation and his own writings with some additional writings. For his work, the book is named after him.

The first usage of the name 'Mormon' in the actual text of the Book of Mormon is as a place name in Mosiah 18:4.

And it came to pass that as many as did believe him did go forth to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts. [ [ Mosiah 18 ] ]

Confusion with other religious groups

Despite some misconceptions over similar nicknames and stereotypes, Mormons are not in any way associated with the Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends), Mennonites, Amish, or Jehovah's Witnesses. Mormonism originated separately from these groups, and is distinct in culture, practice, theology, and worship.


In some countries, "Mormon" and some phrases including the term are registered trademarks owned by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. [For example, "Mormon Tabernacle Choir" is registered as United States Federal TM Reg. No. 2766231, and "Mormon" is registered in the European Community serial number EC004306701, registered July 6, 2006] [Intellectual Reserve is a corporation formed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to hold the church's intellectual property.] In the United States, the LDS Church has applied for a trademark on "Mormon" as applied to religious services; however, the United States Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application, stating that the term "Mormon" was too generic, and is popularly understood as referring to a particular kind of church, similar to "Presbyterian" or "Methodist", rather than a service mark. [Office Action, Nov. 1, 2005.] The application is on appeal as of mid-2007. [ [ Federal TM Ser. No. 78161091] ]

ee also

*List of Latter Day Saints - notable Mormons


External links

* [ LDS Newsroom] LDS Church criticisms of the use of the word "Mormon" in news reports
* [] - Official outreach web site for the LDS Church.
* [ "The Mormons"] - PBS Special can be watched online
* [ Mormon Times] - For and about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
* [ LDS Church News] - An official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • mormon — mormon, one [ mɔrmɔ̃, ɔn ] n. • 1832; de Mormon, nom d un prophète allégué par J. Smith, fondateur du mouvement ♦ Adepte d un mouvement religieux d origine américaine (« Église de Jésus Christ des saints des derniers jours »), dont la doctrine,… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • mormon — MORMÓN, Ă, mormoni, e, s.m. şi f. Membru al unei secte creştine din Statele Unite ale Americii, care iniţial practica poligamia. – Din fr. mormon. Trimis de ana zecheru, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  mormón s. m., pl. mormóni Trimis de siveco,… …   Dicționar Român

  • Mormon — ☆ Mormon [môr′mən ] n. [explained by Joseph SMITH as more mon, more good] a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church), founded in the U.S. in 1830 by Joseph Smith: among its sacred books is the… …   English World dictionary

  • Mormon — Mor mon, a. Of or pertaining to the Mormons; as, the Mormon religion; Mormon practices. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mormon — (n.) 1830, coined by religion founder Joseph Smith (1805 1844) in Seneca County, N.Y., from Mormon, supposed prophet and author of The Book of Mormon, explained by Smith as meaning more mon, from English more + Egyptian mon good. As an adjective… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Mormon — Mor mon, prop. n. (Eccl.) One of a Christian denomination (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) in the United States, followers of Joseph Smith, who professed to have found an addition to the Bible, engraved on golden plates, called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mormón — mormón, na (De Mormon, nombre de un profeta inventado en 1830 por el fundador del mormonismo). 1. adj. Perteneciente o relativo al mormonismo. 2. Que profesa el mormonismo. U. t. c. s.) …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • Mormon — ► NOUN ▪ a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a religion founded in the US in 1830 by Joseph Smith Jr. DERIVATIVES Mormonism noun. ORIGIN the name of a prophet to whom Smith attributed The Book of Mormon, a collection of… …   English terms dictionary

  • Mormon — Mor mon, prop. n. [NL., fr. Gr. mormw n monster, bugbear.] (Zo[ o]l.) (a) A genus of sea birds, having a large, thick bill; the puffin. (b) The mandrill. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mormon — Mor mon, n. (Eccl.) A member of a sect, called the Reorganized Church of Jesus of Latterday Saints, which has always rejected polygamy. It was organized in 1852, and is represented in about forty States and Territories of the United States.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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