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 Saintgroups. 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[ [http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/contents|The Book of Mormon] ] , which is believed by Latter Day Saints to be a religious and historical record translated from golden platesby Joseph Smith, Jr.into English by divine inspiration. Joseph Smith stated that he was instructed by the Angel Moronito go to the hill Cumorahin 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 Americasfrom 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 Nephiafter his resurrection. [http://scriptures.lds.org/en/3_ne/11] Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is another scriptural witness of Jesus Christ that is comparable to the Bible[http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/introduction] , which they also believe to be the word of God. [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/en/a_of_f/1/8#8 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".]
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. [ [http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=e17c39628b88f010VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f5f411154963d010VgnVCM1000004e94610aRCRD Mormons and Polygamy] , LDS News Room.] The AP Stylebookagrees, 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=http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,645199994,00.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.
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. [ [http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ca07ae4af9c7e010VgnVCM1000004e94610aRCRD LDS Church Style Guide] .] [ Gordon B. Hinckley, " [http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1990.htm/ensign%20november%201990.htm/mormon%20should%20mean%20more%20good.htm Mormon Should Mean 'More Good,'] " "Ensign", Nov. 1990, 51.] [See cite web |url=http://www.lds.org/newsroom/page/0,15606,4043-1---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, " [http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1990.htm/ensign%20may%201990.htm/thus%20shall%20my%20church%20be%20called.htm Thus Shall My Church Be Called] ," "Ensign", May 1990, 16.]
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 Youngto what is now Utah. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsis 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 Rigdonto be Joseph Smith's rightful successor, and the Wisconsin-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite), which considers James J. Strangto 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." [ [http://patriot.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/NCMP1820-1846&CISOPTR=8618&REC=9 Religious Education Archive: 19th Century Mormon Publications : Compound Object Viewer ] ]
B. H. Robertsremoved 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. Hinckleynoted 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, [http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=3d3b66ce3a47b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1 “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. [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mosiah/18 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 Communityserial number EC004306701, registered July 6, 2006] [Intellectual Reserve is a corporation formed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsto 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 Officerejected 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. [ [http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78161091 Federal TM Ser. No. 78161091] ]
List of Latter Day Saints- notable Mormons
* [http://lds.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2bcd39628b88f010VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f5f411154963d010VgnVCM1000004e94610aRCRD LDS Newsroom] LDS Church criticisms of the use of the word "Mormon" in news reports
* [http://www.mormon.org Mormon.org] - Official outreach web site for the LDS Church.
* [http://www.pbs.org/mormons "The Mormons"] - PBS Special can be watched online
* [http://www.mormontimes.com Mormon Times] - For and about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
* [http://www.ldschurchnews.com LDS Church News] - An official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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