Not even a church chooses its nickname.
That’s the market’s privilege.
The prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormon Church, recently asked everyone to quit calling the Mormon Church “the Mormon Church,” to quit using “Mormon” as a modifier of, well, things Mormon, and even to quit using the initialization “LDS,” short for “Latter-day Saints.” It is, he said, “non-negotiable.”
Ironically, the request went out via the church’s MormonNewsroom.org.
I admit coming to the party a little late, since by now pretty much everyone has weighed in. My favorite commentaries so far are this one by self-described oxy-Mormon columnist Robert Kirby and this one by Boston Globe columnist and Mormon historian Alex Beam.
But since I’m a marketing consultant who knows a thing or two about brands and who happens to live in Utah, here I am, adding my two cents.
First cent: This isn’t the first time the church has made this request.
It made a similar appeal shortly before the Winter Olympics came to Salt Lake City in 2002. Among its worries was that in many minds “Mormon” invokes polygamy. That, and “Mormon Church” doesn’t sound like a Christian church, which the Mormon Church would like everyone to know it is.
The dictum didn’t work out in 2002. It won’t work out this time, either.
Second cent: Chevy supports my point.
In 2010, the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Company asked everyone to stop saying “Chevy.” Pardon my resorting to marketing jargon, but: What a bunch of idiots. The market, not the company, came up with Chevy. It was convenient, endearing, and ensconced. There was no getting rid of it. Before long, the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Company came to its senses and re-embraced the nickname.
Likewise, it was the market that bestowed “Mormons” on Mormons and “the Mormon Church” on the Mormon Church. It began as a term of derision but in time morphed into an inoffensive identifier. It wasn’t long before even the church embraced it. That’s why it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Tabernacle Choir.
At least, for now.
Like the 2002 effort, the new directive will eventually disappear. The most devout and anal Mormons and the Mormon-owned press will do their best to follow the new directive. Outside of that, the press and ordinary, everyday people will continue using “Mormon.” Like “Chevy,” it is convenient, ensconced, and, at least to some, endearing.
In time, the church will give in—again. There will be no special announcement. The church will simply stop raising the issue and let it go quietly away.