Amy Roberts: LDS church hopes to make big name for itself
For many long-time locals, Park City will always be home to three ski resorts: Deer Valley, PCMR, and the Canyons. Grocery stores are often called Dan’s and Albertsons. If we’re heading down the hill for a concert, we are likely going to the Delta Center. I have friends who still suggest we meet for a drink at The Alamo.
Despite ownership changes and new signage and rebranding campaigns, businesses rarely have enough in the marketing budget to counteract deeply imbedded habits. Or erase memory. Try as they might to curb the language, there is often a shoulder shrug acceptance to using old nomenclature.
Last week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated its style guide, noting the term Mormons and the common abbreviation LDS should no longer be used. Instead, when a shortened reference is needed, people should just say “the Church” or “Church of Jesus Christ.” Suggestions I find a bit odd, if not arrogant.
For starters, there are many, many churches around the world. Requesting anyone refer to one as “the Church” implies none of the others are legitimate, or they are inferior. Good luck getting Catholics in Spain and the majority of South America on board with this.
But aside from the rather off-putting assumption of superiority saying only “the Church” implies, the real request — that people use the full name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — is well, a mouthful. And likely to give half the state of Utah carpal tunnel syndrome.
Communication trends do not favor extra words. What used to be a 20-minute phone call evolved into a quick email, which eventually morphed into a text, and has now been reduced to an emoji. We have entire conversations in thumbs up signs and a variety of laughing faces. The idea people will say, much less write out, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is, insert facepalm emoji here.
Never mind the fact that not too long ago a significant pile of money was spent on the “I’m a Mormon” campaign; where videos featuring people from all walks of life were presented to (I assume) break a few stereotypes. These videos, which can be found on MormonChannel.org, are actually quite enlightening and showcase diversity, disproving the stereotype that Mormons are all 55-year-old white guys with blonde stay-at-home wives.
In a statement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said websites and other promotional materials will be updated to reflect this new directive. This will not be an easy or inexpensive task. It remains to be seen if the internationally renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be renamed. Just calling them “the Choir” seems aligned with the suggestion “the Church” put forth, but members of The Monteverdi Choir might take umbrage with that.
There’s also quite a bit of puzzlement over the fate of all the entities tied to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS Charities, LDS Business College, and LDS Hospital, to name a few. Will “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints College of Business” even fit on a diploma?
Ironically, this change was announced on mormonnewsroom.org. As a big fan of HBO’s “The Newsroom,” I’m pretty sure that is not a shorthand reference “the Church” will encourage.
This isn’t the first time there’s been a rebranding effort of sorts. Leaders have attempted to distance “the Church” from the word “Mormon” since the early 1980s. Religious scholars agree the reasoning is two-fold. The first is to reaffirm Mormons are Christians, and the second is to further dissociate itself from the fundamentalists, who also call themselves Mormons, and are often the middle-aged white men with blonde, stay-at-home wives. Usually at least five of them.
Even so, a change like this seems disproportionate to the effort and cost this will require. People who identify as Baptists or Methodists or Lutherans don’t have the name Christ in these commonly used short descriptors, yet it’s pretty standard to assume they’re all praying to the same figure. And as far as distancing themselves from a small group of fundamentalists, wouldn’t it just be easier to rename the fundamentalists? They could even be call “the Fundamentalists” without conflict. The Branch Davidians actually arose from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but no one connects the two.
I’m not sure how the Seventh-day folks did that, but Mormons would benefit by taking a page out of their scripture.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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