Some Questions about the Religion Formerly Known as “Mormon”

Roger E. Olson | 8/21/2018 | Staff
urbanagirl3 (Posted by) Level 3
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Over the past three to four decades I have had many encounters with well-informed Latter-day Saints (formerly known as Mormons). When I taught theology at a major charismatic-evangelical university in the 1980s the evangelist-president (also founder of the school) let it be known that he considered Latter-day Saints/Mormons Christians and allowed them to use his university for their annual regional meetings (much to the dismay of many faculty and students).

When I taught at an evangelical liberal arts college in the 1980s and 1990s I routinely invited Latter-day Saints/Mormons (as they then were known) to speak to my classes. In the last two decades, while teaching at an evangelical seminary, I have traveled three times to Brigham Young University to participate in symposia and conferences put on by Latter-day Saint religion scholars there. Each time I was invited to speak I was treated extremely well. This last time (2017) the conference was about the Protestant Reformation and even the Latter-day Saints religion scholars talked about Luther as if he were a great hero.

August - President - Church - Jesus - Christ

Recently (August, 2018), the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints publicly discouraged use of the label “Mormon”—both by Latter-day Saints and by non-Latter-day Saints. I began to hear of this move away from that label some years ago—in Utah at BYU. So what does it signify? Why would the LDS leadership want to distance their church from the term “Mormon?”

Of course, I can’t read their minds. And I am not privy to any insider information. But here is my somewhat informed guess at the reason for it.

Mind - Saints - Culture - Culture - Church

In the popular mind, outside of Latter-day Saints culture (and it is a culture, not just a church), “Mormonism” has long connoted something sinister, something cultish. “Latter-day Saints” carries less negative baggage among Christians especially. Not that it’s...
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