Papers Aren't Bound By LDS Name Change

Earlier this year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement calling on its members, news organizations and others to use its full name and avoid use of the terms "Mormon Church," "LDS Church" or "The Latter-day Saints Church."

Since that time, The Salt Lake Tribune has received numerous inquiries from newspapers across the country, wanting to know its response to that request. The latest inquiry was from The Oregonian.

"A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints insists that "Mormon" is a slang word and it is not to be used in stories to refer to the church or its members," wrote Dan Hortsch, public editor for the Portland-based newspaper. "I told her The Associated Press Stylebook says 'Mormon' is acceptable, and that we use the full name in early references. What is the style at The Tribune? Is 'Mormon' ever acceptable? What does the local [LDS] headquarters say?"

The Tribune is complying with the request that the church not be referred to as the "Mormon Church," explained Editor James E. Shelledy in his response to the church statement published March 8.

"A church may determine its official name, and the news media ought formally to recognize it. However, The Tribune will continue to use 'LDS' as the abbreviated version of, or second reference to, the official name of the institution. We will continue to use "Mormon" or "Latter-day Saints" to refer to members, missionaries, historical figures and events, among other things."

That seems to be the general response from Utah and many of the nation's daily newspapers. Even the LDS Church-owned Deseret News said last week the request is still "under advisement." And The Associated Press Stylebook, the bible of word usages for a majority of the nation's newspapers, made only one reference change in the 2001 version: "Mormon church" (where church is not capitalized), instead of "Mormon Church" as it had in previous versions. The new stylebook says Mormon church is acceptable, but the official name is preferred in first reference in a story dealing primary with church activities.

The Oregonian reader is not correct. The word "Mormon" is not slang, nor has it been banished from the lexicon. The confusion seems to be that members are told to "always use" The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and/or "the Church," but the news media have been "encouraged" to do so. The key points of the official statement are as follows:

The official, full name of the church should always be used by the church and its members.

Media organizations are encouraged to use the official name when referring to the church as an institution in their reporting. They are asked to avoid references to "Mormon Church," "LDS Church" or "The Latter-day Saints Church."

When a shortened reference is needed in news reporting or other instances, the terms "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged. When referring to members, the term Latter-day Saints is preferred, though "Mormons" is acceptable."

Appalled Over Comments: Reader Colleen Gardner was livid after reading quotes in the news story (Aug. 3) about the disposal and clean-up work for hogs that died in a fire at Circle Four Farms in Iron County. In the story, a state hazardous waste official referred to the dead animals as "materials." For a public health director, they were "things." And a Circle Four operations director said his crew had been working 24 hours a day because "the environment is of primary importance to us . . ."

"Twelve thousand living, breathing, sentient creatures were destroyed in a way that is unbelievably horrible and they are reduced to 'materials' and 'things,'" she said. "Who is this farm's director to say that the environment is of primary importance to them. It certainly was not important that 12,000 of God's wonderful creations died that day. I ask [The Tribune] to write another article, reflecting this tragedy. If 100 dogs or cats died, everyone would be appalled. How many farm animals equal a tragedy, if this isn't it?"

I understand the anguish some people feel when learning about any and all horrific loss of life -- be it human or beast. But let's not be so quick to take offense. If comments by those involved in the emergency disposal seemed insensitive, it might be that these individuals are overwhelmed by that horrible event and, therefore, they simply sought to stay focused on the massive clean-up they faced.