Please Learn the Church’s Name

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a somewhat tricky name from a grammar standpoint. So let's stop messing it up.


Greetings, dear readers. It’s time once again for me to chide you all—pretentiously, I might add— for continued grammatical erring when it comes to churchy things. I did it before when it came to thinking about the way we close talks and testimonies, and I am here to do it again about something even simpler.

And before I do, I’d like to reiterate that if we were to compare the importance of this to, say, helping refugees, bringing people unto Christ, combating addictions, and thwarting domestic violence; I hope it is completely axiomatic which are more important.

Let’s learn the Church’s name.

For realsies, people. This is nuts. How can we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (that’s the correct way), make improper use of case, hyphenation, etc? We don’t have an excuse.

Regularly I see aberrations of the Church’s good name, and from outlets that should know better (i.e. publications, social media channels that claim to know a thing or two, general membership). Let’s look at a few popular examples:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • The Church of Latter Day Saints (looking at you, MSNBC)

OK, there are only so many permutations to go around, but you get the idea.

While I understand completely that the Church hasn’t done itself any favors from a social marketing standpoint by having a tricky name that involves hyphenation and a lowercase “day” (Why? Compound adjectives.), the onus is on us, folks!

Just yesterday I saw a blog post from a full-time missionary (another compound adjective) who was called as a branch president, and in his remarks about the change in responsibility, this good servant said how happy he was to serve in “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” *sigh*

Look, this is a kid, I get it. But these are the kids wearing the Church’s name on their chests! I do not for a moment think it is unreasonable that they know the proper way to write it. And the example above is not an experience isolate.

As for the rest of the blogosphere, I see mixed results. I find myself sometimes disappointed in the failure of writers espousing “stylistic” choices to make that D uppercase. (There’s an argument to be made for it, but, well, no. MLA sucks.)

Sometimes we don’t capitalize “The” presumably because it’s an article. However, as the first word in the official title, it gets capitalized, article or other.

Worse yet, though, is the lack of the hyphen.

Why the hyphen? The confusion is understandable. After all, we can say we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in the latter days. Wait, what?

In the Church’s name, “Latter-day” is a compound adjective, meaning both words modify “Saints.” What kind of Saints are we? We are Latter-day Saints. And because we are dealing with two successive adjectives for one modifier, we hyphenate them.

My understanding behind the lowercase “day” is that it is effectively a participle that modifies the elements both before and after it. In simpler terms: we would not ever call ourselves just “Day Saints.” The “day” in our title only exists because it ties in with “Latter” and it can’t function independently. Other examples are “English-speaking people.” Just “speaking people” would mean something entirely different. Or “medium-sized building.” What the heck is a “sized building”? You get the idea.

I have some editor friends out there, so if I’m a degree or two off on this, please feel free to right the ship in the comments below.

While we are at, let’s encourage everyone to adopt the style guide requested by the Mormon Newsroom, which involves using the full name of the Church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—in the first instance of an article, meaning the first time one mentions the Church in a piece. I try to be consistent with this. Much of the media struggles with it. Honestly, this isn’t just the Church being a bit protective of its brand; it’s also normal in writing: opt for the full name of most things at first instance, then employ shortened references later on.

There are some other useful notes:

  • Avoid the use of “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
  • When needing a shortened reference, opt for “the Church” or “the Church of Jesus Christ”
  • “Latter-day Saints” is the preferable way to refer to Church members, but “Mormons” is acceptable
  • “Mormonism” is a correct way to describe doctrine, culture, and lifestyle of Church members

Naturally, in none of this does the Church mention that it aggressively protects “Mormon” as a trademark, and frankly, it’s a miracle we’ve lasted this long with “Mormons” in our name over here at TWiM. Other noble warriors have since fallen by the wayside. How long until we are “This Week in LDS”? Who knows, friends.

As for the first bullet point, I’m guilty of this. Most of us are. Frankly, I’m not sure what shortened reference would get the point across more succinctly. Sometimes a mere reference to “the Church” doesn’t quite get us there. Calling Elder Ballard.

So, my friends, I hope this reminder can help you be a better ambassador for the Church and its name. After all, don’t we owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to represent Christ’s institution appropriately? Shouldn’t we want to spread the correct name of the Lord’s Church? Yes, those are leading questions and everyone will laugh at you if you don’t answer in the affirmative.

Because this is the internet (in lowercase now), I am confident many of you will leave comments below about how there are more important things to discuss and how I am a heartless fiend. Despite the fact that I issued disclaimers at the beginning of this article, I nevertheless welcome your aimless rage and look forward to the discussion.

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