First, I want you to know that I respect your decision to call yourself something other than “Mormon.” Did I snicker a bit when the group formerly known as Mormon Women Stand immediately (like, within a couple hours of the press release) changed their group name to Latter-day Saint Women Stand? Yeah, I snickered, and it wasn’t very charitable of me. I was wrong, and I’m sorry for reacting that way.*
And I get some of the reasons why you want to put this new counsel from the president of the Church into immediate practice. Some of you will do it as a simple testament of your faith in President Nelson’s role as prophet. Others have never liked the nickname and always wanted us to go by the full name of the Church. For others, it’s a rebirth and a renewed focus on the Savior. So I get it, and I support your decision.
What I can’t support, however, is anyone using this new policy as a reason to judge other members of the Church as less faithful. Like Peter when the Savior was arrested, too many of us respond to what we see as an attack on the Church by injuring our fellow children of God. It’s notable that the Savior responded by telling Peter to put his sword back in its sheath.
“But nobody is doing that!” you might say.
Hey, if you haven’t seen the judgy side of this Latter-day Saint rebirth, then I’m happy for you. Honestly. If that’s not something you’ve encountered yet, I’m really glad you’re seeing a more positive reaction than I have.
Let me tell you some of what I’ve seen: I’ve seen members publicly call friends and acquaintances to repentance for complaining about the change in policy. I’ve seen members tattle to leaders after seeing a fellow member say they’ll be sticking with “Mormon.” I’ve seen members brag that they’ve never called themselves “Mormon” because it was always wrong to do so, without acknowledging that the previous president of the Church embraced the nickname.
I don’t know about you, but when someone polices my language that way, it never feels like love. It only ever feels like gatekeeping, and if I were on the fence about staying in a group, that kind of reaction would push me all the way out. So before you respond to someone who complains about this policy, maybe ask yourself this question:
Would I rather this member of the Church stay active but call him/herself “a Mormon,” or would I prefer they leave the Church altogether?
If you want them to stay (and I assume you do!), I recommend backing off. They’ve heard the prophet’s counsel, and they just haven’t applied it in their own life in quite the same way that you have. Is it really worth driving someone out of the fold because they’re using an old nickname? I’d like to note that President Nelson never once in his talk asked you to lecture, hound, or tattle on other members who don’t want to follow this new policy.
So why would you?
The entire point of this policy change is to focus more on the Savior. At the end of the day, we won’t fulfill President Nelson’s vision if we’re so hung up on whether someone else is using the right terminology that we fail to act like Christ’s people.
So the next time you hear a member of the Church refer to themselves as a Mormon, take a deep breath. And then, maybe just focus on Christ’s call to love one another.
*For the record, I don’t regret the snarky post where I wrote out the Church’s full name at least a dozen times. For one, it was awfully fun to write. Second, what I was really critiquing was our tendency as members to turn every little thing into a shibboleth. Let’s not act like a character out of Mean Girls, okay?