What’s In a Name?

I don’t like the circumcision of my name. When I was a kid, being called Pete didn’t bother me. Only a couple of my friends did it anyway. Here’s the thing, I don’t get angry or offended when someone calls me Pete. For some, it’s a term of endearment, for others it’s just their way. To be honest, the only time my name was used in derision was when someone called me Peter. If you can’t guess why, I’m guessing you were never in public or private middle school America.

I suppose I’ve reached a place of self-confidence and self-acceptance that the juvenile joke doesn’t bother me. I used to say, “The chief apostle of Jesus was named Peter,” as if that meant something and justified or made noble the name. It was the name of two of my revered great-grandfathers. If someone is going to call me Peter to mean Penis they could do worse. After all, the name means rock or the rock. With so many men my age beginning to ask their doctors about Viagra and Cialis prescriptions, being named after something hard could be taken as a compliment. If that’s the heads side of the coin, the tails side would be the allusion to something cold and lifeless. I suppose in this case I can have it both ways.

That’s exactly what the Mormon church seems to want. But when you’re playing with the devotion of your tithe payers under the guise of being led by a prophet, I don’t think you can. Might as well claim we have always been at war with Eurasia when last year we were always at war with Eastasia. So, can you change the name of a church carte blanche? Can using the term Mormon be a delight to God and a badge of honor until 2018 only to suddenly become an offense to God and to members?

I have heard it said and seen it written by devotees: “Calling us Mormon is the same as using the N-word.”

John Mulaney’s wit and wisdom sum this point up pretty well:

Mormon prophet, Russell Nelson declared:

“It is a command of the Lord.”

“…the name of the Church is not negotiable.”

“…if we allow nicknames to be used and adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He (Jesus) is offended.”

“To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan.”

Mormon’s have been trained to cringe when the name of Jesus is uttered away from a pulpit in their church. Their own scripture from which Nelson plucked his feverishly fundamentalist interpretation and of which he has made a hobby horse for decades, also states that the highest level of the priesthood in Mormonism should be named after the great high priest, Melchizedek, from the Old Testament. The real name of the high priesthood is revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 107 to be, “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” Why should the name be changed? The verse that immediately follows gives the answer: “out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

The irony is laughable. The emasculated reminiscence of Orwell’s 1984 can’t be lost on those viewing from the outside. However, I know it is lost to those on the inside who are convinced that their Big Brother can make 2+2=5 simply by decreeing it.

The Mormon church has a long history of utilizing Newspeak and the memory hole. In response to Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful Presidential campaign, the Mormon church initiated a campaign of their own. In 2010 they began sinking hundreds of millions of dollars in a worldwide public relations effort. What was this program called? The “I Am A Mormon” campaign. From Times Square to the London underground, the LDS church placed adds depicting Mormon celebrities and ordinary members proudly declaring, “I am a Mormon!” Youtube videos and the church’s own sites published these videos.

“I sell essential oils and recruit for a large, Provo, Utah-based MLM. I am the wife of an amazing husband, father, and dentist. I like sewing and canning vegetables I grow in the garden with my five, oddly-named children. I am happy and not weird. And, I’m a Mormon.”

“My name is Randon Blooms. You might know me as the lead singer of The Murders. I’ve recorded two gold records. I have my own line of non-alcoholic sugar drinks and anti-aphrodisiac colognes. I’ve travelled the world and founded a charity. I’m married to my cool wife for time and eternity. I’m totally normal and not weird. And, I’m a Mormon.”

This has been done before. Why not? Joseph Smith, the founding father of Mormonism taught that the name Mormon meant, more good. Like Melchizedek, Mormon is the name of a prophet so great that a book of scripture bears his name. What a great way to avoid repetition of the name of the Supreme Being! Then underling apostle, Russell Nelson spoke about the name of the church in April 1990. In response, member of the church’s first presidency and senior apostle, Gordon Hinkley, gave his own talk to the church six months later, in October 1990. After affirming the revealed and proper name of the church and admitting that not only would changing the nickname be difficult, it was also unnecessary. He said, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon.

In addition to the I Am a Mormon campaign or, rather, part of it, was a church published feature film titled, “Meet the Mormons.” (Search it yourself, I don’t want to give their website yet another external link to push it up the search queue.) For one-hundred and eighty-eight years, the church and its divinely ordained prophets embraced and promoted the use of the nickname, Mormon. A reasonable choice considering their egomaniacal God’s strange reverence for and aversion to the use of the Greek derivation of his own earthly name. From 2010 to 2018 not only was Mormon accepted, it was sold to the world under divine guidance and with outrageous marketing funds.

By the day following Nelson’s revelatory scolding to members for the long tradition of reverencing Jesus’s name despite previous prophet’s endorsement, the term Mormon became a bad word. Members now recoil at it as a “victory for Satan.” A membership already stretched thin in lay callings to support the church–leading, teaching, planning, organizing youth groups, etc–in addition to their jobs and families, they are now expected to further exhaust themselves by repeating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is equally as exhausting to hear someone say though I must chuckle to myself at the discomfort and haste with which devoted church members seem to regurgitate the bitter cud. They would do well to take the advice of Brad Pitt’s character, Rusty, to Matt Damon’s character, Linus, in Ocean’s 11: “Don’t use seven words when four will do.”

As if members don’t have to give enough time to the church’s growth, how much do they lose with this banal and ridiculous exercise? Don’t use an eight word title when one will do. When Rusty offers the advice to Linus, it is to help him allay suspicions of the man whom he is conning–make him seem legitimate, even genuine. Ironically, that reasoning and advice apply well here. The word Mormon means something to people, for good or ill. During my time as a missionary, it seemed to predominantly have a quaint connotation for outsiders. They associated it with quirky but friendly folks who can be a bit annoying but mean no harm. Watching those quirky members try to honor their prophet’s counsel has a less favorable connotation. And outsiders aren’t stupid. They’ve seen the videos and advertisements from the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. They aren’t citizens of Oceania who have been trained to let things go down the memory hole. Mormons moved themselves from their comfortable, scriptural label of “peculiar people.” Lengthening the name has, by the very nature of it, taken them from peculiar to the forgivable but annoying, pedantic. Add to that the unforgivable, pretentious, and you’ve alienated yourselves further from a world you desperately want to be accepted into.

Ask yourself if you think it is ridiculous for God to to condemn an artistic rendering of the Prophet Mohammed be produced? Does the idea make you recoil? I hope that’s the least of your visceral reaction to such fundamentalism. What Russell Nelson and those members who went from making “I’m a Mormon” video’s on Saturday night to claiming that the use of the M-word is a victory for Satan by Sunday afternoon clearly demonstrates that fundamentalism is alive and well in Mormonism. Prophet Nelson demonstrates that either he and his predecessors have never been prophets or revelators or that their god is petty, capricious, and tinkering. If they are, indeed, revealing the mind of God, it doesn’t mean that they can’t agree, it means that their source, God, can’t agree with himself. He’s like a paranoid schizophrenic that thinks the world is out to get him! Even his covenant people. He can hear them talking about him. They’re following him! Time for another flood!

I don’t prefer the circumcision of my name and I am beginning to oppose the circumcision of the genitalia of children. But one circumcision I would support is with regards to the name of the church. Make Members-of-The-Chruch-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-day-Saints Succinct Again!

One thought on “What’s In a Name?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s