In the Mormon Coffee discussion regarding recent changes to Gospel Principles, one commenter wrote,
” The Church started out and was against something, and in a few years, they were for the thing they were against, a few years later they were against it again, and now the are sort of, kind of, celestially for it – polygamy. Is God the author of confusion? 1 Cor 14:33.
The LDS Church has dealt with polygamy and other issues over the years somewhat capriciously. Church leaders teach one thing, and a few years later the tides turn and the teaching changes course. Sometimes the issues are important (like plural marriage being required/not required for exaltation), and sometimes they are relatively inconsequential. But the thread that runs through them all is the idea that God has his own hand on the rudder of the ship and directs Church leaders directly.
One fairly inconsequential issue that demonstrates the chameleon-like nature of LDS leadership is its attitude toward the word “Mormon.”
A few months ago the LDS Church launched a new, official radio station: Mormon Channel. The Mormon Channel web site includes links for other LDS sites, such as “Mormon Identity,” “Mormon Messages,” and “Mormon.org.”
It wasn’t that long ago that the LDS Church eschewed the use of the nickname “Mormon,” but apparently the nickname is now back in vogue.
“Mormon” was first used as a pejorative in reference to followers of Joseph Smith and his new religion. In 1830, “Mormon” was bad.
But in 1843 Joseph Smith stated,
“We say from the Saxon, ‘good’; the Dane, ‘god’; the Goth, ‘goda’; the German, ‘gut’; the Dutch, ‘goed’; the Latin, ‘bonus’; the Greek, ‘kalos’; the Hebrew, ‘tob’; that the Egyptian, ‘mon.’ Hence, with the addition of ‘more,’ or the contraction, ‘mor,’ we have the word ‘mormon’; which means, literally, ‘more good.'” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 300)
In 1843, “Mormon” was good.
Almost 140 years later LDS public relations pressured the media to stop using the word “Mormon” and replace it with “LDS Church” or “Latter-day Saints.” In 1982 “Mormon” was bad. Again.
At the April 1990 General Conference LDS Apostle Russell M. Nelson upheld and reiterated the non-use of the word “Mormon,” but that position was soon softened. At the next General Conference Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the First Presidency, taught:
“[Joseph Smith’s] statement intrigued me — Mormon means ‘more good.’ I knew, of course, that ‘more good’ was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied both Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon. But this was a positive attitude based on an interesting perception.” (“Mormon Should Mean More Good,” Ensign, November 1990, 52)
So Joseph said “Mormon” means “more good.” Gordon B. Hinckley said “Mormon” should mean “more good,” but it doesn’t. Regardless, in 1990 “Mormon” was good, and though use of the nickname didn’t carry the blessing of the Church, it was at least okay that it was used by non-members.
It didn’t stay that way for long. Just over a decade later, as the Church took a public stance to move away from the nickname “Mormon Church” and “LDS Church” to the different nickname of “The Church of Jesus Christ,” LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks said,
“This decision [to change the nickname] is right-oriented, not result-oriented. We’re only trying to do what the Lord wants us to do.” (Gustav Niebuhr, “Adapting ‘Mormon’ to Emphasize Christianity,” February 19, 2001)
In 2001, use of the nickname “Mormon” was bad.
But in 2009 the use of “Mormon” is back in full swing and happily endorsed by the LDS Church.
Over the 179 years that the Mormon Church has been in existence, it has changed its position on this five times, with several of the about-faces articulated by leaders of the Church in their official capacities as apostles. To be fair, according to Dallin Oaks they are only trying to do what they understand the Lord wants them to do. The question is, where is all the confusion over this issue coming from?