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'LDS Church' Still Term Of Choice for Newspapers

Tuesday, March 6, 2001

BY BOB MIMS
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having floated its name-change trial balloon for nearly two weeks, on Monday officially asked news media to abandon use of the faith's long-familiar "Mormon church" and "LDS Church" nicknames.

Instead, a statement from its ruling First Presidency declared, the 11 million-member church should be called by its full corporate name on first usage and The Church of Jesus Christ on second references in news stories.

LDS Church leaders read the statement to the faith's members Sunday in sacrament services.

State and national news organizations' reaction to the LDS Church's request for the second-reference moniker -- one already claimed by more than 20 U.S. denominations -- ranged from puzzled amusement to polite rejection.

Norm Goldstein, the New York-based editor of The Associated Press Stylebook, the bible of word usage for a majority of the nation's newspapers, said he expects no rush to comply with the church's request.

"They've sent us material before on this," he said. "We've looked at it, and then decided that since they are still generally known as Mormons, we would stay with Mormon church and then use the full name of the church on second reference." While saying the church's request will be studied further, Goldstein noted that AP generally changes its style only to address clarity issues.

"This doesn't really clarify anything," he said. "We do not have plans to change it at the moment." The Salt Lake Tribune is complying only with the request that the church not be referred to as the "Mormon church," under a policy instituted Thursday, said Editor James E. Shelledy.

"A church may determine its official name, and the news media ought formally to recognize it," he said on Monday. "However, The Tribune will continue to use 'LDS' as the abbreviated version of, or second reference to, the official name of the institution.

"Using 'Church of Jesus Christ' as a second reference is akin to the FBI asking everyone to refer to the agency as the 'Federal Bureau.' It is too vague, and 'LDS' is too deeply ingrained among Mormons and non-Mormons alike." The Tribune will continue to use "Mormon" or "Latter-day Saints" to refer to members, missionaries, historical figures and events, among other things, Shelledy said.

Al Siegal, an assistant managing editor at The New York Times, was less decisive. He said the venerable newspaper plans to study the church's request at leisure and see how other media react to the request.

"We need to study it and observe what the actual practice is in informed American usage," Siegal said. "We are sympathetic to their wishes, but we need to consider other factors along with that. . . . Waiting and seeing is usually a good thing in determining style."

Siegal said The Times didn't consider the issue compelling. "This is less acute a concern for us than it may be for you, since you would write much more about them than we would," he said.

It was the Feb. 19 Times that carried an interview with Elder Dallin Oaks of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles calling on the media to jettison the church's best-known nicknames.

John Hughes, editor of the church-owned Deseret News, said the paper had not formally adopted the style change -- yet.

"As of now, we're on the same procedure we've been on these many years, and that is to fully spell it out on first reference and then use 'LDS Church' thereafter," he said. "That has been our style and will be our style until we have some time to sit down and figure this all out." However, the second reference "Church of Jesus Christ" already has popped up in News columns, and the paper does not currently use "Mormon church" in any references to the faith.

Pat Bean, city editor for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, balked at signing on to the proposed style change, saying a change would only muddy the journalistic waters.

"They've been known as the 'Mormon church' forever," she said. "We've ignored what they've said on this so far, but if pressed, I might be willing to not call them the 'Mormon church.' But this 'Church of Jesus Christ' deal, that's something else." The Spectrum in St. George will wait for a new managing editor to be appointed before addressing the issue, said copy editor Kevin Jenkins. The Daily Herald in Provo plans to stick with AP's style, said Mitch Wilkinson, assistant managing editor.

"It is an interesting issue for clarity's sake," he said. "But it has been known locally as 'LDS Church' or the 'Mormon church' for so long. We will likely still be using Mormon on second reference, along with LDS Church." [an error occurred while processing this directive]