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Oxford chaplain calls use of ‘Mormon’ sloppy

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The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal answers questions after his forum address at Brigham Young University.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal answers questions after his forum address at Brigham Young University on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Provo, Utah. 

Jaren Wilkey, BYU

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Using the word “Mormon” instead of the full name of the church to describe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sloppy, an Oxford chaplain and scholar said Tuesday at Brigham Young University.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal first visited Utah three years ago during what he called the excitement about President Russell M. Nelson’s instruction on the use of the proper name of the church rather than what had been a longtime, broadly used nickname.

“Initially, I thought, why use all these words when the singular Mormon might do? But now I see just how sloppy that would be, and the wisdom of that revelation to President Nelson,” said the Rev. Teal, an expert in early Christian history and thought.

The reverend is a visiting scholar at BYU’s Maxwell Institute this semester. He has studied the Church of Jesus Christ deeply over the past few years, reading all of the books of Latter-day Saint scripture nearly three times now. His view as an outside scholar adds a dimension to discussions about how scholars refer to the church.

Some have said they will continue to use Mormon because they feel it refers to a larger umbrella of faith groups that have splintered off from the original body of the faith over the past 191 years.

Using the term in that broader context certainly would make it sloppy to use “Mormon” to then refer specifically to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Rev. Teal made his comments during a campus forum address on Tuesday at the Marriott Center. After he noted that President Nelson had said the church would “relinquish its shorthand self-description as Mormon,” he spent a few moments bringing a religious scholar’s view to different parts of the full, scriptural name of the church:

  • “The Church, first of all ecclesia, pulled out from collusion and convention to grinding monotony, into God’s own life and being.
  • “Then, naming the Lord Jesus Christ, moving away from a cultural identity alone, not just funeral potatoes and green Jell-O, moving to universal and eternal identity, that of belonging to the only name under Heaven conveying health and salvation.
  • “Then, that we are in the latter days, not the institutional continuity of chronological time, but Kairos, the option of moving everything to enable all souls to enter the kingdom.
  • “And, finally, saints, with holiness in our hearts and holiness unto the Lord.”

Of course, his remarks Tuesday came a few weeks after another Latter-day Saint leader, Elder Neil L. Andersen, outlined the church’s efforts to respond to President Nelson’s direction.

“More than one thousand products that had the name ‘Mormon’ or ‘LDS’ attached to them have been renamed,” he said about the church’s own products. “Faithful Latter-day Saints have adjusted their websites, podcasts, and Twitter accounts.”

The church also updated its typography, which has now been adapted into more than 50 languages, a process that included acquiring new internet domain names across the world.

“We (also) adopted a new symbol centered in Jesus Christ,” Elder Andersen said. “At the center of the symbol is a representation of Thorvaldsen’s marble statue the Christus. It portrays the resurrected, living Lord reaching out to embrace all who will come unto him.”

Finally, it’s worth noting, too, that the Rev. Teal dedicated his forum address to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who ironically is in England on a church assignment while his British friend was delivering the talk.

“I dedicate this forum address in gratitude to God for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, my beloved friend,” the Rev. Teal said. “We love you, Elder Holland, for being committed to building a beloved community, where a growth in love and understanding is possible.”

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What I’m reading

President M. Russell Ballard and Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and Quentin L. Cook are in England, remembering the missions they served there and engaging in other church business, including a visit by one to the Scottish Parliament.

The church revealed where exactly the Ephraim Utah Temple will be built.

Christy and John Denney talked with my colleague Trent Toone about the success of food blogging on “The Girl Who Ate Everything” and life after the NFL.

BYU sports legend Glen Tuckett died Tuesday. A Hall of Fame baseball coach, he was the athletic director who paired the longest with LaVell Edwards into building BYU football into an Intermountain powerhouse with national respect. In addition, I counted him as a friend and mentor. He returned a letter I sent him as a teenager with a note encouraging my budding desire to become a journalist. Godspeed to the Tuckett family.

Behind the scenes

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and the Rev. Andrew Teal speak at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in England in 2018.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland holds a public conversation on Latter-day Saint beliefs and doctrine with the Rev. Andrew Teal during at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin at the University of Oxford on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018.

Tad Walch, Deseret News