A good friend of mine has blogged about Warren Jeffs, a polygamist in Utah. In mentioning the plight of this man, the term "Mormon" came up. Being Mormon, I admittedly get defensive when inaccuracies of belief, terminology, history, and the like come up and are passed off as fact.
In the blog my friend refers to Mr Jeffs as "Mormon". This is inaccurate. The term "Mormon" typically refers to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Not the Reformed, Re-Organized, Restored or <fill-in-the-blank> Church. But while we’re at it, the term "Mormon" — although it has no official standing — is widely used in the media to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Use of the term "Mormon fundamentalists" to refer to polygamists is misleading and invites misunderstanding and misinterpretation. No members of the Church today can enter into polygamy without being excommunicated. Since those who practice polygamy cannot be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is incorrect to refer to them as "Mormon fundamentalists."
There is a lot of confusion about this term "Mormon". In the press, the Associated Press Stylebook has recognized this difficulty and specified that the term Mormon is a nickname that should be applied exclusively to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that it is not accurately applied to any other person or organization.
Sometimes you hear the argument that because Jeffs and his followers use the Book of Mormon they should be considered Mormons. However, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, evangelicals and a host of other faiths believe in Jesus and claim the Bible as their own, yet all consider themselves separate and distinct faiths.
The same is true for all religious groups who believe in Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling and use the Book of Mormon. For example, the Community of Christ church claims Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon but changed its name from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be recognized as a different faith.
Another thing I hear is "I know all about…" or "You believe…" — statements that absolutely belie rationality. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me "You’re not Christian, because you believe…." or "I know all about your religion….."
1) You’ve never practiced the faith, yet you *know* all about it…(from someone else who had never practiced it but knows all about it too)
2) Reading The Book of Mormon (or any of the other texts) doesn’t make you an expert (if you know all about it, you must be an expert) any more than reading a Physics book makes you a Physicist (or knowledgeable like unto one).
3)Telling me that you know what I believe must mean that you a) currently practice what I practice, b) used to practice what I practice, or c) know what I think and feel. Most people that say this and can say it with any shred of accuracy fall into (A) and (B). I’m skeptical of persons that fall in (C) and say they know what I believe. All others….please.
I heard a man once say that back in the days of travelling encyclopedia salesmen, before he would even talk about buying a set he said he simply asked the salesman, "What does it say in your encyclopedia about the Mormons?" If the salesman didn’t know or if the encyclopedia account was incorrect, the salesman never got past the door. He said, "A lot can be said for accuracy. If a book (or in our case–web sites, blogs…) aren’t accurate about what they say about the Mormons, they’re probably inaccurate about a lot of other things."
The silver lining to all of this, is that the aforementioned friend is a dear friend whom I wouldn’t trade for all the encyclopedias in the world (accurate or otherwise).