Origin of the species

Mormons are named for the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is named for the prophet/historian Mormon.

The prophet/historian Mormon was named for the land of Mormon.

The land of Mormon was named by a malevolent king.

The land of Mormon is where one of the king’s wicked priests became a prophet.

The land of Mormon had a forest-fringed fountain of pure water, called the waters of Mormon.

The waters of Mormon is where said prophet secretly baptized hundreds of believers emerging from apostasy.

So, “Mormon” signifies a place of purity surrounded by danger; a place where a fallen people were removed from evil and filled with grace; a place named by a degenerate man and hallowed by a repentant one.

Sounds just about right.

What does “Mormon” mean to you?

About Kathryn Soper

(Founding Editor) is the author of the memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press, 2009) and the editor of four published anthologies. She contributes to Mormon forums from Meridian Magazine to Sunstone on a variety of topics including gender issues, disability, mental health, sexuality, family life, and spirituality.

11 thoughts on “Origin of the species

  1. Thanks, you two. There’s a cultural legend about Mormon meaning “more good,” and as President Hinckley said, even though this legend is incorrect, “more good” is a positive motto for members of the Church. At the same time, this chain of references in the scriptures suggests to me that “Mormon” has much more to do with God’s goodness than my own.

  2. This is an excellent outline of why I refer to myself as Mormon. “LDS” just doesn’t mean the same thing to me.

  3. I think the ‘more good’ idea came from W.W. Phelps in a T&S article.

    Being Mormon, for me, is a willing acceptance of the cultural and theological challenges posed to me by the LDS Church and a commitment to a community that is built around that Church.

  4. That’s my understanding too, Aaron. According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong!) the “more good” translation came from a T&S article attributed to JSJ, but that authorship was later called into question. B.H. Roberts said W.W. Phelps wrote the article, which was “based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic.”

    Frankly, I find “more good” to be offensively pedantic as well.

    I’m quite taken by your personal definition of being Mormon. Difficulties in those very areas–cultural and theological challenges, and struggles within the community–are surely the cause of the majority of inactivity in the Church. By contrast, you’ve put those points of friction at the center of your identification as Mormon. That’s really something.

  5. It’s funny to me in a way how the word Mormon is such a comfort to me, or maybe just its familiarity is what gives me a peaceful feeling hearing the word.

    I grew up in California and enjoyed being different than my peers. My Mormonness has always been a huge part of my identity–both the cultural aspects and the spiritual complexities.

    I enjoyed this reminder of “Mormon” beginnings. I’ve always appreciated the irony that despite this name being used against us in the early days of the church, we gladly and easily adopted the term as a name for ourselves. I guess it is a little hard to always live up to the word saint–even when our aim is to follow Christ.

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