Magazine Corrects Improper Use of the Word Mormon

Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have taken exception to a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report that incorrectly implied that Mormons are a secret society or a cult, spurring complaints to the magazine and letters to the editor.

Earlier this summer the weekly magazine released a special edition issue titled “Mysteries of History: Secret Societies,” which explored the history of secret societies and cults as well as modern-day practices of various organizations.

This week the magazine has issued a correction and apology for placing the word “Mormon” on the front cover along with references to suspected secret societies and cults. The editors wrote:

“A special newsstand-only edition of our Mysteries of History series published last month makes an inadvertent reference to the Mormon faith on the cover that does not properly reflect that edition's contents. The relevant article in the issue refers to a breakaway Mormon sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose leader is awaiting trial for his alleged role in arranging marriages between his followers and underage girls.

“While the article makes a distinction between that polygamous sect and mainstream Mormonism's rejection of polygamy, the reference to Mormons on the cover does not make this distinction. It was not our intention to imply that mainstream Mormonism is a secret society, sect, or cult, and we regret any offense that the reference to Mormons on the cover may have caused.”

The Church is appreciative of the haste with which U.S. News & World Report issued the correction.

The question of how to correctly use the term Mormon was addressed in a 21 November 2006 Church Public Affairs commentary piece, “Use of the Word Mormon in News Reports.” The following is an excerpt from the article:

“In the public mind, the word Mormon has come to mean something very specific. It conjures up images of Mormon missionaries on bikes, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Mormon temples. It has become a synonym for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Consequently, when Mormon is used to describe polygamist groups, it causes great confusion about our beliefs among the general public and frustration to our members, which number over 12 million worldwide.

“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.”

A style guide on the Church’s Newsroom Web site also provides guidelines on the appropriate use of the word Mormon.

In addition, the public is invited to use the Newsroom and other official Church Web sites to obtain information regarding the Church and its beliefs and practices.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.