Mormon style update: AP changes rules on referring to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Earlier this month, I wrote a post titled “Associated Press coverage of post-Mormon Latter-day Saints full of irony — or is it mockery?”

That post addressed the irony of an Associated Press story that reported on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moving away from using the nickname “Mormon” while still emphasizing that term in the headline and lede.

“Is there any chance it was mockery?” I asked about the AP approach, linking to a related tweet by Joel Campbell, a Brigham Young University journalism professor.

Right after writing that post, I joined a group of U.S. religion journalists on a trip to Israel. So I haven’t had a chance until now to mention that soon after that story was published — and after my critique of it ran at GetReligion — AP updated its style on Mormons:

Campbell tweeted that he was “grateful” for the update:

Both the Salt Lake Tribune and the church-owned Deseret News reported on the change — and the significance of it.

The Tribune noted:

SALT LAKE CITY — The Associated Press has updated its style on references to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We are changing our style on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church in 2018 began moving away from the widely recognized terms Mormon church and LDS church, and now prefers that its full name be used and that members be referred to as Latter-day Saints,” the AP Stylebook account tweeted.

The church, in a push led by its president, Russell M. Nelson, also prefers “Latter-day Saints” when referring to its adherents.

“We ask that the term ‘Mormons’ not be used,” the denomination’s own style guide states. For second reference, it calls for writing “the Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ." The “restored Church of Jesus Christ” is also accurate.

AP’s new entry, however, does not suggest the “Church of Jesus Christ" or the “restored Church of Jesus Christ" on subsequent references. It also still allows for the use of “Mormons” and “Mormon” when “necessary for space or clarity or in quotations or proper names.”

The Deseret News offered this background:

Flashback: The church updated its guidelines back in August 2018 with a style guide that said, "Please avoid using the abbreviation 'LDS' or the nickname 'Mormon' as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in 'Mormon Church,' 'LDS Church,' or 'Church of the Latter-day Saints.'"

Earlier this week, the First Presidency announced changes to LDS.org, Mormon.org and other communication channels.

What will the new style look like in practice?

It appears that AP headlines — often extremely short — still will feature the “Mormon” shorthand:

GetReligion’s own Richard Ostling and Terry Mattingly and Religion News Service’s Jana Riess have written about the challenges that the church will face in getting journalists to stop using the Mormon designation.

But give credit to the AP style gurus for responding to the earlier concerns and attempting to develop a more accurate, impartial approach.

Salt Lake Temple image via Wikimedia Commons

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