Mormon is a nickname sometimes given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most Mormons trying to shorten the name use LDS instead of Mormon, although the term is found within the church, including in the name of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The term comes from the Book of Mormon, a book of scripture Mormons use along with the Bible. It does not replace the Bible and is, in fact, a book that testifies of the Bible’s truthfulness and of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Mormons study the Bible two out of every four years. The Book of Mormon is studied only one year, with the fourth year covering church history and modern revelation.
Mormon was an actual person who lived in ancient times. He was one of the authors of the Book of Mormon. If you’ve read the Bible, you know it is a collection of books written by a variety of people. The Book of Mormon is the same type of book. Prophets over a long span of time wrote sections of the book. It was handed down from prophet to prophet. Eventually, Mormon, who was a prophet in what is today the American continent, where the majority of the book takes place, knew the time was nearing when the book must be completed and hidden.
When he was only ten years old, the prophet at that time told him the book was hidden away and that when he, Mormon, was twenty-four years old, Mormon was to retrieve a portion of the records. They contained the history of the people and a record of their dealings with God, sermons, and other teachings, including a visit from Jesus Christ after His death. This visit from the Savior proved without question Jesus was divine and was the Savior of all the world, not just a small group of people in the Holy Lands.
Mormon did as he was told. He had become, as a teenager, a military leader due to his size and exceptional wisdom. At the appointed time, he found himself near the hiding place of the records. He began condensing them and preparing them for the future.
Unfortunately, his people had turned their backs on God and were crediting themselves for anything good that happened. Because of their sins, they lost God’s protection. In time, they would be drawn into a bitter war with their enemies and would all be killed. Mormon, prior to his own murder, passed the records to his son. As the last survivors of the war were hunted down and killed, Moroni, the son, was the last person left of his people—the last good person in his personal world. Imagine how frightening that must have been. It’s believed he was only a teenager, and yet he was left alone, in hiding because his enemies were searching for him, to finish condensing the records and completing the history. He completed his lonely work, hid the records, and fled for his life. He returned once more, many years later, and added to them. After that, he hid them again.
If you’ve ever seen a Mormon temple, you’ve probably seen a statue of an angel atop it. This angel represents Moroni. He later returned to earth as an angel to guide Joseph Smith to the book he hid away and to tutor him in preparation for his work as the first prophet of the restoration.
So, then, Mormon was a prophet—not someone we worship—like Moses or Noah. His name was given to the book the Mormons use with the Bible because of his great work in preparing it and preserving it for us. The book’s name led outsiders to derisively call us Mormons, but being good sports, we sometimes use it ourselves.
Today, a Mormon is a New Testament Christian, rejecting the changes that came about as a result of various votes by committee. They worship Jesus Christ and work to keep His commandments. They believe all that Christ and the Bible promised them, including that His church would always be led by a prophet and that prayers to know what is true will be answered.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.