Customers at Deseret Book stores soon will see fewer offerings with the words “Mormon” and “LDS” in the title.
The bookstore chain and publishing company — owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Deseret Management Corp. — says going forward it plans to publish only titles that meet the faith’s new naming guidelines.
“I don’t want to say we will never do anything with ‘LDS’ or ‘Mormon’ in it,” Laurel Day, Deseret Book’s vice president for product and branding, said Wednesday, "but we are committed to following the guidelines and respecting what is being asked of us.”
The decision comes after an August 2018 edict by church President Russell M. Nelson to use the church’s full name and discontinue using the more popular shorthand terms of “Mormon” and “LDS” for the Utah-based faith and its members.
Day said Deseret Book does not plan to pull titles off the shelves, but, as current stock runs out, “we will look at it and see if a new title is appropriate.”
While Deseret Book is reviewing its own titles, Day said, “we are not mandating that other publishers follow that.”
But their “Mormon" and “LDS” titles will undergo similar scrutiny before Deseret Book will sell them in its stores, so outside publishers have been told to “be mindful of the usage of those terms” in any new books.
And with 45 outlets — including 19 in Utah— along with an online presence, the move will have a ripple effect on Latter-day Saint publishers, said Loyd Ericson, managing editor at Greg Kofford Books.
Even though many consumers have moved to buying books online, having a printed version on the shelves at Deseret Book is important for overall sales.
“Deseret Book still dominates Mormon book buying in Utah,” Ericson said. “If your books are not in their stores, it doesn’t help."
Ericson said the timing may be a problem for two of the company’s newest titles: “On Fire in Baltimore: Black Mormon Women and Conversion in a Raging City" and “Lot Smith: Mormon Pioneer and American Frontiersman.”
“These two titles were locked in well before the Deseret Book decision,” he said. “We can’t go back and redo those books.”
Giving them a new name is difficult “because a Mormon pioneer is a Mormon pioneer,” he said. "People don’t talk about Latter-day Saint pioneers.”
In fact, the church’s new style guidelines offer exceptions for historical expressions such as the “Mormon Trail.”
Utah author Rosemary Card released her new book, “Model Mormon: Fighting for Self-Worth on the Runway and as an Independent Woman," in June. The book, published by Cedar Fort in Springville, chronicles the highs and lows of being a New York City fashion model and person of faith.
“My publisher reached out to me a few weeks ago," Card said, “they told me I was going to have to change the name."
Card said she has been promoting “Model Mormon" through social media, and many of her followers find her through search engine optimization, or SEO. “My main concern,” she said of the name change, “is how it will hurt the SEO I have been working really hard to build.”
Authors Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes welcome a title change for their popular book “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons: Finding the Lord’s Lessons in Everyday Life," which was published by Deseret Book.
The two women had already talked about changing the name as it neared time to reprint.
"We’re still black,” Smith said Wednesday. “We’re not mad and Mormon anymore.”
Then Nelson made his announcement.
“We were inspired,” she said. "We knew for sure we were headed in the right direction. So it was an easy choice for us.”
The book’s new title, when it is released this spring, will be “Can I Get an Amen?”
“When your business life and personal life and spiritual life all come together, it’s a magical moment," she said. “That is what it felt like.”
While Smith said the change “makes sense to me,” she knows others won’t be as pleased.
“Some people don’t want to let other people tell them what to do,” she said. “Those people will go on their way.”
Publishers and authors who do go their own way may not find their titles in Deseret Book anymore. But customers still will come across ample supplies of the Book of Mormon. That title is exempted from Nelson’s decree because it’s the “proper name” for the faith’s signature scripture.
Correction: This story has been updated to include a corrected quote from Tamu Smith.