I recently interviewed out of state for a job. After some of the pre-interview activities, I went to lunch with several of the other applicants. During the lunch, someone in the group made a thinly veiled criticism of Mormons. I wasn’t offended by it, and I didn’t say anything because it wasn’t really the right time or place, but the thought “awkward” did pass through my mind.
It wasn’t until someone asked where everyone had gone to college that I realized things were about to get a little uncomfortable.
When it was my turn, I confidently said, “BYU.” There was immediate recognition on several faces. By the looks in their eyes, the woman who had earlier spoken poorly of Mormons, along with one other, clearly did not think much of the Latter-day Saints.
Thinking back on the experience and reflecting on a particular teaching by Joseph Smith, I thought about the irony of their sentiments and the woman’s comments. It is an irony that few are aware of and an irony that members of the Church might be interested to know.
You see, Joseph Smith said some interesting things about what the word “Mormon” means. He wrote that the root of “Mormon” means “good.” And not just any “good,” but “good” in the highest sense—the sense by which we would say that Jesus is the “Good Shepherd.” In essence, “Mormon” at its core refers to pure goodness.
Thus, when you consider what the root of the name “Mormon” means in English, then you realize that the “Book of Mormon” really means “the Book of Goodness.” The “Mormon Church” means the “Church of Pure Goodness.” And “The Mormons” are “the People of Goodness.”
That puts negative comments about “The Mormons,” “The Mormon Church,” and “the Book of Mormon” into a whole new context. When people condemn “Mormonism” they are not only substantively but also linguistically condemning “goodness.” We, of course, already know the good that our religion stands for, but the meaning of “Mormon” sure does make condescending attitudes all the more ironic.
For the Princess Bride lovers:
And it also helps us to not take for granted what we have. We are members of the great Movement of “goodness,” and we endeavor to follow principles of “goodness” that have been revealed by the God of “goodness.” We follow the Good Shepherd.
That’s something to live up to and to be proud of.
The world can think what it wants. I don’t blame others for misunderstanding us or ridiculing what we believe. But I am and will forever be unashamed to be a “Mormon.”
And as things start to get a little rockier in a world that has untethered itself from sacred restraints, I will remain polite, friendly, and loving to those who criticize, but, ultimately, I will pay no heed to those who mock. Why? Because “…as many as heeded them, had fallen away.”
So, the next time someone says something derogatory about the “Mormons,” just smile to yourself and think of the quote from Princess Bride: “You keep using that word….I do not think it means what you think it means.” (You’ll only appreciate that if you’ve seen Princess Bride)
And let’s not forget what President Hinckley had to say on this subject:
“Anyone who comes to know the man Mormon, through the reading and pondering of his words, anyone who reads this precious trove of history which was assembled and preserved in large measure by him, will come to know that Mormon is not a word of disrepute, but that it represents the greatest good—that good which is of God…
“All of this places upon us of this Church and this generation an incumbent and demanding responsibility to recognize that as we are spoken of as Mormons, we must so live that our example will enhance the perception that Mormon can mean in a very real way, “more good.””
-President Gordon B. Hinckley
By Dustin Phelps
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