These are interesting times for linguists. Church leaders and administrators are working to change names in order to emphasize the correct name of the Church of Jesus Christ, as asked by the First Presidency.
A main question is semantic: to what extent will the overuse of Jesus Christ lead to a devaluation of its meaning and sanctity? For example, what will be the effect of the perception of Jesus Christ as it is now included as jesuschrist in churchofjesuschrist.org as domain name for tens of thousands of mundane email addresses and web pages? Compare with how Muslims handle the name of Deity in their exchanges. Linguists know how the contingent nature of meaning is bound up with the context of use and therefore subject to upgrading or degrading modification.
In the lexical field a known challenge is the lack of a proper adjective to identify the church. For other religious bodies we have official single identifiers such as Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim or Islamic. What Mormon church leaders and authors have been using for a long time, in order to circumvent Mormon or to simply alternate, is the compound adjective Latter-day, since it is part of the official church name, as attributive to Saints. For over a century it has been used in church literature to modify other names. The Journal of Discourses contains noun phrases such as Latter-day elders, Latter-day glory, Latter-day Kingdom, Latter-day laborers, Latter-day prophets and Latter-day work.
More recently we have seen the introduction of Latter-day Saint as attributive adjective, such as in Latter-day Saint leader. I did not research since how long it has been in use, but occurrences go back to the twentieth century, with more intense use in recent years (for example in texts on the Newsroom). It appears to have become a new standard to replace the adjectival use of Mormon and LDS. For example, in a recent Deseret News article on President Nelson’s visit to the Pope, one could read:
“The pope extended the invitation for a private audience to the Latter-day Saint leader …”
“After the meeting, the Latter-day Saint leaders smiled as they walked arm in arm …”
“President David O. McKay would arrive under the guise of visiting a Latter-day Saint patient …”
“ … Latter-day Saint Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said.”
“In the afternoon, a Latter-day Saint humanitarian senior missionary couple managed a new Friendship Centre …”
“The Latter-day Saint program launched last May with 25 refugees per week.”
These adjectives are thus useful to avoid Mormon and LDS, but it will be interesting to see if they will become common in oral language since they are more cumbersome than a single word. Moreover, the adjective Latter-day and the adjectivation of Latter-day Saint do not do anything to “emphasize the correct name of the Church of Jesus Christ,” as asked, nor do they refer to Jesus Christ.
Noteworthy is also that in internal communication terms such as church, (church) leaders, (church) members, and many more, seldom require more identification. No references to Christ or to Latter-day are needed.
The next major question pertains to translation in the many languages in which the church operates. The short Latter-day and Latter-day Saints require (many) more words in other languages. Also, English can create compound adjectives from even compound noun phrases, such as in a Latter-day Saint humanitarian senior missionary couple, but only some languages have that ability. Even a simple expression such as a Latter-day Saint leader becomes in French un dirigeant des Saints des Derniers Jours or in Dutch een leider van de Heiligen der Laatste Dagen — which, moreover have connotations of “from the holy beings of the final period”. And also here, no reference to Jesus Christ, while the whole adjustment, as announced, “is intended to help keep the name of Jesus Christ prominent in all the Church does”.
The First Presidency recognizes that “this is a complex effort in numerous global languages and much work remains”. They ask to be patient. For linguists, meanwhile, the discussions and suggestions are valuable to follow and document. Not often are we able to witness such a massive effort to revamp or rectify a religious identity in dozen of languages. In daily language use, the reactions and corrections among members, as some continue to use Mormon or LDS, should provide a wealth of data for pragmatics. Moreover, how do outsiders — other churches, press agencies, publishers, “non-Latter-day Saints linguists”, and others react to our lingual efforts in various countries? How do they handle the requested name change, if at all? From a purely linguistic viewpoint, all fascinating. The religious implications are something else.