SALT LAKE CITY — Some Latter-day Saint influencers immediately changed the names of their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts Thursday after President Russell M. Nelson asked that people no longer use the terms Mormon, LDS or LDS Church to refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Facebook page Mormon Women Stand, with more than 53,000 followers, quickly morphed into Latter-day Saint Women Stand on Thursday afternoon. By Friday afternoon, the group already had a fresh, new logo reflecting the name change.
The teenager — he just received his mission call — behind the popular Twitter account Things Mormon Like, with its 12,500 followers, tried to update the name as soon as he learned the news, but he ran into trouble because of Twitter's space limitations for titles. He finally crammed words together into ThingsLatter-daySaintsLike.
That common problem and others illustrated the challenges faced by the church, its members and businesses that operate around them as they prepare to align their websites, apps and social media accounts with President Nelson's direction.
For example, if they all abandon use of the social media hashtag #mormon, will they effectively cede that space to church critics? And, if the church does change the URL on its official website from lds.org to, say, latter-daysaint.org — by the way, latter-daysaint.org already redirects to lds.org — what happens to the more than 11.5 million lds.org pages indexed by Google? Would the church have to set up redirection protocols for all of them, then duplicate that Herculean effort across mormon.org, mormonchannel.org and mormonnewsroom.org, etc.?
No directors of church departments were made available to comment Friday, but in seven interviews, experts in Latter-day Saint websites, branding and social media discussed the excitement Thursday's announcement caused in their field and outlined the reasons they have changed titles or decided to wait, and what they expect in the future.
Each said that while church leaders have emphasized the full name of the church before, this time clearly is different. The church previously did not revamp its entire lexicon.
"It's not the same old, same old," added Kathryn Skaggs, co-founder of Mormon Women Stand, now Latter-day Saint Women.
They also said there are two clear parts to President Nelson's announcement. First, they understand the doctrinal reasons it's important to use the full name of the church, because it includes the name of Jesus Christ. Second, they have wrestled with the practical implications.
How do you find room for the full name of the church in your online bio or your Twitter handle?
"It's really hard putting the name of the church in the title of a blog," said Greg Trimble, an Internet marketing executive and Latter-day Saint blogger in Heber. "I'd use LDS Church, Mormon and Mormonism all the time in titles. I don't think I'll do that any more, but I don't know what I'll do instead."
The executive team at Mormon Women Stand instantly felt united about changing the name to Latter-day Saint Women Stand, co-founder Skaggs said. The group bills itself as "women who, without hesitation, sustain the Lord's prophet, the Family Proclamation as doctrine and our divine role as covenant women for Christ."
"It felt like the right thing to do and the appropriate thing to do," Skaggs said. "We felt like it was an easy transition for us. We haven't made any formal announcement on our Facebook page, but we've already had a large, positive response for changing the name so quickly and, though a lot of people don't like this word, obediently."
However, when she went to change the group's Twitter handle from @MWStand, she ran headlong into the limit on characters. The best she could do was imperfect: @LDSWStand.
"It's tricky," Skaggs said. "It's definitely tricky."
"I think a lot of people are still trying to decide what to do," said Josh Newman, the 19-year-old BYU student who launched Things Mormons Like as a ninth-grader in Eastchester, New York. On Monday, he received a call to serve a Spanish-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ in McAllen, Texas.
He was at a Yankees game when the church released Thursday's announcement, and he didn't see it until he got home after they lost. He took an hour to retool the name to ThingsLatter-daySaintsLike and add a new image. He has not changed the Twitter handle yet.
"This definitely is revelation, and it's groundbreaking, but it's a re-emphasis and refocusing of the church on Jesus Christ," Newman said.
The church itself has begun to roll out changes. The title of its official Twitter account moved this week from "LDS Church" to the full, official name of the church.
"It appears they are sticking to their word," Newman said. "It will take a while, but it appears a rollout is slowly beginning."
Meanwhile, two websites are waiting to decide what to do after recent major rebranding using terms that now are obsolete.
Ben Arkell just finished a change to Mormon Light, a website that spotlights people doing good things, from ilovethebookofmormon.org. He started the former as the Book of Mormon Musical was released, pumping out a scripture verse each day to give people outside the church a chance to see what the book was about.
Rebranded as mormonlight.org, the site now also curates news. Arkell, who lives in Lehi, is surprised how often he sees news stories refer to the faith as The Church of Latter-day Saints.
"I'm flabbergasted by the people who still take the name of the Savior out of the church's name," he said.
He praised Skaggs and Newman.
"It's been cool to see people like that who say, 'I fully support President Nelson and I'm going to do that right away.'"
Arkell will wait to watch what the church does and learn from it before he alters his website's name. Of President Nelson he said, "I just trust that man."
Mormon Hub will wait and learn, too, before possibly becoming Latter-day Saint Hub, said content director Christopher Cunningham of San Antonio. He wrote an in-depth explanation about the usefulness of the term Mormon when the site rebranded from lds.net. But on Friday, he took a different tack.
"The gist of the article I posted today was, 'A prophet's no good who tells you what you're already thinking,'" Cunningham said.
He also rejected tweets that said the church keeps trying and failing to make these changes. He said it's not been one, long effort but a pendulum that swings with the times.
"During the Mitt Romney campaign and the Book of Mormon Musical we had the Mormon Moment and maybe that required emphasis of the term," he said. "Maybe the reason for this transition (away from it) will become apparent in the next 10 years."
But titles, headlines and handles are not the largest practical considerations, which kept Trimble up past 2 a.m.
"I was shocked and worried about it," said Trimble, author of "The Virtual Missionary," a guide for regular church members who go toe-to-toe with church critics to win SEO ranking battles for certain church terms. "I've used my professional skills on Mormonism — which I'm not supposed to say any more."
The church has built what he called a dominant domain authority, which improves the search-engine rankings of its posts, with its web of websites, Trimble said.
"Usually, if the church puts out an article, they can get it ranked at the top of search engine results for that title," he explained. "They've accumulated that domain authority over a long period of time by drawing traffic to so many domains and entities."
He was comforted by his wife's belief that President Nelson wanted to get back to what she described as the purity of what the church is and away from the brand competition.44 comments on this story
But Trimble was distressed again Friday morning when he saw online commenters already attacking a post on another site for using the term Mormon.
"I have a lot of friends who have worked really hard to try to be a light by using these terms," he said. "This is going to take a long time and people are going to fall into habits sometimes. I'm sure the last thing President Nelson probably wants is for people to get after each other because somebody isn't using the right term yet."