“It’s Wraylynn – With A W”: Distinctive Mormon Naming Practices

Publication Year:
2012
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Repository URL:
https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/1406
Author(s):
Mansfield, Jennifer R.
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thesis / dissertation description
This thesis identifies six distinctive Mormon naming types and investigates the relationship between distinctive Mormon naming and other aspects of Mormon culture. It also examines Mormon group identity through the lens of distinctive naming. This thesis draws conclusions based on the author's personal interviews with Mormon parents who used distinctive names for their offspring, the Social Security Administration's website, and existing literature on naming and folklore.Utah houses a distinct Mormon subculture in which distinctive Mormon naming types are often found. Informants were reluctant to identify as Mormon namers, though they often pointed to certain factors particular to Mormons that influenced their name choices such as the emphasis the LDS Church places on genealogy, family, missionary work, serving a mission, and intense religious devotion.This thesis argues that distinctive Mormon naming types have emerged out of a need to distinguish oneself when belonging to and being surrounded by a culturally homogenous group. Contrary to existing literature, Mormon personal names do not contribute to a shared group identity among Mormons. Because the LDS Church restricts many usual venues for expression, names are one of very few areas open to creativity. Therefore, names have become a popular avenue for personal self-expression. Members of the group take advantage of the lack of restrictions on naming without recognizing that other members do the same thing, thus contradicting the original purpose of expressing individuality through this avenue. By interviewing Mormons who practice distinctive Mormon naming patterns, we gain insights into how these naming patterns function for the group.