Many sources claim that the term “Mormon” was originally a derogatory term that Mormons later adopted as their own. This work evaluates that claim using original sources. It also considers alternate criteria that would indicate whether a term is derogatory or descriptive, such as whether outsiders used the term to insult other outsiders, whether outsiders used the term to insult insiders without relying on qualifiers to imply negative intent, and whether church leadership had adopted the term prior to the term acquiring unambiguously pejorative meanings. The first instance of the term among reviewed publications appears in January 1831 in local newspapers. The evidence seems to suggest that the etymology of the word ”Mormon”, as it refers to the people who follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, originally meant ”disciples of the Book of Mormon” and did not carry any implied negative meaning. Prior literature suggests that the term shifted to having a derogatory use with the advent of the term ”Jack Mormon” during conflicts such as the Missouri War, possibly as early as 1834.
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