“What is the appropriate way to address Church members?” Ensign, Apr. 1993, 54–55
Beverly B. Campbell, Church director of international affairs, and a member of the McLean Second Ward, McLean Virginia Stake. When unsure how to address someone in any situation, we can profitably ask ourselves two simple questions: What form of address will help us best relate to each other? How might I show due respect for the person and his or her office?
As Latter-day Saints united by common beliefs, the terms Brother and Sister best describe our relationship. That terminology is correct in any Church setting, even though the person being addressed bears exalted worldly titles. We learn in 4 Nephi 1:17 that there were no “-ites” among the happy, peaceable “children of Christ.” [4 Ne. 1:17] As fellow Saints who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, we would not be well served by invariably using secular titles that tend to divide, classify, and rank people.
We show proper respect to our Church leaders by referring to them in Church-related functions by their ecclesiastical titles. We may refer to a bishop as “Bishop Garza” or a stake president as “President Leiben,” for example. The titles Bishop and President (designating members of temple, mission, stake, and district presidencies and branch presidencies) are appropriate even after the leader has been released.
In dealing with the same individuals in professional capacities, circumstance (for example, whether the conversation is private or not, with nonmembers or not) will dictate the appropriate form of address. In our professional associations with other Church members, we observe the etiquette of normal social interchange, addressing them by their secular titles or by another polite form such as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” unless they indicate otherwise or unless we know them well enough to feel comfortable addressing them as “Brother” or “Sister” (again, depending on the circumstances) or by first name.
It seems that in the heavens, given names are precious. We learn in the scriptures that Deity and angelic messengers have addressed mortal men, women, and children by their given names. (See, for example, 1 Sam. 3:10; Luke 1:30; JS—H 1:17.) We hardly need to be told how pleasant it is to be addressed by name. It can be unsettling, however, when young people, without permission, address those much older than they by given name. And sometimes adults show a similar lack of respect by not taking time to learn and use the given names of ward youth.
As adults we can become lazy when it comes to learning the names of members of our wards and stakes, some of whom long to be called by first name. In a classroom setting, it is appropriate to call upon members, saying, for instance, “Brother Chen.” In a private conversation in the foyer, though, it may be more fitting to say, “Shuvai, how are you feeling?”
Suppose our home teacher pays us an informal visit at our place of employment. How might we introduce Brother Walker to a nonmember friend and co-worker who is present? If we follow the principle that it is better to be inclusive than exclusive, we might say, “Janice, I would like you to meet Charles Walker.” We could then explain further: “Because Charles and I are members of the same church and he is here as a brother in the gospel, you may hear me refer to him as Brother Walker.”
The many different situations in which we might be confused about how to address a fellow Saint underscore the wisdom of following general principles such as those discussed here. Trying to resolve such questions as strict matters of etiquette or protocol may not be feasible. Rather, we should look for our answer in the grand simplicity of the gospel and in the purposeful fellowship of the Saints.
Different cultural norms, circumstances, and degrees of familiarity require different forms of address. For the most part, however, our course will be clear if we trust our instincts to guide us in making any necessary adjustments. Fortunately, our unique relationship as brothers and sisters in the gospel minimizes the risk that our occasional blunders will be viewed as anything but innocent and excusable.