I’ve always wondered why Latter-day Saints seem to always be referred to by their full name with the middle initial. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but those exceptions are typically where the person is actually going by their middle name, such as M. Russell Ballard or H. David Burton. Even there, the initial is still given a prominent position. Why is that?
I know it’s been that way for a long time, but it wasn’t always that way. Our first three prophets is this dispensation did not have middle initials and the fourth (Wilford Woodruff) isn’t typically referred to with his initial. His successor, Lorenzo Snow, didn’t either. It appears that the first president of the Church to be referred to with his middle initial was Joseph F. Smith, likely to differentiate between himself and his uncle, the Prophet Joseph.
But it didn’t start there, though. There were people like Ezra T. Benson and George A. Smith and in particular you had Eliza R. Snow, the second Relief Society president and plural wife of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
I realize it isn’t a big deal, but think about it for a moment. If someone refers to the prophet as Gordon Hinckley, does it sound odd? Does it even sound disrespectful? If you hear someone refer to Thomas Monson, do you immediately think that the person can’t be LDS? How does it make you feel to think of the prophets Spencer Kimball, David McKay, and Harold Lee?