User Experience in Name Changes on Church Records
A couple of months ago while at a dinner with women in my ward, one woman told me her name was wrong on the church records; the Church automatically changed** her name when she was married, but legally her name is still her “maiden” name. “Oh!” I said, “My husband is ward membership clerk! He can change that for you right away.”
And he did.
And in the process, I got a sneak peak into the Church’s LCR (Leader and Clerk Resources) interface. And it’s not great.
When a clerk changes a name on the records, there is a list of radio buttons so the clerk can select the reason for the name change. The possible reasons are:
- Finalized Adoption
- Spelling Correction
- Verified Legal Name Change
- New Marriage for the Member
- Member’s Preference to Be Known by This Name
If the clerk choses any of the first four (adoption, spelling correction, legal name change, or marriage), it looks like this:
However, if you choose any of the last 3 options, you get special flash messages.
For a divorce-related name change, the text for the option turns red and a flash message reads, “Please record the divorce on the current marriage. You should not change the member’s name unless it has been legally changed. If it has been legally changed, select the “Verified Legal Name Change” option.
Think about this. The Church changed this woman’s name (and mine, and lots of other people’s) at the time of their marriage without finding out if there was a legal name change, but insists on legal name changes in the case of divorce. And then the clerk can not categorize it as a divorce-related name change even though the option is there. Why even have the option?
If the clerk chooses the “Member’s Preference to Be Known by This Name” option, the text for the option turns red, as above, and a new flash message is displayed: “Since this is not the member’s legal name, please record this name in the preferred name field. The preferred name will print on all reports.”
I think it’s great to share there is a way for a member to change their preferred name, but I don’t know where the Church is coming from being so concerned about legal names when they don’t care when they auto-switch “maiden names” to “married names” at marriage. Also, when a baby is blessed, I’ve heard the blessing usually state that the baby is being given a name for use on the records of the Church and throughout their life. To my knowledge, there’s no verification process for making sure it is legal at baby blessing time After all, they might not even have a legal evidence of the name yet- we had to use a blessing certificate to help file for a US Social Security card for one of our babies!
And lastly, if the clerk chooses “Other” the word turns red and a long-winded flash message is shown.
“You should not change this member’s name for other reasons. If you have just received this record in the ward and the information is different than you expected, make sure that you have received the correct record by comparing birth date and parent names. If you are not sure you have the correct record and you change the member’s name, you may inadvertently update the wrong member’s record.”
Everything from the second sentence and on is pretty reasonable: make sure you have the right person before changing anything, but that seems irrelevant to it being an “Other” name change reason. That information should be stated above everything before it is changed for any reason at all.
Also, like the “divorce” option, you can’t change a member’s name with the “Other” option, so why even show the option? To me, this feels very bait-and-switch-y. Like the Church is saying, “Hey, Clerks, you might think you have the ability to respect members’ name change reasons and personhood and change their name if they’d like it changed… Just kidding, you don’t.”
This user experience and interaction with the Church’s web app for Leadership feels disheartening for the clerk. Does the Church not trust their members to do the right thing? Their leaders and ward clerks? It also feels very shaming: “How dare you change someone’s name for reasons other than our 4 ‘approved’ ones?” It boggles my mind that there is a product manager somewhere who okay-ed this copy and all the flash messages.
My husband did change this woman’s name back to her maiden name, under the reason “Spelling Correction.” That’s the reason he gives for most name changes. After all, “Sanchez” is a really poor spelling of “Rodriguez.” And “Molly” is a poor spelling of “Peter.”
** I am unsure if the system is set up to automatically override a “maiden name” to a “married name” upon recording a marriage or sealing. My husband says he’s never entered a civil marriage for two members so he doesn’t know what that interaction is like in the system. And the temple recorder enters the sealings, so maybe it’s different temple to temple, based on who is there. Or it’s automated. Who knows?