#hearLDSwomen: My Name Was Changed on Church Records Without My Permission

Every time I move and have to fill out a new member sheet, there are two columns for adult household members. The one marked “head of household” asks about priesthood ordination. The other column doesn’t. I always cross out “head of household” and “spouse” and write in “equal partners” or “husband” and “wife.”
– Emily Belanger


I showed up at church after I was married and found my last name had been automatically changed as a “courtesy” to me. At that point I was not sure if I was keeping my name or changing it, but I was sure that it was not a courtesy to change MY name without asking me. “Change it back,” I told the clerk in a steely voice I didn’t know I had. He told me that there wasn’t a way to do so. He seemed taken aback and said something along the lines of “most women found it helpful.” Fortunately, my husband had been a clerk multiple times and showed him how to change it. I know many women who have had similar experiences and were told by (ignorant) church leadership that there wasn’t a way to change their names back. My husband’s take was that the clerk just didn’t know how to use the system and felt embarrassed  about it, not that it was a systemic issue, but I see it differently.
– Ashley Groesbeck


My husband and I have different last names. Mine is Denison, his is Rasmussen. I was on the organ one Sunday a few weeks ago, and the Bishop said “We’d like to thank Sister Rasmussen for playing the organ.” My husband said, with a projected voice, “Sister DENISON.”

The last name thing happens pretty frequently. Also the Home Teachers who never ask me what I do because my husband’s school/work is what’s important, and the Bishopric members who ask my husband if I can have a calling. My husband is pretty good at noticing those things and calling them out. I got a good one.
– Shelley Denison


Pro Tip: Don’t change a woman’s name in the directory without asking her first, and call her by her correct and preferred name. Treat couples like they are equal partners. Remove “head of household” from ward forms. 

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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15 Responses

  1. Ari says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have the same problem — I’m a professor at the university who does interesting research for a living, but nobody ever asks me about what I do because, you know, assumptions. And I hate it. But, then I noticed that I was hesitant to ask women what THEY do, because I don’t want to make the SAHMs feel like I’m judging them. What is the best way to ask Mormon women what they do?

    • Violadiva says:

      When I’m not sure if a woman is employed/in school/at home, etc., I usually lead off with, “So what are some of your interests? What types of things are you involved with now?” That usually leads to a conversation about work, or hobbies, or kids, or whatever. It’s open ended for them to tell me what they’re interested, whatever that is. And then I don’t ask the wrong thing, and there’s less awkwardness all around.

  2. Kim says:

    This happened to me when I got married earlier this year. I was kind of expecting it, and I was happy the clerk didn’t have a hard time fixing it. I’m quite a bit more gregarious than my husband and he is often called Brother My Last Name rather than his own last name. It entertains me to no end, he doesn’t seem to care for it though.

  3. Dot says:

    Ari, just ask women what they do. Even if they stay home, they still might actually have something interesting to say about it. I’m sure you didn’t mean to come across this way, but not asking stay at home moms what they do because they might think you’re judging them sounds like you may be judging them…? Having a career in or outside of the home is not the defining factor in whether or not a person is interesting.

    • Ari says:

      No, I didn’t mean it that way either. I just don’t want people to think I assume they SHOULD work. I just think most women do what they feel like their family needs them to do. But, I think the “what do you do” question can sometimes sound like “what do you do all day?” Maybe I’m imagining that.

      • Jessa says:

        A suggestion I found somewhere in this blog’s archives is to ask people what keeps them busy. It respects both folks who work and those who stay at home, because we all fill time somehow.

  4. Emily says:

    I just moved and had the bishop come over to visit the family last night. He didn’t ask what I did for work and only asked my husband where he served a mission. Nice friendly guy, but just working on old habits.

  5. Leah says:

    This is already happening to me and I’m not even married. I’m engaged and not planning to change my last name once I’m married. I recently received a letter from BYU that was addressed to both my fiancé and I with his last name. This was confusing to me because 1) I’m not married yet and 2) I never notified anyone at BYU that I’m engaged. After calling BYU to ask that they change my name back they informed me that the BYU Alumni Office stalked me on Facebook, learned I was engaged, changed my status in their database to “married”, changed my last name, and changed my mailing address to my fiancé’s address. It’s a little creepy that they follow their alumni on social media that closely and made changes without my consent.

  6. Kent Larsen says:

    Seeing this from the clerical side of things, I have to point my finger at the temples. I’ve noticed several marriages in our ward (where the clerks are used to seeing different last names in a marriage), where the updated record arrives from the temple with the name already changed. Given the age of those in the temple recorder office on average, I’m not surprised.

    But, if you want to keep your name, I suggest mentioning it in the temple recorders office.

    • Kent Larsen says:

      Of course, its not always the temple — ward clerks can and do make bad assumptions also — and if you weren’t married in the temple, then it is definitely the local clerk who erred.

  7. Lizzie says:

    I often find that I do things, or don’t do things, that matter to me a lot, but I’ll downplay their importance, even to myself. The name change is one of those areas. I didn’t change my name, and for at least the first couple of years, I just said it was too much work and I was lazy. I went to the DMV to get my license renewed and asked about the name change; I was relieved when they said I couldn’t because it had to be changed with social security first. People get it wrong all the time. It’s not just the church. I have to explain it to the car insurance every time we have a claim. I have to tell the school. I cash checks from my grandparents made out to the wrong name. I used to shrug and say it doesn’t matter.

    The truth is, it does matter. I’m getting better about correcting people. And I’m lucky. My husband supports my decision. He’s the one that made the church change it back. He jokes that “there’s no one here by that name” when mail comes to the wrong name. I live in an area where it’s not uncommon for a woman to keep her name. But part of me is angry/ sad that the name I have is still a man’s name — my father’s not my mother’s. And why was it so hard for me to stand up and say I didn’t want it to change?

  8. anon says:

    I took my husband’s name, and it took my ward 8 years to switch my name over. I had to ask about it and fill out a form. I’m incredibly lazy and still have a credit card in my maiden name 9 years later.

    I think it’s because I live in an area with very few members and a lot of single women. I don’t like my city, but I do like my ward. People are less concerned about Mormony procedures because who has time for that? Although they still ask my husband before they extend me a calling. It’s completely irritating for the both of us. Why?

    As for how to ask people what they do for work, I personally avoid it. Many people where I live are unemployed and disabled. I stick to interests just to make sure my approach is uniform. I find most people who have a job talk about it. Some people I already know about through my husband. There are quite a few people in the same field as him.

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