In yet another bold move since he was called as the new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson announced a course correction regarding the name of the Church. The official public statement and the revised style guide1 issued has dropped all other nicknames for the church, such as “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church,” and “Church of Latter-day Saints.” It may be just a name – or a nickname – for some. However, for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the effort is all about following the Lord’s command – to only call His Church in His name.
What’s in a Name?
Immediately after the announcement, involved blogs, websites, and social media pages changed their names – one by one – in accordance with the Prophet’s words. Even the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir followed suit with its new name – The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Names and brands that took years to build were gone in seconds. One might ask, “Are all these measures necessary? Aren’t people going too extreme for a mere name correction?”
The name of the church is not inconsequential and not negotiable, President Nelson explained. “When it comes to nicknames of the Church…the most important thing…is the absence of the Savior’s name.”2 The absence of the Savior’s name in His church, he added, already means victory for Satan and a disregard for Jesus Christ’s role.
Historically speaking, the nicknames of the Church – particularly Mormons – have negative connotations. The term Mormons was first used in the 1830s by people who had antagonistic feelings toward the Church. It is, by all means, derogatory. Although in recent years, others have accepted the nickname, it remains tangled with controversial issues.
Let’s prove this claim by having an experiment on the web. Type the phrase “are Mormons…” into Google, and the predictions that come up will prove that the term “Mormons” is still associated with negative issues like polygamy.
Missionaries can perhaps attest to this. One sister said “When I introduced myself to people using the Church’s full name printed on my nametag, many would look confused, so I would ask, ‘Do you know the Mormon Church?’ This follow-up was usually met with immediate recognition, but it came with a price. The moment ‘Mormon Church’ was mentioned, people questioned me [about] whether the Church was a cult or not. Thus, I learned through my proselyting experiences that when Jesus Christ was removed from the Church’s name, people [thought] the Church was nothing but a cult. Truly, the name is everything in the Church.”
“Thus, shall my church be called”
The name of the church is of such great importance that it was a subject of disputations among members in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. To these disputations, Paul taught:
“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”3
Christ taught the people, “And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church.”4
There is no clearer explanation for the name of the Church than Christ’s own explanation. Because it is Christ’s Church, it only makes sense that it should be named after Him. If the Church is called by any other name then it is not His, but a man’s.
Another important question that might arise in connection with correcting the name of the Church is the use of the phrase “of Latter-Day Saints” after the words “The Church of Jesus Christ.” After all, we see no directive in the Book of Mormon or the Bible about this matter. The answer can be found in a compilation of modern revelations known as the Doctrine and Covenants. Jesus Christ Himself said,
“For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”5
Why the addition? Members believe that the Church went through a period called the Great Apostasy following the death of the Savior and His Apostles. Great Apostasy means that Christ’s Church and the authority needed to lead it were gone for a time. To emphasize that there was an actual restoration of the Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ said His Church was to be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The revised style guide released by the First Presidency encouraged the use of the full name of the Church, which is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” However, for shortened reference, it is acceptable to use “the Church,” “the Church of Jesus Christ,” and “restored Church of Jesus Christ.” Members can still be called “Latter-day Saints.” The term “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is also accurate when referring to people of the Church.
Correcting the Errors
The name correction is never about rebranding, President Nelson taught. Brands only concern man-made organizations, which Christ’s Church is not. It also does not mean any disrespect for the prophet-historian Mormon. Doing away with the Church’s “other names” is about being accurate. President Nelson said of the ancient prophet Mormon:
“I think Mormon would be very embarrassed if he knew people were calling it the Mormon Church.”6
Now, here’s the big question: How can we erase hundred-year-old nicknames of the Church? It will take a long time. Years. Maybe even decades to do so. Or the nicknames may never be gone at all. But through our earnest efforts, “the Lord will lead us through.”
President Nelson gave some advice on how we can correct others regarding the name of the Church:
“We will want to be courteous and patient in our efforts to correct these errors. Responsible media will be sympathetic in responding to our request.”
The Change Should Start From Us
The reason why it is important for the name correction to start with the members of the Church can be found in a verse in Alma:
“Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.”7
The Latter-day Saints are inward vessels. By becoming better at using the Church’s proper name, others who are not of the same faith – the outer vessels – will do it as well.
President Nelson also thinks the same. He told members during his recent trip to Canada,
“It’s disingenuous for us to believe that we’re frustrated because the others don’t call us by the right name when we don’t call us by the right name ourselves. We’ve got to clean up our own part first, and then the media will follow—they’ll be gracious.”
Correcting an established habit and “identity” are quite challenging, but it is possible. Sincere and earnest efforts to follow the Lord will always be met with help from heaven. As the name correction takes place, a “pour down” of blessings, “the likes of which we have never seen” will come from on high, just as the Prophet promised.