At the April 1990 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, who was at the time a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk titled “Thus Shall My Church Be Called” where he explained the meaning of each word of the correct name of the Church, as revealed by the Savior in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 115:4). Elder Nelson explained why he was focusing on that particular topic with these words:
Surely every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord is precious. So each word in this name must be important—divinely designated for a reason. If we study the key words in that name, we can better understand the name’s full significance. — President Russell M. Nelson
At the October 2018 General Conference, 18 years after his first talk, now as the President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson spoke again on the same topic. In this talk, titled “The Correct Name of the Church”, he focused more on why we should use the correct name. He said:
Today I feel compelled to discuss with you a matter of great importance. Some weeks ago, I released a statement regarding a course correction for the name of the Church. I did this because the Lord impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He decreed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. — President Russell M. Nelson
Now that Russell M. Nelson is the President of the Church, his new message is having an even stronger effects on the members of the Church than the first one. And through the actions and words of the members, over time, it will surely affect many others.
As members of the Church, we know that it’s important to listen and follow the words of the Prophet. We also know that by so doing we will be blessed, as President Nelson promised in his more recent talk:
My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. — President Russell M. Nelson
My Personal Experience with the Name of the Church
Before I met for the first time the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in my country, Italy, at the end of 1984, I had never heard the correct name of the Church. However, I had heard many times the words “mormons” or “mormon church”, even if I didn’t know what “mormons” believed in. My knowledge of the Church was very limited and distorted by often false, misleading but widespread information about “mormons”.
My early experience supports what President Nelson also said:
In the early days of the restored Church, terms such as Mormon Church and Mormons were often used as epithets—as cruel terms, abusive terms—designed to obliterate God’s hand in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. — President Russell M. Nelson
I would also say that not only in the early day of the restored Church, but even more recently, in Italy, and probably in many other countries, the terms Mormon Church and Mormons were, and still are, used “to obliterate God’s hand in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days.” This really seems to be the main reason of many disparaging remarks.
My early experience as a convert of the Church includes a lot of difficult conversations with people who would deny or deride our belief that the Lord actually restored His Church. Most of those people didn’t know what the correct name of the Church was, and many didn’t care when they were told. However, some of them would actually become more interested or more positive about our beliefs, when I shared and explained the full name of the Church. Truly, there is power in the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A Few Quotes From the Talk: Thus Shall My Church Be Called
As mentioned above, President Nelson’s Conference talk at the April 1990 General Conference explains the meaning of each part of the name of the Church.
… in (the Bible) the word saint is used much more frequently than is the term Christian. The word Christian appears in only three verses of the King James Version of the Bible….
In contrast, the term saint (or saints) appears in thirty-six verses of the Old Testament and in sixty-two verses of the New Testament….. (for example) Paul addressed an epistle “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1.)
…Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love….. — President Russell M. Nelson
The term latter-day is an expression especially difficult for translators who labor in languages in which there is not a good equivalent term. Some translations may suggest last day. It is true that scriptures foretell the final days of the earth’s temporal existence as a telestial sphere. The earth will then be renewed and receive its paradisiacal, or terrestrial, glory. (See A of F 1:10.) Ultimately, the earth will become celestialized. (See Rev. 21:1; D&C 77:1; D&C 88:25–26.) But its last days must be preceded by its latter days! We live in those latter days, and they are really remarkable. The Lord’s Spirit is being poured out upon all inhabitants of the earth, precisely as the Prophet Joel foretold. (See Joel 2:28–32). — President Russell M. Nelson
By divine directive, the title of the Church bears the sacred name of Jesus Christ, whose church this is. (See D&C 115:3–4.) He so decreed more than once. Nearly two thousand years ago, the Lord said, “Ye shall call the church in my name…
“And how be it my church save it be called in my name?” (3 Ne. 27:7–8; italics added.)
We know that He came into the world to do the will of His Father, who sent Him. (See 3 Ne. 27:13.) His divine mission was to effect the Atonement, which was to break the bands of death and enable us to receive immortality and eternal life. — President Russell M. Nelson
The first two words of the name the Lord chose for His earthly organization are The Church. Note that the article The begins with a capital letter. This is an important part of the title, for the Church is the official organization of baptized believers who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ. (See D&C 10:67–69; D&C 18:21–25.) — President Russell M. Nelson
A Few Quotes From the Talk: The Correct Name of the Church
Let me explain why we care so deeply about this issue. But first let me state what this effort is not:
It is not a name change.
It is not rebranding.
It is not cosmetic.
It is not a whim.
And it is not inconsequential.
Instead, it is a correction. It is the command of the Lord. Joseph Smith did not name the Church restored through him; neither did Mormon. It was the Savior Himself who said, “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Thus, the name of the Church is not negotiable. — President Russell M. Nelson
What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement. — President Russell M. Nelson
Taking the Savior’s name upon us includes declaring and witnessing to others—through our actions and our words—that Jesus is the Christ. Have we been so afraid to offend someone who called us “Mormons” that we have failed to defend the Savior Himself, to stand up for Him even in the name by which His Church is called? — President Russell M. Nelson
After all He had endured—and after all He had done for humankind—I realize with profound regret that we have unwittingly acquiesced in the Lord’s restored Church being called by other names, each of which expunges the sacred name of Jesus Christ! — President Russell M. Nelson
If we as a people and as individuals are to have access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ—to cleanse and heal us, to strengthen and magnify us, and ultimately to exalt us—we must clearly acknowledge Him as the source of that power. We can begin by calling His Church by the name He decreed. — President Russell M. Nelson
For much of the world, the Lord’s Church is presently disguised as the “Mormon Church.” But we as members of the Lord’s Church know who stands at its head: Jesus Christ Himself. Unfortunately, many who hear the term Mormon may think that we worship Mormon. Not so! We honor and respect that great ancient American prophet. But we are not Mormon’s disciples. We are the Lord’s disciples. — President Russell M. Nelson
Our revised style guide is helpful. It states: “In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ When a shortened [second] reference is needed, the terms ‘the Church’ or the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’ are encouraged. The ‘restored Church of Jesus Christ’ is also accurate and encouraged.” — President Russell M. Nelson
If someone should ask, “Are you a Mormon?” you could reply, “If you are asking if I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yes, I am!” If someone asks, “Are you a Latter-day Saint?” you might respond, “Yes, I am. I believe in Jesus Christ and am a member of His restored Church.” — President Russell M. Nelson
So, What’s in a Name?
So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s Church, the answer is “Everything!” Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His Church, filled with His power. — President Russell M. Nelson