Name of the Church – Part 1

it seems that it took a while for the Mormon Church to settle on an official title for its name. Did you know that it had a least three different names over an eight-year period?

The LDS say that the time in which we live in is referred to by Bible prophets as the last days or latter days. They believe the Lord’s kingdom has once again been established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.  This is, why the LDS Church is named“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

In the Book of Mormon, when Jesus appeared in the Western Hemisphere to the Nephites, He instructed that His church be called in His name.  3 Nephi 27:8-9 says,

“And how be it my church save it be called in my name?”

And in 3 Nephi 26:21 Jesus revealed the name of his church to the Nephites, saying

“And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ.”

But it seems that it took a while for the Mormon Church to settle on an official title for its name.  Did you know that it had a least three different names over an eight-year period?

When the Mormon Church was first organized in 1830, it was called the“Church of Christ” as stated in Doctrine and Covenants 20:1

“The rise of the Church of Christ in theses last days,”

Because that name was already being used by another denomination (History of the Church, vol 2, p. 62) in 1834 it was changed to “The Church of The Latter Day Saints.”

Which remains engraved on the front of the Kirkland Temple, today.  Finally, four years later in 1838 they settled on “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” as referenced in Doctrine and Covenants 115:4.

It appears all those name changes came more from the human mind, than from divine intervention.

“In June 1829, the Lord gave us the name by which we must call the church, being the same as He gave the Nephites.  We obeyed His commandment and called it ‘The Church of Christ’ until 1834, when, through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, the name of the church was changed to ‘The Church of the Latter Day Saints,’ dropping out the name of Christ entirely, that name which we were strictly commanded to call the church by, and which Christ by His own lips makes so plain.”

 “All Believers in Christ” written by David Whitmer, pg. 73

Latter-day Saints, often cite the name of the church as an indication that it is God’s one, true church.  The Lutheran Church is named after a man, Martin Luther.  The word “Catholic” just means “universal.”  Baptists are said to be named after John the Baptist. They believe the true church must be named after Christ.

I believe it is a bit hypocritical to condemn Christian churches for not having the name of Christ in their official title, when the Mormon Church has not always had that distinction.

The LDS teach that the Church anciently was called the Church of Jesus Christ.

Actually neither Christ, nor His disciples gave an official name to the Church.  Those who believed and followed Jesus were known by a number of titles: like, “The Way” “Christians” “Nazarenes” “Church of Christ” “Church of God” “Church of the Firstborn.”  Paul even addressed one of his epistles to the “Church of the Thessalonians.”

You see, the term “Church” comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” which means “a called-out assembly or congregation.”  It is a gathering of people “called-out” to follow Jesus.  What it is NOT – nor ever has been – is an institution that serves as the gatekeeper of salvation or eternal life. It is all about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – not any earthly, human-directed organization.

More References:

Changes in the official name of the Mormon Church:

  • 1830 “Church of Christ” Doctrine and Covenants 20:1
  • 1834 “The Church of The Latter Day Saints” History of the Church – Joseph Smith, vol. 2, p. 62
  • 1838 “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” Doctrine and Covenants 115:4

New Testament title names for believers and followers of Jesus Christ:

What is the Church?:

  • “Ekklesia” means “a called-out assembly or congregation.” Matthew 16:18
  • “Body of Christ” 1 Corinthians 12:27Ephesians 1:22-23Colossians 1:1824
  • Anachronisms (out of proper historical time or context) in the Book of Mormon:
  • “Christians” Alma 46:15 (73 B.C.) First mentioned in New Testament Acts 11:26
  • (long after Christ’s ascension into heaven.)
  • “Church” 1 Nephi 13:4 (600 B.C.)

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