What’s in a Name?

In 2010, the LDS Church launched a public campaign, “I’m a Mormon,” featuring biographical sketches of Church members throughout the world.   In 2014, the LDS Church released a full-length film, “Meet the Mormons.”   Thomas Monson was the President and Prophet of the Church during that era.  He had been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1963 and for a half century, Elder Monson was involved in the public affairs department of the Church.  It seems that if anyone would have known the will of God concerning the offensive term “Mormon” or “Mormonism” it would have been this tenured LDS apostle.  But once Russell Nelson replaced Monson as prophet he confessed, “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.”  

It seems that President Nelson is condemning every LDS leader from Joseph Smith on for the past 180 years, for using the terms “Mormon” and “Mormonism” in their speeches and writings.  As prophets and apostles, shouldn’t they have known they were being offensive to God?  How could they not know that it was such a big deal to the God of Mormonism?  And, why did God wait so long to make this “correction?”  For a century and a half, past church leaders were giving victory to Satan and offending Jesus.  Even, disregarding Christ’s atonement.  Sounds awfully serious!

Nelson is admitting that former LDS leaders for 170 years were wrong in allowing the Church’s choir to be known as the “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”  He is acknowledging that Church leadership was wrong in allowing the words “Mormon” and “Mormonism” to appear on official LDS websites, in periodicals, and in correlated manuals that are approved by the First Presidency.  President Hinckley quoted Joseph Smith when he said, “Mormon means more, good.” (Ensign, November 1990).  Apostle Russell Ballard said, “While Mormon is not the full and correct name of the Church, and even though it was originally given by our detractors during our early years of persecution, it has become an acceptable nickname when applied to members rather than the institution.  We do not need to stop using the name Mormons when appropriate.” (Ensign, November 2011, p. 81).  “Mormonism” is a term that has been used since the Church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:499).

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What's in a Name?

From the 2018 General Conference

In 2010, the LDS Church launched a public campaign, “I’m a Mormon,” featuring biographical sketches of Church members throughout the world.   In 2014, the LDS Church released a full-length film, “Meet the Mormons.”   Thomas Monson was the President and Prophet of the Church during that era.  He had been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1963 and for a half century, Elder Monson was involved in the public affairs department of the Church.  It seems that if anyone would have known the will of God concerning the offensive term “Mormon” or “Mormonism” it would have been this tenured LDS apostle.  But once Russell Nelson replaced Monson as prophet he confessed, “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.”  

It seems that President Nelson is condemning every LDS leader from Joseph Smith on for the past 180 years, for using the terms “Mormon” and “Mormonism” in their speeches and writings.  As prophets and apostles, shouldn’t they have known they were being offensive to God?  How could they not know that it was such a big deal to the God of Mormonism?  And, why did God wait so long to make this “correction?”  For a century and a half, past church leaders were giving victory to Satan and offending Jesus.  Even, disregarding Christ’s atonement.  Sounds awfully serious!

Nelson is admitting that former LDS leaders for 170 years were wrong in allowing the Church’s choir to be known as the “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”  He is acknowledging that Church leadership was wrong in allowing the words “Mormon” and “Mormonism” to appear on official LDS websites, in periodicals, and in correlated manuals that are approved by the First Presidency.  President Hinckley quoted Joseph Smith when he said, “Mormon means more, good.” (Ensign, November 1990).  Apostle Russell Ballard said, “While Mormon is not the full and correct name of the Church, and even though it was originally given by our detractors during our early years of persecution, it has become an acceptable nickname when applied to members rather than the institution.  We do not need to stop using the name Mormons when appropriate.” (Ensign, November 2011, p. 81).  “Mormonism” is a term that has been used since the Church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:499).

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Name of the Church – Part 2

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The church is NOT a building or an organization.  It is the only true Church set forth in the Bible.  It is the Church of which Jesus Christ is the head, and all born again believers belong to it.

You should understand that it’s the believers who make up the “body of Christ,” which is the Church.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:22-23

 “And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.”

and Colossians 1:18 says, “And He is the head of the body, the church.”

But, how can all these various Christian denominations who claim to believe in God, be right?

Good question.  First Christianity is about 2,000 years old and, in that time numerous denominations have developed. On the other hand, Mormonism is less than 190 years old.  The total number of documented groups formed from its beginning in 1830 to the present was well over 400.  And as of today, there are approximately 80 different groups pointing to Joseph Smith as their founder.

It appears Mormonism is divided worse than Christianity in that regard.

There are many offshoots of Mormonism that continue to revolve around Joseph Smith but, they refuse to recognize each other as being a part of that wheel.

“Anachronism” is when something is out of its proper historical time or context.

The account documented in Alma 46:15, calling true believers “Christians” was supposedly written in 73 BC.  But the term “Christian” was first used to refer to believers in Christ, in the Book of Acts chapter 11:26 long after Christ’s ascension into heaven.

 So, the Book of Mormon reference to the term “Christian” is an anachronism?

Let me share another example of that.  The word “Church” found earlier in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 13:4 was supposedly set around 600 BC.  Yet, the word “Church” was never used until the time of Christ, recorded in Matthew 16:18.  The word “Church” in the Book of Mormon was taken from a Greek term which the Nephites in 600 BC would never have used.

If Jesus is really the head of the LDS Church then what possible reason could there be for all the name changes?

 Why would Jesus instruct Joseph Smith in 1830 to call it the “Church of Christ”, then change it in 1834 to the “Church of Latter Day Saints” and, then change once again in 1838?  Why wouldn’t Jesus get it right the first time?  Why would He take the name of Christ completely out of the name of the church for four whole years?

One possible reason is that the Church is instead run entirely by men without any real instruction or revelation from God.  If it took them eight years to settle on a name then how inspired are these so-called prophets?

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Name of the Church – Part 1

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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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