Name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is derived from an 1838 revelation received by church founder Joseph Smith. Leaders of the LDS Church place great emphasis on the full name of the church and have resisted the application of informal or shortened names, including the "Mormon Church", the "LDS Church", and the "Church of the Latter-day Saints".
Historical names of the church
In the 1830s, the fact that a number of churches of the Restoration Movement, including the Campbellites, were also named the "Church of Christ" caused a considerable degree of confusion. In May 1834, the church adopted a resolution that the church would be known thereafter as "The Church of the Latter Day Saints". At various times the church was also referred to as "The Church of Jesus Christ", "The Church of God", and "The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints".
Adoption of the current name
In the late 1830s, Smith founded a new headquarters in Far West, Missouri. At Far West on April 26, 1838, Smith recorded a revelation from God renaming the organization the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". The church was known by this name until after Smith's death in 1844; occasionally the name would be written with a hyphen between the words "Latter" and "Day".
After Smith's death, competing Latter Day Saint denominations organized under the leadership of a number of successors. The largest of these, led by Brigham Young, continued using "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" until incorporation in 1851 by the legislature of the provisional State of Deseret, when the church standardized the spelling of its name as "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", which included a hyphenated "Latter-day" and a lower-case "d". In January 1855, the legislature of Utah Territory re-enacted the charter which incorporated the church under this name.
In 1876, the LDS Church issued a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains the text of significant revelations received by Joseph Smith. In this new edition—the first revision since before Smith's death—the capitalization and hyphenation of the church's name in the 1838 revelation to Smith was changed to reflect the name format the church had since adopted:
"[A]nd unto all the elders and people of my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scattered abroad in all the world; For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Until the late-20th century, church publications inconsistently capitalized the word "The" in the name of the church in running text. Today, church publications invariably capitalize the "The" in all contexts.
Today, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" is a registered trademark owned by the LDS Church. In contrast, "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" is a public-domain name and is used by some smaller Latter Day Saint denominations, including the Strangites.
Meaning of the name
The church teaches that its name is a significant indicator of its origin and mission. The following teachings have been given on the meanings of the various components of the church's name:
- 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." "The word The indicates the unique position of the restored Church among the religions of the world." "The word the is significant: not just Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because to say 'The Church' distinguishes this as the only true church on the face of the earth."
- of Jesus Christ: "By divine directive, the title of the Church bears the sacred name of Jesus Christ, whose church this is. ... We know Him to be 'the chief corner stone' upon which the organization of His Church is based. ... We know Him to be the Rock from whom revelation comes to His authorized agents ... and to all who worthily seek Him". "The words Church of Jesus Christ declare that it is His Church. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus taught: '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 [like Mormon] then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel' (3 Nephi 27:8)." "By implication, calling the Church by the name Mormon would make it Mormon's Church. While most Church members are not offended by the title Mormon, they prefer the name that properly underscores their relationship to Christ."
- of Latter-day: "Of Latter-day explains that it is the same Church as the Church that Jesus Christ established during His mortal ministry but restored in these latter days."
- Saints: "Saints means that its members follow Him and strive to do His will, keep His commandments, and prepare once again to live with Him and our Heavenly Father in the future. Saint simply refers to those who seek to make their lives holy by covenanting to follow Christ." "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. ... A saint serves others .... A saint is tolerant, and is attentive to the pleadings of other human beings .... A saint 'refrain[s] from idleness' ... and seeks learning by study, and also by faith. ... A saint is honest and kind .... A saint is an honorable citizen .... A saint resolves any differences with others honorably and peacefully and is constant in courtesy .... A saint shuns that which is unclean or degrading and avoids excess even of that which is good. Perhaps above all, a saint is reverent. Reverence for the Lord, for the earth He created, for leaders, for the dignity of others, for the law, for the sanctity of life, for chapels and other buildings, are all evidences of saintly attitudes."
Informal and abbreviated names
Since its founding, church leaders have resisted attempts to apply informal or abbreviated names to the LDS Church. Because of the belief in the Book of Mormon among Joseph Smith's followers, in the 1830s people outside the church began to refer to its members as "Mormonites" or "Mormons" and the church as the "Mormon Church". Smith and other church leaders considered these terms to be derogatory and inappropriate. Concerning these names, a church newspaper editorialized in 1834:
"Others may call themselves by their own, or by other names, and have the privilege of wearing them without our changing them or attempting so to do; but we do not accept the above title, nor shall we wear it as our name, though it may be lavished out upon us double to what it has heretofore been."
Today, it remains common for individuals and media outside of the church to refer to it as the "Mormon Church". Media in Utah—including the church-owned Deseret News, KSL-TV, and KSL radio—tend to use "LDS Church" as a short form of the church's name.
Church leaders have resisted these practices and have instructed the members of the church to not refer to the church in these ways. In 2001, the church issued a "style guide" on its name in which it requested that those writing about the church adhere to the following guidelines:
"In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'. Please avoid the use of 'Mormon Church', 'LDS Church' or the 'Church of the Latter-day Saints'. When a shortened reference is needed, the terms 'the Church' or 'the Church of Jesus Christ' are encouraged."
The New York Times reported that the release of the style guide recommendations was a "'deliberate reaffirmation' of a long effort in favor of wider use of the church's full title". Apostle Dallin H. Oaks told the Times that "church leaders decided it was possible to begin using the abbreviated name of Church of Jesus Christ because no other major Christian body in the United States had laid claim to it." Jan Shipps, an expert on the LDS Church, suggested that the continuing efforts of the church to emphasize its full name reflects the long-standing desire of members of the church that their beliefs "be understood as a Christian tradition."
In general, media have not implemented the suggestion to use "Church of Jesus Christ" as a shorthand name for the LDS Church.
- Doctrine and Covenants 20:1.
- "Chapter 2: Establishing the Foundations of the Church", Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 1996).
- Susan Easton Black, "Name of the Church" in Daniel H. Ludlow ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Macmillan: New York, 1992) p. 979.
- Richard Lloyd Anderson, "I Have a Question: What changes have been made in the name of the Church?", Ensign, January 1979.
- "Minutes of a Conference", Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 20, p. 160 (May 1832).
- Joseph Smith (B.H. Roberts ed.), History of the Church 3:24, footnote.
- Manuscript History of the Church, LDS Church Archives, book A-1, p. 37; reproduced in Dean C. Jessee (comp.) (1989). The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) 1:302–03.
- H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters (1994). Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books) p. 160.
- J. Reuben Clark Law Society, "Law and the Church as an Institution", jrcls.org.
- Doctrine and Covenants 115:3–4.
- Russell M. Nelson, "'Thus Shall My Church Be Called'", Ensign, May 1990.
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Importance of a Name", Liahona, November 2011.
- Harold B. Lee, "The Way to Eternal Life", Ensign, November 1971.
- "The Saints", Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 20, pp. 158–59 (May 1834) (italics and bold in original).
- George Albert Smith, Conference Report (April 1948) p. 160: "Don't let the Lord down by calling this the Mormon Church. He didn't call it the Mormon Church. It is all right for us to believe in the Book of Mormon. He expects us to do that, but he told us what to call this Church."
- Harold B. Lee, "The Way to Eternal Life", Ensign, November 1971: "When [the Lord] revealed the name by which the Church was to be called, he used some interesting expressions. ... He didn’t say Mormon Church; he didn’t say LDS Church, but the clear, firm, unequivocal statement, 'even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'"
- Marion G. Romney, "We, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", Ensign, May 1979: "Members of the Church do not resent being referred to as Mormons, nor does the Church resent being referred to as the Mormon church. As we have said, however, it is not the correct name of the Church. Its correct name is ... 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'".
- Member–Missionary Class—Instructor’s Guide (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 1982) p. 2: "We feel that some may be misled by the too frequent use of the term 'Mormon Church'".
- Russell M. Nelson, "'Thus Shall My Church Be Called'", Ensign, May 1990: "Note carefully the language of the Lord. He did not say, 'Thus shall my church be named.' He said, 'Thus shall my church be called.' ... Before any other name is considered to be a legitimate substitute, the thoughtful person might reverently consider the feelings of the Heavenly Parent who bestowed that name."
- Boyd K. Packer, "What Every Elder Should Know—and Every Sister as Well: A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government", Ensign, February 1993: "Rather than using 'Mormon Church,' we should call the Church by its name—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 'for thus,' the Lord told us in a revelation, 'shall my church be called in the last days.'"
- Dallin H. Oaks, "'Another Testament of Jesus Christ'", Ensign, March 1994: "The First Presidency has requested that we not refer to ourselves as 'the Mormon Church' but by the name the Lord gave his church by revelation: 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'".
- "Church should be called by its revealed name" [editorial], Church News, February 17, 2001.
- First Presidency (Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust), "Letter to Members of the Church", February 23, 2001: "The use of the revealed name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is increasingly important in our responsibility to proclaim the name of the Savior throughout all the world. Accordingly, we ask that when we refer to the Church we use its full name wherever possible."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Guided by the Holy Spirit", Liahona, May 2011: "Obedient to revelation, we call ourselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than the Mormon Church. It is one thing for others to refer to the Church as the Mormon Church or to us as Mormons; it is quite another for us to do so."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Importance of a Name", Liahona, November 2011: "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 Mormon when appropriate, but we should continue to give emphasis to the full and correct name of the Church itself. In other words, we should avoid and discourage the term 'Mormon Church.'"
- M. Russell Ballard, "Following Up", Liahona, May 2014: "[T]he Lord makes clear that [the full name of the church] is not only a formal title but also the name by which His Church is to be called. Given His clear declaration, we should not refer to the Church by any other name, such as 'Mormon Church' or 'LDS Church.'"
- "Style Guide – The Name of the Church", mormonnewsroom.org.
- Gustav Niebuhr, "Adapting 'Mormon' to Emphasize Christianity", The New York Times, February 19, 2001.