Proper Church name usage reaffirms centrality of Christ

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have approved a series of guidelines to reaffirm the centrality of the Savior in the name of the Church and in how members of the Church are identified. A letter from the First Presidency explaining the guidelines has been mailed to priesthood leaders.

The letter follows an article that was published by the New York Times News Service based on an interview Feb. 15 with Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. The article quoted Elder Oaks relative to the guidelines which, in part, give renewed emphasis to past policies.

As has been emphasized for some years, Church members, news organizations and others are asked to use the full and correct name of the Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and to avoid use of the term "Mormon Church."

The Church Public Affairs Department will work with news agencies and major publications to update style guides used by their reporters. With the approach of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, news reports about the Church are expected to increase around the world. The reaffirmation of the centrality of the Savior in the name of the Church is intended to help news media, missionaries and members accurately identify the Church.

The guidelines include the following instructions:

  • The revealed full name of the Church should always be used by the Church and its members.
  • Media organizations are encouraged to use the full official name when referring to the Church as an institution in their reporting. Media will be asked to avoid such references as “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “The Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
  • When a shortened reference is needed in news reporting or other instances, the terms “the Church,” or “the Church of Jesus Christ” are encouraged.
  • Church members should be referred to as “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The preferred shortened reference is Latter-day Saints. Though less accurate, “Mormons” is acceptable.
  • “Mormon” is correctly used in official names such as “The Book of Mormon,” “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” or “Mormon Trail.” It is also appropriately used as an adjective in such expressions as “Mormon pioneers.”
  • The term “Mormonism” is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture, history and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In explaining these guidelines to the New York Times reporter, Gustav Niebuhr, Elder Oaks said that these instructions are to be seen as a deliberate reaffirmation of a long-standing effort to encourage wider use of the revealed full name of the Church. Speaking specifically about use of the term "Mormon," Elder Oaks emphasized, "I don't mind being called a Mormon, but I don't want it said that I belong to the Mormon Church."

Among the guidelines, encouraging use of "the Church of Jesus Christ" as a shortened reference is something new. However, Elder Oaks explained in his interview with The New York Times, "We haven't adopted a new name of the Church."

The new guidelines for identifying the Church and its members are based on ancient and latter-day scripture. Christ is regarded as the "chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20) of the Church; hence the Church should be identified by His name.

To the Nephites, He said: "Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.

"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, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.

"And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it." (3 Nephi 27:7-8, 10.)

The name by which the Church should be known in this dispensation was given by revelation. As revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Doctrine and Covenants 115:4.)

In a statement on missionary work given Oct. 1, 1982, the First Presidency said: "Keep in mind that this is the Church of Jesus Christ: please emphasize that fact in making contacts with others. . . . Through a renewed emphasis and use of the revealed name of the Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — it will grow and prosper worldwide."