MONTREAL — President Russell M. Nelson’s call to identify the Church by its full, formal name — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — doesn’t constitute a name change but rather correcting misnomers that have persisted since the Church’s early history. The effort follows the Savior’s own scriptural directive and allows member and nonmember alike to acknowledge His role.
“The name of the Church is not negotiable, because the Lord has told us what His church shall be called,” said President Nelson. "So, we’re not changing names. We’re correcting a name — that’s important to note.”
On Aug. 16, President Nelson released a statement asking for a stop to the use of nicknames, abbreviations and incorrect names — such as Mormon and LDS — that have overtaken and overshadowed the Church’s appropriate name.
During the Saturday, Aug. 18, devotional in Montreal before some 4,000 members gathered in the Palais des congrès de Montreal, President Nelson made his first public comments on the matter as he testified of the truthfulness of the Church, using and emphasizing its full name.
“And I might add that it’s not the Mormon Church. It’s not the LDS Church. It’s not the Church of the Latter-day Saints,” he said, then citing the Lord’s own words from Doctrine and Covenants 115:4, “Thus shall my church be called … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
He then referenced the earlier statement. “We released that announcement to the media on Thursday, and oh, they’re pretty excited about it — ‘it can’t be done,’ " he said, acknowledging and repeating the difficulty. “I know it can’t — but it’s going to be, because the Lord wants it that way.
In a brief interview following the devotional, President Nelson and Elder Neil L. Andersen, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles accompanying the prophet on the three-devotional trip to central and eastern Canada, spoke more about the emphasis on the Church’s name and initial public hesitancy.
“We’re not surprised at the media response. We know that it’s going to be a challenge to undo tradition of more than 100 years. And we don’t have all the answers. All we know is what the Lord has said,” he said, again reciting His directive in Doctrine and Covenants 115:4.
“That’s enough for me,” President Nelson added.
Elder Andersen underscored the unity of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on the subject. “The president has spoken, the Lord has spoken to the president,” he said, “and this is going to be an extended, multi-year effort — but this will not be something that will be attempted and then pulled back from.”
President Nelson again highlighted the Church’s complete and correct name during his remarks at the Sunday evening devotional, Aug. 19, in Hamilton, Ontario, repeating several of the same points from the previous night.
Emily Cran and Jesse Ibanez, a pair of young single adults from Cambridge, Ontario, were among the 8,000 members and visitors attending the meeting held in Hamilton's FirstOntario Centre.
“It’s very clear in the scriptures — President Nelson has it correct,” said Cran. “At the end of the day, it’s what the prophet says.”
Ibanez said that to date, he’s only seen the name emphasis mentioned on social media and on the Church’s own website. “It should be read to every member — they need to know that it’s very bold and very clear.”
In his Saturday night interview, President Nelson acknowledged that correct use of the Church’s name needs to start first with the Latter-day Saints. “It’s disingenuous for us to believe that we’re frustrated because the others don’t call us by the right name when we don’t call us by the right name ourselves. We’ve got to clean up our own part first, and then the media will follow — they’ll be gracious.”
He explained that in marketing, some name changes are made in the hopes of increased success. “That’s not our point,” he countered. “We’re correcting an error that has crept in over the ages.”
The name issue is not just a latter-day matter, said the 93-year-old leader who cited how others referred to the Savior and His disciples during His lifetime. “Even in Jesus’ day, they wanted to denigrate Him by calling Him a Nazarene, and the Nazarites were those who followed Him,” he said. “They wanted to cross out that sacred name that identifies Him.”
President Nelson also expressed concern about the use of the name Mormon.
“We have to be careful to protect the name Mormon,” he said. “He will think that we are tossing it out. We aren’t. We just want to be accurate.
“Mormon was a man. He was a prophet, He was a writer. A record-keeper. We honor him and treasure the book that bears his name. But we’re talking about the name of the Church.”
Earlier in the Montreal devotional, President Nelson referenced the Book of Mormon prophet, saying, “I think Mormon would be very embarrassed if he knew people were calling it the Mormon Church.”