I have watched with great interest how members of the Church and the media have responded to, and sometimes struggled with, implementing President Russell M. Nelson’s declarative statement of Aug. 16, 2018: “The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will.”
I distinctly remember the moment I first read the statement. It struck me with great excitement and a rush of exhilaration as to what this could mean for members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the world.
I was immediately asked to comment on President Nelson’s statement, provide context and respond with observations. Some critics of the Church were quick to frame the prophet’s declaration as a long shot, if not impossible, attempt at rebranding. Others flatly stated that attempting to get national and international media to use the full name of the Church was pointless and would prove fruitless. Still others said that changing website names, email addresses, publications and the conversational language habits of millions of members around the world was an exercise in futility.
I shared that the immediate impression upon my mind when I read the statement was that the emphasis on the name of the Church had nothing to do with branding and had zero to do with how the media and others referenced the Church. It had everything to do with members realizing and remembering whose disciples they are and the sacred name by which they are called.
I observed then that the emphasis was not on a rebrand but on an invitation from a prophet to remember and refocus the lives of members of the Church of Jesus Christ on the Savior Jesus Christ. President Nelson would later declare that this, “is not a name change. It is not rebranding. It is not cosmetic. It is not a whim. And it is not inconsequential. Instead, it is a correction. It is the command of the Lord.”
Over the past 12 months I have witnessed the challenge of changing years of habits by people inside and outside of the Church of Jesus Christ. I have seen, and occasionally been part of, the perpetuating pattern.
Sometimes, when attempting to follow counsel, we race to get through the name of the Church with such speed that it actually makes it impossible to even understand what we are saying. At other times our tone makes it sound like we are apologizing to the listener for having to say the complete name — as if it were a chore. And sometimes our temperament in stating the name of the Church feels like we are an exasperated child saying something precisely right only because a pushy-parent is demanding such precision.
I recently learned an important lesson about the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from two reverends and the chairman of the NAACP in Detroit. My colleagues and I had the opportunity to interview longtime civil rights leader Reverend Amos Brown, Reverend Theresa Dear and NAACP Chairman Leon Russell about their interaction with President Nelson and their historic partnership that is providing Self-Reliance training to people struggling in America’s inner-cities.
I was struck by the way Chairman Russell precisely used the full name of the Church in every instance. I was impressed by Reverend Dear’s attention and care, particularly as she used the Savior’s name within the full name of the Church. She clearly was no stranger to the Master Teacher and taught me an important lesson about how we take, and share, His name. Then my spirit soared and my soul was stirred to tears as Reverend Brown’s deep voice — with power, passion and deep love boomed the name of the Church over and over throughout his interview. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” echoed in the atrium where we stood and reverberated into the deepest corners of my heart.
I have listened and relistened to these interviews over the past several weeks. Often, I have listened just to hear, and be inspired by, the way these fellow-travelers of another faith say the name of the Savior and the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on their lips.
Upon further reflection it occurred to me these three leaders from the NAACP followed the counsel of the prophet because they have a deep respect and love for President Nelson. They also have developed a reverence for, and trust in, the revelation their friend receives and shares with the world. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ would do well to go and do likewise.
I would never have guessed that I would learn how to properly, powerfully and reverently share the name of our Heavenly Father’s kingdom on earth from two reverends and the chairman of the NAACP. My love, gratitude and admiration for these leaders and the many lessons they have taught me continues to expand.
In Doctrine and Covenants 63:61 the Lord declared, “Let all men beware how they take my name in their lips.” The word of the Lord and the lesson from my friends have forever changed how I take the name of the Savior in my lips as I end a prayer or conclude a testimony. Likewise, how I declare the name of the Church in public has forever been transformed. I have found a lump in my throat when the Primary children sing, “I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know who I am. I know God’s plan. I’ll follow him in faith. I believe in the Savior Jesus Christ. I’ll honor His name. …”
In the year that has followed President Nelson’s statement and subsequent general conference address in October of 2018, I have witnessed the fulfillment of the prophet’s promise:
“If we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
The prophet and apostles, General Authority Seventies and general officers of the Church continue to race around the world — lifting members, ministering to those in need and calling upon the leaders of the nations. As I watch with amazement this marvelous and miraculous work continue to roll forward blessing all of God’s children, I can hear the booming voice and reverent tones of Reverend Brown and the stirring echo that this is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
—Boyd Matheson is the opinion editor and head of strategic reach at the Deseret News