When the resurrected Christ visited the inhabitants of the ancient Americas, the people asked Him what they should call themselves.
“Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter,” asked His disciples. The Savior’s response was clear.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day.”
Since the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ by Joseph Smith, this process of calling ourselves by the name of Christ has been just that—a process. Here’s a quick history of the name of the Church.
- April 6, 1830 – The Church of Christ is officially organized with six members. The name “Church of Christ” was inspired by the scriptures and used until 1834.
- May 3, 1834 – A conference of Church leaders sustains a motion from Sidney Rigdon and Newel K. Whitney that the name of the Church would be changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” It is highly likely this change occured due to the high use of “The Church of Christ” by many other Protestant sects. Oliver Cowdery also refrenced the nicknames given to the body of Saints by saying, “The world, either out of contempt and ridicule, or to distinguish us from others, have been lavish in bestowing the title of ‘Mormonite.’ . . . But WE do not accept the above title, nor shall we wear it as OUR name, though it may be lavished out upo us double to what is heretoforebeen.” Cowdery continued on stating that the term “Saints” had Biblical precedence as a name for followers of Christ.
- April 26, 1838 – Four years later, Joseph Smith received a revelation from the Lord about the official name of the Church. Now known as Doctrine and Covenants 115, the revelation states, “For thsu shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” This hybrid of the original name of the Church and the 1834 variation had already been gaining prominence amongst the Saints. Professor K. Shane Goodwin states the revelation “suggests the Lord is sanctioning the name his samll group of early Latter-day Saints had already been inspired to start using while working their way through this refinement process.
- July 9, 1843 – Joseph Smith uses the phrase “Mormon” and “Mormonism” multiple times in a journal entry. It is evidence that Church leaders had varying levels of comfort using the terms in a positive light; in the coming years, leaders would continue to use “Mormon” and “Mormonism” in both private and public.
- 1840s-1850s – Throughout this period of time, the first instances of “Mormon Church” are believed to have occurred.
- 1844 – After the death of Joseph Smith, multiple churches began to form. The Church led by Brigham Young adopted the British-styled spelling of the name, using “Latter-day Saints” instead of “Latter Day Saints.”
- February 1851 – After the Church was legally incorprated into the “State of Deseret” the article “The” with capitalization is incorporated into the name.
- April 1918 – Preisdent Joseph F. Smith speaks powerfully on the importance of the article “The” in the name of the Church, saying, “[The Church] is the only one today existing in the world that can and does legitametly bear the name of Jesus Christ and his divine authority.”
- April 1966 – The capitaliation of “The” in the name of the Church is consistently used from here on out.
- April 1972 – Elder Milton R. Hunter uses the term “LDS Church” over the pulpit in General Conference for the first time. The term “LDS” has no definitive startpoint for usage in reference to the Saints.
- December 1995 – The official typeface logo of the Church (in use since 1974) is changed to help reemphasize the centrality of Christ in the Church’s teaching.
- 2001– Mormon.org is launched to help visitors interested in the faith learn more.
- 2010 – The Mormon.org website is completely revamped to allow members to share faith profiles.
- January 2011 – The first video clips for the “I’m a Mormon” campaign begin airing. The outreach campaign would last until 2018 and included billboards, buses, television, and internet campaigns.
- August 16, 2018 – Church President Russell M. Nelson released a statement stating “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. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.” A revised style guide is released.
- October 2018 – President Nelson gives a General Conference address entitled “The Correct Name of the Church” where he states, “I promise you that 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.”
- March 5, 2019 – The official website for the Church becomes ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Mormon.org was changed that year to ComeUntoChrist.org and has now been merged into a stand-alone section on the official site.
- April 4, 2020 – A new log of the Church is launched, featuring the Christus statue.
Professor Goodwin testified that, “In a similar fashion to how the Lord did not provide Nephi and his family a prebuilt ship for their journey, Latter-day Saints were not given a polished and official name at the outset of the Restoration. Rather, they arrived at the name ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ through a collaborative and revelatory process that continues today.”
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.