It’s often been said that a name is one of a person’s most prized possessions.
A last name, or family name, can carry the origin, ethnicity and traditions of a family as it has been passed down through the years. Parents choose a first and middle name, often to honor a relative, a close friend or a noted leader or historical figure.
For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. was named after the great Protestant Reformation leader.
We often proudly adopt the names of groups to which we belong. We may be a Hoosier if we hail from the state of Indiana, or a Rotarian if we belong to a Rotary Club.
For those who believe in Jesus Christ, we call ourselves Christians.
Within the past year, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has called for an increased focus on using the correct name of our Church.
With this focus has come the question from many quarters: “Why?”
Church President Russell M. Nelson explains, “What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.”
Nelson continues, “When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives. Taking the Savior’s name upon us includes declaring and witnessing to others—through our actions and our words—that Jesus is the Christ.”
In the early days of our Church, “Mormon” and “Mormon Church” were actually derogatory and abusive terms used by those who wished to hamper the growth of the Church.
Today, many who hear these terms may think that we worship Mormon or are Mormon’s disciples. That is certainly not the case.
We look to Christ as the head of our Church, and as one scripture declares, “…we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
Nelson makes clear what this emphasis on the correct name of the Church is not:
It is not a name change. (The name of the Church is the same as when it was founded in 1830.)
It is not rebranding.
It is not cosmetic.
It is not a whim.
And it is not inconsequential.
Instead, it is a correction and a re-focus on Jesus Christ.
An acquaintance here in Palos Verdes, after hearing about the new emphasis on the correct name of our Church, asked, “What will the Mormon Tabernacle Choir be called if you’re not using the term Mormon?”
This all-volunteer choir, known worldwide for its exquisite choral performances and its weekly Sunday morning radio broadcasts dating back to 1929, is now called the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Its website is thetabernaclechoir.org/.
The “tabernacle” refers to the choir’s home, a large structure located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, which was constructed between 1864 and 1867. Members of the choir and those who listen to the choir are experiencing that this name change is both logical and natural.
When others ask members of our Church if they are Mormons, it is straightforward for us to say, “Yes, we have been known as Mormons. We like to say that we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the name focuses on the Savior.”
So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of our Church, it is easy to see that the answer is simple: “Everything!”
Joseph Whitaker is the recently called administrative and spiritual leader (President) of the PalosVerdes Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, Noelle, are the parents of eight children and reside in Rancho Palos Verdes.