It had been some time since the Nephites had been visited by the Resurrected Christ at the temple in Bountiful. Now, His disciples were dutifully engaged in telling others the things they had seen and heard, baptizing in His name those who accepted their teachings.
On this occasion, as the disciples were gathered together, united in fasting and prayer, the resurrected Lord again appeared to them (see 3 Nephi 27).
“What will ye that I shall give unto you?” He asked.
“Lord,” they replied, “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.”
That question brought forth a divine response and commandment, the import of which resounds in these latter days, the dispensation of the fullness of times.
“Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name?” Jesus asked. “For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
“And whoso taketh upon him my name and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:5-6).
He then commanded: “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.”
The Lord reasoned that if a church is called in someone’s name — Moses, for example — it would be regarded as that person’s church. “But if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”
In the spirit and wisdom of that commandment, our leaders today have admonished us to exercise care in how we refer to the Savior’s church.
“As the Church grows across boundaries, cultures, and languages, the use of its revealed name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see Doctrine and Covenants 115:4), is increasingly important in the responsibility of the Church and its members to proclaim the name of the Savior throughout all the world,” we are instructed in the “Selected Church Policies” section of Handbook 2, item 21.4.34. “Accordingly, references to the Church should include its full name whenever possible. Following an initial reference to the full name of the Church, the contractions ‘the Church’ or ‘the Church of Jesus Christ’ are acceptable.”
In light of the resurrected Lord’s injunction to the Nephite disciples, and in a modern-day setting, it is not difficult to see the wisdom in such a policy. For, despite the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in our doctrine and worship, there are still some today who do not know or understand that we proclaim it to be the very Church Christ Himself founded and restored in latter days through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
It helps us convey that message if we take care to use the full and proper name of the Church or, when necessary, include the name of Christ in shortened forms of the Church’s name.
Surely, as witnesses of Christ, we should be eager to let everyone know, even in casual conversation, that this is the very Church He established.
What about the term Mormon? Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to use it?
Not when referencing the name of the Church.
However, the handbook instructs: “The word ‘Mormon’ will continue to be used in proper names like the Book of Mormon and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It will also continue to be used as an adjective in phrases such as ‘Mormon pioneers.’ In addition, it may be necessary to use the word Mormon to identify the Church as it is commonly known in some countries.”
It can be advisable, for example, to include the word Mormon in internet content dealing with the Church, this because of a technical concept known as “search-engine optimization.” This refers to the process of maximizing the number of potential visitors to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by Google or other search engines.
Internet users seeking information about the Church might employ the word Mormon when typing search strings. When they do, they are not apt to find a particular website if that word is not present. Thus, one is prone to see Mormon in content on LDS.org, Mormon.org or other Church-owned websites.
Even so, it is always best when possible to call the Church by the name of Him Who founded it.
President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, for one, has reminded us of that on more than one occasion.
“Because the full name of the Church is so important,” he said in general conference of October 2011, “I echo the revelations from the scriptures, the First Presidency’s instructions in letters of 1982 and 2001, and the words of other apostles who have encouraged the members of the Church to uphold and teach the world that the Church is known by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the name by which the Lord will call us at the last day. It is the name by which His Church will be distinguished from all others.”
In keeping with that instruction, let us resolve to follow the admonition of the brethren in this matter. For, as President Russell M. Nelson declared on Jan. 18 from the annex of the Salt Lake Temple in his first address as Church president to members at large: “Our divine mandate is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, helping to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. This we will do with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that He is in charge. This is His work and His Church.”