MONTREAL — President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says his recent call to identify the church by its full, formal name rather than the nicknames and abbreviations used for more than a century does not constitute a name change but rather a course correction.
“The name of the church is not negotiable, because the Lord has told us what his church shall be called,” he said, citing the faith’s scriptural verse of Doctrine and Covenants 115:4: “Thus shall my church be called … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“So, we’re not changing names. We’re correcting a name — that’s important to note."
In his first public comments since Thursday’s statement asking to drop the use of Mormon and LDS when referencing the church, the 93-year-old leader emphasized the church’s correct name as he spoke in a Saturday evening devotional in downtown Montreal. The meeting was the second of three such meetings he is conducting in as many nights in central and eastern Canada. He was asked about it afterward in a brief media interview.
“Some marketers change names hoping to be more successful. That’s not our point. We’re correcting an error that has crept in over the ages,” said President Nelson, mindful that the term Mormon — from the church’s scriptural Book of Mormon — has been used since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized in 1830. Often, Mormon has been used in derision.
The topic first came up during his evening devotional before a group of 4,000 in the Palais de congrès de Montréal, as President Nelson testified of the truthfulness of the church by using and emphasizing its full, formal 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.
Summarizing the media response to Thursday’s announcement as “they’re pretty excited about it — ‘it can’t be done,’ ” President Nelson repeated the difficulty with a clarification: “I know it can’t — but it’s going to be, because the Lord wants it that way.”
In the post-devotional interview, President Nelson said church leaders are not surprised at the initial hesitancy. “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 the Lord has said, ‘Thus shall my church be called …. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ ” he said, repeating Doctrine and Covenants 115:4. “That’s enough for me.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who is accompanying President Nelson on the three-day trip, said the First Presidency and quorum members are unified 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.”
Problems and challenges can be worked out, and the effort has to start first with the members of the church.74 comments on this story
“It’s disingenuous for us to believe that we’re frustrated because others don’t call us by the right name when we don’t call us by the right name ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to clean up our own part first, and then the media will follow — they will be gracious.”
President Nelson said he is equally as concerned with the proper use of “Mormon.”
“We have to be careful to protect the name Mormon. 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.”