“When using a shortened reference to the name of the Church, is the term ‘Mormon’ appropriate?” Ensign, Dec. 1983, 29–30
Dean B. Cleverly, executive assistant in the Missionary Department, seventies quorum president in the Bountiful Utah South Stake. Members of the Church are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. At baptism we take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ (see D&C 20:37); we agree to “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart” (2 Ne. 31:13); and we indicate our willingness to “be called his people” (Mosiah 18:8).
The scriptures reveal that the followers of Christ have been given nicknames at various times and places. In Acts we read that “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26.) The term Christian may have originally been applied in derision, as a title of scorn for those of the little sect that was everywhere spoken against. (See Acts 28:22.) But it was a title the early Saints apparently were willing to accept.
In the Americas about a century earlier, the Lord’s people had also been called “Christians” by their enemies (see Alma 48:10), and they also accepted it willingly: “All those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.” (Alma 46:15.)
A similar thing happened in our day. The early members of the latter-day Church were nicknamed “Mormons,” because they accepted the Book of Mormon as a companion volume of scripture to the Bible. Originally a term of contempt, the nickname was soon accepted and used rather freely by the Latter-day Saints.
But in a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Far West, Missouri, on 26 April 1838, the Lord firmly established the name of his church in our day: “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 115:4.) It was not to be the church of Mormon or of Joseph Smith or of any other man living or dead. Rather, it was to be the church of Jesus Christ—according to the Lord, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.” (D&C 1:30.) And its members were called “Latter-day Saints,” to distinguish them from the members, or Saints, who lived in previous gospel dispensations.
In an earlier dispensation the Lord’s disciples had asked about the name of the Church. The Savior replied:
“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;
“And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.
“Therefore, 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.
“And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.” (3 Ne. 27:5–8.)
These teachings indicate that referring to the Church by its full, divinely given name—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is most accurate and appropriate. However, because the name is so long, in regular conversation we sometimes want to shorten our references to the name of the Church. In these cases, many people simply say “the Church.” If this reference would not be clear, “LDS Church” is preferable to “Mormon Church.”
When referring to members, it is generally better to say “Latter-day Saints” or “members of the Church,” rather than “Mormons.”
The First Presidency, in a statement on missionary work issued 1 October 1982, reemphasized the significance of the name of the Lord’s Church:
“Keep in mind that this is the Church of Jesus Christ; please emphasize that fact in making contacts with others. The Lord revealed that the Church should bear the name—THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, ‘for thus shall my church be called in the last days.’ (D&C 115:4.) We feel that some may be misled by the too frequent use of the term ‘Mormon Church.’ We should talk, rejoice, and preach of Christ; and, we should assist others in understanding the source to which ‘they may look for a remission of their sins.’ (2 Ne. 25:26.) Christian living and service should support our verbal expressions of testimony. …
“Through a renewed emphasis and use of the revealed name of the Church THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS—it will grow and prosper worldwide.” (Ensign, Mar. 1983, p. 79.)