Church History
Name of the Church

“Name of the Church,” Church History Topics

“Name of the Church”

Name of the Church

The Book of Mormon reports that when Jesus Christ visited the Nephites, He taught that the Church should be called after His name. Those baptized in the name of Christ became part of “the church of Christ” (3 Nephi 26:21; see also 27:8). In the New Testament, Paul refers to early Christians as “saints” (Ephesians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Believing that they lived near the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ, members of the restored Church of Christ called themselves “Latter-day Saints” to distinguish themselves from the Saints of former days.

The Church of Christ (1829–1834)

Even before the Church was organized, Oliver Cowdery followed Book of Mormon precedent in proposing “the Church of Christ” as a name for the Church. 1 On the day the Church was organized, Joseph Smith was called by revelation as an “Elder unto this Church of Christ.” 2 Thereafter, the early revelations repeatedly referred to the Church as “the Church of Christ” and to its members as “saints.” 3

The Church of the Latter Day Saints (1834–1838)

The restored Church of Christ was not the only body of Christian believers called by the name “the Church of Christ.” Some Congregational churches in New England called themselves by this name, and professing Christians sometimes referred to themselves collectively as the church of Christ. To help the Saints distinguish themselves from other Christians, elders at a conference at Kirtland, Ohio, voted on May 3, 1834, to change the name of the Church to “the Church of the Latter Day Saints.” 4 Besides lending clarity, the new name also distanced the Church from the terms “Mormon” and “Mormonite” used by opponents of the Church. 5

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (1838)

Even after this change, members of the Church occasionally used the earlier name or combined the old and new names into a hybrid: “the church of Christ of Latter Day Saints.” 6 Soon after the Latter-day Saints settled in Far West, Missouri, a revelation incorporated both previous names into a new name: “For thus shall my Church be called in the Last days even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” 7 This name has remained the official name of the Church to the present day.

The Modern Format: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Although the name itself persisted after 1838, variant formats circulated in publications, letterhead, legal documents, and public forums well into the 20th century. During much of this time, English spelling was irregular, even among literary institutions such as newspapers and publishing houses. 8 After Joseph Smith’s death, several offshoot groups claimed the term “Latter Day Saints,” with some churches maintaining the 1838 revealed name of the Church. 9 The British convention of hyphenating and using a small d in “Latter-day Saints” appeared most often in materials produced by the Utah-based Church and was fairly common as early as 1851, though not officially standardized until a century later. 10 By assignment from the First Presidency, James E. Talmage prepared a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921, and when rendering the name in section 115, Talmage capitalized “The” mid-verse, departing from the format of the History of the Church volumes he used as the source text. 11 In 1957 during a finance meeting, J. Reuben Clark Jr., Second Counselor in the First Presidency, inquired about the legal format of the name and was answered that other leaders figured the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants represented the standard. 12 A committee organized of editors across Church departments and publications prepared a style guide in 1966 and 1967 that ensured the same format of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” for all materials where the Church would be identified. Internal communications and style guides based on this original manual maintained the format thereafter. 13

By the beginning of the 20th century, many Latter-day Saints self-identified using the terms “Mormon” and “LDS.” The terms “Mormon Church” and “LDS Church” subsequently came into vogue and were frequently used by both leaders, members, and nonmembers. In the 1960s and 1970s, Church leaders began to emphasize the use of the Church’s revealed name or the short title “Church of Jesus Christ” over these other nicknames. 14 In 2001, the First Presidency reiterated the importance of using the Church’s revealed name as a part of “our responsibility to proclaim the name of the Savior throughout all the world.” 15 In 2018, President Russell M. Nelson led a review of the use and format of the name across all Church organizations and departments and invited Latter-day Saints and the general public to remember the correct name when referencing the Church and its members. 16

Related Topics: Founding Meeting of the Church of Christ


  1. “Appendix 3: ‘Articles of the Church of Christ,’ June 1829,” Historical Introduction,

  2. “Revelation, 6 April 1830 [D&C 21],” in Revelation Book 1, 29,

  3. See “Articles and Covenants, circa April 1830 [D&C 20],” in Painesville Telegraph, vol. 2, no. 44 (Apr. 19, 1831), 4,; “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 1,; “Revelation, February 1831–A [D&C 43],” in Revelation Book 1, 69,“Revelation, circa 7 March 1831 [D&C 45],” in Revelation Book 1, 74, 75,

  4. “Communicated: Minutes of a Conference of Elders,” The Evening and the Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 20 (May 1834), 160.

  5. “The Mormon Superstition,” Christian Watchman, vol. 14 (May 17, 1833), 79; “Regulating ‘The Mormonites,’” New-York Observer, vol. 11, no. 34 (Aug. 24, 1833), 135; William W. Phelps, “Rise and Progress of the Church of Christ,” The Evening and the Morning Star, vol. 1, no. 11 (Apr. 1833), 167–69.

  6. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, 3:31, page 86,; Doctrine and Covenants 107:59; Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, no. 5 (Feb. 1836), 266; Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, header to section 5, page 95,

  7. “Revelation, 26 April 1838 [D&C 115],” in Joseph Smith, Journal, March–September 1838, 33.

  8. See Peter Martin, The Dictionary Wars: The American Fight over the English Language (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).

  9. See Steven L. Shields, Divergent Paths of the Restoration: A History of the Latter Day Saint Movement, 4th ed. (Los Angeles: Restoration Research, 1990), 3–9.

  10. See “First General Epistle of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from the Great Salt Lake Valley, to the Saints scattered throughout the Earth,” Frontier Guardian, May 30, 1849; republished in Reid L. Neilson and Nathan N. Waite, eds., Settling the Valley, Proclaiming the Gospel: The General Epistles of the Mormon First Presidency (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 63.

  11. James E. Talmage, Journal, 11–17 March 1921, Personal Journal vol. 24, James E. Talmage Papers, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1905), 3:24; Doctrine and Covenants, 1921, 115:4, page 209.

  12. William F. Edwards, Memorandum to President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., 19 July 1957, J. Reuben Clark Jr. Papers, MSS 303, container 272, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

  13. “Recommendations of the Committee on the Use of Italics, Abbreviations, Numbers, Quoted Materials That Are Copyrighted, Footnotes and Bibliographies,” October 1966, Church History Library; A Style Guide: Prepared by a Committee Representing BYU, the Church Schools, Priesthood Genealogy Committee, Priesthood Welfare Committee, Sunday School, Relief Society, YMMIA, YWMIA, Primary, Translation Services Department, The Improvement Era, The Children’s Friend, The Instructor, The Relief Society Magazine, Correlation Committees, Deseret Book Company, and Other Agencies of the Church (1967), 2, 12; Style Guide for Publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of the Church, 1972), 7.15, 7.19–7.23, 7.61; Style Guide for Publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978), 7.14, 7.26.

  14. See Hugh B. Brown, in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, 91–95; Marion G. Romney, “We, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, May 1979, 50–52.

  15. First Presidency letter, Feb. 23, 2001, quoted in M. Russell Ballard, “The Importance of a Name,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 82.

  16. The Name of the Church,” Aug. 16, 2018,; Russell M. Nelson, “The Correct Name of the Church,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 87–90.