President Nelson has made revitalizing the use of the full name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one of his signature issues as President of the Church. Indeed, he has taken what he described as “extraordinary efforts” to ensure that the full name of the Church is used so that the savior can be “the central focus of our worship and our lives.”
This focus on using the full name of the Church is not a new priority for President Nelson. More than 30 years ago, in April 1990, as a junior apostle of the Church, President Nelson gave a sermon on this topic in General Conference entitled: “Thus Shall My Church Be Called.”
President Nelson began his talk by pointing out that the use of nicknames may at times “offend either the one named or the parents who gave the name.” God declared that the Church should be called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so he is the one who has required us to use the full name of the Church.
President Nelson went through each part of the Church’s name.
He first began looking at the term “Saints.” He described a variety of attributes of what it means to be a saint including: 1) Being a believer in Christ and knowing his perfect love; 2) Sharing in a spirit of love and receiving in a spirit of gratitude; 3) Serving others; 4) Being tolerant and attentive to the needs of others; 5) Refraining from idelness; 6) Seeking learning by study and by faith; 7) Being honest and kind; 8) Fully paying financial obligations; 9) Treating others as he would want to be treated; 10) Being an honorable citizen and participating in his country’s political process; 11) Resolving differences with others honorably and peacefully; 12) Shunning that which is unclean; 13 Avoiding an excess of even that which is good; 14) Being reverent for the Lord, the earth, leads, the dignity of others, and everything else; 15) loving the lord and making keeping his commandments the highest priority; 16) Receiving the gifts of the spirit from God.
This is an impressive and inspiring list. When we take upon us the name of saints, we are committing to do the best we can to live this kind of Christ like life. Even when we fall short, people will be able to see Christ’s image on our countenance if we live this way.
Then as now, President Nelson emphasized the blessings that flow from living in the latter days and helping to prepare the earth for the second coming. What struck me rereading this talk was the optimism that President Nelson displayed about the latter days. He noted how technology had evolved to allow the work of the Lord to spread. And he observed that incredible political changes such as the then contemporaneous falling of the berlin wall were part of the hastening of the Lord’s work.
Today, we live in a less optimistic era. Technology is still a remarkable force, but we are much more aware of its destructive and corrosive potential. And many parts of the world are becoming less free rather than more free. Still, President Nelson maintains a strong sense of optimism in his more recent sermons. His sense of perspective and confidence in the Lord’s plan is really something I need.
President Nelson notes that Christ is “the chief corner stone upon which the organization of His Church is based.” I have really appreciated how President Nelson has continually emphasized the importance of the savior and the need for us to worship him and focus on his atonement.
President Nelson emphasized that “the article the begins with a capital letter” and that this is important. The Church is “the official organization of baptized believers who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ.” The Church is therefore not just a nice organization or a set of beliefs or social practices. It is rather God’s official organ on the earth:
“The Church is the way by which the Master accomplishes His work and bestows His glory. Its ordinances and related covenants are the crowning rewards of our membership. While many organizations can offer fellowship and fine instruction, only His church can provide baptism, confirmation, ordination, the sacrament, patriarchal blessings, and the ordinances of the temple—all bestowed by authorized priesthood power. That power is destined to bless all children of our Heavenly Father, regardless of their nationality”
President Nelson ended this talk with a warning that “just as we revere His holy name, we likewise revere the name that He decreed for His church” and that if we fail to do so we will be condemned for our failure. I am grateful that President Nelson’s words are being heeded today.
I have seen many friends wonder why the Church could have invested funds on campaigns such as the “I am a Mormon” effort or the “Meet the Mormons” film. If doing so was contrary to God’s will, then how could the Church have been led astray. This seems like precisely the wrong way to approach this question.
To everything there is a time and a season. The decade from around the 2002 Olympics to the nomination of Mitt Romney in the 2012 election was a period of unparalleled attention by the world directed at the Church. In that “Mormon moment” it made sense for the Church to embrace the moniker Mormon and to wage a campaign to change public sentiment on the Church. We are in a very different place in the world right now. Attention is not quite as firmly placed on us as it once was. And society has grown more hostile to many of the things we believe and teach in the Church. It is therefore more important than ever to emphasize the things that matter most and to draw attention to the savior. What matters most is that the living Prophet today has felt impressed by God to announce that NOW is the time for a church-wide change.
It seems to me that it is no coincidence that President Nelson is leading the Church through this transition period. He has promised that he if obey and refer to the Church by its name that the blessings of heaven will pour down upon us. Thirty years ago, President Nelson raised a prophetic voice and we are fulfilling that prophetic call today. I trust President Nelson and know that the blessings of Heaven will follow.
Note: This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey, a multiyear effort to read through General Conference Addresses. I fell off the bandwagon for a long time, but this week seemed like the perfect opportunity to jump back in.