The Mormon Church is an unofficial name used to refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term Mormon derives from the Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith in 1829. The Church was established a year later, in 1830. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the name mandated in scripture in 1838, but the nickname has been commonly used, especially by those outside the Church, to refer to the Church since that time.
- Calling it the "Mormon Church" or "LDS Church" leaves out the most central part of the Church: Jesus Christ. Consequently, the Church does not refer to itself as "the Mormon Church" and discourages use of that term. The Church reemphasized that position in February of 2001, when it publicly encouraged the news media and the public to use the proper name of the Church."
In August 2018, President Russell M. Nelson announced that Church leaders had launched a major effort to use the full name of the Church instead of nicknames or abbreviations. His statement, in part, said, "the Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so."
Many members of the Church welcomed the official effort because they had long preferred to be known by their dedication to the Savior Jesus Christ. The Church eventually removed any references to "LDS Church," "Mormon," or "LDS," although the Church style guide produced for use by the media allowed members to be referred to as "Latter-day Saints" as a nickname. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ also followed the requested change and readjusted their blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and social media pages. For example, blogger Brad McBride took down his blog "Middleaged Mormon Man" for a few days while he had his "Mormon" removed, as he explained, and renamed it "Thus We See." He said, “Thus We See” are the words of Mormon, the only person who can still be called Mormon."
In the subsequent October General Conference, President Nelson addressed the millions of viewers tuned in with an address entitled, "The Correct Name of the Church." He referred to his August statement and reinforced that he "did this because the Lord impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He decreed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." He added that this "is a correction. It is the command of the Lord."
- To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement. . . . When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives.
The Origins of the ChurchJoseph Smith lived in rural New York in the United States. During his teenage years, there was a great surge of religious sentiment in America, and especially in his community. Revival meetings were held by many Protestant sects with a fervent effort to gain converts. There were many variations of Protestant doctrine. The Protestant movement itself was born of the belief that Orthodox Christianity had lost its way and had strayed from many of the truths originally taught by Christ and His apostles. Joseph came from a religious Christian family, but he felt he should affiliate with one of the churches. Confused, he resorted to a grove of trees to pray and ask the Lord what he should do. The Lord responded by appearing to Joseph, and presenting to him His Son. They announced that the eternal truths taught by Christ were about to be restored. The vision upset one very important established tenet in Christianity, the nature of the Godhead. The vision proved that God the Father and Jesus Christ were distinct, corporeal beings.
Joseph Smith received visions and revelations from God from 1820 until the end of his life. The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon these revelations, the word of the Bible, and also the word of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is an ancient record, translated by the power of God, which the Church proclaims is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is a history of and testimony from peoples of the ancient Americas, whom Christ visited after His resurrection.
Persecution followed Joseph Smith, and those who believed him, from the moment he received and reported his first vision. In the early years of the Church, its members were driven out of one place after another. It wasn't until they migrated under duress to Utah Territory that they were actually able to settle for any length of time. Despite persecution and Joseph Smith’s murder, the Church managed to flourish and has over 16.5 million members today. Many of them live outside the United States.
The Core of Belief
The core of Latter-day Saint belief is a belief in Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God, the Creator of Earth and Savior of the world. Christ is the center of His Church, so Latter-day Saints are Christians. In addition to believing that Christ has restored the lost eternal truths of the Gospel, Latter-day Saints believe He has restored priesthood authority, the authority to act in God's name. These keys have been handed down in an unbroken line ever since this restoration. The Church of Jesus Christ also holds as one of its core tenets that God speaks to His children today. He spoke to Joseph Smith, and to prophets living today. The Church, since its founding, has always had prophets to lead it. Modern revelation and modern scripture go hand-in-hand. The Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of latter-day revelations.
Central to Latter-day Saint belief is the knowledge that God has a plan for mankind, called the Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation teaches that human beings live before they come to this earth in a premortal existence as spirit children of God. Thus, they are literally His children. Earth life is a time of testing and discovery, a time to prepare for resurrection and glory. The atonement of Christ enables people to repent and return to God the Father. The companionship of the Holy Ghost gives worthy people access to personal revelation and answers to prayer, providing (along with the scriptures) an anchor and guide in a wicked world. At death, people move on to the Spirit World, where they have the same freedom of choice as they did in their mortal life. They are then resurrected—receiving a perfected body—and then judged by God. Those who are truly faithful then dwell eternally in His presence.
Other essential beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ include the idea that salvation is a gift to all men and women provided by Christ's atonement. Salvation means that all living beings will be resurrected. Most living souls will inherit a kingdom of glory. Exaltation, however, is dependent upon repentance and righteousness, and is bestowed through God's grace upon those who keep His commandments. Thus, both grace and works are necessary for exaltation. Latter-day Saints believe that men and women are judged according to the knowledge they possess. Latter-day Saints share their knowledge of the gospel with others through missionary work. They also provide ordinances for those who have died without hearing the gospel. These ordinances are performed in temples, and are only binding for people who desire to accept these ordinances as they are explained to them in the Spirit World.
The Importance of FamiliesFamiliesare very important in the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church asserts that, through temple work, families can be sealed together forever: husband to wife, and children to parents. Thus, the afterlife is perceived as a time of joyous reunion with loved ones.
The Latter-day Saint view of families changes family life in important ways:
- Marriage is looked upon as an eternal commitment and an important one. Latter-day Saints are highly encouraged to marry, and to make an inspired choice when choosing a companion.
- Latter-day Saint spouses who have made eternal commitments tend to weather marital challenges better than those who have made worldly, or temporary commitments.
- Latter-day Saint parents view themselves as caretakers of God's children and feel a responsibility to bring children into the world. Latter-day Saint parents are responsible for teaching morality, reverence, honesty, and compassion, and for providing spiritual experiences for their children.
- Latter-day Saint parents view themselves and their children as beings with eternal potential.
- Latter-day Saint funerals tend to be happy and inspiring events despite the grief caused by the loss of a loved one. Latter-day Saints expect to be reunited with their departed loved ones.
Why Members of the Church of Jesus Christ Stand Out
The Church of Jesus Christ is well known for its health code, the Word of Wisdom. Members of the Church do not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee; nor do they smoke, or use illegal drugs. The Word of Wisdom also encourages them to eat nutritiously, with a strong emphasis on grains, vegetables, and fruits, and to live a healthy lifestyle, both in body and mind. Because the Church emphasizes the importance of healthy living, happy families, service, and education, among other virtues, its members tend to be happy people, good citizens, and good neighbors, and have a reputation for honesty and selflessness.
Members of the Church are busy! The Church of Jesus Christ has a lay clergy, which means no one is paid for his or her service. Bishops (the equivalent of pastors or rabbis) serve in their Church callings and work in their outside, chosen professions at the same time. Virtually everyone in a ward has a calling. In communities where there are few members of the Church, the members may fill several callings at once. Church members are expected to give sermons and teach classes, help with welfare projects, plan recreational activities, visit and care for each other, manage the instruction of children, and attend church meetings for two hours every Sunday. And then many Latter-day Saints serve as missionaries far from home at their own expense. They generally rejoice in service and find that their abilities grow and talents multiply as they serve.
See The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more complete information about the Church.