Question: What is the history of name changes of the Church?


Question: What is the history of name changes of the Church?

The original name of the Church when it was organized in 1830 was the "Church of Christ"

The original name of the Church when it was organized in 1830 was the "Church of Christ." Mormonism to some extent originated in the historical context of the restorationist movement. This movement consisted of Christians who believed that the original Christianity needed to be restored, and it was a common belief among Christian restorationists that the name of a Christian church should properly be the "Church of Christ." Many new members of the Church brought such ideas with them when they became "Mormons."

This caused practical problems, however, since there were lots of restorationist groups who named their local churches the "Church of Christ," so there was tremendous confusion. (Indeed, one of the groups that descends from Alexander Campbell's Disciples of Christ continues to use the name "Church of Christ" to this day.)

The use of the term "Mormonite" prompted changes in order to distinguish the Church from other Christian churches

This, coupled with the use of the common antagonistic epithet "Mormonite" (soon simplified to "Mormon"), led to a desire for a more distinctive name that would distinguish our church from so many others that were using the same name.

So in April 1834, under the influence of Sidney Rigdon (according to David Whitmer),[1] who had been a reformed Baptist preacher with close ties to Alexander Campbell prior to joining the church, the official name of the church was changed to the "Church of Latter Day Saints."

There was no attempt to distance the Church from the name of Christ

This was no attempt to distance the Church from the name of Christ or its claims to be Christ's church. In 1835, the official Church paper referred to the:

"rise and progress of the church of Christ of Latter Day Saints" [2]

The final name of the Church came through revelation

The basis for the present name of the church came in DC 115:3, received on April 26, 1838: the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Note how this name combines elements of the original name and the Rigdon-inspired name.

In 1851 when the church formally incorporated, the name included a corporate initial article "The" and a British hyphenization of "Latter-day," thus becoming the formal name we use to this day, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Other groups that split off from the church, such as the Strangites and the Reorganization {RLDS, now Community of Christ}, kept the original unhyphenated "Latter Day" in their formal names.

The members of the Church have always seen themselves as Christians, and members of "the Church of Jesus Christ"

This chart demonstrates that the members of the Church have always seen themselves as Christians, and members of "the Church of Jesus Christ."

Journal or Series Church of Christ Church of Jesus Christ Church of Jesus Christ of LDS Latter-day Saints alone Mormon Church
Evening and Morning Star (1832-1834) 115 1 xx 0 0
Messenger and Advocate (1834-1837) 33 0 xx 0 1
Elders Journal (1837-1838) 10 2 1 4 0
Times and Seasons (1839-1846) 118 13 24 47 4
Journal of Discourses 26 vols. (1839-1886)

1438 sermons

167 59 308 3255 10
Collected Discourses 5 vols. (1886-1898)

432 sermons

149 15 139 1121 7
General Conference Reports, (1880, 1897-1970) 780 671 3180 6291 333 [3]
Millennial Star (incomplete study) - 84 - - -
The Seer 0 6 6 0 0

xx = no use of name "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" because that name was not yet in use during the journal's publication dates.

Source: Ted Jones, FairMormon researcher, private communication (7 April 2007); updated 1 April 2010.

Notes

  1. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).
  2. W. W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery, June 1835, "Letter No. 8," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 9 (June 1835), 129–31. off-site See also W. W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery, "Letter No. 11," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 no. 1 (October 1835), 193–95. off-site
  3. The vast majority of these were in describing what others said about the Church.