Yet I decided to focus on the Prophet since we should all know what he said in the most recent General Conference. This did narrow the field considerably, yet it didn’t solve my dilemma; the Prophet spoke four times during Conference. Finally, I settled upon President Nelson’s remarks entitled “The Correct Name of the Church.”
Why this one? Certainly I see parallels between President Nelson’s remarks and the cultural changes I’ve repeatedly supported in the broader LDS culture. But something more here intrigues me. The Prophet spent a good 15 minutes in General Conference talking about something that superficially doesn’t seem wildly important.
“What’s in a name?” the Prophet asks. He then responds, “When it comes to the name of the Lord’s church, the answer is ‘Everything.’”
Leaning on revelation
I didn’t think I’d hear about this topic again when the style guide revisions President Nelson referenced originally appeared. But I’ve long considered them important.
I remember sharing the correct name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while attending my 10-year high school reunion. Living in the Bible Belt where my father was stationed when I was in high school provided me many opportunities to stand tall for my beliefs.
I found more at the reunion. The organizers asked everyone in advance to provide a few sentences to catch everyone else up on what had occurred since graduation. I of course included my full-time missionary service in my blurb.
Eventually conversation at the reunion turned towards my membership in the Church, and people began asking me questions. When one of them used the word Mormon in asking a question, I followed the answer with “But I don’t really use the term Mormon. I prefer to use Latter-day Saint.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” came the reply. “ I didn’t mean to offend.”
“I’m not offended,” I said. “I just have my preferences.” I then shared the same scripture President Nelson shared in his Conference address and explained I wanted to use the name the Savior provided through His Prophet.
Recognizing what’s “inconsequential”
That was my attitude back when President Hinckley was the Prophet. I can remember him speaking about the name Mormon in Conference, saying in effect the Latter-day Saints have taken a pejorative name and made it shine. Now it seems the current Prophet is leading the Church away from that name. Even what was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recently expunged the word Mormon from its name.
This may be another sifter separating the wheat from the tares. Shortly after President Hinckley spoke in Conference about how ladies should wear only one pair of earrings, one of my Institute teachers criticized him for speaking about something so “inconsequential.”
My teacher’s criticism of the Prophet took him off the covenant path and on the road to apostasy. That “inconsequential” admonition from the Prophet sifted the less faithful out from among the more faithful. We might describe this latest “inconsequential” admonition from the current Prophet similarly.
Using the proper name of the Church requires many more words than some may care to employ. But the promise which President Nelson gave to those who’ll do their best to conform to the Lord’s desire is anything but inconsequential.
Imagine that — “the likes of which we have never seen”!
Centering on Christ through language
Of course, phrases like that carry significance because words mean things. Language matters. And that’s the essence of President Nelson’s argument to use the correct name of the Church.
And that excites me. We need to be more intentional in our language, particularly regarding names and labels. I’ve long advocated replacing family ward with general membership ward (or just general ward) to describe the majority of our congregations. Such a move helps everyone feel included, thus moving us closer to the Christ-centered culture we need.
Indeed, President Nelson encouraged using the correct name of the Church in order to emphasize the Savior. This is the Lord’s church. Including His name when we share the name of His church in any forum recognizes His proper role and centers us more fully on Him.
So what’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Romeo may declare “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet,” but there’s nothing sweet about removing the Lord from His proper place in His Church or in our hearts. Using the correct name of the Church honors Him whose church this is and centers us more on Him. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
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