What's In A Name?

by Rocky Hulse

December 2005

I often hear the following statement from Mormons: “Of course Mormonism is Christian, the name of Jesus Christ is part of our church name ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’”. Well, the current name wasn’t always the name, as many Mormons may believe.

The Mormon Church was originally organized as a church on April 6, 1830, and was first named the “Church of Christ.” This name was purportedly given by a direct revelation from God to Joseph Smith in Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants (One of the four books of the Mormon Canon). The heading of Section 20 reads:

“REVELATION on Church Organization and Government, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, April, 1830. Preceding his record of this revelation the Prophet wrote: We obtained of him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize his Church once more here upon the earth….” This heading to Section 20 makes it pretty clear that the Mormon belief is that Joseph Smith received this information as a direct REVELATION from God.

Verses 1 and 2 of Section 20 read: “1. The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April— 2. Which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jun., who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first elder of this church;”

Clearly by the heading of this Section and the first two verses, Joseph Smith said he received a REVELATION from God and was commanded to organize the church and name it the “Church of Christ.”
In the “History of the Church” Vol 2, pages 62 -63, under the date of May 3, 1834 we read:
“Minutes of a Conference on the Elders of the Church of Christ, which Church was organized in the township of Fayette, Seneca county, New York, on the 6th of April, A. D. 1830.
President Joseph Smith, Jun., was chosen moderator, and Fredrick G. Williams and Oliver Cowdery were appointed clerks.

After prayer, the conference proceeded to discuss the subject of names and appellations, when a motion was made by Sidney Rigdon, and seconded by Newel K. Whitney, that this Church be known hereafter by the name of “The Church of the Latter-day Saints.” Remarks were made by the members, after which the motion passed by unanimous vote.”

So, four years after the original naming of the Mormon Church, on May 3, 1834 the leadership of Mormonism, by unanimous vote (Joseph Smith being present and voting) changed the name from the “REVELATION given and God commanded name” of the “Church of Christ” to “The Church of the Latter-day Saints.” Note that the name of Christ, or Jesus Christ had been entirely removed. I guess that deflates the argument: “Of course Mormonism is Christian, the name of Jesus Christ is part of our church name ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’”; the current Mormon Church being founded on its predecessor, which removed the name of Christ from its name entirely, can’t stand on that argument when we examine history.

So when did the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” come about? “Doctrine and Covenants” Section 115 holds the answer. The heading to Section 115 reads: “REVELATION given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Far West, Missouri, April 26, 1838, making known the will of God concerning the building up of that place, and of the Lord’s House. This revelation is addressed to the presiding officers of the Church. — The official name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, confirmed by the Lord…”

Again we see Joseph Smith says he received a REVELATION. Section 115 verse 4 says: “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Let’s recap – On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith says he received a direct REVELATION from God commanding the Mormon Church to be named the “Church of Christ.” Four years later on May 3, 1834, the Mormon Church leadership, by unanimous vote with Joseph Smith present, changes the name to “The Church of the Latter-day Saints.” Mormonism teaches that their leaders are God’s oracles on earth and are led directly by Him. Four years after that on April 26, 1838, Joseph Smith says he gets another REVELATION from God to change the name of the Mormon Church to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

So, in the space of eight years the god of Mormonism changed his mind three times about the name of his church. In the Bible, in the Book of Hebrews Chapter 13 Verse 8 it says “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Based on the name changes of the Mormon Church, it seems to me the God of the Bible and the god of Mormonism can’t be the same. I’ve always said “It’s hard to keep a lie straight.” The God of the Bible isn’t a liar!