Why are we called Mormons?

The nickname “Mormons” stems from our unique book of scripture, The Book of Mormon.  Initially, it was a derogatory term used by the critics (haters, killers, mobs) to refer to the members of the Church.  Eventually, members of the church seemed to own the name, even took pride in being a peculiar Mormon.

A well-known anecdote from the life of Joseph F. Smith (nephew of the founder, Joseph Smith) provides a look at both sides of this label.

After serving a four-year mission in the Hawaiian Islands, from 1854 to 1857, young Joseph F. Smith began his long journey home to Utah. He boated across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, then slowly began his journey by foot with a small company of Latter-day Saints.

One day when the company had stopped to camp and rest, a group of troublemakers came storming through. Most of the men ran and hid, but Joseph decided he had nothing to be afraid of, so he continued the task of piling firewood in the camp. As he did so, one of the men approached him with a pistol, declaring that it was his duty to exterminate every Mormon he came in contact with. As he pointed his pistol at Joseph, he demanded, “Are you a Mormon?”

Without fear or hesitation, Joseph answered, “Yes siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.”

The man was so startled by the courage of young Joseph F. Smith that he dropped his pistol and said, “Well, you are the [expletive deleted] pleasantest man I ever met! Shake, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions.” The man rode off, with the others following behind (Joseph Fielding Smith, Life of Joseph F. Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, 189).

Since the “Mormons” settled in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, we have used, and even embraced, the name “Mormons”.   We have also embraced the acronym LDS (Latter-day Saints) as a shortened version of the official name of the church.  Both of these are technically inaccurate.

The actual name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That was the name that Jesus Christ revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1830, which he set about to organize the church. It’s long, and maybe a little bit of a mouthful, but when you break it down, it is very instructive–

  • The Church of Jesus Christ.  This is His church.  He restored it, He leads it.  It’s the same church with the same authority and doctrines and ordinances that He first founded in 30 AD.
  • Of Latter-Day this iteration is in the latter-days.  Not the former-days. Not the ancient days.  It’s the same church, just in a different time period.  The Bible is full of references to the “last days”.  This is the Church that Isaiah prophesied would be on the tops of the mountains in the last days.
  • Saints The members of the church are referred to as Saints.  Not because we are flawless, infallible or perfect.  The early apostles wrote letters in the New Testament and often addressed them to the “Saints”.  It’s the title for people who believe and belong to Christ’s church.  All other definitions of the word have been imposed on it since the time of the apostles, but they inflate the credentials of what it means to be a Saint.  A Saint is a follower of Christ, a member of His church.

So take it all together again: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We refer to ourselves as Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

In fact, (and I can’t believe I didn’t see more news about this) in October 2018, just two years ago, our current Prophet Russell M. Nelson announced that we will no longer refer to ourselves as “Mormons” or “LDS” because both of those nicknames leave out the most essential part of our church’s identity–Jesus Christ.  We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ.  The church has diligently renamed websites, organizations, even colleges that use either of the two nicknames.  Instead of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for example, we now have the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square.  LDS Business College has just been changed to Ensign College.  LDS.org is now ChurchofJesusChrist.org. (This website stays the same because if you only know of us as Mormons, you’ll Google that–and we are here for curious readers).

We wouldn’t want anyone to be confused about who we are or what we believe if we self-identify as anything but followers of Jesus Christ.  So even though “Mormons” is shorter, please be patient as we introduce ourselves as Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We Believe In Jesus Christ

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints our faith is rooted in the reality of Jesus Christ.  We believe in Him, we believe that He is the Son of God, we believe that He is our Savior.  We believe that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life” (John 3:16) We believe that He is the way, the truth, and the life and no man cometh unto the Father, but by Him (John 14:6).   

We also believe that he is the Bread of Life and The Living Water and if we will eat and drink of Him that we will never hunger or thirst (John 6:35).  I know that this is true.  My life has been full of the blessings of God.  The beautiful part is that I know that God will bless any and all people if they will follow His Son and His teachings.  That knowledge brings peace in an increasingly turbulent world.  I believe in Jesus Christ!   


Why don’t Mormon Churches have the Cross?

This was a question I saw recently, about if Mormon church buildings have crosses or not. When you come and visit our church buildings, you won’t see a cross at the front of the chapel or at the top of the steeple. Many Christian churches use the cross as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection. We as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also remember the suffering of our Savior, but because Christ lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.

When the church’s prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley was asked, “If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?” He replied, “that the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.”

When we are baptized and confirmed, we promise to take the name of Jesus Christ upon ourselves. The manner that we live our lives should show our love for Christ and his gospel.

The Christ Child: A Nativity Story

This new depiction of the Nativity story recounts in beautiful detail the sacred events found in the Bible about Jesus’s birth over 2,000 years ago. Journey with Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Witness the awe of the shepherds in the plains of Judea. Feel the joy of the wise men as they kneel before the Light of the World – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Mormons Believe in the Freedom to Choose

Mormons believe that agency is eternal principle.  Agency is the right to choose between good and evil and to act for ourselves.  We believe that this was very important even before we were born. In the premortal life we had the ability to choose and we chose that we would follow Christ.

“What is the purpose of life?”  Life on earth is a period of testing to see if we will follow Christ and do the things that our Heavenly Father has commanded us.  Because we are able to choose, we are responsible for our actions. (see Helaman 14:30-31

One verse that I really like is 2 Nephi 2:27.

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”

The choices that we make here on earth are important.  When we choose to follow Christ, it will lead us to happiness and eternal life.  When we follow the temptations of the devil, we will find that we become captive in sin and miserable.   Though his temptations may seem fun and will make you happy, the consequences will be further separation from God and captivity to the devil.  

Heavenly Father has told us in the scriptures how to escape the captivity of Satan.   We must watch and pray always, asking God to help us withstand the temptations that we face. (3 Nephi 18:15)   We will never be allowed to be tempted beyond our powers to resist, our Heavenly Father won’t allow it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As we choose to follow the Savior, Jesus Christ, we will be happy and have eternal life.