Today I’m studying the talk “Thus Shall My Church Be Called,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1990 General Conference.
First of all – I’m excited – I made it to the 90s! We still have a long way to go until I’m reading President Nelson’s current talks, but getting to a new decade is still pretty exciting. At the time President Nelson gave this talk, I was 11 1/2 years old. I’m sure that I watched this when I was a kid, but I have no recollection of this talk or of any of the talks that I’ve read up to this point. I have absolutely loved reading and studying these talks now.
This talk is about the name of our church. It seems like we hear these types of talks every once in a while.
I remember hearing a part of an interview of the creators of the Book of Mormon musical. They were laughing about how awkward the name of our church is, there are too many prepositional phrases in it. I hate to say it, but I kind of understood what they meant.
I lived in Texas until I was almost 15 years old. Then I moved to Pennsylvania until I went to college. Most people hadn’t heard of my church, and if they had, they always thought of us as “Mormons.” If someone asked me what church I went to, I often found myself answering, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Often, I was met with a blank stare and clarification. Then I’d say, “I’m a Mormon.”
Though I don’t say, “I go to the Mormon Church,” and I know the true name of our church, I can see why it is good for the Apostles to give talks like these from time to time. This talk is a good resource for us to share with others when they may have questions about the name of our church. It is also a good reminder to us – to remember the name of our church and what it means.
President Nelson begins by teaching us what the word “saints” actually means – as far as it is used by the Savior and in the Bible. He taught:
“Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love.” – Russell M. Nelson
Though people commonly think of a saint as “one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent holiness,” this is not how we use the term. Instead, we use the term in a more biblical sense. In the Bible, those who were Christians were considered Saints.
A great example of this is through reading the epistles of Paul. As President Nelson noted:
“Paul addressed an epistle “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1.)
In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul used the word saint at least once in every chapter!” – Russell M. Nelson
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we consider saints to be individuals who are converted and who are striving to be the kind of people the Savior wants us to be. We are living. We are imperfect. We are faithful.
“Latter-day” has never really been a difficult concept for me to understand, but then again, I grew up in the church. President Nelson explained:
“The term latter-day is an expression especially difficult for translators who labor in languages in which there is not a good equivalent term. Some translations may suggest last day.
It is true that scriptures foretell the final days of the earth’s temporal existence as a telestial sphere. The earth will then be renewed and receive its paradisiacal, or terrestrial, glory. (See A of F 1:10.) Ultimately, the earth will become celestialized. (See Rev. 21:1; D&C 77:1; D&C 88:25–26.) But its last days must be preceded by its latterdays!
We live in those latter days, and they are really remarkable. The Lord’s Spirit is being poured out upon all inhabitants of the earth, precisely as the Prophet Joel foretold.” – Russell M. Nelson
So – if the “last days” are the final days of the earth’s temporal existence (hard to get my mind around – I guess that’s Armageddon), then this current time could be considered the days right before the last day. So, the latter days.
Late, but not last.
Maybe if I was thinking of this in terms of a baseball game, we are in the latter innings – post 7th inning stretch, but the game isn’t over.
The game isn’t over, but it’s wrapping up.
So – when we think of the name of the Church, the name that the Lord gave, then we understand that we are the saints of the last days – we are not the saints of the meridian of time. We are not the saints of the early days of the church. We are the saints that are “playing” during the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.
One other point stood out to me in this talk regarding the latter days. President Nelson stated:
I’m currently typing my thoughts on a laptop computer. I read this talk on my iPhone – a computer that essentially fits in my pocket. I have more information accessible to me than I can process. I can do family history work, I can call and communicate with the other side of the world. I can facetime family and friends who live in other time zones.
I can drive across town, I can fly across the country. I can watch TV, movies, etc. I can wash my clothes in a machine. I wash my dishes in another machine.
I don’t butcher my food, but I go to a grocery store that sells me both local and exotic foods.
The changes in our lives and technology in these “latter-days” is astounding and quite mind-boggling. It is especially so when you compare the current rate of technology with any other period of time.
I believe that these changes are evidence that these are the “latter days” – when the Lord is hastening His work.
President Nelson explained:
“By divine directive, the title of the Church bears the sacred name of Jesus Christ, whose church this is.” – Russell M. Nelson
This Church is the Church of Jesus Christ. We worship God in Christ’s name. He is central to our faith and our salvation. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no need for any other part of our church’s name. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Book of Mormon (it is a Testament of Jesus Christ!) Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As President Nelson shared:
“We revere the name of Jesus Christ. He is our risen Redeemer.” – Russell M. Nelson
Jesus Christ created the earth.
Jesus Christ was Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Jesus Christ came to this world to do the work and the will of His Father. He lived a perfect life, taught, served, suffered, died, and was resurrected – so that we could find hope and Salvation.
Jesus Christ lives and loves us.
Jesus Christ will one day return.
Sometimes I wonder why we need to have an organized church. There are so many people I know, love, and respect who are smart and spiritual people that don’t believe in an “organized religion.” Sometimes this idea is pretty attractive to me – to simply believe in Christ but not be a part of some kind of organization.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is very individualized. We are to counsel with God. We are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Yet, we are also commanded to gather together often as saints.
President Nelson taught:
“The Church is the way by which the Master accomplishes His work and bestows His glory. Its ordinances and related covenants are the crowning rewards of our membership. While many organizations can offer fellowship and fine instruction, only His church can provide baptism, confirmation, ordination, the sacrament, patriarchal blessings, and the ordinances of the temple—all bestowed by authorized priesthood power. That power is destined to bless all children of our Heavenly Father, regardless of their nationality:
“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth.” (D&C 65:2; see also Dan. 2:37–45; D&C 109:72.)” – Russell M. Nelson
Though the idea of a personal, spiritual quest with mountain top church and without social structure sounds kind of nice, it is actually not ideal. It is not what the Lord has organized for us. It doesn’t offer the ordinances and covenants that we need in order to receive salvation.
We need the Church because we need each other. We need to bear one another’s burdens. I’m uplifted when I help to lift others. And I know that I have been the recipient of love and comfort from others, too.
We need to comfort others, we need to serve others. We need the chance to bear our testimony and hear the testimonies of others. Through the organization of the Church, we are able to get these things that we need – to help with our spiritual and emotional nourishment.
Of course, we are imperfect, which sometimes means that “The Church” is imperfect. Despite this, the Savior has commanded us to be a Church – to nurture and love one another. Sometimes the “imperfect” thing is exactly what we need. We need each other – we need The Church.
Finally, it is crucial to remember that the name: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is what the Lord named the church. It wasn’t a name made up by Joseph Smith. It was given to Joseph Smith by the Lord. We read:
“Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” – Doctrine and Covenants 115:4
I’m so grateful to be a member of this Church. I know that it is a blessing that I’ve been given. I haven’t done anything to deserve it. I’m not more righteous or special than anyone else. Yet I have the light and truth of the gospel in my life. I’ve been able to make covenants that have blessed me and my family. I’m so grateful to be able to proclaim, “I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
I’m also grateful to know that our prophet understands the name of our Church and that the name was given by the Savior. President Nelson isn’t under any kind of presumption that this is his church since he is the prophet. This is Christ’s church, and I’m so grateful to know that President Nelson understands this and what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.