Mormon Obedience: On Disregarding the Prophet’s Preferences

On Sunday morning, President Nelson dedicated his full full talk to shutting down the use of Mormon and other nicknames for the church. This seems to be something he feels passionate about, and something that has been weighing on his mind for a long time. He went so far as to assert that Jesus is offended if we use, or allow others to use, nicknames for the church, and at least intimates that the use of nicknames represents both a victory for Satan and disregard for the Atonement.

So what are we, as faithful members of the church, to do with this? We absolutely have to take it seriously.

But that raises the question of what taking it seriously means. And I believe that this is a tougher question that it appears at first blush. Because taking it seriously isn’t (necessarily) the same as obeying. To take it seriously requires that we engaged, spiritually and intellectually, with what Pres. Nelson has said.

Engaging spiritually and intellectually means we can’t do two things: we can’t reject it out of hand. But also, we can’t accept it reflexively. Neither of those demonstrates any kind of engagement or thought. And neither of those meets our duties in this life.

See, we can’t offload our spiritual life to the church. Brigham Young said this explicitly:

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

He may well have assumed that the whispering of the Spirit would in fact confirm everything he said, but he nonetheless put the onus on us to determine whether he was, in fact, providing the will and the word of the Lord. J. Reuben Clark emphasized that, while the prophet is the only person entitled to receive revelation for the body of the church,

I do not know if this [the story he just told] ever happened, but I say it illustrates a princi­ple—that even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” when he addresses the people.

Blindly accepting everything the church leaders—including the president of the church—say as the will and the word of the Lord frankly doesn’t allow them to be human, with the tics and idiosyncratic preferences that we allow to other people. And it doesn’t fulfill our duty to figure out what the Lord wants us to do.

At the same time, though, reflexively rejecting the Pres. Nelson’s words is just as untenable a position for faithful members of the church. The president of the church is the single person who can speak on behalf of the whole church. He’s the mouthpiece God can use to communicate, when God wants (or needs) to do so.

So, having taken Pres. Nelson’s injunction very seriously, and having thought about it deeply, I’ve come to my conclusion: I’m going to continue to use Mormon both to self-identify and as shorthand when talking about the church.

And right here, I need to stop and make a couple things clear: I speak 100% for myself here. I don’t speak for my cobloggers or anybody else—it’s perfectly reasonable that they could look at the same things I’ve looked at and come to a different conclusion (and, in fact, I know that some have). Also, I’m not making any normative statements beyond the statement that we have a responsibility to engage deeply with Pres. Nelson’s words. I certainly don’t think we have a duty to continue to use Mormon, and I don’t think anybody who has come to a different conclusion than I have has an inferior engagement with his words.

So why do I come out where I do? A handful of reasons

A Debatable Reading of Scripture

Pres. Nelson grounds his assertion that we shouldn’t use nicknames in two scriptures: D&C 115:4 and 3 Ne. 27:7-8.

In D&C 115:4, the Lord says, “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” In 3 Nephi, Jesus sounds the same theme, saying, among other things, “And how be it my church save it be called in my name?”

Pres. Nelson is reading the word “called” in the sense of the first clause of definition 2(a) in the contemporary Merriam-Webster dictionary:

to speak of or address by a specified name : give a name to

(emphasis added). Now, that’s a perfectly fair way to read it today. But D&C 115 was received in 1838, and 3 Nephi was translated in the 1820s. And what did “called” mean then? Well, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary doesn’t include the “speak or address” definition. But note that even the contemporary dictionary has a second clause, which reflects definition 1 from 1828:

To name; to denominate or give a name.

I mean, it’s possible that the Lord meant, in scripture, that we were to refer to the church as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” But if we were to read D&C 115 in both a presentist and literal enough manner to exclude the use of the nickname “Mormon,” we couldn’t justify any nickname, even if it included the name of our Savior. Because read literally with a contemporary definition of call, D&C 115 would require the full name every time. But even the church recognizes that sometimes we’re not going to use the whole thing, which cuts against that kind of super-literalistic reading of D&C 115:4.

At the very least, it’s remarkably plausible (and, I’d say, likely) that the use of “called” in the scriptures means “named.” And the church is named “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” no matter how we refer to it.[fn1]

“Mormon” Has Been Accepted and Used By All of the Prophets Until Now

I’m going to grant Pres. Nelson the ability to use hyperbole. I don’t think he actually believes that the use of the word “Mormon” to describe the church means a victory for Satan or the disregarding of the Atonement. I mean, afaik, every prophet in the church’s history has used the term. They may have used it reluctantly. They may not have loved it. (Otoh, they may not have used it reluctantly, and they may have loved it.) But it has been an acceptable part of discourse within (and without) the church for a long time.

And that’s not to say things can’t change. But it’s not to say the must change, either.

“Mormon” is an Important Identifier

I know that, technically, Mormon church and LDS church and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all fungible. But, it turns out, they’re not all fungible everywhere. I mean, I grew up in Southern California, where there were and are a ton of Mormons. But my wife’s grandmother grew up in rural West Virginia. She eventually joined the church after her daughter-in-law joined. And how did she know about it? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s radio broadcasts. That gave her some idea of what Mormons were. If we take out that identifier, what are we going to replace it with? Because honestly, people aren’t going to bother with (or necessarily remember) the full name of the church, unless and until they have time to engage it. But if they can’t remember what it is, why are they going to bother engaging it.

We can’t do “Church of Christ” or “Church of Jesus Christ,” because those denominations exist. (Also, they’re not what D&C 115 says we’re to call the church, if we’re stuck on that reading of call.) We may be a restorationist church, but “Restoration Movement” has an accepted meaning (which, as a spiritual descendant of Alexander Campbell, we kind of fit in). So we have, apparently, to coin a new shortened name, without the history, and, frankly, without the ability to claim “Jesus Christ” within the name.

I Don’t Need to Agree With Prophetic Preferences

I get that Pres. Nelson really cares about this. He has every right to. But I’m not obligated to share the tastes of the church leadership. For instance, nobody ever demanded that I share Pres. Monson’s taste in poetry (which I don’t). I would be shocked to find out that any of the general authorities listen to the music I listen to, watch the TV shows I do (though they should watch The Good Place, because everybody should), or engage in the sports I enjoy.

I share a central interest and goal with them—the goal of fully taking advantage of the good news of Jesus—but outside of that, my interests and preferences diverge from theirs. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Final Thoughts

So that’s my evaluative processes. Like I said, you may well come to a different conclusion than I have. I don’t think my decision to continue to use “Mormon” and “LDS” is True or is morally better than someone else’s decision to drop them. But I do think I have taken Pres. Nelson’s words seriously, and engaged them in an honest and deep way. And, as I said, the sole normative takeaway I want from this is just that: when the prophet speaks, we have an obligation to take what he says seriously, to truly engage it critically, and to come to a conclusion. And, when we’ve come to our conclusion, we have the additional obligation to respect the conclusions others have come to.

[fn1] FWIW, this definition of “called” still seems to have significant currency, at least in British English. See, e.g., Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: “In the autumn of 1806 they received an addition in a gentleman called John Segundus.” (I have it on Kindle, so it’s toward the beginning, Location 126.)

You can hear a couple British financial journalists using “called” to mean “named” at this Slate Money podcast, too. Listen especially to the minute or so starting at 7:20, and couple dozen seconds starting at about 24 minutes.


  1. “I’m not obligated to share the tastes of the church leadership. . . . [T]he sole normative takeaway I want from this is just that: when the prophet speaks, we have an obligation to take what he says seriously, to truly engage it critically, and to come to a conclusion. And, when we’ve come to our conclusion, we have the additional obligation to respect the conclusions others have come to.”

    A perfect 10.

  2. Cody Hatch says:

    Sam, another possible way of reading, “And how be it my church save it be called in my name,” is to see us as being called to Christ’s work through his name. We are called in his name at baptism when we are reborn in God’s three-fold name. In addition, the NT Greek word translated as “church” is ekklesia, which is an assembly of those summoned, or “called out.”

    Just to note that there does appear to be leeway in how one interprets that verse.

  3. In terms of using the term “Mormon”, Pres. Nelson basically said we’ve been doing it wrong as an institution for 150 years and the Lord is not pleased and we need to repent. This is right up there with blacks and priesthood and the ending of polygamy in terms of saying that something we’ve been doing institutionally is fundamentally wrong. I don’t know how this will play out or how long it will take for me to stop saying “LDS” or referring to myself as a Mormon. It might take 5 or 10 years. I remember while in Duke Law School, a professor in the Public Policy School who was LDS err Mormon err a Latter-day Saint was speaking at church about ethnicity, and the components of ethnicity, and he said he realized that he is ethnically Mormon. Mormonism has its own identity and set of rules and norms. Part of that ethnicity is the label “Mormon”. I don’t know what label to call myself at the moment. “Member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ” doesn’t create the same sense of “place” for me. “Latter-day Saint” feels okay. We’ll see how it plays out, but I do feel a little displaced about my religious identity merely in the sense that the term I’ve used comfortably to define myself my whole life (“I’m a Mormon”) was a label that’s wrong and, per President Nelson, pleasing to Satan

  4. I couldn’t agree more. President Hinckley’s Conference Talk from October 1990 (referencing a talk by Elder Nelson on the same subject in the April Conference that year – so he’s been bothered about this for a long time) encapsulates a sensible approach to the issue that I am very comfortable with. I have always tried to use the full name of the Church when appropriate but sometimes it just isn’t!! I think that getting all worked up over people referring to us as Mormons is counter-productive and I have yet to see any reason for the new edict. I certainly don’t agree with the ‘victory for Satan’ idea.

  5. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Thanks for this, Sam. I’m also taking this seriously, and have given it much thought (and will surely continue to keep thinking over the next number of years). For right now, my usage of mormon/LDS/etc. will be a mixed bag. As always, context matters. It matters, a lot, and I think President Nelson has attempted to remove context from all of this – which nearly always leads to problems. When I am asked if I am Mormon, or LDS, the question is rarely “Are you a member of that church that doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ?” Rather, it’s some version of “Are you a member of that church in Utah that believes in gold plates and Joseph Smith?” My answer to that question will be “yes, I am!” Taking the question as an opportunity to educate a colleague, or to reaffirm a belief in Christ, might seem like an opportunity for proselytizing, but in the contexts in which I am asked the question, it will often come off as conceited and defensive. Members of the Church have already earned that reputation, and I’m happy to not perpetuate it. If a colleague is asking out of a desire to actually understand my beliefs, I’m happy to have that discussion, and to place Christ in the center of my presentation. If, however, the question is merely an attempt to categorize me among the many existing Christian denominations, I’ll give them what they need to do so, and then move along. Context always matters.

  6. Bro. Jones says:

    The problem comes when the tastes of church leadership become weaponized. Back when President Hinckley commented on multiple piercings, he didn’t couch it in prophetic language, cite to scripture, or declare it a revelation. He said, (quoting from “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth”), “May I mention earrings and rings placed in other parts of the body. These are not manly. They are not attractive. You young men look better without them, and I believe you will feel better without them. As for the young women, you do not need to drape rings up and down your ears. One modest pair of earrings is sufficient.”

    To emphasize and insert a couple of words: “[I think that] they are not attractive. [I think] you young men look better without them, and I believe you will feel better without them…[I think] one modest pair of earrings is sufficient.” In short, multiple/male piercings weren’t his thing. And it was fine for him to say so.

    But somehow this got turned into a part of the BYU honor code and, in a later talk by Pres. Bednar, an obedience test. Same thing is going to happen with President Nelson’s naming preference, and more quickly because he *did* frame it in terms of God’s will. Those of us who continue to use terms like “Mormon” will at first get chided by our leadership, then taken aside and warned. Wait for it.

  7. Very well stated, Sam. I agree with you 100% about being free to disagree with Nelson’s preferences. What makes this a thorny issue is that he intentionally leveraged the verbiage of prophetic revelation and inspiration to give his opinion more weight. This makes the issue more black and white than your interpretation, at least in the minds of many mormons.

    I don’t think this black or white, all or nothing approach does the church any favors (and while Hinckley appeared to be more nuanced on this subject, he has his own problems with black and white thinking, a la his assertion that the church is either true or a complete fraud). This is the mentality that leads people to balk when they are first exposed to our historical contradictions.

    Nelson’s talks at this conference (and previously) show that he is capable of very little nuance: i.e., God’s love is conditional, the temple rites are “ancient,” unanimity among the brethren is revelation.

  8. I don’t think I could ever call myself a “Latter-day Saint,” which is, as far as I can tell, the only “acceptable” shorthand. Presumptuous and wrong, I think. I’m not a saint. Call no man good . . . let alone a saint. I’ve never been comfortable with that appellation and don’t think I will ever be.

    I’m with everyone else who had pointed out that Baptists, Methodists, etc. don’t have the problem as being seen as Christian. If we don’t, it surely isn’t the name people call us. It’s what we do (or don’t do).

  9. Bro. Jones, I was thinking about including that. I did want to push back against the weaponization of prophetic preferences. I mean, the no-earrings thing was easy for me. Getting my ears pierced was never really an issue for me because, although I had vague interest in it in high school, I’m not the hugest fan of the idea of poking a hole in part of my body.

    What I want to do more than anything with the post is open a space for faithful and productive disagreement with preferences. I take that last no-judgment sentence very seriously, and I believe that our learning how to make moral choices is critical to our purpose in life. And, frankly, the question of using “Mormon” or not is so low-stakes that it’s a great way to practice engaging with a church leader’s counsel and making the determination of how important it is. Because what’s the worst thing that can happen if you make the wrong choice (assuming there is a wrong choice)? And so we need to make room for people who do use “Mormon” (and who have two piercings and who don’t wear a white shirt and who wear pants to church &c. &c.).

  10. I agree with your first reason. I’ve been reading the scriptures seriously for more than 50 years. In all of that time I have always understood DC 115:4 to mean that CJCLDS was the official name of the church and not that the Lord was instructing us to use that official name whenever we refer to it or its members.

    And I have always been proud to be a Mormon, even when I was a self conscious teenager. To me that name encapsulated our unique heritage and place among Christian denominations. So to be told by the prophet that my religious identity has been a victory for Satan is disorienting. Thanks for trying to think this through in a public forum.

  11. Bro. Jones says:

    Sam: Oh, I’m in complete agreement that making room for people to disagree is a good thing. But I ain’t in leadership, and it’s not going to be me calling up Sunday School teachers to tell them that they need to use the “full name” of the church or face release. It’s not even going to be every bishop that does that, but Pres. Nelson’s talk is another arrow in the quiver of those who like to maintain boundaries, not for those who try to enlarge our tents.

  12. Last Lemming says:

    As awesome as it is to see a shoutout to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I’m not sure the example in the footnote supports your point. Either definition would work in the sentence you quote. Unless your point is that Segundus was generally called (first definition) by his last name only. But almost nobody reading this thread except me is going to know that.

  13. Last Lemming, that actually was my point; thanks for making it clear! (I drafted up the footnotes this morning, shortly before taking my kids to school, so I didn’t take a ton of care in it—I was just glad I could find the location of the uses that I vaguely remembered.) Ditto with the podcast—they’re literally using “called” to mean “named.”

  14. It seems like, if you’re going to go down this road (of accepting the possibility that a prophet will speak the Lord will and be wrong), then you have to grapple deeply with your concept of false prophets, because scripture says some pretty harsh things about them. Can a prophet falsely speak the Lord’s will and not be a false prophet? It’s not a trick question, just something that I think needs to be engaged with in a deeper-than-cursory way.

  15. I can’t speak for the church, I don’t blog, and I don’t care what others call me…all I took from this talk was to refocus my belief on Christ and to try and not worry about the baggage created by history or others identified as “Mormon”, or think that somehow I am responsible for everything “Mormon” or to even think of myself as “Mormon” any longer….but to think of myself as a follower of Christ through the lens and practices of this church. In my mind yes Pres. Nelson overshot the mark a bit in his zeal but he does have the right, and the only right, to speak for the church at this time so it is what it is.

  16. Kullervo, that’s an important point. I tried to hint at my response in the post, but I’m happy to make it explicit: as long as we believe that the prophet isn’t infallible—and we claim to believe in the fallibility of prophets, both in scripture and in the modern world—we have to accept that they’ll be wrong sometimes, even (possibly) when they preface their statement with “Thus saith the Lord.”

    It’s also worth noting that I don’t claim that Pres. Nelson was wrong; I don’t know that this is a binary true/false kind of thing. But even if he was wrong (whatever that means), I don’t think it implicates false prophetness. I’m not going to do the work of figuring out a definition for “false prophet,” but it seems to me that at the very least, it requires claiming a status that you don’t have, and using that to promote your own version of God’s word. I can’t figure out a viable way to say that being wrong causes somebody to be a false prophet without entirely giving up the idea of the fallibility of prophets. And I can’t get to infallible prophets.

  17. Shibboleth says:

    I think this falls into the same territory as over-the-pulpit admonitions against birth control, women working outside the home, and various other things that we grew up hearing but have eventually fallen by the wayside or even been reversed (e.g. Brigham Young). Ironically, the I’m A Mormon campaign prominently featured women with exciting and meaningful careers, prompting a bit of whiplash among those of us raised in the 70s and 80s who were castigated for desiring something other than/in addition to homemaking.

    Right now this seems like one more stick to beat each other with.

  18. Very much agree with this post. And all of this reminds me of an old favorite section of Through the Looking Glass when Alice is conversing with a Knight who is preparing to sing a song:

    ‘The name of the song is called “Haddocks’ Eyes“.’

    ‘Oh, that’s the name of the song, is it?’ Alice said, trying to feel interested.

    ‘No, you don’t understand,’ the Knight said, looking a little vexed. ‘That’s what the name is called. The name really is “The Aged Aged Man”.’

    ‘Then I ought to have said “That’s what the song is called”?’ Alice corrected herself.

    ‘No, you oughtn’t: that’s quite another thing! The song is called “Ways and Means“: but that’s only what it’s called, you know!’

    ‘Well, what is the song, then?’ said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

    ‘I was coming to that,’ the Knight said. ‘The song really is “A-sitting On a Gate”: and the tune’s my own invention.’

    [For what it’s worth, it sounds to me like Lewis Carroll is using “called” in this excerpt to mean “referred to as,” though I agree that the word can support either of the meanings you mention (and I love Cody Hatch’s reading as well).]

  19. Aaron, I love the way you put that, and that’s precisely the message I’m taking away.

    Bro. Jones, I don’t know that this can’t be an arrow in the quiver of those looking to enlarge the tent. If you can separate discipleship from Mormonism, which I think is very much a goal of this emphasis, then you can be more willing to accept someone into the Church who doesn’t fit the mold of a Mormon, but does demonstrate true discipleship.

  20. felixfabulous says:

    From D&C 107:

    2 Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.

    3 Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.

    4 But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    Why do we call the priesthood by the name of a man to avoid the too frequent repetition of Christ’s name, but then offend Christ when we don’t repeat his name often when referring to the Church?

  21. Great post. Thanks, Sam.
    As for myself, I probably will keep calling myself a Mormon when talking with non-Mormons but avoid the term when in the company of Mormons who I suspect might be offended by disregard for the President of the Church’s edict. I’ll probably let situational politeness be my guide. If it turns out that was a mistake and contrary to divine will, I’ll make like a famous historic Mormon leader and repent too damn fast for them to get after me for it.

  22. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    felixfabulous: These are the kind of questions an actual functioning Correlation Committee would ask.

  23. jaxjensen says:

    “It seems like, if you’re going to go down this road (of accepting the possibility that a prophet will speak the Lord will and be wrong), then you have to grapple deeply with your concept of false prophets, because scripture says some pretty harsh things about them. Can a prophet falsely speak the Lord’s will and not be a false prophet? It’s not a trick question, just something that I think needs to be engaged with in a deeper-than-cursory way.”

    Well, if we take Pres. Nelson’s at face value we have to face that Pres. Hinckley and Monson were false prophets, leading us to victory for Satan by marketing us as Mormons, encouraging I’m A Mormon webpages for us all, etc. So no matter where you land, you are going to face that issue because of the harsh language Pres. Nelson used in trying to compel compliance.

  24. Like many of the commenters, I’ve always been fond of being a mormon, and I thought it was smart when the church seemed to embrace the moniker and make the most of it. For my whole adult life (I’m 36…) I’ve had a goal of dropping the fact that “I’m mormon” into casual conversation with acquaintances for the purpose of labeling myself as an ambassador of the Lord/the church. It’s a harder to toss off “I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…”

    To your point about thoughtfully considering the prophet’s words and making a personal decision, I get that. I also appreciated your detailed description of the process. BUT: let’s say the Lord really does reveal things to the prophet that He wants us to respond to, and even OBEY. How would the prophet pass that on to us? What words would he need to use for us to say, “That’s not a personality quirk, that’s the real deal.” Because Pres. Nelson couldn’t have been plainer in saying, “This is the will of the Lord.” He is definitely quirky–I read his biography a decade ago and thought “this guy is kind of unreal.” I’m not saying I’m crazy about this revelation. BUT if I’m going to believe that the Lord ever speaks through His prophet, and based on Pres. Nelson’s phrasing, I don’t think I can wiggle out of this one.

  25. FWIW, I really don’t give much thought at all to the concept of “false prophets” and don’t spend any time at all trying to determine whether someone is one. I think that’s probably the case for the vast majority of Mormons. I mean, there are situations sometimes, certainly, where someone loony claims to be a prophet and I’ll dismiss them as loony and not a prophet. But I honestly don’t care about the whole biblical “beware of false prophets” thing. If LDS church leaders say stuff I think is wrong or make policies I disagree with, I try to take them seriously, consider their position, and engage in a good faith ongoing process to understand and give them a fair shake so that if I keep on disagreeing I’ll feel ok about having been fair about it. But I really don’t label anyone a “false prophet” unless they’re, like, a full-on kook or something, you know? Even then, I don’t think I’ve ever used that terminology.

  26. Excellent post, Sam. A little knowledge of Church history always helps put things in context. When the Church was organized in 1830, it was called the Church of Christ. Then, in 1834, a conference of elders, with Joseph Smith presiding, voted to change the name to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. This, of course, ran counter to the Savior’s instruction in the Book of Mormon, so a revelation was received in 1838, establishing the current name. But there are references in early Church documents to some form of the name (such as Church of Christ of the Latter Day Saints) being used before the revelation was given. So it didn’t come gift-wrapped from heaven. Church leaders were already using some combination of the two previous names before the revelation made it official. Sometimes we have a rather naive view of the revelatory process and the human element that is often involved.

    Personally, I think this is an instance of one individual’s personal preference taking the form of an institutional edict. It seems similar to the time, several years ago, when a junior Apostle decreed that the Church magazines could not show pictures of anyone wearing denim or of temples that were not totally white (excluding the Salt Lake Temple). When he was rotated out of his assignment overseeing the magazines in the normal course of administering Church departments, the edict silently faded away. Sometimes personal preferences are simply impractical.

  27. D. Fletcher says:

    Sam, I honor you, and this. One question occurs to me, though: by not following the prophet’s edict to the letter, are you chipping away at trust in our leaders?

  28. gbow: “To your point about thoughtfully considering the prophet’s words and making a personal decision, I get that. I also appreciated your detailed description of the process. BUT: let’s say the Lord really does reveal things to the prophet that He wants us to respond to, and even OBEY. How would the prophet pass that on to us? What words would he need to use for us to say, “That’s not a personality quirk, that’s the real deal.” Because Pres. Nelson couldn’t have been plainer in saying, “This is the will of the Lord.” He is definitely quirky–I read his biography a decade ago and thought “this guy is kind of unreal.” I’m not saying I’m crazy about this revelation. BUT if I’m going to believe that the Lord ever speaks through His prophet, and based on Pres. Nelson’s phrasing, I don’t think I can wiggle out of this one.”

    I’ll obviously let Sam speak for himself, but as someone who has tried to live by a similar process to the one he describes in this post, I would say that there is no magic word for “real” revelation. Brigham Young was very clear about claiming his stances on race and intermarriage and such were 100% divinely inspired, sometimes even including the classic “Thus saith the LORD”-type prefaces . . . but they weren’t God’s will after all. No shortcuts, just lots of wrestling with the spirit.

  29. jaxjensen: Precisely the point I was going to make. Glad you made it so well. The unspoken implication in Nelson’s hyperbole is that previous prophets haven’t been in contact with the Lord or they would have realized how unhappy He has been. Doesn’t that equal “not really prophets?”

  30. gbow: I think asking what words the prophet can/has to use to invoke his prophetic authority is the wrong question, because even if there’s some magic phrase he can use, an infallible prophet can use that language and be wrong. And conversely, a very conservative/humble prophet might shy away from using the magic words even for things that really are the product of inspiration. I think it’s inescapable that we have to go through the process Sam describes and receive our own spiritual confirmation, no matter what words the prophet uses.

    Sam’s right. It’s not an easy process and it doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. Here’s an old post of mine where I explored some of the considerations that might be part of that process.

  31. *a FALLIBLE prophet.

  32. I get what he’s trying to accomplish, god bless him. It’s going to be an uphill climb. It’s not a battle I would pick.

    However, I do think it’s important for people to be able to self-identify and for us to respect what they want to be called. It feels a little ironic that some of the same leaders who are dead set on this particular name are also dismissive of self-affirming “labels” for gay people and denying the existence of transgender people. Blind spots happen.

    The question is who decides what we are called. I don’t find “Mormon” offensive as used to describe church members. Clearly Pres. Nelson does, and he believes Jesus agrees with him. I don’t have a strong love for “Mormon” either. I just don’t care much and see the change as difficult to execute and impractical. I also believe it hurts missionary work to distance ourselves from it. I think other efforts at Brand Management (e.g. “I’m a Mormon” campaign) were much more effective. IMO we’ll look kind of petty if we insist on others using the full name, similarly petty to those evangelicals who refuse to claim a recognizable denomination, claiming instead the title “Christian,” while excluding Catholics and others from the same privilege. Or put another way, it’s like when your son’s friend Johnny insists “Actually I prefer Johnathan now.” OK, buddy.

  33. You’re not so different than some of us apostates. We (me and others like me) have come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t follow certain teachings of the prophets. You are ok staying in the church after coming to such a conclusion. I am not. For me, the prophet was the foundation of everything. If I’ve come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t follow the prophet, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Now, of course this isn’t my only concern with the church, or I could probably stay. But I believe it is a critical issue. To use an analogy, I would say that this issue makes up one of the structural supports on my “shelf,” and the shelf cannot stay intact with this support kicked out.

  34. Along your line of thought I could decide (as many have) that polygamy is something I should live.
    I could also decide that the 1978 revelation is fine for everyone else but not for me. I could refuse any priesthood ordinances from men of color.
    Or I could do as I have read ( but away from home away moment so can’t quote) as Bruce R Mckonkie (sp?) When asked about how he had said the blacks would never get the priesthood. “I was wrong”.
    Humility is important when recieving revelation

  35. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Elissa: perhaps it would be better if current leaders imitated their predecessors in modeling it for their flocks.

    When I said upon RMN’s accession that his chest-cutter’s arrogance (and holding a beating heart in your hands is as close as any human being to get to feeling like God) was going to be a struggle both for himself and the membership of the Church, scenarios like this are exactly what I had in mind. “Humble” is not how you describe a man who wakes up his children in the middle of the night so they can remember the sound of his voice reading scripture to them, and thinks people should find this admirable about him.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    If we’re serious about getting the public to stop using “Mormon,” we’ve got to give people a real alternative. It can’t be long, it can’t have embedded within it an exclusive faith claim, and it can’t be generic. Ideally it should be one word, an adjective that can also be used substantively as a noun.

    So “restored gospel of Jesus Christ” strikes out on all counts and ain’t gonna cut it: it’s still too long, it embeds an exclusive faith claim, and it is too generic for using the name Jesus Christ. I hope no one at Church headquarters was so naïve as to seriously believe the AP was going to change their style guide in that way. No one outside the Church is ever going to use that formulation. Ever.

    It needs to be something denominational like Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian. That is why “Mormon” works so well in the lexicon and is so widely accepted. Don’t like people using it? Come up with a reasonable alternative. And if you fail to do so, don’t be surprised when people continue to use the old standby “Mormon.”

  37. Ryan Mullen says:

    Sam, great post. I am guilty of dismissively rejecting Pres Nelson’s counsel on this issue. I’ve got some work ahead of me. Thanks for modeling how it can be done.

    A Turtle Named Mack, I think you hit upon the reason I’ve resisted. I don’t want to overshare with friends and co-workers who are just asking a simple question, but not interested in an extended answer. My own conclusion to engaging intellectually and spiritually with this issue will have to accommodate that circumstance.

    gbow, “BUT: let’s say the Lord really does reveal things to the prophet that He wants us to respond to, and even OBEY.” Then the Lord, and/or his prophet, should present compelling reasons to convince devoted Church members to obey. Alma 29:1-3 tells me that Alma thought it a sin to have a magic word that would compel obedience from others.

    Kullervo, “Can a prophet falsely speak the Lord’s will and not be a false prophet?” For me, I generally assume that other people have no more special access to God’s will than I do. To prove me wrong, all a person has to do is utter *one* statement that has divine guidance. This allows me to seriously engage with JS and BY as prophets, even though I fundamentally disagree with JS over polygamy and BY over race. Now, just because I’ve become convinced another was able to access deity on one topic at one time, I don’t automatically assume everything else they say comes from God, but they’ll have my attention.

  38. Because I was raised in the era of the Salamander Letter and the Priesthood and Temple Ban on African Americans, my prophet-sustaining style is best described as what the young ‘uns today would call “fluid.” I obey prophets/worship “according to the dictates of [my] own conscience” (A of F 11), a “privilege” (also A. of F. 11) that, alas, most leaders and members seem heck-bent on denying me, so I’m forced to keep the details of my testimony extremely private. I really really appreciate this post.

  39. I’ve always said that I’ll take these periodic naming kerfuffles seriously when they rename the tabernacle choir. And then….

  40. I think it’s possible to make a case that “call” in both of those scripture sources doesn’t even have anything to do with names.

    In D&C 4, it seems to me that the reader isn’t being told what to call the church, but what the church is called to do. I don’t see “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” here as revelation, it’s just that that is what the church is already named.

    If we follow the reasoning that says verse 4 gives the church its current name, than verse 3 should be interpreted to say that the church’s name is “my church in Zion.”

    And what is the church called to do? If the first four verses are seen as a long introduction, that comes in verses 5 and follow. The church is called to use its light as a standard for the nations.

    The 3 Nephi 27 passage is more straightforward. It tells how the church is called, not what it is called. Regardless of what it’s named, it’s called in the name of Christ.

  41. Aaron, I appreciate your thoughts. I felt the same listening to Pres Nelson’s talk. It spoke to me of really focusing my attention and efforts on following Christ. That definitely resonates with so many of us. I still feel his admonition to follow Christ, in ways that I hadn’t thought of before. It did seem very odd, equating not using the proper name, to “pleasing Satan”. But, then again, there was no question he felt strongly about it. And isn’t that our responsibility as members – listen, ponder, reflect on, and pray for spiritual guidance. It seems as though that’s what Pres nelson did. And that was the outcome. It is up to me as to what to do with it, not him.

  42. Bro. Jones says:

    SorellaM: right back atcha.

  43. Member Anon says:

    Remember, this is the same person that brought us the incredible insight that God‘s love is not unconditional! In his talk, titled “Divine Love,” he states: “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.” Unreal! He might want to review the biblical stories of the prodigal son and of the Black sheep. As if we don’t have enough guilt to carry around. Can you imagine telling your children, as long as you do everything I tell you to do I love you, but if you don’t, I don’t love you as much. I believe when my children struggle or sin I love them more! He spoke at our stake conference one time and spent the entire talk talking about the proper respect members of the church should show general authorities. Members should stand when a general authority comes into the room. Nobody should speak on the program after a general authority. And they should always leave enough time if they are on the program for the general authority etc. On another occasion when he was speaking at a stake conference of ours, it was in December and the entire talk was about Elder Holland getting called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, and how special that was for him. The look on his face when he walked into the room and knew that he was a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve. No message at all about Christ or the meaning of Christmas. I thought it was very odd at the time. The use of the term Mormon or LDS seems like a very strange line to draw in the sand when there are so many other pressing issues. Modern revelation certainly doesn’t seem to be able to get same-sex marriage issues right. What happened to our article of faith that says man will be punished for his own sins? Why would an eight-year-old child be prevented from being baptized because his parents are a same-sex couple? Why would a 18 year old who wants to go on a mission not be able to serve unless he or she first renounces his parent’s lifestyle? I’m a return missionary, married in the temple former member of the bishopric. The church left me a long time ago. I have no regrets watching from the outside. I’m truly amazed more people don’t find the irony of it all! I’m anon out of respect for my wife. She still drinks the Kool Aid.

  44. Member Anon, I appreciate your engagement. I’m not a fan, though, of your assertion that somehow people who have stayed have drunk the Kool-Aid, or are otherwise somehow lesser. Like I said, Pres. Nelson’s status as prophet and president demands that his pronouncements be taken seriously, and I take the church’s truth-claims very seriously. Ultimately, whole I disagree with him (and the church) on some points and details, I don’t think broadly accusing them off acting in bad faith, or accusing active members of being morally it intellectually inferior, is any better than understand accusations of people who have left as good sinners. The discussion had, so far, been generally respectful and valuable, and I’d appreciate if it continues in that vein.

  45. An aside: SorellaM, “heck-bent” is the most delightful thing I have read in weeks. Thank you!

  46. Great post, Sam. Belongs in the “classics” class for the perennial issue of listening to Prophets(tm). (Recognizing that The Church of Jesus Christ if Latter-day Saints, and Mormons generally, use the word in a special way.)

    A couple of observations:
    1. I find President Nelson’s emphasis an extravagant use of authority, which is something we give him and is not unlimited.
    2. If the Church really wanted it to work, they would offer up a commonly accepted and acceptable adjectival form. Without that there will be ongoing tension, I predict.
    3. I’m sorry for the “weaponization” of the naming. It makes anything I conscientiously choose like picking sides in a culture war. I wish it weren’t so.
    4. My own determination follows what I have learned and decided about political correctness. Mostly to be more careful and precise about what I mean and intend, allowing for the Church to choose it’s name (and for others to do likewise). I am ethnically Mormon. Deeply and inescapably. I am currently (with no plans to change) a member of The Church of Jesus Christ if Latter-day Saints. On reflection about my writing and conversation I am much more likely to be talking about ethnicity than membership, and I can do more to be clear in my choice of words and phrases. (But I’d really really like an adjective for the Church side of things.)

  47. Last Lemming says:

    Among members, I suspect that I’ll just refer to “the Church” and use “church” as an adjective. Among nonmembers, I suspect that I’ll make significantly fewer references to the Church at all.

  48. Lena M Hansen says:

    Joseph Smith said: “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may”.
    If Joseph can use “Mormonism” to define what kind of Christian we are, that’s good enough for me. I live in the land of “Bible-belt Christians” If I say, I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, that makes me a “Campbellite” Christian. Other churches already have “The Church of Jesus Christ” title. If I say I am “Mormon”, that makes me a Christian in the Book of Mormon sense. And that’s what we are; we adhere to the teachings about Jesus uniquely found in the Book of Mormon, and our added responsibility is to take the Book of Mormon to the world. That should be our mission.

    If President Nelson is worried about other Christians (more importantly, how does Jesus feel about us) not believing we follow Christ, instead of talking about it, do it.
    I have an idea of how to spread the message that we are true Christians:
    Mark 10
    21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

    22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

    23 ¶ And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

    Instead of using words and titles to announce your Christianity, instead do what Christ says, and sell off all the malls, properties, businesses etc.. and give it all to the poor. Can you imagine the good will that act would bring The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!!??

  49. “I’m sorry for the ‘weaponization’ of the naming.”

    Bingo. The only thing that riles me up about the “Merry Christmas”/”Happy Holidays” culture war that rages on cable news is that I can no longer say either without sounding like some kind of zealot with an axe to grind.

  50. Sam you have articulated very well some of the things I’ve been thinking. While he is very foreceful about how we refer to the church, I do think that Pres. Nelson may be a little less forceful about what we call members or things associated with the church. What else would you call Jane and Emma if not a Mormon movie? It’s not produced nor sanctioned by the church, or really about the church per se. Pres. Nelson even said in his own conference talk last April “One day I jumped on the streetcar and went to an LDS bookstore to find a book about the Church.”

  51. Lena M. Hansen – Thank you so much for that scripture and your insights–I add my “amen” to your comment! The prophet who teaches radical care of the poor instead of fussing over semantics will be the one who I sustain wholeheartedly. (Heaven help me if s/he happens to belong to another religion, lol.) For some reason, care of the poor is something that almost *no* other church commits to with any constancy. Everywhere I’ve looked (and I’ve done my fair share of searching), tending to the needs of the poor is almost a side job (as a former RS Pres, I have more experience with this than I want–my therapist is helping my heal from it). But I’ve looked at other religions and none of them can get donations out of their people the way ours can (none of them has the temple recommend vice-grip on people’s eternal throats), so I stay here and keep praying for the day when we begin utilizing our billions for fewer big, glittery buildings for us, and more life-saving services for those in dire need.

  52. D. Fletcher says:

    This conundrum of what to do when the Prophet speaks really started with the 2015 policy, which was doubted by many people, and its subsequent blessing as revelation.

  53. Eric Facer says:

    I appreciate your thoughts, Sam, and generally concur with your approach. But I believe the “weaponization” point can be stated in better terms.

    D&C 121 provides that “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;” The assertion that each utterance of the word “Mormon” constitutes a victory for Satan seems at odds with this scripture. I see a lot of “fire and brimstone” in President Nelson’s approach but not much gentleness and patience. He seems more intent on bludgeoning than persuading. That is rarely effective, especially when you are asking people to abandon a cultural and institutional practice that has been in place since the creation.

    On a practical level—and I realize there is no chance in Satan’s realm this will ever be adopted—some form of peer review outside the SLC echo chamber might prompt the authors’ of General Conference talks to reconsider their phraseology on occasion. Heck, if President Nelson had just asked his wife to read his talk ahead of time, then maybe she would have said: “Sweetheart, do you really want to say that?” Spouses are notorious for pointing out when you have gone too far (of this I testify).

    Finally, I realize I am being somewhat presumptuous, and I sincerely respect and support President Nelson’s desire to make Christ the focus of our lives. In this instance, however, I think his approach is a bit extreme and will likely prove ineffectual. Indeed, it could prove to be a distraction from his ultimate objective.

  54. Shy Saint says:

    If he had asked Wendy “do you think this will work?” she might have replied “Not Even Once”.

  55. I think the main benefit that will come if the church as a whole follows Pres. Nelson’s direction is to finally counter the widespread misunderstanding that “Mormons aren’t Christian.” Changing the logo of the Church clearly hasn’t been enough, but changing the way millions of members refer to themselves might do it. Just in the last couple of weeks when I’ve taken the extra 2-3 seconds to say “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” I’ve had the opportunity to clarify that Mormons are actually Christian.

  56. I am very much looking forward to my BYU teaching evaluations that say I facilitate the work of Satan because I sometimes use the word Mormon. That’s sure going to be fun.

  57. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I feel for you, BYUProf. Will the use of “mormon” now be an honor code violation?

  58. I agree with D. Fletcher – I am still wounded and cynical from the 2015 policy, and President Nelson’s subsequent assertion that it was revelation. I just can’t believe it, and that erodes much of my faith for anything else that President Nelson says comes from God. I think the OP is right and I should try to honestly engage with this direction, but I just don’t have the will to do it right now.

  59. How many mg of caffiene does your soda have? Do you use the precise name for the church in the right contexts? Do you wear cap sleeves ready for g’s? Are your shorts within centimeters of the right length? What are the details of our visiting/home teaching er- um -ministering?

    If God continues to pepper us with such tests of minutia and outward piousness, I and many others will surely fail. Is it fair for God to send us such mixed messages- on one hand to call us beyond pharasiaical observances, and then on the other hand to yank back the reins and constantly test us on such trivialities.

  60. I see that we are no different than other people and how they have responded to prophets in the history of the world. This doesn’t seem like the most important issue of all time, but even something so seemingly trivial it seem to confirm that anything that runs contrary to current culture or tradition is immediately suspect. I see less true grappling with the possibility of a prophet’s words being correct, and more seeking to confirm and justify pre-existing biases and views. I couldn’t point to any particular person and say I am disappointed in the reasoning they’ve presented specifically, but the large proportion of people siding against the prophet’s counsel is disheartening.

  61. Normally leadership in the church doesn’t 180 what previous leaders in the church have said. They usually just let something quietly stop getting talked about. This is rather different. This does seem to be a 180. It could be possible that this really is bothering Jesus and He’s been waiting for the right man to correct the situation, but that seems like really odd timing to me.
    I’m glad that President Nelson wants more opportunity to focus on Christ, but this does seem to be an odd way of going about it.
    I was surprised when he said that people think we worship Mormon. I dare anyone to find more than one example of that. No one thinks that Lutheran’s worship Luther, or Presbyterians worship a being called Presbyt, or that Catholics worship something called Catholic. So the logic is really odd.
    This is the opposite of the conversations I have with my in-laws when expecting a new baby. They always have the conversation along the lines of “You should name the baby X, that way you can call it Y”, and I rebut with “Why not just name the baby Y and call it Y?”, and then they look at my funny and wonder how someone so uncivilized could have ended up in their family.

  62. I fear this will become another opportunity for Mormons to engage in the the narcissism of small differences.

    That being said, I appreciate the importance of focusing on Christ, and that we are striving to create and maintain the Church of Jesus Christ on earth.

  63. Stephen Fleming says:

    Groups have their norms, and, for Mormons, what Pres. Nelson says is extremely important. So even though the talk didn’t make much sense to me, to be part of the group means taking it seriously. So even though I didn’t like it, I worked to trip over other terms in my online lecture this evening. I didn’t come up with a better term but my tripping over it, showed the effort. And that’s the way it’s going to be for a while I guess.

  64. jader3rd: “Normally leadership in the church doesn’t 180 what previous leaders in the church have said. They usually just let something quietly stop getting talked about. This is rather different. This does seem to be a 180. It could be possible that this really is bothering Jesus and He’s been waiting for the right man to correct the situation, but that seems like really odd timing to me.”

    This made me think of what most members might say/think if the next prophet announced that homosexuality isn’t a sin after all and that LGBT members should be welcomed into full activity in the church without reservation. What would the reaction be to members using this logic to reject/be hesitant about such a pronouncement? It seems like a 180 from a new prophet isn’t problematic when it’s a change to something one agrees with. In other words, *some* prophet has to be the one to get a new revelation that contradicts what earlier prophets said/did, so I don’t know that the “odd timing” argument is very persuasive to me.

  65. Thank you for this article, for me it was a bit easier. When he said that using that name was a victory for Satan, my whole soul and body rejected that idea. But I’m still struggling with this man after reading his statement on the Denson case. The victim blaming was so apparent in that statement and then to find out they’ve known about TWO victims for eight years and done nothing. I’ve been struggling with what is revelation from his mouth and what is not. According to Elder Anderson’s conference talk last April, everything is revelation. Then to learn about the sexual abuse lawsuit against his daughter… I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. For me, the instant reaction was all the revelation I needed, especially after hearing those condescending talks from our three highest leaders Saturday night (I only heard part of Nelson’s, but his didn’t leave me with the best feeling). I honestly don’t feel I can trust him right now and it’s painful, but it’s where I am.

  66. Re doing a 180 on previous leaders: the biggest examples in our history (polygamy and racial priesthood restrictions) adjusted policies that were significant sources of tension, pain, difficulty, and dissonance. This is not that kind of issue. No one was hurting because of our “Mormon” shorthand; no one is relieved that *that* distress is finally over. Unlike race, polygamy, gender, malls, or what have you, we lacks a collective lay consciousness that something has been awry. This is part of what’s a little difficult for people, I think. Past course corrections have been accompanied by significant witnesses to the laity as well as leadership.

    I appreciated Pres. Nelson’s call to honor the significance of Christ in the name of the church, and in our lives. His talk seems to imply that Mormon is now taboo as our marker of identify, but he only explicitly addressed the name of the church. I think this gives us a little more room to take him very seriously about our relationship to Christ, yet be a little relaxed about Mormonism / I’m a Mormon, and other shorthand. Re which: what Kevin said. (and jader3rd)

  67. Re the comment about Mark 10. As Inigo Montoya famously said, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” The young man’s problem was not that he had riches. It was that he loved his riches.

  68. I’d say use the full name when on official church business. Use whatever you want on your own time.

  69. I would like to ask Pres. Nelson to plainly tell us why he believes many members aren’t receiving or don’t know how to receive revelation from God? And because the living prophets are the watchmen on the tower, why do they refer to truth being attacked but won’t name the attacker so all know without disagreeing? If the Lord cares about the name of His Church, He surely cares that we not be deceived regarding who is the attacker. Years ago ,Elder Packer had named intellectuals, and feminists and gays would be the source of discord for the Church. If he could name them, why not name the source who is waging war on the truth? I wish they would call a spade a spade when they see it.

  70. Suomalainen says:

    When I listened, I thought/felt that he wasn’t saying Monson/Hinckley had been wrong, but that the media and PR side of the church had strayed too far/been too independent/concerned too much with marketing. To me this is also classic example of a doctor running an organization following two business-minded men. It’s just a shift in priorities.

    Having said this, he also clearly said “it is a commandment,” and whether or not he couched it in all the best language is immaterial to the point, namely that we – as a church and as individuals – should try harder to make the point we follow Christ.

    I see nothing wrong with that, and quite frankly don’t understand the irrational/nostalgic attachment to the word “Mormon” or “LDS”, but then again, I’m neither American nor born-and-raised in the church.

  71. One thing about “The Good Place”… I must say that it has ever changed, even if just slightly, the impact of the name of my home town… American Fork. This might be thought of as a small little victory for Sean. Those who have ears to understand, let them understand 😏. Mwa ha ha ha.

  72. Suomalainen, Church PR and media hasn’t done a thing without full approval by the apostles or First Presidency in charge, so, no, it’s not possible to separate out criticism like that.

  73. So many creative ways of convincing one’s self that following the prophet is not necessary. It doesn’t work that way. Read the Book of Mormon.

  74. Hey Roy, welcome to BCC. Fwiw, we tend to prefer specificity here to broad statements like “Read the BoM.” While I can’t speak for everybody here, I’d be willing to bet that upwards to 95% of the commenters here have, in fact, read it. Multiple times. And haven’t come to the conclusion that it speaks either to prophetic infallibility or to mindless obedience to everything a prophet says. (In fact, there’s a lot of evidence that parts of the Hebrew Bible argue explicitly for the idea that prophets are fallible and not everything they say or do reflects divine will.) So maybe engage with what Pres. Nelson said, then come back and explain your conclusion and how you came to it? Because that would be valuable to the rest of us, and would demonstrate the kind of respect we per to what he said.

  75. suomalainen says:

    Anon, perhaps. My point was merely that a doctor might run things differently than a PR or business guy — and that doesn’t mean the PR/business guy was wrong (or the doctor for that matter). If we’re being open-minded and accept that not everything that comes out of a prophet’s mouth is the word of eternal truth, then I think we can be open-minded enough to accept that the doctor can change things up without it automatically meaning the business guy before him must have been wrong. If we believe in ongoing revelation, then somewhere in there we accept a certain complexity: aka all truth is never completely revealed all at once at one point in time (or hasn’t been so far). Two seemingly conflicting truths can coexist, as we don’t yet have “all truth.” Or in other words: Monson/Hinckley and maybe even all others before them tried it one way, Nelson is moving us into a new way. I am surprised to see so many resist change is all. As circumstances change, so does the ability to receive revelation.

  76. I don’t think people are resisting change so much as chafing at being told that not only are we doing things a new way, but the old way was denying Christ and helping Satan.

  77. Billy Possum says:

    Great post, Sam. I haven’t seen any commenters draw what I think is an important distinction: One can believe that a prophet’s guidance is not God’s will and still obey that guidance with good reason (even if continuing to work toward a better understanding of God’s will). This, I take it, is the approach generally seen as correct by many on the “spectrum” of obedience.

    For example, can you make the case that Sam’s approach (together with its particular result) works as well for the November 2015 policy as it does here? It seems to me that the November 2015 policy justifies the same analysis and non-obedience, but those I know who disagree with it either obey it or reject the Church’s claims to revelation wholesale. In my view, that difference has nothing to do with the balance of the merits for non-obedience (which are weaker here), and everything to do with whether the change was delivered and perceived as authoritative (and this announcement has clearly been perceived by many as not authoritative).

    What makes the President of the Church saying, in General Conference, that “_____ is the command of the Lord” *less* authoritative than a press release?

  78. Billy, how would anyone who is not a member of the bishopric or in a higher level of service disobey that policy? I can’t hold the priesthood so I cannot bless or baptize anyone. Not being in the bishopric I cannot decide who may be entered into church records. I disagree and I say so – but I have no idea how I am to disobey a policy that I am not in any way able to implement.

  79. Billy Possum, interesting take, thanks. I certainly agree that accepting or rejecting isn’t a binary thing: I can certainly obey ever where I don’t believe it’s divinely required, and I can disobey even if I do believe it’s divinely required. I appreciate your highlighting that.

    As for the November 2015 policy, I agree. For most of us, though, our reaction is less immediately visible. I may say “Mormon” on a regular basis; I have never, otoh, been in the position to excommunicate somebody or to tell them that their child can’t be baptized. So it directly impacts the actions of many of us (not all of us, but many of us) less tangibly than this does.

  80. Or what Marian said, quicker and better than I did.

  81. suomalainen says:

    Villette, yes, I can see people really hooked onto that phrase and felt personally offended. Like I said, he didn’t couch it in the best language, but that doesn’t change the fact that we can engage with the main point of his ministry so far, which is a more Christ-centered church (as far as I understand it). And that is certainly something I can like and agree with despite his method of delivery.

    I am also aware that I don’t have the baggage of feeling attached to the word Mormon, so this isn’t something that ruffles my feathers. I can understand that others – to whom this has been a matter of lifelong/generational identity – might feel differently. And yet – this is a change I think is positive overall, and in either case one I wouldn’t waste too many resources worrying about.

    Thank you for listening and for all the comments (and the OP).

  82. A couple comments have pointed to President Nelson saying “it is a commandment of the Lord.” But the “it” in that sentence, I believe, is referring to Jesus’s commandment in 3 Nephi that the church be called in his name, or perhaps to the revelation giving the church’s proper name, not to the counsel to not say “Mormon” and “LDS” anymore.

    There’s a meaningful difference between (1) it is a commandment of the Lord that we not use “Mormon” and “LDS” and (2) it is a commandment of the Lord that the church be called in his name, the Lord has impressed the importance of that commandment on my mind, and in my effort to obey that commandment, I’m counseling that we stop using “Mormon” and “LDS.”

    President Nelson is doing the latter, I believe, not the former.

  83. There is a longstanding but not very well-known procedure for establishing church doctrine, for declaring “Thus saith the LORD” in modern times. First, it’s approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, then presented to the church for a sustaining vote. It’s happened six times:

    1830, Bible and Book of Mormon were officially accepted with the organization of the Church
    1835, Doctrine and Covenants, first 103 sections were officially accepted
    1880, Doctrine and Covenants additional 32 sections were accepted along with the Pearl of Great Price
    1890, Polygamy was repealed (Official Declaration 1)
    1976, D&C sections 137 & 138 were officially accepted
    1978, The priesthood was made available to all worthy males regardless of race (Official Declaration 2)

    The Proclamation on the Family is not official church doctrine. The Living Christ is not official church doctrine. Nothing said over the pulpit except for quotes from the above is church doctrine. Interpretations of the stuff above are not church doctrine.

    This is not to say that following the advice of the prophet isn’t a good idea! Those that show faith by obeying even when it’s confusing or doubtful will be blessed, like Elijah and the widow. Do your best, and God will honor it.

    I think the major risk is that local leaders will act as though Nelson’s statements *are* church doctrine and censure people accordingly.

  84. Last Lemming: “Among nonmembers, I suspect that I’ll make significantly fewer references to the Church at all.”

    This is such a good point. The unintended consequence of exhorting everyone to use the full name of the church rather than the shorthand “Mormon” might be to make it more difficult to bring up the church at all. An acquaintance says something that you might respond to with a mention of your church membership, but then you do a quick calculation of how complicated you want to get in a casual conversation, and decide it’s best not to even get into it.

    I also think the idea that trying to push the full name of the church will cause mainstream Christians to accept us as being Christian is just false hope. They don’t believe Mormons are Christians for tons of reasons unrelated to what we call ourselves (extra scripture, not believing in the Trinity, etc.) and this is going to have no more effect than back in the 1990s when the church re-did its logo to put “Jesus Christ” in bigger font. Remember how many people were newly convinced by that change that we were Christians? I think it was about zero.

  85. There are several repeated themes in the Book of Mormon. One is to listen and heed the words of the living prophet. The Nephite civilization could have been saved had they listened to the prophets. Multiple times they did repent and were saved.

    The Savior himself: “And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words… he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you…”

    Members of the Church of Jesus Christ value agency and the right to choose for ourselves. My choice is to follow the living prophet. Blessings are in store for those who do. An entire city was translated because the people repented and followed the words of the prophet Enoch.

    I am sure most are aware of the quote from Richard L Evans- “And, therefore, a prophet is seldom popular, and the cost of being a prophet is always great, for he may be called upon to say those things which are not pleasing,..
    “It is not important that a prophet should say those things with which you and I are in full accord. But it is important that you and I should bring ourselves into full accord with those things which a prophet speaks by virtue of his office and calling.” (Improvement Era, Nov. 1939, p. 672)

  86. So much of what we believe, and consequently how we act is derived by the premises we hold.

    I applaud you Sam on your approach to examining what is said and then coming to a thoughtful conclusion regarding your own actions and behavior.

    It still leaves the conundrum of “false” versus “true” prophet. But what if we use the term prophet too loosely. The position President Nelson occupies is President of the High Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek. The Doctrine and Covenants enumerates it’s responsibilities as holding all of the right to officiate in all the offices of the Church and administer in all spiritual things.

    Later on in the same section it defines the duty of the President of the High Priesthood as one who presides over the whole Church and is to be like unto Moses. It goes on that it is wisdom that this person be a seer, a revelator, a translator and a prophet.

    Finally it tells every person (including the President of the High Priesthood) to learn their duty. I read this, in the context of the President of the Church, as an injunction to become a prophet, not a right received by virtue of a calling. The keys, ordinances and administration of the church are not compromised for him nor the membership while the President seeks to rise to this high and holy calling. All remain firmly in place.

    Their role in the mean time is to “preside in counsel, and set in order all the affairs of the kingdom.” In this role fallibility is to be expected, and a thoughtful, carefully considered approach to their counsel and admonitions is our duty.

    Perhaps President shouldn’t be conflated with Prophet. At least until like Christ said, we recognize the fruits of Prophecy and Seership.

  87. #Iamavictoryforsatan

  88. suomalainen says:

    JKC, good catch and I think you are right. Even though one could also conclude he is talking about the “effort” being the Lord’s command. But clearly, the point is trying to find a way to keep the command to keep Christ central to the church (and its name), and he is not in fact “commanding” people to never say Mormon again. Of course, that doesn’t preclude that the “effort” as he calls it can be a revelation itself. And it doesn’t actually matter whether it is. It’s nevertheless a good effort imho.

    In either case, I am happy we have moved past the I’m Mormon ad campaign and that so-called “documentary” called Meet the Mormons, which I personally thought were the real horror.

  89. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, last lemming and ziff, about how one effect may well be to discourage mentioning the Church in casual conversation with outsiders. That hadn’t even occurred to me, but I suspect you’re on to something there.

  90. @Roy, so how do you deal with fallible prophets, and the fact that the prophets don’t want blind obedience?
    I get putting effort into pushing away from “Mormon Church” and I totally support that. But also trying to get away from saying Latter-Day Saint, and LDS, that’s a bit much. If it’s a victory for Satan to say anything but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, every time, I’ll probably inadvertently start saying The Church of Cheese and Rice of Rattle Day Snakes, because it just rolls off the tongue easier.

  91. Oh and I see that has yet to direct to a different url.

  92. Perhaps I am guilty of too quickly dismissing Nelson’s name change decree as nothing more than windmill tilting, but perhaps my immediate gut reaction was just God speaking to me (or in terms Mormons would use, my visceral reaction against this name change was the Spirit speaking to me).

    As an example, I remember vividly the GC where Hinckley issued the earring edict. Up until then I had warm feelings towards the conference, but as soon as he started decrying tattoos (which I don’t have but would get one if I could) and piercings, I felt the Spirit flee the room.

  93. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    What happens when someone wants to learn more about “us” and types in various keywords, including mormon, mormonism, LDS (terms they are surely more familiar with than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), and the search results lead everywhere but official websites? Eventually, the Church will get around to changing all of their URLs, and scrubbing other “mormon” references from the inter-webs, and their footprint will be much smaller, and will be harder to find.

  94. What troubled me most was Pres Nelson’s instruction to members to correct each other whenever somebody says the church’s name wrong. I felt that this violated the Savior’s command to focus more on the beam in our own eyes, rather than the mote in our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes. This is *such* a mote compared to other beam-like behaviors that we in the church are grappling with right now. Why on earth would a prophet declare open season on the members to begin targeting each other like that???

  95. There are literally hundreds of LDS organizations and businesses that are named after the Victory for Satan. Is the Mormon History Association really going to change the name? Yes there will be some high profile changes for groups with direct control from the church.

    I suspect everyone else will politely listen like they do when their Uncle Bob complains that using “Happy Holidays” is an attack on Christians.

  96. Kevin Barney says:

    The dismissal of search engine optimization suggests a (very) old person who doesn’t quite grasp how the internet works. The Church has been very successful making it so that the top searches on words like Mormon and LDS land on Church sites. If we abandon those terms, surely the most common search terms involving the Church, eventually the top sites will be antagonistic ones. For what is still a missionary-oriented church with a lot of skeletons in the closet, that is huge issue…

  97. Billy Possum says:


    I read the antecedent of the pronoun “it” in his statement “It is the command of the Lord” to be the same as the antecedent of the six preceding instances of “it.” When read as a series, as he appears to have intended, the antecedent of “it” is “this effort,” which in turn clearly refers to the Church’s effort to reshape usage over the last several weeks.

    His spoken tone supports this interpretation. I just can’t buy that the magical phrase (but carrying only your meaning) slipped in by coincidence after all the other phrases describing the “effort.” If your interpretation really is what he meant, we should be talking about whether we’ve been deliberately misled by the President of the Church.

    Marian and Sam:

    You’re correct, of course, about the different scale of the effect. But are you saying that, if either of you were a bishop, you would baptize children living in same-sex households without seeking special permission? Put another way, is the luxury of deciding not to obey limited to those who don’t have official responsibility or authority?

  98. sgnm, completely disregarding everything scripture says about false prophets is certainly one way of approaching the problem, but it’s a pretty bold decision, given how often and how strong the warnings are (and not just obscure OT minor prophets, but Jesus himself), not to mention the large number of times that warnings against false prophets have been affirmed by contemporary LDS church leaders.

  99. Great article that reflects many of my own feelings pretty well.

    Others have pointed out though that the issue isn’t about disobeying a prophet’s personal preference; President Nelson rather emphatically framed it as a revelation and command from the Lord. That’s a significantly different discussion.

    Which raises one of the more interesting points here for me. Let’s take as a major premise Nelson’s statements (which I really believe are his sincere views, not hyperbole) that the Lord is offended and Satan wins a major victory when we use any shortened reference to the church without the Lord’s name in it.

    We then add the minor premise that the church as a whole doesn’t take up any major action or initiative unless the prophets, seers, and revelators of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles unanimously feel that the Lord has revealed to them His will for such a direction. We can thus state with fair certainty that, the HUGE “I’m a Mormon” campaign, the “Meet the Mormons” film, and many other like initiatives were only approved by the FP and Q12 after they (including Nelson) were confident that the Lord’s will was to go forward with those.

    We’re then left with the conclusion that prophets, seers, and revelators (including Nelson) have been very frequently offending the Lord and handing Satan major victories all while confidently believing that the Lord had revealed His will to them to do the Lord-offending, Satan-pleasing action. (*cough*Nov. 2015*cough*.)

    It’d be one thing if he framed this issue as “what we did before was good and acceptable of the Lord as he directed us, but we’re now going to do something higher and better.” But he didn’t take that approach.

    I don’t know that Nelson meant to open this can of worms about prophetic authority, but he did. Myself, I’ve been comfortable with that idea for a while anyway (that true prophets can indeed err while thinking they are doing God’s will), but I’m not sure that’s an idea most members would be comfortable with, or how many of them even noticed this corollary.

  100. So apparently using the name Mormon deeply offends Nelson (and has done so for at least 28 years) and now that he is President he finally gets to declare that it also offends Jesus (and presumably by extension Heavenly Father). What he fails to understand about me and perhaps others, if that really offends Jesus or Heavenly Father, then I really don’t want to aspire to be like or with someone that could be offended over something so trivial.

  101. Anthony R Frank says:

    Jesus Christ revealed to his prophet on the earth, Russell M. Nelson, that it is time for the Latter-day Saints to start calling the Church by the name that the Savior himself gave to the Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    I look toward the day when I will stand before the judgment bar of Jesus Christ knowing that I “endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ” (see D&C 121:29) and that I gave heed to his prophet on the earth.

    To those of you who will not heed God’s prophet on the earth, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.

  102. Anthony R Frank, don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous to claim to know what will happen to me on judgement day just because I don’t think like you?

  103. Steve Park says:

    One thing I haven’t seen addressed here or anywhere else is what term should replace “anti-Mormon”? It’s a really short and handy way to silence critics. What term would be appropriate to dismiss critics of the church in light of the new guidance? Somehow, I don’t think “anti-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” or “anti-Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ” is going to work. Thoughts?

  104. Anthony R Frank says:

    For those concerned that various keywords used in an internet search, such as Mormon, Mormonism, and LDS, may lead everywhere but official Church websites, keep in mind that President Nelson said, “Because of the digital world in which we live and with search engine optimization that helps all of us find information we need almost instantly—including information about the Lord’s Church—critics say that a correction at this point is unwise. Others feel that because we are known so widely as “Mormons” and as the “Mormon Church,” we should make the best of it.

    “If this were a discussion about branding a man-made organization, those arguments might prevail. But in this crucial matter, we look to Him whose Church this is and acknowledge that the Lord’s ways are not, and never will be, man’s ways.”

  105. I loved everything Nelson had to say about it, and I think the solution is staring us in the face: use the word “Christian.”

    I fully support and believe his promise:

    “My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen.”

    There’s no levity in those words. Can you see the vision? The Church is beginning to rise out of obscurity, and to that end, we MUST bear the true name of Christ, in *every* walk and rotation. That Mormon will be hard to shed isn’t actually the issue. It’s about how each of us present ourselves to other people.

    I’m totally discouraged by the lack of faith in so many of the comments here and the inability to portend the power behind this awesome (yes! awesome!) mandate.

  106. Anthony R Frank says:

    Steve Park, for quite some time, I have referred to “anti-Mormon” as “those who are fighting against the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

  107. Billy – I hope I would disobey as a bishop. I hope so. But your last question makes no sense:

    “Put another way, is the luxury of deciding not to obey limited to those who don’t have official responsibility or authority?”

    I’m sorry if I’m being dense, but this makes about as much sense to me as – “Is the luxury of dieting limited to those who don’t have enough food to eat?”

    I don’t have the choice to disobey the November 2015 policy. I have changed my behavior because of it – how often I attend church, what I say when I’m there, even how I pay tithing – but that is not the same thing as disobeying the policy itself. How can something be a luxury only for those who don’t have the ability to choose it?

  108. Not to make fun of peoples’ sincere faith (assuming that’s what’s happening) but hasn’t it been a while since someone’s shaken the dust off their feet around here? Isn’t provoking a foot-dusting like winning the lottery? Congrats, Sam.

    (By the way, I’ve been mostly “anon” recently since someone used my admittedly-lousy all-purpose commenting name. Actually, it’s happened a few times now and I’ve been too lazy to come up with anything that won’t suffer the same fate.)

  109. Wait, Anthony, you can’t bid us an “everlasting farewell” and then keep commenting. That’s not how farewells work.

  110. A name emphasis means nothing. We are not focused on Christ until we stop preaching a gospel of works and recognize that we are saved by grace through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Until we accept that principle is doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. We aren’t Christians.

  111. @Ziff, Anthony’s comment wasn’t actually a farewell. Mormons… er I mean members of God’s one true church of Jesus’s Latter-day (lowercase D) Saints… don’t do farewells anymore. It’s in the handbook and everything.

  112. The thing I keep coming back to is that I’ve been uncomfortable with the degree to which the Church has embraced the word “Mormon” over the previous decade or so. I wasn’t really active until I was 14, but I remember people *constantly* saying that we shouldn’t emphasize that word when we talk to other people because they ought to know that we worship Christ, and I almost never heard it in the church building outside of the phrase “Book of Mormon” or when actually talking about the guy himself.

    In particular, the “I’m a Mormon” campaign just consistently felt… surreal. I always said “yeah, we call ourselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” when someone asked if I was a Mormon. And in Ohio, nobody but us – in my county of 30,000 people there were less than 100 active members – recognized “LDS” as meaning anything at all. If someone knew the word “Mormon” it was because they’d read hateful things about us in books from LifeWay, or their pastor had denounced us from the pulpit. We had an entire shelf at LifeWay.

    Anyway I think it’s definitely awkward online to insist on a minimum of 17 characters when referring to us members, and we absolutely need to maintain our SEO footprint because otherwise it absolutely will be taken over by our actual enemies. But at the same time, this probably won’t affect my in-person communication at all, and I’ll certainly follow the style guide whenever it’s possible. I might mention the name of the church less online, but only when there’s other context available anyway. I already say plenty about what happens in church without going into detail about which denomination I’m affiliated with.

    Oh, and I think that sustaining the prophet absolutely means wrestling with what he said instead of brushing it off or following blindly. I’ve told the kids in Primary that prophets are sometimes wrong, and that at different times certain rules just plain change and it’s important to understand why, at least ten times this year. Like, I don’t know how you can get through the scriptures without saying it a minimum of a few times, because for example look at Jonah, demanding that God destroy a city because they were obnoxious to him – God “rebuked” him. We’re supposed to give an enormous amount of weight to the prophet’s words, but we’re entitled to ask for and receive divine confirmation that it’s actually the will of God.

    (My single biggest objection is actually the Twitter hashtag change, and the style guide suggesting that we use names that already have accepted meanings. In particular the “generalconference” hashtag was populated by Methodists and Quakers and such until the day that we suddenly decided to camp out there, and that’s just rude and confusing.)

  113. LOL, MTodd! Great point!

  114. I’m happy to use the full name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; it only takes a few more minutes a week to say the complete revealed name. President Nelson just got me a whole hour back per week, with the two hour block! I can definitely use this time for extra speaking or writing. I’m similarly OK with saying “ministering brothers and sisters” for the same reason. Even if Scouts become “Young Men of the Mutual Improvement Association,” I’ve still got at least 40 extra minutes per week.

    I think President Nelson probably has more experience using long nouns (i.e. arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia) than most of us. With enough practice, we can get there. Put your shoulder to the wheel!

  115. It looks like the Chicago Sun-Times / WBBM radio is trying to sort of follow the requested style guide in the photo caption. On the other hand….

  116. Bumpex: Nice!

    Probably most of us can’t believe we’re having this conversation at all, right? Since this became a big deal, I’ve had mixed feelings. Of all the things going on in the world today . . . It seemed like a clear statement of priorities: “THIS is the most important thing going on right now. Team Packer/Nelson suffered a lot of losses on this, but dangit, one of us ultimately survived Team Hinckley/Monsen, and I’m gonna make our victory permanent!”

    On the other hand, I appreciate that trivial-seeming, off-the-subject things CAN have application to bigger things. During the Brigham Young years (and others here would know this stuff a lot better than I do) there was a rash of calamities in the St. George area–massive crop failures due to faulty irrigation systems, malaria, drought, food shortage. (Not talking about the Lorenzo-Snow-era “Windows of Heaven” story.) Locals pleaded to Brigham for help, and he said, “Build a tabernacle.” I imagine I might have been annoyed. But the building of the tabernacle and the subsequent structure itself shifted the community into a heightened state of organization, and provided them with a social hub, a stronger sense of cohesion and purpose, and it’s the place where they solved their problems. So, yeah, I “get” that there could be more to this naming stuff. (Obedience for obedience’s sake, ’cause mortality is ALL about obedience, namely, obedience to The Brethren– I don’t believe that. I certainly believe it could be one of numberless tests being conducted simultaneously–including other obedience-related tests, like obedience to the Spirit and obedience to conscience–but I definitely don’t believe it’s the only test in town.)

    But in this instance, I don’t know. It’s definitely always good to think more about Jesus, even if we just say his name more often. (Though there’s also that drawing-near-with-our-lips thing, too…) And while we might annoy or amuse most people with our new ramping up of nitpicking, parsing, and legalism, I suppose a small number of people might actually be attracted to all that. Hinckley’s and Monsen’s loosy-goosy approach turned them off, but now we’re going to gather in that whole lost tribe of anal retentives. I guess.

    I’ll ride it out. Time will pass. People will die. New things will come up, and those, too, will pass. In the meantime, I’ll heed the prophet–which means “to pay careful attention to.” This decree is relatively harmless, in the big scheme of things, and compared to lots of other things.

  117. Just reading through 1st Nephi and seeing how the murmuring of Laman and Lemuel (nitpicking?) over time led to them distancing themselves and eventually severing ties with the blessings of the gospel. What is even sadder was that their posterity suffered from their actions as well. We are told that “whatever is virtuous, lovely or of good-report or praiseworthy, we seek after those things.” If you have doubts about what the prophet admonishes you to do, and many do, seek to find personal peace through Christ rather than plant seeds of doubt and discord among others. I know that misery loves company, but isn’t our society full of enough misery already?

  118. ” We are told that “whatever is virtuous, lovely or of good-report or praiseworthy, we seek after those things.” If you have doubts about what the prophet admonishes you to do, and many do, seek to find personal peace through Christ rather than plant seeds of doubt and discord among others. ”

    Here’s my problem… I felt I was doing praiseworthy work when I followed the counsel and set up a webpage about myself, and when I put I’m a Mormon as my FB pic. I felt like I was following prophetic counsel. It turns out that my new Pres tells me that I was NOT doing good work, that I had failed to defend Christ, that I didn’t understand the Atonement, and that this was all a victory for Satan. Apparently Pres. Nelson doubts what the previous prophets asked of us… so… if it is okay for him to cast doubt about it…

  119. jaxjensen says:

    That is NOT what Pres. Nelson said. That would have been an acceptable message. That is what every other Latter-day Prophet has done when changing things.

    No, what Pres. Nelson did was reach back into the past and defined our past actions. Taken straight off of under the heading “What the Prophet taught at Conference” we find this “”Embracing such nicknames in the past may have been the result of not wanting to offend others, but President Nelson warned that in doing so “we have failed to defend the Savior Himself, to stand up for Him.” Notice that “in the past” part??? He did NOT just say “from now on we are going to…” He specifically said that we (including the prophets leading us) had failed.

    Here’s another Pres. Nelson quote: “I realize with profound regret that we have unwittingly acquiesced in the Lord’s restored Church being called by other names, each of which expunges the sacred name of Jesus Christ!” That is looking at the past, not the future. It’s application is that Pres Monson and Hinckley were failures, they (and we) have turned from our baptismal covenants, have saddened the Savior, and that this failure/error was “not inconsequential.”

    This wasn’t a happy talk that uplifted, or that gave us a good vision of the future. It was dark and depressing. It was full of language telling us we were mistaken in the past, we had erred, we needed to repent, we lacked faith, we’ve given victories to Satan, etc. etc. etc. The entire message was to tell us how “not inconsequential” these errors were so that we’d feel the need to repent. If he didn’t make it a severe error, then why would we feel a need to repent of it?? His entire message was based on this one central idea: What we’ve done in the past by embracing “Mormon” was a grave error and was NOT the will of the Lord. All of us who followed the previous 2 Presidents were mistaken… it is Pres. Nelson who has cast the seeds of doubt about the “prophetic” role of the President of the Church.

  120. jaxjensen says:

    LOL.. there was another comment in there between mine… guess it was moderated and disappeared??

  121. jax, also LOL here; the now missing comment you responded to was from Anthony who had bid “those [here] who will not heed God’s prophet on the earth, … an everlasting farewell …” I guess a moderator took him at his word.

  122. This article along with many of the comments below are justifications for not following a simple request from the current prophet. If we rationalize not following him on such a small thing, where does that leave us?

  123. Glenn Thigpen says:

    I agree that we all have our agency to choose what we believe and whether we follow the wishes of the current prophet or not. Such a small thing, as Tbone averred. The Lord continually asks us to obey small things, so small that people continually just do not do them. And at some point in the eternities that will be between them and the Lord. I do not know what the outcome will be because I am not the Lord. But I will do my best to honor this small request from the Lord’s prophet.


  124. Yannick Thia says:

    Nice reasoning; honestly that really sounds like something I could have come up with, except for 2 points:
    – I also love that statement from Brigham Young, but I take it as “if only people had a testimony of the prophet’s calling, such a testimony would empower the prophet’s influence on them as they wouldn’t waste time and energy questionning his direction”.

    – You’re saying that Pres Nelson is basing his decision on those 2 verses, when really he’s merely using them to explain a principle; his decision was based on current inspiration/revelation, as suggested by the expressions “I feel compelled to discuss with you a matter…” or “I did this because the Lord impressed upon my mind the importance of…” in the beginning of his talk.

  125. After listening to Prez Nelson’s Sunday morning talk about this, I’m okay with it. What I am not a fan of is the way he’s addressed it. Okay, so the Lord (presumably) wants to re-focus the church. No problems. So was the revelation from the Lord, “the name I want you to use is COJCOLDS”, or was it “the name I want you to use is COJCOLDS and anything else is a victory for Satan and denies the atonement”? The first is quite reasonable. The second is crazy. It sounds to me like sure, he got some inspiration, and then went off on a tear with his own version of that.

  126. “Mormonism is truth, and every man who embraced it felt himself at liberty to embrace every truth.” (Joseph Smith, Liberty, MO, to Isaac Galland, [Commerce, IL], 22 Mar. 1839, in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:53, 55–56)
    D&C 115:4 (1838)

  127. If we continue to have Sacrament, SS, and PH meetings as I experienced yesterday at Ward Conference where there was not one Christ centered talk or an expression of thanks in our prayers for the atonement, it won’t matter what we call ourselves. Much too common occurrence for me.
    (Sister J says this does not happen in our RS.)

  128. President Benson: “A [Victory for Satan] boy, a [Victory for Satan] boy, I am a [Victory for Satan] boy!”

  129. What will become of the ubiquitous yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” T-shirts very prominently featured in the Tallahassee Democrat photo spread?

  130. I have picked up the dubious habit, in the last week, of using the term “taco-J-colds” and I am not happy about that. Like many others with legitimate needs for shorthand in this matter, I feel twisted into a pretzel trying to figure this out, and I’m not even that invested in this revealed doctrine. I feel bad thinking of my more devout family members spending their bandwidth, which has its limits, on struggling to make this gesture of obedience. I miss President Hinckley’s wisdom.

  131. CalledButNotChosen says:

    This is not going to be easy. I was teaching our gospel doctrine class this week and, on the topic of prophets, we were discussing some of the recent changes. In response to some things that came up in class that I hoped to soften a bit I said, “we Mormons,” caught myself and said “LDS,” then said “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” and finally said “or whatever we are, we are really good at guilt.” I realized I don’t know what to call us. It’s awkward. It will be really interesting to see how this plays out. FWIW, I don’t see using the word Mormon as pleasing Satan. I love Jesus Christ and worship him, regardless of what I am called. I share that love with other members of the church and many friends of other Christian denominations.

  132. “If we continue to have Sacrament, SS, and PH meetings as I experienced yesterday at Ward Conference where there was not one Christ centered talk or an expression of thanks in our prayers for the atonement, it won’t matter what we call ourselves. Much too common occurrence for me.”

    As I’ve read others post on BCC, this kind of story seems a bit of an exaggeration. No doubt there are instances where certain talks or prayers don’t include much, if anything, in reference to the Savior. My money, however, says anybody would be hard pressed to prove that an actual 3-hour block lacked any such references (other than the sacramental prayers).

  133. Billy Possum,

    I see what you’re saying. But I read it in light of what immediately follows: “Joseph Smith did not name the Church restored through him; neither did Mormon. It was the Savior Himself who said, ‘For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'”

    I imagine that this ambiguity comes from the fact that President Nelson doesn’t see much daylight between “this effort” and the “commandment of the Lord” to give the church its formal name. That is, I imagine that he sees “this effort” as nothing more than an attempt to implement the “commandment of the Lord” given to Joseph Smith. But that’s not the same thing as claiming that “this effort” is itself a commandment. I know that’s a fine and nuanced distinction, but I think it’s a meaningful one.

  134. My father gave me a name and a blessing shortly after I was born. He felt moved upon by the Spirit in that moment to name me Jonathan Arthur Thompson, after his grandfather, who ordained him to the Melchizedek Priesthood. At some point, people started calling me “Jon”, and Jonny”. Eventually, my father also started using the short form of my name – preferred by me because it’s less formal and easier. Still, I use my full name in legal documents and in all business-related endeavors, and am proud to do so, always remembering my proud ancestry. But I prefer Jon for those who know me well and in informal settings. Should I now insist on everyone using my full name every time they address me and, if not, telling them that Satan wins when they fail to do so?

  135. Jon – The problem with your question is that most of us do not worship you . . .

  136. Mike, my ward my experience. (end thread hijack)

  137. ” The Lord continually asks us to obey small things, so small that people continually just do not do them. And at some point in the eternities that will be between them and the Lord. I do not know what the outcome will be because I am not the Lord. But I will do my best to honor this small request from the Lord’s prophet.”

    These arguments are starting to piss me off quite frankly. Yes, the Lord asks us to obey small/simple things. But this argument totally fails to address the FACT that many of us were obeying a “simple thing” when we followed our Prophets instruction and created webpages about ourselves. That was a simple thing, that many followed. but NOW we’re told that it was actually an “not inconsequential” error, a failure to defend Christ, and a victory for Satan. Our efforts to do a simple, Prophet-led task were (if you taken Pres Nelson seriously) were bad. So don’t say, “just follow a simple request” over and over. I did that before, and now I’m being called to repentence for it!!

  138. Hey jaxjensen, you might try relaxing a little bit. Set this on the back burner for a little bit and wait for further clarification. I can’t speak for you, but I have a lot of other more serious weaknesses to cure in my life before I get to this one.

  139. Billy Possum says:


    And I see how he might have meant the “it” to be more connected to the rationale that follows, rather than to the grammatical antecedent. But if that’s what he meant, he could and should have said “the Lord has commanded:.” Playing around with syntax (cardiothoracic surgeons know how to speak precisely) to mislead people about what, exactly, God has and hasn’t commanded should not be part of the prophetic program, particularly given the revelatory cast he gave the instruction.

    We have a significant portion of the Church’s membership seriously wondering whether the “change effort” is from God (including the OP). Almost no one is wondering whether the D&C is from God. If your interpretation holds, we have to assume that the prophet used facially clear but misleading language to deceive the Church in order to trade on an ambiguity and trick those who heed (pay close attention to) his words into thinking he was speaking for God today, when he was really just quoting God from long ago. At this point in my faith-life, I just can’t accept that the President of the Church would do that.

  140. I don’t know, Billy. Surgeons and other medical doctors, in my experience, are not that great at precise communication. Maybe that’s just because I spend most of my time with lawyers. I don’t see it as misleading; I see it as a reflection of his personal belief that “this effort” is just putting into practice what he sees as the commandment from the D&C and 3 Nephi. I’m also doing something like what we lawyers call a canon of constitutional avoidance, where if faced with two plausible interpretations of a statute, the court will choose the interpretation that doesn’t make the statute unconstitutional, even if that interpretation is less natural. Personally, I think saying that something is a commandment of the Lord where there is no recorded revelation commanding that thing is something that should be done unambiguously and should be sustained by the membership of the church. Because that hasn’t happened, I’m reading the statement “it is a commandment of the Lord” to refer to the revelations already given, rather than to the current effort. But again, I don’t think he’s being deceptive, I think he just honestly believes that he’s not interpreting that previous commandment; only implementing it.

  141. This has been a really great thread. Congratulations, everybody.

  142. Here is a great post from a few years back that is relevant to the conversation.

  143. Treyeshua Tomeny says:

    I’m commenting very late because I just discovered this site, and was in fact, only recently directed to join the Church, by the Spirit.

    Perhaps the purpose of the name change, which to my all powerful God idea is God’s will, as it did happen, is to provoke this very debate about the importance of names?

    As a person of Jewish heritage and new to the Latter Day Saints, perhaps this is the point?

    Attitudes toward names in the Church appear to me, outside the culture, to be perhaps a bit too focused on individuality versus continuity. I find it very hard to find many Latter Day Saints on the internet due to all of the variations of spellings of seemingly common names.

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