The name of the Church is not negotiable

David Aubril is a regular guest author at BCC. He is a French teacher who is fond of didactics, literature, UNIX systems and free diving (with no order of preference). He follows with great interest the contemporary debates on Gospel and Church matters, but from afar, from “the other side of the water”, as Pascal says.

Hergé, The Shooting Star, 1941-1942

“The name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.”

(Russell M. Nelson, The Correct Name of the Church, October 2018). 

While, in his talk, President Nelson focused on the former part of the name, I’d like to talk about the latter part. In English, if I understand well, “latter” refers to the second and last item in a series of two. It is opposed to “former”. “Latter-Day Saints” is indeed a very interesting phrasing : it establishes a connection between early Christian disciples and today’s members. It opposes two eras, the first Christian era and today, suggesting a restoration of that heritage. 

But there are many languages where the word “latter” has no equivalent. How is the non-negotiable name of the Church translated then ? I did a quick test. I took the name of the Church in several languages and used Google to do a reverse translation back to english. Of course, with the full name, Google always gives “The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints”. It finds the reference instead of giving a real translation. So I just isolated the last words to see how Google would translate “latter-Day”. Below are Google translations.

  • Afrikaans : Die Kerk van Jesus Christus van die Heiliges van die Laaste Dae (die Laaste Dae : the Last Days)
  • Aymara (Peru, Bolivia) : Jesucriston Khep Khepürunacanquiri Kollananac Tamapan (Khepürunacanquiri Kollananac : the Holy Ones of the Last Days)
  • Bahasa (Indonesia,Malaysia) : Gereja Yesus Kristus dari Orang-Orang Suci Zaman Akhir (Zaman Akhir : Latter Days ; but Zaman means Time, and Akhir End, so I guess Google finds the reference to the Church instead of translating. For Zaman Akhir, Deepl gives The End Times or The Last Days)
  • Cebuano (Philippines) : Ang Simbahan ni Jesukristo Sa mga Santos sa Ulahing mga Adlaw (sa Ulahing mga Adlaw : in the Latter Days)
  • French : L’Église de Jésus-Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours (Derniers Jours : Last Days)
  • German: Die Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der letzten Tage (letzten Tage: Last or Final days)
  • Guarani (Bolivia, Paraguay) : Jesucristo Tupao SantoKuéra Àra Pahapegua (Àra Pahapegua : The Last Days)
  • Igbo (Nigeria) : Nzukọ nke Jisus Kraịst nke Ndị-nsọ Ụbọchị-ikpeazụ a (Ụbọchị ikpeazụ a : This last day ; Ụbọchị-ikpeazụ a : This deadline)
  • Lingala (Dem. Rep. of the Congo) : Eklezia ya Yesu Klisto ya Basantu ba Mikolo mya Nsuka (Mikolo mya Nsuka : The last Days)
  • Portuguese : A Igreja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Últimos Dias (Últimos Dias : Last Days)
  • Quechua (Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia) : Jesucristoj Iglesiampa Qhepa P’unchaykunapi Allin Kawsajkunapaj (Qhepa P’unchaykunapi Allin Kawsajkunapaj : For the Good of the Last Days)
  • Samoa (Samoan) : Le Ekalesia a Iesu Keriso o le Au Paia o Aso e Gata Ai (o Aso e Gata Ai : the Last Days)
  • Spanish : La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días (los Últimos Días : the Last Days)
  • Tagalog (Philippines) : Ang Simbahan ni Jesucristo ng mga Banal sa mga Huling Araw (sa mga Huling Araw : in the Last Days)
  • Yoruba (Nigeria) : Íjọ Jésù Krístì ti Àwọn Ènìyàn Mímọ́ ti Ọjọ́-Ìkẹhìn (Ọjọ́-Ìkẹhìn : the Last Days)

It’s a rough sketch, but you see my point. In most translations, “latter-day” becomes “of the last days”. Even though the name “Church of Jesus-Christ of the Saints of the Last Days” can be catchy, it doesn’t mean quite the same thing, and you don’t get the same feeling as with the “correct name” of the Church. Instead of pointing to a former era, that phrasing only points to the end. You lose the reference to the first Christians, but you get the crepuscular perspective of a dying world. It isn’t just a label. It defines us, for the outside world, but especially for ourselves. It shapes our understanding of who we are. And it’s not the same thing to be a Latter-Day Saint and a Saint of the Last Days.

Picture missionary work with such a name. Explain to your friends or colleagues you belong to “The Church of Jesus-Christ of the Saints of the Last Days” (most languages), or, even better, “The Church of Jesus-Christ of the Saints of this Last Day” (Igbo). Annonce to your family that you are going to get baptized in “The Church of Jesus-Christ of the Holy People of the End of Times” (Bahasa). Picture your children growing up with such a Church’s name. Until 2020, in the United States, the youth grew up with a magazine entitled “New Era”. There was hope, and a bright future ahead. But everywhere else, the youth of the Church grow up in “the Last Days”. 

Is there a better way to translate “latter” ? I don’t think so. The word has no equivalent in most languages. So you have to take a step back. “Latter” connects today’s members with the first Christians. And I think this is what should remain : we are the Saints of this time. Reverted to English, it would give something like “The Church of Jesus-Christ of the Saints of our Days”. This is less literal but closer to the real meaning of the name of the Church.

In October 2018, President Nelson affirmed : “So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s Church, the answer is : Everything !”(Russell M. Nelson, The Correct Name of the Church, October 2018). Well, let’s take it seriously. The name of the Church doesn’t stop at the fourth word. I wish we too, foreigners, could benefit from “the correct name of the Church”, from the beginning to the end.


  1. If memory serves, “Latter-day” was translated in Korean as “Last Days” until about 2006, when that phrase was changed to (strictly translated) “After Period.” As a missionary, I was told that the apocalyptic “Last Days” moniker was always something of an embarrassment to members; hence the change.

  2. I’ve thought for a while that “Santos de los Días Posteriores” might be a better Spanish translation. Maybe other languages could similarly translate the concept of “subsequent” better than “latter.”

    Failing that, “Saints of the Modern Days” captures the idea better, in my mind, than the current “Saints of the Last Days.” The latter (ha!) has an apocalyptic connotation which I don’t think is part of the English “Latter-day Saints.”

  3. Well, according to what I was taught growing up in Utah, and most of my life, until Jesus failed to come around the turn of the century, was that we were in the last hour of the last day. In Seminary in the late 60s the teachers talked like we teanagers wouldn’t make it to adulthood before Jesus came back. So, all those translations are the same mentality that was taught until the church sort of gave up on Jesus coming any day now and we would all trek back to Missouri. So, yes, I was raised with the idea that we were not just Christ’s church, but that we were most defiantly in the last days and the hopelessness of were all gonna die and the earth will burn if your unbelieving daddy didn’t pay the family’s tithing.

  4. I wondered exactly the same thing when Nelson talked about the name of the church with such definity and know it allness.

    I do not speak all of these languages but did know that what Nelson proclaimed about the name of the church did not translate quite so cleanly and wondered if he really had asked God or was just making stuff up.

  5. I want to thank David Aubril for this article.

    When Nelson made this announcement something about it bothered me but I could not quite put my finger on what it was.

    Aubril’ great article about the problems of translation and how people in other countries and cultures perceive the LDS church is what was in the back of my mind.

    I wonder if the GAs care about or even think much about members of the LDS church outside the USA.

    I have read about how the church tries to circumvent laws set up in countries to keep money donated to charities in that country.

    The LDS church goes to great lengh to scoop up all the money they can and send it to Salt Lake City as fast as they can.

    Then they dole it back out in tiny little amounts to the stakes, wards and branches.

    I have wondered what the people in Australia, the Philippines or Nigeria think of their hard earned tithing money being stashed away in the American Stock Market.

    The problem with the translation of the name did not seem to occur to Nelson, or maybe he just did not care.

  6. How does it narrow our focus and direct our actions as if we lived our lives that Jesus will not only come again, but he might be here next week?

    I think when it comes to the prudential physical (home building) and family decisions (have children), we have to act as though everything we do has some long term relevance. But the moral decisions, choices to use time for entertainment, or following Christ — if he was coming next week what would you do?

    That’s why your comic at the beginning is relevant. Christ coming tomorrow would encourage some real reflection and repentance.

    But the last thing we want is people to fully adopted that mindset and refuse to plant a garden, go to school, etc.

    There is a scriptural precedent to living our lives differently based how we think about Christ’s arrival.

    In Jarom we read the teachers and prophets taught the people, “persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.”

    They had this unique perspective where the future happened in the past so they could more righteously live in the present.

    The point isn’t to argue which is better, but rather the whole ideal of what we choose to do every day, has some degree of our ability to think about the future and the past. That can obviously shape our motivation.

  7. MrShorty says:

    I recall, while serving as a missionary in French speaking Quebec, a conference talk where the speaker specifically spoke of the distinction between “last days” and “latter days.” (For all I know, it could have been then Elder Nelson’s 1990 talk on the name of the church, because my quick search of the Gospel Library App found such a section in that talk.) At the time, I remember seeing how the church’s translators struggled to render the nuance between “latter” and “last” in the French conference translations. It seems like they added some modifiers to “derniers” to try to communicate the nuance. If nothing else, it might be interesting to go back and look at the official translations of that talk and see how a past cadre of translators tried to communicate the nuance between “latter” and “last” in various languages.

  8. As a missionary, I represented the Church . . . of the Last (letzten) Days in Germany. Google gives the following as a translation of “latter”: letzteren. So, apparently there is an equivalent. It just adds an extra syllable. Not so hard to fix, except for all the legal hassles.

  9. Last Lemming says:

    I also served in Germany and was unaware that “letzteren” was a legitimate word. As a native English speaker, it’s hard to get my head around. To me, it translates as “laster”, which makes it sound like we’re in some kind of bidding war with other churches that are anticipating the Second Coming.

    I see that Google also allows for “spaeteren” as an alternative. That makes more sense to me, but to a German, it might have the connotation of being more overdue.

  10. Seems “present day saints” would be the best.

  11. Bro Jones says:

    Japanese has “matsujitsu no seito,” or “holy followers of the last day[s].” (Plurals aren’t always obvious.)

  12. An American/Utah Church led by myopic men. Yes, I know Nelson sent a granddaughter a message via Wendy that her perspective on her current circumstances was “myopic” but they are they ones who can only see whatts in their small Utah world. Full disclosure: I live blocks away from where Nelson and Oaks resided for decades.

    Oaks continued insistance on the “sacred language of prayer” requiring the use of “thee” and “thou” has been ridiculous since day one. It’s in direct opposition to what missionaries taught me and my sister, native French speakers, 53 years ago. I’ve heard the rationalization that has popped up and it also fails.

  13. jaybee25 says:

    In the early 2000s, the name of the church in Chinese was also retranslated to move away from a “end times/last age” 末世 meaning to a “later time” 后期 meaning. It was described in a book called “The Voice of the Saints in Taiwan” that came out a few years back.

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