Are Mormons Christian? This is a question we are often asked, and our response is sometimes, "Christ's name is in the name of our Church." That's not always helpful because most people know us from media references as "the Mormon Church." And most members happily refer to themselves as Mormons. This website is even called "IowaMormons." So, it is not obvious to many people that we follow Jesus Christ. We want to make that clearer.
Why have we used "Mormon" so much in the past? There are a host of reasons, but it boils down to our desire to get along in our communities. We embraced what had once been a derisive name applied by critics because of our belief in the Book of Mormon as a companion scripture to the Bible. Being a Mormon was to be unique, and it still is. The name is recognized much more widely than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And it's much easier to say, write, and render in other languages.
But a recent announcement by Church President Russell M. Nelson urges members of the Church to re-emphasize the official name of the Church in print and conversation. It may take years, he said, to fully implement the correction to our habits, but it is vital that we work to help others understand the most important thing about us: we follow Jesus Christ. In fact, we preach of Christ, we teach of Christ, we urge others to come unto Christ, and we know that He is the author and finisher of our faith. We stand as witnesses to the world that he is the Savior of all mankind, whether they believe in Him or not. We stand as witnesses that His commandments are given for the benefit of all, and we strive to keep them. There will always be those within the vast Christian community who will not welcome us as brothers and sisters because our doctrines differ, but that will not stop Latter-day Saints from declaring that we are Christian and desire to serve Jesus Christ as His disciples.
The earliest members of Christ's Church during and after his Ministry were called "Saints." When the Apostles died and the Church wandered from Christ's original teachings, this term was applied more and more only posthumously, altering its meaning. However, when the original Church was restored through Joseph Smith in the 1830s, the Lord again wanted members of His Church to be called "Saints." To distinguish us from those members in the earlier dispensation, we are called "Latter-day Saints." It's a simple name, and does not mean we are holy or elevated. It is just Christ's way of referring to those who have made a covenant with Him through authorized priesthood ordinances. And so we will reduce our use of "Mormon" to help others understand who we are and who we worship. It may take time, and some uses will remain, but our faith in Christ is precious to us and we hope others will come to more fully understand that.