Question: How many times was the name of the Church changed through revelation?

Table of Contents

Question: How many times was the name of the Church changed through revelation?

Criticisms regarding the name of the Church

Critics of the Church ask: Why did the Church change its name twice during its history? Shouldn't the name have been given by revelation? [1] In 1834 the name of the Church was changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints”. Why would Joseph remove the name of “Jesus Christ” from the name of his Church? In 1838, the name of the Church was changed to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (there was originally no hyphen in the name). Why was the name of the Church changed again?

The name of the Church was changed through revelation only once

Christ only instructed Joseph through revelation to change the name of the Church once, as described in DC 115:3. Prior to that time, the Church was referred to by several different names, including "The Church of Christ," "Church of Jesus Christ," "Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints," "The Church of God" and "The Church of Latter Day Saints." The only name for the Church established by revelation was the one mentioned in DC 115:3.

...for thus it shall be called, and unto all the elders and people of my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scattered abroad in all the world.

None of the other names by which the Church was known were established by revelation.

David Whitmer disagreed with the change in the name of the Church and it was one of the reasons for his disaffection

It is interesting to note that the change in the name of the Church bothered David Whitmer. Whitmer insisted that the original name of the Church, the "Church of Christ," was the only proper one, and claimed that it had been given by revelation. There is no known revelation to support this claim however, unless you count the Book of Mormon itself. Whitmer appears to be using the Book of Mormon to support this claim (the Book of Mormon uses "Church of Christ".)

It should also be noted that, according to Whitmer, Joseph didn't promote the name change from the "Church of Christ" to the "Church of the Latter Day Saints." Whitmer claimed that it was Sidney Rigdon who pushed to change the name to "Church of the Latter Day Saints":

In June, 1829, the Lord gave us the name by which we must call the church, being the same as He gave the Nephites. We obeyed His commandment, and called it THE CHURCH OF CHRIST until 1834, when, through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, the name of the church was changed to "The Church of the Latter Day Saints," dropping out the name of Christ entirely, that name which we were strictly commanded to call the church by, and which Christ by His own lips makes so plain. (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).)

Notes

  1. Criticisms put forth by Watchman Fellowship, The Watchman Expositor (Page 3)