CHANGING THE NAME OF THE CHURCH

When Christ established His church upon this land, in the days of the Nephites, He gave them special instructions from his own lips concerning the name by which His church must be called. He gave them a strict commandment to call the church by His name, which He said was Christ. The Nephite brethren obeyed that commandment and called the church “THE CHURCH OF CHRIST,” as seen in many places in the New Covenant of the Book of Mormon. And after this time, in no place in the book is it called by any other name. Christ himself considered this matter of the name of His church of great importance, as can be seen from His instructions regarding it. The Nephite brethren were having disputations among themselves as to the name of the church, just as there are disputations at this day concerning this matter. When Christ appeared to them on the third day of His mission upon this land, the first thing they said to him was this (Nephi xii:3):

“Lord, we will that Thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter. And the Lord said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures, which say, ye must take upon you the NAME OF CHRIST, which is my name? for by this name shall ye be called at the last day;… therefore, ye shall call the church in my name; … and how be it my church, save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name, then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man, then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name, then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”

So we see that Christ himself considered this matter of great importance. If he had wanted them to call it by the name Jesus Christ he would have said so, but he said the name Christ. Remember brethren, how the words of the Book of Mormon came; not by the wisdom of any man, but by the wisdom and power of God; therefore, every word is in its place. 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. Now it is strange, it is marvelous, that the Latter Day Saints to-day consider this matter of changing the name of the church, and the leaders in 1834 dropping out the name of Christ, as a small thing and a light matter! You know not how strict are the commands of God! It is nothing short of trifling with a strict commandment of Almighty God, and setting at naught the decision of Christ himself when He decided this matter so plainly and so positively, when there were disputations regarding it. I say, that any man who sanctions the name of the church being changed from the name which Christ gave it, setting aside the decision of Christ in this matter, is in utter spiritual blindness, and should repent speedily. Suppose that the Nephite brethren, five years after Christ had ascended into heaven, had said among themselves: “Brethren, although Christ commanded us to call the church THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, let us change the name which He gave the church, and drop out the name of Christ, which He commanded the church to be called by, and call this church the Church of Former Day Saints.” Can you not see they would have been under condemnation for it? Answer this question yourselves. This is what the leaders did in 1834, when they changed the name to the “Church of the Latter Day Saints,” dropping out the name of Christ. Still you claim they were not in spiritual blindness. Verily, you know not God’s way of dealing with man. His commandments are strict. Remember Uzzah, who broke a command of God by reaching out his hand to steady the ark, thinking that he was doing God’s will; but was stricken dead for it.

I will give you what is on the title page of the Book of Commandments, and also the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the name, to show you that the name of the church was changed, and the name of Christ dropped out entirely. On the title page of the Book of Commandments is this: “A BOOK OF COMMANDMENTS FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.” On the title page of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, published at Kirtland, Ohio, 1835, is this: “DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS OF THE CHURCH OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS.” Also, the heading of the preface reads thus: “TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS.” Also on page 5: “THEOLOGY. LECTURE FIRST. ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS.” You see they changed the name of the church, and left out the name of Christ entirely, which the church was strictly commanded to wear, or else they were not the Church of Christ.

Some of you have referred to Nephi, son of Nephi, i:8, where it says those who believed in Christ were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites and Zoramites; but if you will read that passage you will see that it was the wicked Lamanites who called the believers by these names. This was 231 years after Christ, when divisions had taken place in the church. The church at Jerusalem after Christ, and the church upon this land before Christ came, was often alluded to by men speaking of it, by various names, as the Church of the Lamb of God; the Church of God, etc: as some writers today would allude to it by various names; speaking of it as the Church of the Saints of God, etc., but that is not the question. The question is, what name was the church to wear — what name did Christ want His church to take upon themselves? What name did Christ command them to take? It is important for every public institution to have a name. It is important for any church organization to have a name. Christ considered it of great importance for His church to have a name, and he gave it a name, telling them that it was necessary for His church to wear a certain name, and that if they wore any other name, that they were not His church. Are you so blinded that you cannot see and understand this? What right has any man or men to change the name which Christ decided the church should wear? God have mercy upon the man who says that the name should be changed to any other than that which Christ gave us. As for myself, I will take the decision of the King of Heaven in this matter; all those who are willing to trifle with the word of God, and set aside the decision of Christ, may do so. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

Brethren, I have this to say in conclusion. I will not argue and dispute with you. In the spirit of love and meekness I have told you in plain and simple words what the Spirit of God has moved upon me to speak. I am now past eighty-two years of age, and my work in this world is about done. God has given to this generation the Book of Mormon, and how plain and simple is the doctrine of Christ set forth therein. Now brethren, remember — remember the words of Him who reigns in heaven and on earth; which will ye hear, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in that which is written, or the words of man? Choose for yourselves whom you will hear. I am not asking you to hear me; I refer you to the words of eternal truth, as they are contained in the two sacred books. I will always pray for you, that you may some day see that you are in error in believing and teaching the doctrines which men have added to the doctrine of Christ. My days to stay here are not many more; I soon go to rest with those who have gone before me; but I have rid my garments of your blood and the blood of all men. You may not understand by what spirit I speak, until at the judgment bar of God; then you will understand. May God have mercy upon you to humble your hearts before him, that you may be guided into the light of truth, is my prayer through the name of Christ. Amen.

DAVID WHITMER

Richmond, Mo., April 1st, 1887.