SALT LAKE CITY — Jesus Christ named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson declared at the faith's general conference on Sunday morning, and it offends him and expunges his name when people use nicknames for it.
The church's president gave a detailed, plain, impassioned explanation for his announcement six weeks ago that the faith would no longer use nicknames such as "Mormon church" or "LDS Church." He said his emphasis on the full name is not a name change, not re-branding, not cosmetic, not a whim and not inconsequential.
"Instead it is a correction," he said. "It is the command of the Lord."
He grew emotional when he said the church itself, both administration and members, have perpetuated nicknames that do not include Christ's name, "subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us, even his Atonement."
"After all he had endured," President Nelson said, his voice trembling slightly, "after all he had done for humankind, 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."
He noted that reaction to the emphasis on the church's full name has been mixed, but dismissed concerns about worldly arguments like branding and search engine optimization.
"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."
He called the issue "not negotiable."
"For much of the world, the Lord’s church is presently disguised as the 'Mormon church,'" he said, adding that it is disingenuous for church members to be frustrated others use nicknames if the church and its members do the same.
He said Christ should be at the center of members' lives, and that the church is filled with Christ's power.
"I promise you," President Nelson added, "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."
While President Nelson urged the church to keep Christ's name in the center of the church's name, other speakers in the morning session put Christ at the center of their messages.
One spoke poignantly, days after his wife's death, of Latter-day Saint revelation about Christ's visit to the spirit world and its promise that families can be reunited. Another said forgiveness and forsaking offenses is central to the majesty of Christ's Atonement.
Sister Barbara Ballard died on Monday. On Sunday, her husband, President M. Russell Ballard, led off the morning session speaking touchingly about the meaning of his great-grandfather's vision of the redemption of the dead during the 100th anniversary of a key Latter-day Saint scripture and doctrine.
Based on that "heavenly revelation," "I'm grateful to know that my precious Barbara lives and that we will be together with our family again for all eternity," said President Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He said he prepared his talk for the Sunday morning session of the faith's 188th Semiannual General Conference weeks before Sister Ballard's death, then spoke about the grief that racked Joseph F. Smith in October 1918 over deaths in his immediate family.
"I am speechless — (numb) with grief!" President Smith wrote after the loss that year of his oldest son, one of 13 children he had seen die. "My heart is broken and flutters for life! O! I loved him! I will love him forever more."
As a boy, President Smith lost his father Hyrum Smith, uncle Joseph Smith and mother Mary Fielding Smith. In the course of his life, he also lost two wives, 13 children, a brother and two sisters.
Weeks before he himself would die at age 80, President Smith also mourned the loss of 20 million in World War I and another 70 to 120 million people in 1918's Spanish flu pandemic.
Then he received the vision on the eve of general conference.
"The revelation he received on Oct. 3 comforted his heart and provided answers to many of his questions," his great-grandson, President Ballard, said.
President Smith saw Christ visit the dead in the spirit world and lead others to preach the gospel to them. He also saw his father Hyrum and Uncle Joseph.
"The vision revealed more fully the depth and breadth of Heavenly Father’s plan for his children and Christ’s redeeming love and the matchless power of his Atonement," President Ballard said.
"On this special 100th anniversary," he added, "I invite you to thoroughly read and thoughtfully read this revelation. As you do so, may the Lord bless you to more fully understand and appreciate God’s love and His plan of salvation and happiness for his children."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve and the church’s Young Women general president, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, focused talks about the church’s six-month old ministering program on Christ.
Elder Holland focused on the ministry of forgiveness.
"The miracle of reconciliation is always available to us," he said, adding "that forgiving and forsaking offenses, old or new, is central to the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
Those who access it then should minister to others.
"Jesus is asking us to be instruments of his grace," Elder Holland said, "to be 'ambassadors for Christ' in the 'ministry of reconciliation.' ... The Healer of every wound, he who rights every wrong, asks us to labor with him in the daunting task of peacemaking in a world that won’t find it any other way."
Sister Cordon said members must develop a shepherd’s heart to become effective ministering sisters and brothers. She said members can become the shepherds God and his prophet need them to become by knowing and numbering his sheep, watching over them and gathering them into the fold of God.
Numbering the Lord's sheep isn't about numbers, she said, "it is about making certain each person feels the love of the Savior through someone who serves for him."
"I hope those to whom you minister will see you as a friend," she added, "and realize that, in you, they have a champion and a confidant — someone who is aware of their circumstances and supports them in their hopes and aspirations."
Another speaker, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve, mentioned that President Nelson himself lost daughter to cancer in the mid-1990s, and relied on Latter-day Saint doctrine for comfort. President Nelson's first wife has also passed away.
Elder Andersen said it is certain that every person's soul will be wounded at some time. He shared the example of Richard Norby, one of the Latter-day Saint missionaries injured in the Belgium airport terrorist bombing in 2016.
"Along with the bright colors of happiness and joy, the darker-colored threads of trial and tragedy are woven deeply into the fabric of our Father's plan," he said, adding that his message was for the Norbys and others confronted with unexpected, painful trials and challenges.
"These struggles, although difficult, often become our greatest teachers," he said, because "In the crucible of earthly trials, as we patiently stand steady, the Savior’s healing power brings light, understanding, peace and hope."
He said the temple is soothing balm for wounded souls.
"However deep the wounds of your soul, whatever their source, wherever or whenever they happen, and for how short or long they persist, you are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually, and to live and grow in your faith and trust in God."
Elder Shayne M. Bowen called the Book of Mormon "the most powerful tool of conversion."
"That is what we are doing as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: We are seeking to bring the world to an understanding of — and a conversion to — the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are the 'latter-day gatherers.'"
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that President M. Russell Ballard is acting president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Ballard is the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.