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President Nelson asked President Ballard to help correct church’s name. Here’s how he led the Twelve

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Presidents M. Russell Ballard and Russell M. Nelson react to seeing a photograph at the Rome Italy Temple in March 2019.

President M. Russell Ballard and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints react in the Rome Italy Temple lobby to a photograph taken of them and their apostolic colleagues with the Christus and statues of the other ancient apostles at the temple’s visitors’ center on Monday, March 11, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published in the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

President Russell M. Nelson began to emphasize the correct, full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearly three decades before he became its president.

Eight months after he was ordained the church’s prophet and president, he announced in August 2018 the church no longer would use the terms “LDS” or “Mormon,” unless related to the Book of Mormon or other proper nouns.

President Nelson set the tone and the course for a correction with that announcement and his general conference talk two months later. “The name of the church is not negotiable,” he said, because Christ himself had revealed it. “For much of the world, the Lord’s Church is presently disguised as the ‘Mormon Church.’”

“When we omit his name from his Church, we are inadvertently removing him as the central focus of our lives,” he said.

How would the church correct its name across the world?

As President Nelson said a year later in another general conference talk, he assigned President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to lead the entire quorum to institutionalize the correction. President Ballard died Sunday at age 95 and his funeral is Friday.

President Nelson said in his new book, “Heart of the Matter,” that he and President Ballard took a short trip together in May 2018, when the two of them “discussed the realities of the dilemma at length.”

“After returning home and discussing this matter further with my counselors, we determined it was time to tackle the issue,” President Nelson wrote. “I subsequently sent a letter to President Ballard, giving the Quorum of the Twelve the charge to resolve this dilemma.”

Here’s a look at how President Ballard fulfilled this assignment.

Both leaders had spoken in previous conferences about the importance of the Savior’s name within the church’s name. President Nelson spoke about it in 1990 and President Ballard in 2011, long before they became the presidents of the church and quorum, respectively.

President Ballard noted that an effort had been made to emphasize Christ’s name by using the full church name after the 2002 Olympics, but it didn’t stick.

This time would be different.

There were three overwhelming signals that the church was serious about making a long-lasting correction. The first was related to the church’s official website, then known as LDS.org.

How did the Church of Jesus Christ change the name of its website?

Church leaders had wanted to purchase the rights to use the internet domain name ChurchofJesusChrist.org since 2006. The church’s Intellectual Property Office constantly monitored its availability. Leaders likewise had sought the domain name ChurchofJesusChrist.com since 2011.

“Neither was for sale,” Elder Neil L. Andersen once said.

Suddenly, not long before President Nelson’s announcement, ChurchofJesusChrist.org was offered for sale. The church purchased it for “a very modest amount,” Elder Andersen said.

Then ChurchofJesusChrist.com became available the month President Nelson announced the name correction, and the church scooped it up, too.

“It was a miracle,” Elder Andersen declared.

Then the real work began. The church made the costly, exhaustive move of migrating all of its content from LDS.org to ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

President Ballard and the quorum also oversaw the correction of adding the Savior’s name to the email addresses of 33,000 leaders and employees. Now every person at church headquarters has an email address that ends with @ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

They also updated 300 web-based apps and acquired 800 domain names in the United States and around the world for use of the full church name.

In one year, 95% of the church’s outward-facing references were updated, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at the time.

Changing the church’s biggest name brands

The second signal the church was intent on carrying out President Nelson’s vision was changing the name of one of the church’s biggest international brands.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir willingly surrendered its name. Today it is known proudly as the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

LDS Business College became Ensign College. Mormon.org was redirected into ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

In all, over 1,000 products that had the name “Mormon” or “LDS” attached were renamed, Elder Andersen reported.

Adding an image of Christ to the church’s symbol

The third and final stroke was changing the church’s symbol, or logo.

President Nelson said he again enlisted President Ballard and the Quorum of the Twelve to oversee further emphasizing Christ at the center of the symbol representing the church. When President Nelson unveiled it to the church, he said:

“The center of the symbol is a representation of Thorvaldsen’s marble statue, the Christus. Jesus stands under an arch as a reminder of his emergence from the tomb three days after his death. It portrays the resurrected, living Lord reaching out to embrace all who will come unto him.”

The name Jesus Christ again is printed larger than all the other words in the church’s name.

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The world has taken note. Leaders of other religions, humanitarian officials, politicians, many journalists and others now regularly use the church’s full name, sometimes with a hiccup here or there. Some still decline, but the change is remarkable.

“They’re clearly serious about it,” Al Tompkins, who teaches journalism and ethics at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, told me a year after President Nelson’s announcement. “It’s not a marketing campaign.”

“Hats off to them,” Tompkins said. “They’re getting double-entendre use out of the full name. They want to spread the name of Jesus Christ, and they know every time you say their name now, you’re going to say his.”

President Nelson himself called the huge undertaking an extraordinary one.

“We have gone to these extraordinary efforts because when we remove the Lord’s name from the name of his church, we inadvertently remove him as the central focus of our worship and our lives,” he said.

In “Heart of the Matter,” he praised President Ballard and the Twelve for their work.

“I am pleased to say that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, under President Ballard’s superb leadership, handled this exceptionally difficult assignment with wisdom and inspiration,” President Nelson wrote.

President Ballard said the correction would clarify the church’s messaging to the world.

“As this goes forward, it will become more and more evident in our literature, in our messaging, in anything where the church is connected, that we are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” President Ballard said. “It is part of the message of the ongoing restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

My recent stories

Funeral service announced for President M. Russell Ballard (Nov. 14)

How President M. Russell Ballard was a link from the church’s humble founding to its global emergence (Nov. 11)

Giving Machines to be placed in record numbers across the globe this holiday season (Nov. 10)

Heber Valley Utah Temple approved. See why the church agreed to dim the lighting (Nov. 9)

About the church

The Okinawa Japan Temple was dedicated by Elder Gary E. Stevenson on Sunday. See a photo gallery here.

President Nelson shared a post about his recovery from an injury to his back muscles.

The church is supporting the nourishment of mothers and children around the globe.

Please read my story above about President Ballard after his death Sunday. The link to how to watch or attend his funeral is also listed there. Read or watch or listen to more about him at the following links:

  • Video: ‘A Loving Tribute’ to President M. Russell Ballard.
  • Highlights of President Ballard’s teachings and testimony in 2023.
  • 16 times President Ballard quoted poems, speeches and literary works in devotionals and general conference.
  • A look back on President Ballard’s teachings on effective councils.
  • Church News Podcast, Episode 162: President M. Russell Ballard, 1928 — 2023: Celebrating his life in his own words.
  • The co-author of a biography of President Ballard, “Anxiously Engaged,” reflected on his life. Susan Easton Black shared a story about a time President Ballard’s watch broke while he was in Thailand. Some who were with him bargained with a woman at a market for a replacement. They told him what the lower price was. “He said to the young woman, ‘How much were you originally asking for the watch?’ And when she indicated it, he said, ‘that’s the price I would like to pay,’” Black said.

What I’m reading

An Arizona judge granted the church’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed a negligence complaint against the church related to child sex abuse committed by the late Paul Adams. The ruling turned on the priest-penitent privilege.

It’s the “largest private economic investment in (Utah) history,” according to Gov. Spencer Cox. Texas Instruments broke ground earlier this month on an $11 billion expansion of its microchip fabrication plant based in Lehi.

The smile on this girl’s face while she dodges other players during a flag football game is priceless.

Why church member Taysom Hill’s jersey is in the football Hall of Fame.

Texas A&M fired its football coach. But it owes him $76 million. Not a great way for the athletic department to spend its money, in my opinion. This writer shows you what else you could buy with all that cash.

Behind the scenes

President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook laugh with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in March.

President M. Russell Ballard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Quentin L. Cook laugh with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Sunday, Mar. 12, 2023. Elder David L. Buckner is on the far left. President Ballard was renowned for the bridges he built to other faiths throughout his ministry.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News