Mormonism and the “True Church”

by Sharon Lindbloom
15 October 2018

The September Ensign magazine included an article meant to explain what it means when people say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “is the true Church.” In discussing the purpose of the LDS Church (i.e., “for the perfecting of the Saints”), the article noted that past leaders “could grow toward perfection as they learned from their triumphs and their mistakes.” The article continued,

“If the leaders and members of the past were able to establish Christ’s Church even though their efforts were sometimes imperfect, and if they sometimes made mistakes, then what does it mean to say that this is the true Church? It means that we may have complete confidence in the validity of the restored priesthood authority, the saving ordinances, the revealed doctrine, the scriptures, and the united quorums of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.” (J. Devn Cornish, “The True Church,” Ensign, September 2018, 60-61)

This — that LDS leaders sometimes make mistakes yet Mormons can still have “complete confidence” in the validity of the Church, its teachings, and its leaders — seems like a contradiction. But I think LDS Seventy J. Devn Cornish has included an important caveat that should not be missed. I understand him to be saying (in agreement with many other LDS authorities) that individual leaders may make mistakes, but the united quorums of the Apostles and the First Presidency will not lead the Church astray; Mormons can have complete confidence in these united voices.

But in real life it doesn’t work out that way. Consider an example that is prominently in the news these days: The importance of the official name of the LDS Church.

In August the LDS Prophet-President Russell M. Nelson announced God had impressed upon him that it is essential to use the official and proper name of the Church; no nicknames shall be tolerated. The ousted nicknames (and abbreviations) include “Mormon,” “LDS,” and “Mormonism,” to name a few. According to Church News, at the 2018 October General Conference President Nelson expanded on his August remarks and explained that the Church’s God-directed effort to eradicate nicknames while emphasizing the divinely-revealed name of the Church is

“not a name change, not rebranding, not cosmetic, not a whim and certainly not inconsequential. ‘Instead, it is a correction. It is a command of the Lord,’ [President Nelson] said… ‘Thus, the name of the Church is not negotiable. …if we allow nicknames to be used and adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.’” (Scott Taylor, “President Nelson says name of Church is ‘not negotiable.’ Here’s what past leaders have said,” October 7, 2018)

Furthermore, President Nelson said,

“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.”

And,

“To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan.”

Back in August, Church News quoted President Nelson explaining that in this new push for the full name of the Church, “We’re correcting an error that has crept in over the ages.” (Scott Taylor, “ ‘We’re correcting a name,’ President Russell M. Nelson tells Latter-day Saints in Canada,” August 18, 2018)

Summing up, according to President Nelson God provided, and commanded the use of, the proper name of the Church; disobeying this command offends God; the revelation announced in August is meant to correct an error; and when anyone engages in this error it is a major victory for Satan.

When President Nelson confessed in General Conference that the LDS Church had “unwittingly acquiesced in the Lord’s restored Church being called by other names,” we might assume that this represents the kind of mistake Mr. Cornish alluded to in his Ensign article about the “true Church.” I think that assumption would be wrong, because President Nelson’s stated confession is wrong.

The LDS Church did not “unwittingly acquiesce” to the use of the term “Mormon.” The LDS Church embraced the term while the united quorums of the Apostles and First Presidency approved and supported it.

Consider some recent examples:

  • Mormon Messages: “ ‘short, inspirational video messages…that strengthen members and encourage them to share the gospel message with others online,’ said David Nielson, managing director of the Church’s Audiovisual Department. The Church-produced videos are three to four minutes long and typically feature words of inspiration from General Authorities and auxiliary leaders.” (“In the News,” Liahona, February 2010)
  • Mormon Channel: Self-described as “the media channel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The channel originates from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
  • Mormon Newsroom: Though the name has recently been shortened to just “Newsroom,” under its full name it had been the “official resource for news media, opinion leaders and the public” for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for many years.
  • Mormon.org: Another official website of the LDS Church, it claims “This site is meant to introduce our Church to the world. Through these pages we hope to give accurate information, answer your questions, and provide ways to learn more.”
  • I’m a Mormon: An “advertising campaign produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and aired on American television beginning January 2011, expanding by October to a television, bus and billboard campaign in 12 US cities and Brisbane, Australia… In 2013 the campaign was extended to Ireland and the UK with ads on double-decker buses and the World Wide Web… In Melbourne during the 2017 run, the Church advertised at Southern Cross railway station and elsewhere in the city, as well as on television.” (“I’m a Mormon,” Wikipedia)

Clearly, mistaken rogue individuals in the LDS Church did not produce these campaigns and websites without the approval of highest Church leadership. This leadership was not unaware; it did not “unwittingly acquiesce” to the accompanying widespread use of the term “Mormon.”

What does it matter and what does it all mean?

It matters because the current Prophet of the Mormon Church called most uses of the word “Mormon” an “error,” a “mistake,” and a “victory for Satan,” while being fully aware that in this LDS Church leadership has long been complicit.

It means that LDS leadership has a lengthy history of leading the Church astray and “offending” God in the process.

It means that Mormons cannot actually have “complete confidence” in the united quorums of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, which necessarily leads to a vote of no confidence regarding the validity of restored priesthood authority, the saving ordinances, the Church’s revealed doctrine, and the unique LDS scriptures.

It means that, even from a Mormon point of view, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the “true Church” as is boldly asserted by its leadership and members.

President Nelson, with his strong language, has essentially accused (even very recent) Church administrations of being out of step with the will of God. And not only that. He has affirmed that for pretty much the entire history of Mormonism, Satan has been victorious over the LDS Church due to the “mistakes” of its prophets, seers, and revelators.

On this point I would have to agree. Mormonism is not what it claims to be. This grievous truth is demonstrated time and again by the Church itself through its inconsistent and contradictory leadership and doctrines. Truly, we don’t need living prophets and continuing revelation that lead us away from God’s truth. We don’t need a so-called “true church” that is prone to “mistakes” and freely offends God. We need Jesus. He is all we need. He opens His arms and beckons, “Come. Follow  Me.”

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)