Why did the Lord give the name of the Church as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Seems to me it has caused a great deal of confusion among non-members. Would not the Church have been better served if the Lord had just simply called it “The Church of Jesus Christ?” That would be so crystal clear with people throughout the world. Why the pressing need to have a complicated name and distinguish it from the primitive church?
In a conference held on May 3, 1834, the Church’s name was officially changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” According to The Evening and the Morning Star published in May 1834, this was a reaction to the fact that Church members were becoming widely known as “Mormonites” (in spite of the Church’s former name as the “Church of Christ”). The Church was trying, through the name change, to re-emphasize its members’ identities as saints, in the tradition of the saints of the primitive church.
The Church’s current name was given by revelation on April 26, 1838, in verse 4 of what is now Section 115 of our Doctrine and Covenants. Regarding this name, Elder M. Russell Ballard has taught:
“I have thought a lot about why the Savior gave the nine-word name to His restored Church. It may seem long, but if we think of it as a descriptive overview of what the Church is, it suddenly becomes wonderfully brief, candid, and straightforward. How could any description be more direct and clear and yet expressed in such few words?”
“Of Latter-day explains that it is the same Church as the Church that Jesus Christ established during His mortal ministry but restored in these latter days. We know there was a falling away, or an apostasy, necessitating the Restoration of His true and complete Church in our time.
Saints means that its members follow Him and strive to do His will, keep His commandments, and prepare once again to live with Him and our Heavenly Father in the future. Saint simply refers to those who seek to make their lives holy by covenanting to follow Christ.”
The Importance of a Name Oct 2011 conference.