Guest Post: What’s in a Name? The Other Side of the Coin

By Brittney Hartley

When we watch history we see that the world is always working towards a golden mean, a middle way, or a balance of the force (depending on your beliefs and level of nerdiness). Under this Pendulum Theory history swings towards one direction, reaches a tipping point, and then returns towards the opposite direction. The “All You Need Is Love” generation has children that embrace “I am a Material Girl.” The rebellion against the British Empire leads to the weak government under the Articles of Confederation. After globalization movements, nationalism comes back with a vengeance. No political party stays in power too long before the pendulum starts to swing back. It’s the way of nature.

It is also the way of truth. One of the greatest things about studying scripture is delving into the world of opposites. For every “thou shalt” there is an exception. For every principle there is an opposing principle that balances it out. The challenge with reading scripture is engaging in the wrestle, not cherry picking our favorite side. Pacifists love the Anti-Nephi-Lehis and War Hawks love Captain Moroni. The point is to find the truth that lies in between. There’s a time to fight with passive nonaggression and a time to take up arms. There’s a time to be honest and a time to lie. There’s a time for bravery and a time for humility. As Joseph Smith puts it, “by proving contraries the truth is made manifest” (HC 6:248).

Even in our short history as a Church we can see some balancing out taking place under the direction of Russell M. Nelson. As one body we have a sense for when something is out of balance. We are a body of Christ. The spirit flows through us all, connecting us like an ecosystem that is constantly correcting itself. When we reached a tipping point with Home Teaching reports and lessons, the ministering program is ushered in. The pendulum that swung towards homogenization efforts of the correlation period is now giving way to loosening the reins of prescribed lessons. Two-hour-long church was received with rejoicing after our collective spiritual burnout from too many Church-centered activities. Unsatisfying accounts of our history led to a hunger from which came many changes including the Gospel Topics Essays. If the rumors and whispers are correct, there are many more pendulum shifts to come.

Now to my point. Whenever there is a backlash against a change in the Church, it is not always because it is wrong or it is evil. It is often because it is unbalanced. It is one side of the coin without a tipping of the hat to the other side. And as a social ecosystem there will be those who call it out. As I watched President Nelson’s announcement to focus on the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I didn’t hear a ton of rejoicing. Some took it as the Prophet’s counsel and that was that. But others had a strong negative reaction.

Whenever there is a reaction we can look for the other side of the coin. What principle is being underrepresented here? For Jesus really did say what he wanted his Church to be called: “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (D&C 115:4). Nelson promised a pouring out of power as we call upon His name through our conversations by using the full name. But Jesus spoke of those who call upon His name another time in the scriptures. In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus tells his disciples:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

These people, members of “The Church” who called upon the proper name of God and even did good works in His name are cast out of his presence because their hearts are far from Him. If we continue Christ’s analogy, it also means that there are those who have not called Him by his name, who did not even carry His priesthood, or who would not recognize Him in heaven to which Christ would say, “Come here child, I know you and you know me. Inasmuch a ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.”

My guess is that if President Nelson would have made the name correction and followed up with a focus on how we can better live up to that name, there would not have been such a negative reaction. If he would have said, we’re correcting our name and to better live up to it we’re making changes in the Church, there would have been absolute rejoicing. Both sides of the coin would have been represented and there would have been little to complain about. The name would have meant something, like Christ implies in Matthew 7. If the talk challenged us to exemplify Jesus in how we treat those in the margins of our own society we would have had both sides of the coin. We would have rallied together in bettering how we treat LGBT members, how we interview minors behind closed doors, how we could expand women’s voices, and how we could better reach out the poor and downtrodden. Those efforts, according to the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, are far more important than the right name.

My hope is that the focus of the right name will one day reach a tipping point and give yield to the opposing idea: Christlike actions from the Church are far more important than the name itself.

Brittney Hartley is a history teacher living in Eagle, Idaho with her husband and four children. She enjoys the rabbit hole of Mormon Philosophy and will have a book out soon called Mormon Philosophy Simplified through Kofford Books. Above all, she is a nerd.

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7 Responses

  1. Evangelina Voz says:

    Yes, yes yes!!!! I love this. It resonates on such a deep chord….a beautiful melody…I hunger for more perspectives like this.

    I would add Christ would not protect perpetrators and silence/blame victims.

    Thank you for writing this post. So very important. You described the problem so eloquently. The discord between focusing on the name of our church, but ignoring the extremely harmful actions we suffer in it sometimes.

  2. Anna says:

    Yes. All over the Mormon on lines discussions I have seen thoughts that if President Nelson wants people to realize we are a Christian church, then maybe we should act like it because actions speak louder than words. Maybe our sermons in church meetings should talk more about Christ and less about following the prophet. Maybe we should preach more about the atonement than we do about tithing. And maybe we should spend that tithing money and the interest it pulls in more on helping the poor instead of building malls and apartment buildings. Maybe instead of protecting “the good name of the church” by attacking a sexual assault victim, we should care more about what a Christian church really should be, and establish a real “good name of the church”. I mean, there is a reason other Christian church accuse us of not being Christian. We focus so much on the “all you can do” part of salvation, that we forget that no matter how much that is, it is nothing without charity, and it is nothing without Christ. So, we focus on what is nothing without what we have lost track of. Our hearts are far from Him.

    Not only is this out of balance now, it has been for a long time. It is way past time that it swung back the other direction. I was complaining about the lack of focus on Christ thirty years ago, and now I have left because I see more harm in the church than I see good. We have focused so much on the wrong things, for so long, that we are no longer a church that does more good than harm.

  3. Evangelina Voz says:

    Oh Anna, exactly.

  4. belhepsibah says:

    Oh yes! This is why some of the general conference talks left me feeling sad. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t believe what was said, but that it felt limiting that it was *all* that was said. I’m extremely glad that you wrote and explained so perfectly. This totally clicked for me.

  5. Anthony Archer says:

    A most excellent essay, and three (so far) most excellent comments.

  1. October 25, 2018

    […] Hartley, in a guest post for Exponent II, sees a flip side to Nelson’s push to use the full name of the church — and the outcry against […]

  2. October 25, 2018

    […] Hartley, in a guest post for Exponent II, sees a turn facet to Nelson’s push to make use of the total title of the church — and the […]

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