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followers of Christ accepted the name and hallowed it by sacrifice and righteous deeds; and today the world counts but one distinction greater than being called a Christian, and that is to be a Christian in fact.
The "Mormon" people do not resent the misnomer by which they are commonly known, and which has been put upon them by popular usage. They deplore, however, the possible misunderstanding that the Church to which they belong professes to be the church of Mormon. It should be known that Mormon was a man, a very distinguished and a very able man it is true, an eminent prophet and historian according to the record bearing his name, but a man nevertheless. The "Mormon" Church affirms itself to be in no sense the church of Mormon, nor the church of Joseph Smith, nor of Brigham Young, nor of any man other than the Savior and Redeemer of the race. The true name of this Church, the designation by which it is officially known is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This is an age of multitudinous sects, cults, and religious societies in general, and the number increases year by year. Strictly speaking a sect is a branch or offshoot of a primary institution, and in this sense numerous sects have arisen and others may arise, all professing something in common though differing in particulars ofttimes to the point of antagonism.
Most of the existing sects designate themselves as "churches" with a distinctive forename to each. As the term "church" in its ordinary and broad usage is a common possession, unprotected by letters patent or other guaranty of exclusiveness, its general employment as an alternative for "sects" or cognate nouns is no breach of law, order or custom.
Narrowing our consideration to that of churches profess
ing Christianity, we meet the question as to whether there can be two or more diverse sects, opposed to each other in essentials of belief and practise, and both or all be in reality the Church of Jesus Christ. Can a church that is divided against itself, or a multitude of sects with discordant doctrines and conflicting claims to priestly authority, be one and all the same church, and that the Church of God?
The question has been answered by the churches themselves; and their emphatic reply in the negative is expressed in the names by which these organizations have chosen to be known. Some have elected to be called after the names of their founders or eminent promoters, as Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans, Campbellites. Others proclaim by their self-chosen titles a preference for appellations denoting some descriptive feature of their plan of organization or governmental system, as Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational. Yet others attach so great significance to distinctive points of doctrine as to make that the mark of identity, such as Unitarian, Trinitarian, Universalist, Baptist.
None of us can consistently challenge the vested right of religious associations to choose their own names. Moreover, the designations of existing sects, with few exceptions, are self-explanatory, significantly expressive, and eminently appropriate. In general the names tell, as explicitly as any brief title could do, just what the respective sect, society or church professes to be.
Organizations planned and operated for individual and social betterment, whether known as churches or otherwise, are commendable institutions. Inasmuch as membership therein is a matter of personal choice, no objection should be raised against rules established by common consent or majority decision for the admission of new applicants or for the discipline of members, provided, of course, that such
rules be administered without infringement upon the rights of outsiders.
But can any association of men, conceived and effected on human initiative, be anything other than an earthly institution, even though its aims be lofty and its activities' the most praiseworthy?
The Church of Jesus Christ, as an institution both earthly and heavenly, that is to say having vital relation to mortal life and to eternity, cannot have been originated at human instance. That church is not the fruitage of man's planting, neither the offshoot of other and older institutions. The Church of Jesus Christ, therefore, is not, nor can it be, a sect.
The Book of Mormon affirms that the Lord Jesus Christ, shortly after His ascension in Judea, visited the early inhabitants of the Western Continent and established His Church amongst them. As He had done in Galilee, so in America. He chose and ordained Twelve Disciples, to whom He gave authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel, which, as the Lord taught, are essential to salvation. He very clearly set forth that His Church was to be rightly named, as the following record attests.
The Twelve, whom He had commissioned to build up the Church, prayed for instruction, saying: "Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this Church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter." And the Resurrected Lord, there present in visible Person, answered them in this wise:
"Verily, verily I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the Scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day. And whoso taketh
upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. Therefore whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the Church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name, that He will bless the Church for my sake. And how be it my Church, save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name, then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man, then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name, then it is my Church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27.)
The members of the Church aver that the distinguishing features of their religious system, in short, the essentials of the philosophy of "Mormonism" are epitomized in the name of their organization-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
If the name be used without Divine warrant, its assumption can not fail to be regarded as a sacrilege; if it has been authoritatively bestowed one need look no further for explanation of the vitality exhibited by the Church in so impressive a degree from the day of its organization to the present.
A Distinctive Religious System
N the popular classification of religious bodies, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if included at all, is generally given mention apart from churches and sectarian institutions in general. The segregation is eminently proper, for this Church is strictly unique.
No well informed commentator, no capable critic in either friendly or hostile mood, has classed "Mormonism" as the sectarian offspring of any mother church, nor as any mere variation of a preexisting body. No church on earth claims, acknowledges or admits any community of origin with the commonly known but mis-called "Mormon" Church. Nor does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assert any such relationship with other bodies.
At this point it is well to consider the fact that toleration in religious belief and practise is a fundamental tenet of "Mormonism." This is set forth in one of the formulated Articles of Faith: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
We demand no prerogatives, ask no privileges, beyond what we readily accede to be the common rights of mankind. Our distinctive teachings and the claims of the Church as to its commission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and administer the saving ordinances thereof, must be judged on their merits, and in the spirit of testimony, which we believe the honest-hearted inquirer may gain for himself in the course of unbiased investigation.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in that it solemnly affirms to the world that the new dispensation, foretold in prophecy as a characteristic of the last days precedent to the second advent of Christ, is established, and that the Holy Priesthood, with all its ancient authority and power, has been restored to earth.
"Mormonism" affirms that such restoration was a necessity, inasmuch as mankind had fallen away from the Gospel of Christ during the dark ages of history, with the inevitable consequence that the Holy Priesthood had been taken from