What’s in a Name?

Pres. Nelson recently called for a renewed focus on using the God-given name for the Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This exhortation was coupled with an updated Style Guide for news outlets and the assertion that the Church’s own materials would be undergoing a process to be in line with this decision. The internet was in a bit of an uproar about the entire thing for days (and still is a little). I saw many responses suggesting that God doesn’t care about the name we’re called and that this is a waste of God’s time and ours to suggest He/She/They do. Usually this was accompanied by an expression of a hope for revelation on a different topic viewed as more pressing by the person speaking (and generally I agree with these various assessments of the urgency of these desired realms of revelation).

However, I think this conversation is a little frustrating and seems to understand God differently than I do. God has always been a God of the mundane, the particular, the quotidian. The boundaries between sacred and profane that we mortals have set up mean nothing to God. God, especially the God of Mormonism (*ahem* sorry, the God of the restored Church of Jesus Christ), has always been a God that makes sweeping, radical theological innovations alongside mundane, quotidian ones.

This is the God that revealed to Joseph Smith the kingdoms of glory and created a radically universal and exclusive view of heaven. The same God that laid out the city planning for the New Jerusalem. God revealed through Joseph the Book of Mormon. The same God provided explicit instructions on the bureaucracy of the Church, including how many men precisely can be in any priesthood quorum. God guided Brigham and the Saints across the plains. The same God revealed the grid that has influenced city design in Utah ever since the founding of Salt Lake City.

God has always cared about the particulars. God is invested in establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on the Earth, but God is also invested in making sure each and every one of us has the opportunity time and time again to be a part of that Kingdom. We are the particulars. The name, the city layout, the architecture, the bureaucratic structure, the style guide, the restaurant menu, all of that matters to God.

I’m conflicted about this particular concern of God’s. I love claiming my Mormon-ness and talking about Mormonism. I think there’s something a bit condescending and distancing about demanding that other Christian traditions refer to us as “the restored Church of Jesus Christ” that seems to tear down the bridges we’ve been working to build between us and the broader Christian community. However, if this call from Pres. Nelson gets us to talk more about Christ and more about our connection to Him, then great. We can all use a little more Jesus in our lives.

What I do know is that I love God’s concern for the mundane. I love a God that has a Style Guide. I love a God that tears down the barriers between the sacred and profane. I love a God that makes sacred the quotidian; that imbues bureaucracy and record-keeping and reading and everyday living with a sense of the divine. This God is a relatable God. A God that has no particular concerns, no quirks, no preferences, no petty commandments, is not a God that I can know.

If I care about people putting shopping carts away, clearing the time on the microwave, and never putting empty cereal boxes back on shelves then I can get on board with God caring about a name that He/She/They explicitly asked us to use. Do I want and hope God cares about other, bigger things too? Absolutely. Do I believe that God is working on ways to reveal more about how my LGBTQ+ siblings fit into His/Her/Their plan? How women fit into the Priesthood and the general leadership structure of the Church? How to help us all better love our neighbors? Yes, yes I do.

If sometimes all I can do is get my inbox down to 10 emails and not finish my thesis or change the minds of countless friends and family about various political issues or enact meaningful political reform, then perhaps sometimes all God can do is get us to try and follow His/Her/Their damn Style Guide a little more closely. I’ve never been great at Style Guides and honestly think they’re generally a semi-classist form of gatekeeping, but I empathize with a God that does care.

Here’s to God, making sacred the profane, and petty commandments.


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