“Lord We Will That Thou Wouldst Tell Us the Name Whereby We Shall Call This Church”

Brant Gardner

Only understanding the ancient significance of the name and this context do we understand that when the Lord of the Earth appears to the disciples and asks the open-ended question “what will ye that I shall give unto you?”  - the only thing they can think of is to ask the name of the church. This has long been supposed by non-LDS to be an answer to contemporary issues of Joseph Smith’s time. While that might have been an issue for Joseph Smith’s contemporaries, it is an even more critical question for an ancient world as the name would determine much of the essence of the thing. Up to this point, there is no real indication that the church among the Nephites had been a name at all. It is always referred to as “the church.” Since it played a major role in Nephite society for so long, “the church” was probably significant.

In Joseph Smith’s day, a church would need a name because there were multiple Christian churches, and one would need a label to distinguish one from another. In Nephite society there was no other Christian church. There was no other church period. There was no need to have a name for a church to distinguish it from anything else. “The church” could have been sufficient, as it was unambiguous. Therefore, this passage would easily be seen as a modern concern unless there were a legitimate ancient reason to be concerned about a name. It is interesting that not only is there a legitimate ancient reason for it, but the entire set up of this chapter depends upon that need for a name, and the associations with it.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon