As a General Authority of the Church, it is my privilege to travel throughout the Africa Southeast Area and meet many wonderful Latter-day Saints. The faithful members of the Church are always so kind and they help me to feel God’s love for all of his children. I have found it fascinating to meet members with beautiful descriptive first names such as Happiness, Perseverance, Patience, Blessing, and Dieudonné (French for Gift from God). It is interesting to me that in many cases, these faithful members live up to their names: Happiness is truly happy, Patience is patient, and Blessing is a blessing in many people’s lives.
Our parents gave us each a first name by which we are known to family and friends and also a family name by which our families are identified. This family name is so powerful that it inspires us to seek after our ancestors by doing family history work. The Savior taught that our longing to be part of a family would “…turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” (3 Ne 25:6).
He also taught that we must create a permanent bond through temple ordinances, what the Prophet Joseph Smith called a “welding link” between the fathers and the children. “For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect” (DC 128:18). Without this link, our very purpose on earth would be wasted. In other words, the plan of salvation would be frustrated (DC 110:15).
Our Heavenly Father has also given us a name by which we should be called, the name of Jesus Christ. In the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ, during the time of the apostles, the members of the Church were known by the name of Jesus Christ. The earliest mention is in the Book of Acts where they were called Christians (Acts 11:26).
In our day we have been commanded to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, a central part of our doctrine is that we “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart…with real intent…witnessing unto the Father that [we] are willing to take upon [ourselves] the name of Christ by baptism” (2 Ne 31:13).
The actual requirement for baptism is really very simple: “All those who…desire to be baptized…and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ…shall be received by baptism into his church” (DC 20:37).
After having taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ through baptism as a symbol of our commitment to follow Him, then each week thereafter during our Sabbath worship we renew the covenant that we made at baptism. We partake of the sacrament where we promise that we “are willing to take upon [us] the name of thy Son, and always remember him.” In return he promises us that he will give us his Holy Spirit, even the Comforter, which serves as a guide or companion and by which we can know that we are doing what our Heavenly Father would have us do (DC 20:77).
The importance of a name can never be underestimated, neither our earthly name nor the name of Jesus Christ. President George Albert Smith was named after his grandfather George A. Smith, who was a cousin to the Prophet Joseph Smith and a counselor to President Brigham Young. President George Albert Smith had severe health problems throughout his life and had to learn to be patient and bear up under the burdens placed upon him. “During this difficult time, George had a dream in which he saw a beautiful forest near a large lake. After he had walked some distance through the forest, he recognized his beloved grandfather George A. Smith coming toward him. George hurried forward, but as his grandfather drew near, he stopped and said, ‘I would like to know what you have done with my name.’ A panorama of his life passed through George’s mind and he humbly replied, ‘I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.’ This dream renewed George’s spirit and physical stamina. Later, he often described the experience as a major turning point in his life” (George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel with Others, sel. Preston Nibley, 1948, 110-12).
Some day we will meet the Savior and, in essence, He will ask us the same question, “What have you done with my name?” We will hopefully be able to give the same response that President George Albert Smith gave, “I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.”
Our earthly name is important. It defines us and binds families together by a family name. Temple ordinances make those feelings of unity and love permanent. The sacred name of Jesus Christ is important because it binds us to Him. We take His name upon us and follow Him. He, in turn, blesses us with the Holy Spirit.
Let us each learn to respect and reverence the name of Jesus Christ that we have taken. As we do so, we will come to know Him because we have tried to be like Him. May the Lord bless us to be ever faithful to His great and sacred name.