D&C 3: What’s in a name?

A few weeks ago as I listened to Doctrine and Covenants sections 10-18, I kept hearing the word “name” over and over again. (Maybe it was because I kept replaying the sections after I realized I had gotten lost in thought.) But “name” and individual’s names appear frequently in these sections.

D&C 10:61 “And I will bring to light their marvelous works, which they did in my name….”
D&C 11:30 “But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on my name.”
D&C 13:1 “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron….”
D&C 14:8 “…if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost….”
D&C 18 “Name” occurs 16 times in the printed text. These three verses arrested my attention:

And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved. Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved; Wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day….

D&C 18:22–24 (emphasis added)

This became the subject of pondering. I am always intensely interested in topics of identity and personhood, nomenclature and etymology. The theme of names and naming in the scriptures has a lot of depth to explore that I would like to discuss with my kids eventually but, for the present, I managed to narrow it down sufficiently to a somewhat focused Family Home Evening lesson two weeks ago.

I began by simply introducing the topic of names and what it means for a name to become associated with characteristics or qualities. On our easel I wrote the word “Daddy” and asked the girls to call out the first words that came to their minds. They said things like “entertaining,” “warm,” “fun,” “tickle,” “giggly.” (I think my husband suggested “smelly.”) We repeated the activity with the word “baby” and then with a specific member of our family to nudge their thinking in the scriptural direction I wanted to take them. (They loved this activity, by the way, and would have happily spent time going through the exercise for every member of our family.)

Then I wrote the name “Jesus Christ” on our board and asked everyone to call out the first words that came to their minds.

While writing the words on the board that everyone came up with, we had a good discussion about why we associate certain words and characteristics with Jesus. We also read D&C 18:22–24. I encouraged my kids to reflect on what they would like to be known for: if someone hears their name, will that person think of love, compassion, sacrifice, bravery? We reflected on the baptismal covenant that our oldest daughter made at her baptism in January, which includes taking the name of Christ upon herself (as mentioned in D&C 18:24). As we take Christ’s name upon us, will our behavior and actions reflect His character and influence upon us? I expressed my hope that as we each follow Jesus Christ our names will become synonymous with His.

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