The fact that we LDS never use the phrase “name of the Lord” or “name of Christ” in our speech, aside from quoting scripture, perhaps reveals that we as a people don’t understand its meaning very well.
What does it mean to you?
The Scriptures make it crystal clear that we must take upon us the name of Christ to be saved! Here are a few examples:
- 2 Nephi 25:20
- Mosiah 3:17
- 3 Nephi 27:5-6
Kind of an important term or phrase to understand, wouldn’t you say?
And yet, it appears there’s an epidemic of confusion on the meaning! It’s used so loosely today in the Church that there are abundant quotes by leaders indicating all Church members have taken upon them the name of Christ, and even speak in His name!
Putting aside whether we actually take Christ’s name upon us at baptism (see this other post for a detailed discussion of that topic), let’s look at what the phrase even means. Understanding this phrase’s meaning will help us understand if we do indeed take Christ’s name upon us at baptism.
I’ve studied the scriptures for many hours and weeks on this subject, specifically looking for “the name of Christ”, or some derivative, and paying heed to how it is used. Many different verbs are used with the “name of the Lord”. Here is a fairly thorough list. As you consider each phrase, what do you think “name of Christ” means?
Call upon the name
Declare thy name
Profane the name
Blaspheme the name
Put my name upon children of Israel
Publish the name
Come in the name
Build an house for my name
In Jerusalem will I put my name
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name
Prophesy in the name
They that know thy name will put their trust in thee
His name shall endure forever
Sanctify my name
Gather to the name
Walk in the name
Trust in the name
In thy name cast out devils
Be hated of all men for my name’s sake
Gather together in my name
Baptize in the name
Believe in his name
Believe on his name
Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do
Father will send Holy Ghost in my name
Believe ye might have life through his name
Miracles and wonderful works performed in his name
There is none other name whereby we can be saved
Teach in his name
Suffer shame for his name
Received permission of sins through his name
Paul did many things contrary to the name of Jesus
Do all in the name
Thou holdest fast my name
Have Father’s name written in foreheads
He cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name
Take upon you the name
Worship the Father in his name
Command in the name
Be willing to bear my name
In his own name he doth call you
Speak in the name
Profess my name
That you’re incomings may be in the name
Build a house unto me in the name
Consecrate it unto my name
Magnify my name
The emboldened ones above I think do an exceptional job of communicating the meaning. I really like “hold fast” His name, quoted in Revelation 2. How do you hold on dearly to Christ’s name? Or what do we cling to? What might John’s captors have tried to get him to forsake or disavow while in prison? How might John’s character have been tested? If name refers to God’s love, which I think it does, then God asking us to “magnify His name” is a beautiful phrase. Don’t just show a little bit of love to others. Show A LOT! Magnify His love! Same meaning would explain, “Declare His name!”
A big clue to help us understand the true meaning of “the name of Christ” is found in John 14:
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Just ask, and God will dutifully grant your wish. Simple, right? But we know that’s not the way it works. How many times have we asked something, even with sincerity and passion, and not received what we asked for? But this statement in John 14 teaches us something very important:
Clearly, the meaning of asking things in Christ’s name points to nothing less than HAVING CHRIST’S MIND, or being in harmony, or at one with Him. If that is the meaning, then Christ’s promise makes perfect sense. Of course He will do what we ask WHEN IT’S HIS WILL!
And then there are cases where people actually DO incredible things like prophesy or cast devils out of people, or other divers “wonderful works” using Christ’s name.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
So what’s this mean? Who gets into heaven then? The mystery is solved in verse 21:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Let’s assume these people did do Christ’s will at those specific times. That could be a wrong assumption (maybe the “wonderful works” were done by some other power). But it doesn’t matter. The Lord judged them, at the end of the day, as “workers of iniquity” because their life as a whole was judged as one of iniquity. The best case evaluation of these unsaved folks is that they didn’t do the Father’s will consistently enough or perhaps they were just doing things by rote, and not really tuned into the Father’s specific will for them. They key lesson: do the Father’s will. And to do, one must know.
Connecting this lesson to our discussion about the name of Christ, we conclude that one can do things in Christ’s name, and yet not be doing the will of the Father. Perhaps the best example from their lives is that they were doing priesthood blessings, but uttering words that didn’t come from the Father, but rather, they were just their words. Thus Jesus disavows them.
There are many, many verses that deal with the name of Christ. Let’s look at a few more:
Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.
Do not Mormons view themselves as Israel? Yet, the Lord says that Israel can use the name of the Lord untruthfully or unrighteously. Our challenge, then, is to use it IN truth and IN righteousness!
Same chapter, Isa 48:10-11
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
Christ associates His name with glory. Indeed, “name” has some deep and rich meanings!
Similarly, in John 17, the great intercessory prayer given during Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, Christ associates the Father’s name with love.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
I think Christ is declaring His love. He says “I have declared unto them thy name”. Strange phrase! But packed with meaning, as we are finding out. Here, definitely one of the nuances is LOVE, even perfect, divine love.
The prayer in this chapter has these insights as well:
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
How does one manifest “thy name” unto men? It makes sense if “thy name” means God’s love.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
In these usages as well, Christ appears to equate “name” with LOVE. And lest we forget, God’s love is so great that it’s beyond words to even describe with our words. It surpasses all understanding. 1 Cor 2:9:
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Perhaps we take the “name of Christ” for granted, and use it too loosely and meanly in our conversations. The meaning is shaping up to refer to the great love, majesty, glory and greatness of God.
Let’s continue to look at how it’s used to see if we can gain greater insight.
2 Nephi 25:16
…and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands…
Here we are supposed to worship in his name. Love appears to be the best synonym. Associated with his name here is “pure hearts and clean hands.”
2 Nephi 27:34
But when he seeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.
Here His name is “sanctified”! Again, associating purity with His name.
Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.
Here the word “willing” is used. At baptism we must be “willing” to take His name upon us. Same during the sacrament ordinance. Willing to do what? According to this verse, we are willing to bear his name. Then He says the reason: because “in my name” shall they be called if we are His. Bear what? His love. His glory. His mind! We thus must become like Him.
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.
There is great insight to be gained in this one verse. Christ is calling us. What a strange phrase: to call somebody in your name. Have you ever called somebody, but you used YOUR name? Love doesn’t work here as a synonym. Mind does. Thoughts seem to work. In his own thoughts doth he call you. That makes sense. He then connects calling you in his name with hearkening to his voice! So if we’re not good at listening and perceiving and understanding his voice, then how can we be called?! In fact, if we don’t learn this, then he flatly says, “ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd!”
Ether 2:15 indicates “calling upon the name of the Lord” refers to asking for the Lord’s thoughts!
15 And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And these are my thoughts upon the land which I shall give you for your inheritance; for it shall be a land choice above all other lands.
18 Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name.
19 And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold it is I that hath spoken it. Amen.
Here name appears to mean the thoughts and mind of God. Signs naturally will only follow those whose minds are united with God’s.
26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.
If we are saved by faith in his name, we must be believing in His will, His way, His path, His agenda, His guidance and voice. Thus we are continuing to uncover additional shades of meaning through context.
Now our list includes, in no particular order, the following insights about the meaning of “name of Christ”:
Name = love, glory, purity, mind, thoughts, will, way, path, agenda, and voice, as illustrated below in DC 41:1:
Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me; and ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings.
Name is equated with His voice, or hearing Him! How interesting!
DC 112 warns of the vital nature of understanding what His name means:
25 And upon my house shall it [God’s vengeance] begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
If you say you know His name, but don’t, you are guilty of blasphemy!
There are many other scriptures that confirm these nuances and meanings, which are nothing less than a fulness of these attributes of Christ’s character:
Love, glory, purity, mind, thoughts, will, way, path, agenda, voice, authority, majesty, and greatness.
With these insights in mind, consider then the literal interpretation most Mormons typically make when hearing the (incorrect) statement, “when you’re baptized, you take upon yourself the name of Christ.”
With this essay in mind, it would be gross hubris to believe somebody / anybody would take God’s love, glory, purity, mind, thoughts, will, way, path, agenda, voice, authority, majesty, or greatness upon them at baptism.
That’s why the Lord says we must be WILLING to take upon us His name at baptism and during the ordinance of sacrament.
…if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism…
2 Nephi 31:13
Nephi plainly teaches we witness we are willing to take upon the name of Christ. We’d all agree that we are willing to take upon us God’s love, glory, purity, mind, thoughts, will, way, path, agenda, voice, authority, majesty, or greatness. That truly is the goal of a converted Christian.
Moroni 4 plainly teaches the same thing in the ordinance for blessing the bread:
…they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son…
It should be quite clear to our understanding now that, generally speaking, we do not permanently take Christ’s name upon us at baptism or when receiving the ordinance of sacrament. Perhaps some can and do take Christ’s character and mind upon them (to some degree) for a fleeting moment, but most of us, if we are honest, are trying to do such.
The charge “be ye therefore perfect” is another way of expressing “take Christ’s name upon you”! As well, it’s exactly synonymous with “receive ye the Holy Ghost”!
Moroni’s last words are a plea to take upon us the name of Christ:
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.