July 16th, 2006

Taking Upon You His Name

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that 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… (D&C 20:77,79, emphasis added).

While taking the sacrament today, I opened my scriptures to read the words of the prayers a little more closely. I focused on the emphasized portion of the above verse, that being that upon partaking of the sacrament, we declare that we are “willing to take upon [us] the name of [Jesus Christ]”. A perfunctory analysis would result in your standard Sunday School-type answers, such as “oh, it means we should obey Him” or “it means we should try to be like Him”. While these answers are correct, there has to be more to it than that.

Elder Oaks, at the April 1985 general conference, gave a talk titled “Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ“, where he suggests the following as explanations of the term:

  1. The statement that we are willing to take upon us His name is a renewal of the same covenant made at baptism.
  2. We take upon us His name when we become members of the Church that bears His name.
  3. When we publicly proclaim our belief in Him, we take upon us His name.
  4. We are willing to do the work in His kindgom when take upon us His name.
  5. By being willing to take upon us His name, we indicating our willingness to take upon us His authority.
  6. By taking upon us His name, we are signifying our commitment to do all that we can to achieve eternal life in the kingdom of our Father.
  7. “Finally, our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ affirms our commitment to do all that we can to be counted among those whom he will choose to stand at his right hand and be called by his name at the last day.”

These highlights from Elder Oaks’ talk illustrate the varying ways this statement may be interpreted. Another interesting thing to note in relation to this is that those who fully and successfully taken upon them His name will be called by Christ’s name “at the last day”. This is illustrated in the following verses (with emphasis added):

Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:5)

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;
Wherefore, if they know not the name by which they are called, they cannot have place in the kingdom of my Father. (D&C 18:24-25)

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. (Alma 5:38)

These verses clearly illustrate that Christ will be calling us in His name, not our own. Thus, we see that the “name” becomes symbolic of identity, rather than simply a word or label. By taking Christ’s name upon us, we are to become like Him. We are to have His “image engraven in our countenances” (Alma 5:14,19). Just as “he that hath seen [Christ] hath seen the Father” (John 14:9), so should others be able to see Christ through us, if we have taken His name upon us. We are to become one with God just as Christ and the Father were and are one in purpose and unity. By taking upon us Christ’s name, our will should be His will, just as His will was “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7).

I believe it is by taking upon us His name, by becoming like Him, by molding our identities to become like His own, that we will then qualify to be in the group Jesus spoke of, when He said:

Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life. (D&C 45:4-5)

On a side note, I’d also recommend reading a devotional talk by Ardeth G. Kapp, former Young Women’s President, titled “Taking upon Us His Name“. It’s an excellent talk on this topic that has some great insight and perspective.

3 Responses to “Taking Upon You His Name”

  1. the narrator
    July 16, 2006 at 9:52 pm #

    you’ve got it right that the ritual of re-naming is more than just a name. it’s an identity. (think abram becoming abraham, or even more, saul becoming paul). however, taking upon the name of christ has a special significance. notice that the sacramental blessing of the bread as that “they are willing” to take on the name of the son. in mosiah, king benjamin bestows a new name on the persons in his kingdom during his sons coronation (which reverses the ritualistic re-naming often performed on a king. the new name he gives to his people is christ. by giving everyone the same name, their is more than a bestowal of identiy, there is a bestowal of unity. the community becomes one. it’s no longer bob, billy, and brenda. they are all one person, one body, working together. this is why paul often called the church the body of christ. this is because the gospel is not an individual effort, but a communal effort. not the work of individual bodies, but a unified body. they are all christ. in the sacramental prayers, the ‘taking on the name of christ’ is only mentioned in the blessing of the bread – the body of christ.

  2. Curtis
    September 12, 2006 at 11:38 pm #

    Great post. I think I remember in the Oaks talk that he was also speaking of the “willing to take” his name part of the deal, there is also the implication that there is a future event in which we fully take His name upon us, in a way we haven’t until that time.
    I like to think of this topic in terms of the temple. I think we go there to learn how to receive a name. It gives one power over a person to know that person’s name. That’s why Christ asked the demon what his name was (legion) and then he cast the demons into the swine.
    Christ also has a new name that is not known, and it is my humble opinion that it is that name that we seek after when we receive our true endowment, and it is then that we have great power with God. Here are a few gems from a good book on this topic:

    The faithful are further promised: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12). fn Christ himself has a new name, as can be seen from this description: “His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself” (Revelation 19:12). The notion of the secret name was also found among the Gnostics. The Marcosians, a Gnostic sect attacked by Irenaeus, taught that Christ was clothed in a “hidden name” (to onoma to apokekrummenon). fn

    The hidden name of the gods was often known only to the gods and was frequently given by them. In the view of the ancient Egyptian, when the deceased was allowed to enter into the presence of the gods, he then became like them. Once he was there, he was given his “True Name,” which “no man knoweth.” This is made clear in the Pyramid Texts: “The king is a master of wisdom, Whose mother knows not his name.” fn In the first book of the Iliad, reference is made to Aegaeon,” fn According to the prayer of Joseph, Jacob is the earthly name of the patriarch, while his heavenly name is Israel.

    The idea that the name was used as a key to permit the initiate to enter into the true fold of God is also attested in the Egyptian sources. Entrance in the “Hall of the Two Truths” in order to see the face of “every God” was dependent on a knowledge of names and formulas. This is clearly evident from the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead in which, after the deceased approaches the Hall of the Two Truths, he is told, “Let him come.” Thereafter he is asked, “Who art thou?” The deceased replies with his name and then answers other questions the gatekeepers ask. Upon answering the questions correctly, the guards say, “Come, enter this gate of the Broad Hall of the Two Truths — thou knowest us.” The initiate is then stopped by the jambs of the gate, and afterwards the beams, the rails, and the floor. All make the same demand, “We will not let thee enter past us . . . unless thou tellest our name.”
    (John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1990], 1: 510.)

  3. joe
    December 20, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    Curtis,
    That is very curious the relationship between LDS belief and egyptian, and perhaps christianity in general. However, some have sought to destroy some very valueable clay tablets and other ancient information which would have shed some light on a lot of matters. I am curious as to what you think is the reason for it. The name ‘Jesus Christ’ has also been used as a curse word. Recently I walked past an LDS church, with the name JESUS CHRIST in caps. In internet lingo this is equal to shouting. I believe Software which reads aloud would read it as shouting.

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