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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:
- The statement that we are willing to take upon us His name is a renewal of the same covenant made at baptism.
- We take upon us His name when we become members of the Church that bears His name.
- When we publicly proclaim our belief in Him, we take upon us His name.
- We are willing to do the work in His kindgom when take upon us His name.
- By being willing to take upon us His name, we indicating our willingness to take upon us His authority.
- 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.
- “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.