I spent the day yesterday serving with some people I haven’t seen in a long time. I was gratified when some of them who I don’t know very well remembered my name (and when I remembered some of their names).
Names are important. We like it when other people remember our names and when they use our names respectfully. Knowing someone’s name suggests that you know something about them and that you’ve taken an interest in them.
To ancient Israel, the Lord said, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isaiah 43:1). Addressing a future king named Cyrus, the Lord said, “I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me” (Isaiah 45:4).
When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene following His resurrection, she didn’t recognize Him until He said her name. (See John 20:14-16.) And when Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in a grove of trees near his home in 1820, the first word God spoke was Joseph’s name. Joseph knew immediately that God knew him. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:17.)
Honoring another person’s name is a sign of respect. Sharing your name with someone else indicates something more: a close relationship, with a shared identity and a duty of loyalty.
God said that He would gather the children of Israel, “even every one that is called by my name” (Isaiah 43:7). He later explained why He was being patient with Israel even though they were not living up to the covenants they had made with Him:
For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory unto another.1 Nephi 20:11, Isaiah 48:11
Here’s how I understand this passage: When God enters a covenant relationship with us and shares His name with us, He is in it for the long haul. We may fall short sometimes, but He will not give up on us easily, because with His name upon us, we are His.
Book of Mormon prophets, including Nephi, King Benjamin, and Amulek, urged us to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. (See 2 Nephi 31:13, Mosiah 5:8, Alma 34:38). When Jesus visited the American continent, He reminded His disciples of that admonition. (See 3 Nephi 27:5.) And the prayer on the sacrament recorded by Moroni includes a promise that we are willing to do so. (See Moroni 4:3.)
All of this emphasis on our willingness to receive His name may cause us to miss an important point: that He is actually willing to share His name with us. The Creator of the universe wants to enter into a deeper relationship with each of us. Our gratitude for this generous gift motivates our willingness to receive it.
Today, I will be grateful that God knows my name. I will also be grateful that He has offered to share His name with me. I will remember the significance of both of these truths: that He knows and loves me as I am, and that He is willing to enter a deep and enduring relationship with me.