The apostles go out and preach and baptize, and meet together “and were united in mighty prayer and fasting” (1) Jesus comes again to them and asks what they want Him to give them. They ask to know what to call His church. He is a little saddened that the people are disputing this subject. He tells them that as they are to take His name upon them, so the Church should be called after Him as well.
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.
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.
Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be a church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”3 Nephi 27:5-8
Christ gave them specific revelation about what His Church should be called back then. In our day, He has repeated this counsel to living prophets. In 1838, the Lord Himself revealed the name of His Church to Joseph Smith.
For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”Doctrine & Covenants 115:4
Our current prophet has repeated this specific commandment in our day, correcting us for using nicknames that take Jesus’s name out of His Church’s name.
Thus, the name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended….
What’s in a name, or in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.”Russell M. Nelson, The Correct Name of the Church, Nov 2018
Why is the name of His Church so important to Jesus Christ? I believe it may do with identification. When we take upon us a name, we identify with it. He wants no confusion when it comes to identifying His Church and setting it apart from others that do not hold His authority.
Every Sunday as we worthily partake of the sacrament, we make anew our sacred promise to our Heavenly Father that we are willing to take upon us the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. We promise to follow Him, repent, keep His commandments, and always remember Him.
When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives….
If we as a people and as individuals are to have access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ—to cleanse and heal us, to strengthen and magnify us, and ultimately to exalt us—we must clearly acknowledge Him as the source of that power. We can begin by calling His Church by the name He decreed.ibid, Nelson.
Our prophet listed great blessings that would come to us from identifying His Church correctly, and not being lazy in our references to this sacred organization.
I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.
So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s Church, the answer is “Everything!” Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His Church, filled with His power.”ibid, Nelson
In our baptismal covenants, we promise to be willing to take Christ’s name upon us. Do we take this covenant upon us seriously?
Do we realize how blessed we are to take upon us the name of God’s Beloved and Only Begotten Son? Do we understand how significant that is? The Savior’s name is the only name under heaven by which man can be saved….
Every word [in the name of His Church] is clarifying and indispensable. The word THE indicates the unique position of the restored Church among the religions of the world.
The words CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST declare that it is His Church….
…OF LATTER-DAY explains that it is the same Church as the Church that Jesus Christ established during His mortal ministry but restored in these latter days. We know there was a falling away, or an apostasy, necessitating the Restoration of His true and complete Church in our time.
SAINTS means that its members follow Him and strive to do His will, keep His commandments, and prepare once again to live with Him and our Heavenly Father in the future. SAINT simply refers to those who seek to make their lives holy by covenanting to follow Christ.M. Russell Ballard, The Importance of a Name, Nov 2011
After clarifying His Church’s name, Jesus tells His disciples what his gospel is, that is supported by His Church:
Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given you—that I came unto the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—“3 Nephi 27:13-14
His gospel seems to be all about Him doing the will of the Father, and atoning for our sins, so we can return to the presence of the Father, to be judged of our works. It is about repentance and baptism in His name. Those who repent and take upon them His name will be held “guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.” (16)
That doesn’t mean we are guiltless because of what we have done. No. Christ shall erase our guilt, so we can stand guiltless under His name.
That is why His name is so important.
Jesus gives them one of the most important commandments, that is repeated often throughout scripture and by living prophets.
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”3 Nephi 27:20
Repent, be baptized, become sanctified through the Holy Ghost. These small and simple things make up the foundation of His gospel, in bringing us back to Him, so He can bring us back to God the Father.
He gives His called apostles a grand vision of their future and a challenge to work to attain.
And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”3 Nephi 27:27
If we aren’t completely Christlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we have no business passing out judgments on others. That is Christ’s job. When He passes this duty onto a few others He especially calls to this assignment, to judge a people, He also gives them power to do it, and holds them to a higher responsibility to be even as He is.
He tells His apostles that He must return to His Father, but reminds them that “whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given you.” (28) Though He won’t personally be with them, they still have access to Him, through the Father.
Christ’s joy is full in their generation because “none of them are lost.” (30)
Saving us brings Him joy.
But He sorrows for the fourth generation from them, who will be led away captive, for they will sell their God for silver and gold and that which does corrupt. He leaves them with this counsel:
Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to eternal life, and few there be that find it.”3 Nephi 27:33
Let us do better in taking Christ’s name upon us each and every day. Let us be careful in identifying His Church correctly, so His power will be upon us, and help us in our goal to become like Him. We can do this. Through small and simple steps, we can begin to change our life in ways that will be great in the long-term.
What small and simple goal will you make today to be more like your Savior?