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President Oaks Shares 3 Meanings Behind the Baptismal Covenant That Will Change How You See the Sacrament

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are commanded to partake of the sacrament each week (see D&C 59:9, 12). When the priest offers the scriptural prayer on the bread, he prays to God, the Eternal Father, that all who partake may “witness unto thee . . . that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son” (D&C 20:77; Moro. 4:3). This renews the covenant made in the waters of baptism that we will take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and “serve him and keep his commandments” (Mosiah 18:10). In modern scriptures persons desiring to be baptized are required to witness before the Church “that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end” (D&C 20:37; see also 2 Ne. 31:13; Moro. 6:3).

What does it mean when we covenant by baptism and by partaking of the sacrament that we are “willing to take upon [us] the name of Jesus Christ?” There are at least three meanings.

The first meaning concerns identification. We take upon us our Savior’s name in this sense when we become members of the Church that bears His name. By His commandment, His Church is named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 115:4). Similarly, we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ whenever we publicly proclaim our belief in Him. In this, we keep the modern commandment: “Take upon you the name of Christ, and speak the truth in soberness” (D&C 18:21). We also take upon us His name—His identity—whenever we act upon our faith in Him. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explains this:

"In as many ways as possible, both figuratively and literally, we try to take upon us his identity. We seek out his teachings and retell his miracles. We send latter-day witnesses, including prophets, apostles, and missionaries, around the world to declare his message. We call ourselves his children, and we testify that he is the only source of eternal life" [“Come Unto Me,” Ensign, April 1998, 16].

A second significance of taking upon us the name of Christ applies the meaning of the name of God as the authority or work of God. By witnessing our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, we signify our willingness to act in His authority and to do His work, which is to bring to pass the eternal life of man. By this means we covenant to accept callings in His Church and to be diligent in fulfilling the responsibilities of those callings. This meaning and this covenant cast new light on the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7). More than a commandment against speaking the words of sacred names improperly (as by profanity), this is also a commandment not to be inactive in exercising His authority that has been conferred upon us or in carrying out that portion of His work that has been assigned to us.

The third meaning of our witnessed willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ relies on the fact that what we witness is not that we take upon us His name but that we are willing to do so. This meaning must therefore relate to some future event or status that is not self-assumed but depends on the authority or initiative of the Savior Himself. Only upon His action will we actually take His holy name upon us in this important sense.

What future event or status could this covenant contemplate? This meaning of taking His name upon us concerns our relationship to our Savior and the incomprehensible blessings available to those who will eventually achieve what the Apostle Paul called “a perfect man [or woman], unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). According to this meaning, when we witness our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, we are signifying 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 (His essence) at the last day. In this sacred sense, our witness that we are “willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ” constitutes our declaration of candidacy for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. By this means we witness our determination to do all that we can to come unto Christ and receive the fulness of the Father, which is eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).

In summary, we may think of the sacramental covenant to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ as comprising at least three meanings, each expressive of a different and ascending level of spiritual progress or maturity. First, we signify our willingness to be identified as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a member of the Church that bears His name and proclaims His gospel throughout the world. Second, we signify our willingness to take upon us our assigned measure of the authority and work of the Savior to bring to pass the eternal life of the children of God, including accepting and laboring diligently to fulfill the responsibilities of our own callings in His kingdom. Third, we witness our commitment to strive to qualify for exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

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Using personal insight and excerpts from the standard works, President Oaks takes a fascinating look at the meaning of the Savior's holy name in our worship and beliefs. Truly, His holy name is a vital portion of our understanding and faith in the restored gospel. President Oaks recounts the words of John: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). And, explains this modern-day Apostle, “In this context, 'his name' means His work and His plan of salvation with all of its glorious provisions for the children of God.”

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