The fruits of a name: glory or shame?

imgShakerFruitTreeIn the local news, there has been a story this week of a man who has been accused of some horrible stuff.  I went to bed uneasy last night after reading the article, but I didn’t pay close attention to the details.  Today I got a phone call from a well-meaning neighbor letting me know that the accused person lives right by me.  After an initial shock and some back-and-forth detective work, we both determined that it couldn’t possibly be my neighbor, but it is his adult son who lives elsewhere in town.  They have the same name.

I’ve felt a little heavy-hearted today, as I always am when I read or hear stories of abuse or crime, especially when children are involved, but this time there’s a more personal sadness to the story.  I like my neighbors.  They are kind and thoughtful and have done nice things for my family.  They are an older couple and they have shown faith and determination while she has undergone cancer treatments on and off over the last year or more.  I can’t imagine the turmoil they must be experiencing knowing that their son is accused of a shameful act.  And I especially feel bad for the father who is known by the same name.  His son has dragged his name through the mud.  His parents will no doubt now feel deeply embarrassed, perhaps ostracized by many.  And that goes without mentioning the pain and turmoil it will surely wreak within their own family dynamics.  I am sad for them.

And yet I realize how often we are careless with our own names.  We perhaps do or say things that, though not criminal, smack of selfishness or reckless abandon.  We fool ourselves into thinking that our choices are ours alone and don’t affect others.  This news story has reminded me that this is not so; Whatever I do with my family name reflects upon my whole family, for better or for worse.

And any of us who considers ourselves Christian does so with a direct connection to the name of Christ.  I have entered into a covenant to take His name upon me, and therefore, He graciously (and obviously at certain personal risk) allows my life to be connected to and associated with His.  When anyone who knows me to be Christian sees me serve and love and show kindness, I glorify His name and honor Him.  When I choose to be selfish or undisciplined or quick to judge, I tarnish that name.  And though He himself cannot be diminished by my poor choices, I blatantly misrepresent Him and I hinder the expression of glory that could and should be for Him.

I remember as a missionary in Argentina, I wore a small black badge every day, pinned directly above my heart.  There were two names on it:  My family (maiden) name and the name of the Savior.  I can recall the tangible responsibility it symbolized.  My identity was wrapped up in theirs, and I knew that whatever I said or did would represent them in some way.  We all wear one of those, you know— at least figuratively.  I make mistakes all the time, but I do better if I remember who I stand for.  I’m certainly not implying that our imperfections mean complete, overwhelming failure or cause for shame.  The Savior does not expect us to be perfect, but his mercy is perfect and his atonement can make us perfect if we repent and submit to Him.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said:

“One day you will be asked if you took upon yourself the name of Christ and if you were faithful to that covenant. . . . We are all allowed—even encouraged—to achieve the fulness of the stature of Christ (see Eph. 4:13).”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson pointed out how, with each obedient act, there is an increase in our blessings and in our ability to honor His name:

“Our willingness to take upon us the name of Christ and keep His commandments requires a degree of faith, but as we honor our covenants, that faith expands. In the first place, the promised fruits of obedience become evident, which confirms our faith. Secondly, the Spirit communicates God’s pleasure, and we feel secure in His continued blessing and help. Thirdly, come what may, we can face life with hope and equanimity, knowing that we will succeed in the end because we have God’s promise to us individually, by name, and we know He cannot lie.”

I’m amazed how generous He is with His name.  I hope I make Him proud of how I use it.


22 thoughts on “The fruits of a name: glory or shame?

  1. How sad for that family.

    There is a quote by Pres. George Albert Smith where he shares an experience when he has a dream and his father or grandfather approaches him asking “What have you done with my name”. We’ve used it many times in FHE to remind our children of the value of their good name–and the importance of their honoring the name of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. What a wonderful post, Steph! It has helped me realise that I am on the right track.

    There was once a time that when people found out I was Mormon I would add the disclaimer “But please don’t judge Mormon’s by my behaviour”. I am so glad that I don’t have to add that disclaimer anymore.

  3. I’ve often thought about the whole “what’s in a name” thing. Hence the agony over choosing a name for a baby, right? I often tell our children to “act like a ____” (insert our last name here) ;o) I want them to have pride in our family name, and for that name to mean honesty and integrity.

    Sometimes I wish I had Christ’s name on me all the time. I know I act differently when I’m directly representing Him. How sad is that?!

  4. It seems to be what this boils down to. Our name. and what name we choose.
    When Satan was tempting the Savior, he was questioning his knowledge of his name. Who he knew himself to be.
    Seems to be what all our actions stem from.
    I have had a complemplative week.

  5. I’m always amazed at your thoughtfulness in life — even while suffering from the flu! (Hope you’re getting better by the way…) I never got to wear a little black badge, but I always felt like I had a neon sign blinking over my head while I was growing up. People know who you are — and look to you to set a sort of standard, whether we realize and appreciate that or not is up to us.

  6. I think if I had worried about besmirching Christ’s name as much as I did my parents’ good name, I might have found my right path sooner. Not that they ever suggested theirs was more important. Quite the opposite. But I just had my mind set too much on the concrete sometimes instead of thinking broader picture.

  7. A midst my crazy hectic day of packing, something you know about.. I thought about your blog and how I hadn’t read in a while. You know, since I have had so much time to sit around and browse blogs, sip my favorite apple cider and kick my feet up. Well, anyways. I am sitting now, finally. At this late hour and decided to stop by. What a great well put post. So true and thank you for the reminder.

    Hugs to you and thanks for standing up so strong and boldy for truth and righteousness on your site. So refreshing.

  8. So beautifully put.

    You’re right, as a missionary, it was easy to remember who I represented. Not only did I wear my nametag all the time, but I constantly told people that I was representing Him. It isn’t quite at the forefront of my mind now like it was then.

    However, moving up here, where there are so few of my faith (but plenty of Christians), I have felt more of a need to make sure I represent my religion and my Savior better. I hope I can teach my children to do the same, so that they feel the same sort of need.

  9. My Dad recorded old Super 8mm movies of me when I was a baby in the mid 70s, being held by my Great-Great Grandmother, who was in her late 90s at the time. She and I were surrounded by my father, his father, and his father, whose mother was holding me. It is called the Five Generations movie. When he turned it into a VHS tape in the late 80s, he chose this song as the soundtrack to the footage: “I’ve Got a Name” by Jim Croce. What a great song.

    The exact same scene played out with my baby son in 2003. I couldn’t help but turn that home movie into another Five Generations movie, set to the same tune.

  10. I love this post. I’ve often thought what the hardest thing for a parent to deal with would be: A child’s death? A child’s disability? (I’ve lived this one myself.) But I have to say that probably the hardest thing a parent can go through is watching their child make terrible, horrific choices ( I understand that the neighbor’s son has been accused, not convicted) that hurt themselves and others.

    I also loved what you wrote about the missionary name badge. So true.

  11. First, I am sad for the innocent little children that suffer. Second, I am sad for parents who watch their children make wrong choices. I must add, however, their love is not diminished. In fact, this is a time of greatest trial in their parent-child relationship. Our Eternal Father’s name has been tarnished billions of times over, yet He still asks all to return to him. His love is steady.
    This is a bit off topic from your original point–how we treat our own names. I guess I am sensitive because I have seen my sister embarrass my parents over and over again. Yet, they still love her. I learned to do the opposite. I hope I can teach my children to follow my path.

  12. Excellent post… we’ve had this very conversation with our kids… when I grew up, my mother would always say, just before we walked out the door, “Remember who you are, and what you represent.”

    And I’m sad for your neighbors to. 😦

  13. This is excellent. On so many levels. I am sad for your neighbors too (who, in addition to being gossiped about and ostracized, are likely grieving over their son’s choices. A son they still love.) I can’t even imagine their pain.

    And now, to lighten things up a bit, once as a missionary I distinctly remember TAKING OFF MY NAME TAG when we parked illegally once, so as not to sully His name. I look back at that now and think…it seemed conscientious (and funny) at the time, and now seems so immature. Surely we could have found a better spot when we realized that wouldn’t be representing him well…

  14. My maiden name is fairly unusual and throughout my adult life (particularly in the Church), I’ve run into people who hear my name and immediately connect me to my parents. Usually their discovery is followed by complimentary comments about my family. It always gave me a bit of pride to have people recognize that I came from good people–and grateful that I wasn’t doing anything that would embarass my parents.

    I love that you took this idea of honoring your family name a step further and showed our responsibility/accountability to Christ’s name. It made me think harder about what I’m doing to honor him so that he would be proud to have me representing him.

  15. Thanks for popping over to my BLOG today. I decided to come over to yours. Your post was very well written and received. Especially in light of my mood (meaning my post from earlier).

    I am glad that we have connected, even if it is only occasionally and through the world wide web!!

    I heard a nasty rumor. . . Do you have snow today?

  16. You are right. I am always trying to remind my children they are representing themselves, our family, and our religion where ever they go. It may not be completely fair, but it can’t be helped. Whenever I see someone with a political canidate or certain cause bumper sticker (or business car or the like) do something inconsiderate while driving I wonder if they realize they are badly representing their own causes.

  17. This is such good stuff, Steph. I need to be more intentional about my name tag. My figurative name tag. If I think of it that way, it’s so concrete, and I need that.

    I’m sorry your neighbors are hurting.

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