Friday, January 2, 2009

The Significance of Names

In His great intercessory prayer, Jesus tells us
something very important.

O righteous Father, the world hath not known
thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that
thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy
name, [by his life’s example] and will declare [it]:
that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in
them, and I in them. John 17:25-26

In Jewish thought, a name is not merely an arbitrary
designation or a random combination of sounds. The name
conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It
represents the history and reputation of what is being

This is not as strange or unfamiliar a concept as it
may seem at first glance. In English, we often refer
to a person's reputation as his "good name." When a
company is sold, one thing that may be sold is the
company's "good will," that is, the right to use the
company's name. The Hebrew concept of a name is very
similar to these ideas.

An example of this usage occurs in Exodus 3:13-22:
Moses asks God what His "name" is. Moses is not asking
"what should I call you;" rather, he is asking "who
are you; what are you like; what have you done." That
is clear from God's response. God replies that He is
eternal, that He is the God of our ancestors, that He
has seen our affliction and will redeem us from

With this information in mind, it is extremely
significant that the very first word spoken from
Heaven in this dispensation – after a silence of more
than 2,000 years – was a name: Joseph. That name

means “He will add.”

At the time of the first vision, Joseph Smith didn’t know of the prophecies

concerning him found in the Book of Mormon, or that he would do more
for the salvation of men than anyone else except for the Savior. But God

knew him, his name, and his foreordained mission.

I suspect that there is also an intimate loving relationship between the Father

and us as well. When no one else seems to understand how we really feel,

we can remember that we are known – our names are known,

including our pre-mortal personalities – and that we are deeply cherished.


  1. AAARGH!! Why does the formatting change when I post??? Sorry about that.

  2. Donna, what do you believe is the significance in "...a name, lest we be scattered..." in Genesis 11:4? I have read a few commentaries about this but would be interested in your thoughts.

  3. jowo---a possible significance to this "name" can be found in the New Living Translation version of the Bible (NLT--a favorite of mine for cultural insights-but not doctrine) where it says:

    Genesis 11:4 NLT

    "Let's build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies--a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world."

    Making a name, in this case, could be compared to an ambitious person who wants to go out in the world and 'make a name' for himself. It speaks of fame and reputation.

    Interestingly, because of their arrogance and wickedness, they did make a ‘name’ for themselves which survives to this day, but it probably wasn’t nearly as exalted as the one they had planned on.

    Genesis 11:9 NLT

    “...the city was called Babel,* because it was there that the LORD confused the people by giving them many languages, thus scattering them across the earth.”

    * Babel sounds like a Hebrew term that means “confusion.”

  4. The name of Joseph Smith is significant not only for his first name Joseph (added upon) but his surname "Smith" as well. A Smith works with metals. A goldsmith works with the precious metal gold. Joseph Smith added to or added upon sacred scripture. See for instance this interesting article (disclaimer: I don't necessarily subscribe to everything the authors write) about this and other aspects of Joseph Smith's life:

    Such as for instance this excerpt:

    " . . . Joseph was indeed born at the winter solstice, in a Jewish Sabbatical Year, when solar and lunar time were synchronized --the prescribed time of birth for the sacred king. His death came at the only time of year that the sacred king is vulnerable--the summer solstice, when solar and lunar times are again synchronized, under the seventh full moon of the solar year. He was murdered by conspiracy after an extremely short reign as King of Israel, as is common to the sacred king."

  5. Thanks for the above post--what amazing information!

  6. Can a name be a description as in the Temple?

  7. I also think it's a cool 'coincident' that:

    Joseph (Sr.) combined with his wife's name Lucy (which is a feminine derivative of Lucius, which comes from the Latin Lux-meaning light. Thus, we get, He will add to the light.

    Then Joseph (Jr.) combined with Emma (which is derived from the German element, erman meaning 'whole' or 'universal'. Thus, we get, He will add to the whole or universal.