A few years ago, I had a life-changing experience during a sacrament meeting in our home ward in Arizona. As the sacrament prayer indicated our willingness to “take upon [ourselves] the name of [Jesus Christ],”1 the Holy Ghost reminded me that Jesus has many names. This question then came to my heart: “Which of Jesus’s names should I take upon myself this week?”
Three names came to my mind, and I wrote them down. Each of those three names contained Christlike attributes that I wanted to develop more fully. In the week that followed, I focused on those three names and tried to embrace their corresponding attributes and characteristics. Since that time, I’ve continued to ask that question as part of my personal worship: “Which of Jesus’s names should I take upon myself this week?” Answering that question and striving to develop the related Christlike attributes has blessed my life.
In His great Intercessory Prayer, Jesus expressed this important truth: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”2 Today I’d like to share with you the blessings and power that come from knowing Jesus Christ by His many names.
One simple way we get to know someone is by learning their name. It has been said that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”3 Have you ever had the experience of calling someone by the wrong name or forgetting their name? My wife, Alexis, and I have, on occasion, called one of our children “Lola.” Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, Lola is our dog! For better or worse, forgetting someone’s name communicates to that person that you probably don’t know them very well.
Jesus knew and called people by name. To ancient Israel, the Lord said, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”4 On Easter morning, Mary’s witness of the resurrected Christ was solidified when Jesus called her by name.5 Likewise, God called Joseph Smith by name in answer to his prayer of faith.6
In some cases, Jesus gave His disciples new names that were indicative of their nature, capacity, and potential. Jehovah gave Jacob the new name of Israel, which means “one who prevails with God” or “let God prevail.”7 Jesus gave James and John the name of Boanerges, which meant the “sons of thunder.”8 Seeing his future leadership, Jesus gave Simon the name of Cephas or Peter, which means a rock.9
Just as Jesus knows each of us by name, one way we can come to better know Jesus is by learning His many names. Like the names of Israel and Peter, many of Jesus’s names are titles that help us understand His mission, purpose, character, and attributes. As we come to know Jesus’s many names, we will come to better understand His divine mission and His selfless character. Knowing His many names also inspires us to become more like Him—to develop Christlike attributes that bring joy and purpose to our lives.
A few years ago, President Russell M. Nelson studied all the scriptures concerning Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide.10 He then invited young adults to study these same scriptures. Concerning Jesus’s many names, President Nelson said, “Study everything Jesus Christ is by prayerfully and vigorously seeking to understand what each of His various titles and names means personally for you.”11
Following President Nelson’s invitation, I began developing my own list of Jesus’s many names. My personal list now has over 300 names, and I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t discovered yet.
While there are some of Jesus’s names that are reserved only for Him,12 I would like to share five names and titles that have application to each of us. I invite you to develop your own list as you come to know Jesus by His many names. In doing so, you will find that there are other names—along with their corresponding Christlike attributes—that you will want to take upon yourself as Jesus’s covenant disciple.13
First, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.14 As such, Jesus knows His sheep,15 “calleth his own sheep by name,”16 and, as the Lamb of God, gave His life for His sheep.17 Similarly, Jesus wants us to be good shepherds, particularly in our families and as ministering brothers and sisters. One way we demonstrate our love for Jesus is by feeding His sheep.18 For those sheep who may be wandering, good shepherds go into the wilderness to find the lost sheep and then stay with them until they return to safety.19 As good shepherds and as local conditions permit, we should seek to spend more time ministering to people in their homes. In our ministering, texting and technology should be used to enhance, not replace, personal contact.20
Second, Jesus is the High Priest of Good Things to Come.21 Knowing that His Crucifixion was just hours away, Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”22 Today, as our world is frequently polarized and divided, there is a great need for us to preach and practice positivity, optimism, and hope. Despite any challenges in our past, faith always points toward the future,23 filled with hope, allowing us to fulfill Jesus’s invitation to be of good cheer.24 Joyfully living the gospel helps us to become disciples of good things to come.
Another of Jesus’s titles is that He is the Same, Yesterday, Today, and Forever.25 Consistency is a Christlike attribute. Jesus always did His Father’s will,26 and His arm is constantly outstretched to save, help, and heal us.27 As we are more consistent in living the gospel, we will become more like Jesus.28 Although the world will experience large swings in its pendulums of popularity as people are tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine,29 consistent gospel living helps us to be steadfast and immovable during the storms of life.30 We can also demonstrate consistency by accepting President Nelson’s invitation to “make time for the Lord.”31 Great spiritual strength comes from small and simple things32 like developing “holy habits and righteous routines”33 of daily prayer, repentance, scripture study, and service to others.
Fourth, Jesus is the Holy One of Israel.34 Jesus’s life was a pattern of holiness. As we follow Jesus, we can become a holy one in Israel.35 We increase in holiness as we regularly visit the temple, where “Holiness to the Lord” is etched above every entrance. Every time we worship in the temple, we leave endowed with greater power to make our homes places of holiness.36 For any who do not currently have a recommend to enter the holy temple, I invite you to meet with your bishop and prepare yourself to enter or return to that holy place. Time in the temple will increase holiness in our lives.
One last name of Jesus is that He is Faithful and True.37 Just as Jesus was ever faithful and always true, His earnest desire is that we exhibit these qualities in our lives. When our faith falters, we can cry out to Jesus, “Lord, save me,” just like Peter as he began to sink in Galilee’s stormy sea.38 On that day, Jesus reached down to rescue the drowning disciple. He has done the same for me, and He will do the same for you. Don’t ever give up on Jesus—He will never give up on you!
When we are faithful and true, we follow Jesus’s call to “abide in me,” which can also mean “stay with me.”39 When we are confronted with questions, when we are mocked for our faith, when the fingers of scorn are pointed at us by those in the world’s great and spacious buildings, we remain faithful and we stay true. In these moments, we remember Jesus’s plea: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”40 As we do so, He gives us needed faith, hope, and strength to stay with Him forever.41
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus wants for us to know Him because His is the only name under heaven whereby we can be saved.42 Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—no one can return to the Father except by Him.43 Jesus is the only way! For that reason, Jesus beckons, “Come unto me,”44 “Follow me,”45 “Walk with me,”46 and “Learn of me.”47
With all my heart, I bear witness of Jesus Christ—that He lives, that He loves you, and that He knows you by name. He is the Son of God,48 the Only Begotten of the Father.49 He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Shield, our Refuge, and our Deliverer.50 He is the Light which Shineth in Darkness.51 He is our Savior52 and our Redeemer.53 He is the Resurrection and the Life.54 My earnest desire is that you will come to know Jesus by His many names and that you will become like Him as you exemplify His divine attributes in your life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.