What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a Name?” New Era, June 2005, 25

What’s in a Name?

It was as clear as the writing on the wall that I was in big trouble at girls’ camp.

The summer I was 15, a new family with teenage daughters moved into the ward. While my family was considered “goody-goody,” this family, though they were active, was definitely not goody-goody. The teenage girls always seemed to be having fun, and I felt awkward and left out when I was around them. But when it was time for girls’ camp that summer, I, of all people, was assigned to their cabin. I was determined to prove that I was not as goody-two-shoes as I seemed.

The campground where we had girls’ camp was used by other groups throughout the summer. On the rafters of the cabins, some of them had written their names and the year they were at camp. We were on the top bunks, reading some of the names, when one of the girls said, “We should put our names up there too.”

“Sure!” I agreed.

“No way you would do that,” said the other girl.

“Sure, I would,” I said. I decided that one more name wouldn’t really be noticeable. I also noted that the other girls thought it would be something on the edge—a thing they might do, but not something a straight arrow like me would do.

We pulled out some markers and began. The other girls wrote their names in small letters and with little flourish. I, however, wrote my name, the date, and “Girls’ Camp” in 5-inch-high flowing script with a decorative flower finish. The other girls were impressed, and we went to bed. I thought no more of it.

Others did, however. During cabin inspections, our decorations were discovered, and we were given bleach, water, and sandpaper to try to repair the damage we had done. I couldn’t erase my ink, which had penetrated the rough wood beams. After the fruitless scrubbing, the other girls were dismissed, and I got a lecture.

I heard how my actions would hurt the Church’s reputation. I heard how disappointed the leaders were that I would do something like that. “We wouldn’t expect it of you,” I heard over and over. And every evening, my name glared at me from the rafter overhead, shaming me in brilliant blue.

I was allowed to stay at camp and eventually stopped hearing about my transgression. But I heard more once I got home. The camp staff had called my parents.

My mom didn’t get angry, but her disappointment was deep. She asked why I did it. I explained how I felt left out and how I wanted to do something to show I could walk on the edge.

After talking to my mom I realized that I had done to my family and to myself the same thing I had done to the Church. By plastering my name where it shouldn’t have been in an act of vandalism, I had demeaned my parents’ good name.

I also realized that when I pursue popularity at the expense of respect, I am in danger of dishonoring the name of Christ or giving others the impression that I don’t belong to His family.

Since this experience I have often thought what a blessing it will be if, at the end of this life, we can give a good report to our Savior when He asks what we have done with His name. None of us will want to admit that we sold our good name for social acceptance or that we gave it up for a questionable video, for a girlfriend or boyfriend, for a bottle of beer, or for the laughter of friends. I know we will want to say that we have preserved our name by standing for truth and righteousness at all times—when it’s easy and fun and even when it’s not.

What’s in a name? As I realized that summer at girls’ camp, it can be quite a lot. When I think of my name blaring bright blue to future generations of campers, I remember the blessing and responsibility of carrying a good name, both for my mortal family and for the Church and family of Christ.

  • Rachel C. Murdock is a member of the Janesville Ward, Madison Wisconsin Stake.

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh