Why Your Name is Important

Hand holding two vintage photographs

I have it on good authority that my brother was named after one of the Beatles.

Black and white image of a pioneer woman
My great-great-great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Standley

My name, Jane, on the other hand, comes from my great-great-great-grandmother, Sarah Jane. I grew up hearing stories about Sarah Jane from my mom. How she was born in a log cabin and how she cooked for a railroad gang in Idaho and Montana. Her mother, Sarah Ann, had crossed the plains in the Martin Handcart Company and had lost her toes to frostbite. Sarah Jane saw electric lights for the first time on her wedding day in April 1883. She had 11 kids, all in her home. She was friendly and always doing laundry.

Black and white image of 1950's nurse
My grandmother, Patricia

My middle name is Patrica. I knew my grandmother, Patricia. She was bright and giggly. She traveled to Africa after graduating from nursing school. Her birthday was on July 3 and, as a kid, she thought the Independence-day fireworks were for her. She wouldn’t let my dad buy a rock-and-roll record until he turned 12. She was tall. Patricia loved Broadway musicals and paintings by the French painter, Renoir. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2013.

I am named aftertwo women who were faithful Saints and whose lives centered around building the kingdom of God. Because I bear their names, I carry their legacy of devotion to the gospel with me. I am so proud to be these women’s’ namesake.

The Importance of Receiving a Name

grayscale photography of sleeping baby covered by textile

Our parents give us our names when we are born, but it is necessary to also receive that name through a blessing by the power of the priesthood.

Receiving a name and a blessing is an ordinance given through the Melchizedek Priesthood. Worthy family members gather around the child in a circle as the father (or if the father is not able another priesthood holder) gives the child a name and a blessing. These blessings generally take place in the parents’ home ward during a fast and testimony meeting.

Sister Janette C. Hales Beckham said, “Names are always important, and names have meaning. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, naming is a priesthood ordinance, and it comes with a blessing. It is significant that we are known by the name our parents choose for us “on the records of the Church” and throughout our mortal lives. This given name has importance in all the priesthood ordinances, including the endowment and the sealing temple ordinances.”

Related: How to Find the Perfect (Mormon) Baby Name

Your Name Ties You To Your Ancestors

old photos in brown wooden chest

Do you know where your name comes from?

Even if your first or middle name does not come from your family tree, chances are you carry your mother or father’s surname, or maybe both. You represent your family, your ancestors, and generations to come. You carry your family’s legacy and are expected to bring your family name honor and respect. Your family members do not need to be Latter-day Saints for you to honor their name and legacy.

In ancient Israel, “children were expected to be loyal to their extended family and to honor not only their immediate biological parents but also their generations of ancestral parents. These families emphasized the importance of respecting one’s family history, name, and traditions.”

While we may not live in ancient Israel, these sentiments still ring true, and we should encourage these same values.

How Can You Better Honor Your Name?

You can honor your name by getting to know where it comes from. Read your family history, talk to grandparents and great-grandparents, do research on the place and culture where your family is from—these are all ways in which you can get closer to those who hold your same name. You will not only feel a closeness to your ancestors but a desire to carry on their honorable legacy.

Related: How to Survive Family History (25 Ideas You Actually Want)

Who are you named after?  Let us know in the comments below.

Jane studied English at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She served her mission in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. She enjoys listening to the Beach Boys with her husband and their Great Dane, Cooper. She is learning to fly fish and has just started making her own pickles.