Latter-day Saints have a reputation for giving their children unusual names, especially those that live in the Intermountain West.
Personally, I quite enjoy coming up with baby names, and have spent much too much time thinking of how to find the perfect name for a child. Latter-day Saints even have a scripture on how valuable a name can be!
I wanted to start with a few uniquely Mormon ways to find naming options for your children.
1. Scriptural Names
This is hardly a trend unique to Latter-day Saints. Many of the most popular names in the US come from the Bible such as Jacob, Noah, Abigail, or Elizabeth.
The scriptures are full of naming options that will set your child apart without going too far afield. Plus as Latter-day Saints, we also have the Book of Mormon to pull from.
Here are some possibilities:
Boys: Abel, Asa, Boaz, Benjamin, Gideon, Jarom, Manti, Teancum, Zoram
Girls: Abish, Ada, Dinah, Eden, Galilee, Naomi, Sariah, Tabitha
2. Pioneer Names
In addition to our scriptural forebears, Latter-day Saints also have the pioneers that we can look to as we find name options.
Early apostles, Relief Society leaders, even popular journal writers are all fantastic choices. And as surnames become increasingly popular, the pioneers can be a fantastic source.
Boys: Alpheus, Clayton, Cornelius, Kimball, Oliver, Orson, Parley, Tanner
Girls: Bathsheba, Diantha, Eliza, Elmina, Minerva, Roxcy, Sophronia, Zina
3. Names from Church Leaders
We can also pull inspiration from the names of our current or recent church leaders. Last names can also prove useful here, as can investigating what those omnipresent middle initials actually stand for.
Consider leaders closer to home as well. A particularly beloved former bishop, or primary president might make a particularly meaningful namesake.
Boys: Delbert, Dieter, Eldon, Hinckley, Maxwell, Oak, Quentin, Redd
Girls: Beck, Bonnie, Carole, Chieko, Flora, Henriquez, Marian, Marjorie
4. Virtue Names
Virtue names are classics in the United States. Names like Faith and Joy are quite common.
If there is any group of people who value living up to Christ-like virtues, it is the Latter-day Saints. But just because virtue names have been common, doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Here are a few suggestions.
Boys: Clement, Ernest, Justice, Noble, Reliance, Royal, Valor, Will
Girls: Amity, Concord, Fidelity, Patience, Prudence, Sincerity, Temperance, Virtue
5. Family History Names
When brainstorming names for my children, I literally opened up FamilySearch.org and began working my way back various lines for my wife and me.
We decided that even though William the Conqueror is one of my ancestors, and Alexander the Great was one of hers, we wouldn’t use “the” as a middle name. But perhaps there is a good option on that list for you.
Push back as far as you can on your lines. Often older names contain spellings that are both traditional and highly unique.
6. Missionary Inspired Names
Many Latter-day Saint couples have at least one person who has served a mission. That perspective can open up from where you draw name inspiration.
Consider both geographic names, and names specific to the culture where you served.
Once you have some name ideas, you’ll want to check to make sure that the name will actually work. Here is the list I went through with each name I considered. None of these are hard and fast rules, per se, but important considerations.
Do you want to be on top of the current naming trends, or do you want your child to have no trouble personalizing their email address?
Consider how common your surname is. If you have an uncommon last name, a more common first name may fit better. On the same note, if you have a distinctively Mormon last name, such as Jensen, Bennion, or Farnsworth, maybe a more generic first name may fit.
If having a unique name is important to you, check out the Social Security Administration’s list of most popular baby names.
Ease of Spelling and Pronunciation
Could someone read the name from a list, or spell the name from its sound? Common names with distinctive spelling especially suffer from this problem.
Also, consider the different accents that are popular in your area. We live in a heavily Hispanic community, so my son’s name Albus is often heard and pronounced as Elvis.
It’s for this reason, that I strongly prefer finding unique old names, or repurposing other words as names, as opposed to creating a new name from scratch.
Many names have a specific providence that gives the name special meaning. This isn’t often a deciding factor, but can be considered.
Namesakes can also be important. As Helaman told his children Nephi and Lehi, they could learn and live up to the names they were given. Did you name your child after a relative, scriptural figure, or church leader?
Also consider negative meanings. I really liked the name Zora after one of my favorite authors. But living in a community with many Spanish language speakers, the name has a much more negative meaning.
Before you settle on a name look at both the first and last name initial combination, and the first, middle and last combination.
Realistically initials will show up occasionally on official documents, and Frances Ulric Kearns and Henry Elijah Larson will prefer that they didn’t. On the other hand, you can craft initials to a specific meaning. Our managing editor has a grandson named Jonas Emmett Wilkins to celebrate his Jewish ancestry.
Really a quick check can save a good amount of embarrassment.
Choosing a name for a person you haven’t even met yet can be tricky. And no matter how much you try, you may settle on a name that simply doesn’t work.
I had a friend, a six foot four former green beret and undercover cop named Sydney Kim. Fortunately, he could go by his initials as Ski. My own son Albus got a rather esoteric name. But we built in the nickname Al and the middle name Ray that could work as backups without having to have a legal name change.
Middle names, in fact, can often work as great complements. If you settle on a more common first name, a more unique middle name could help give your child a unique identity, or vice versa.
The Tease Test
I actually don’t have this on my list of considerations. As a child, Brandon Heckathorne was in my grade school class. One day one of the kids made fun of his name. Little Heckathorne laughed, then told his own. Another kid made a joke. Five minutes later no more jokes were told about that highly unusual name.
I have the second most popular name from the year I was born. When someone teased me as Christopher Robin, I grew agitated and defensive. I would be teased about my name for years.
In other words, anyone who thinks the name you give a child will have any effect on them being teased clearly hasn’t spent enough time around real children.
I know that people have very strong opinions about giving children’s names. So here are the comments. Let me have it. What am I completely wrong about? Also, do you have any great name ideas for readers to also consider?