Monday, February 13, 2012

What's in a Name?

Today at Church a new baby was blessed and presented to the congregation.  In the LDS faith, the blessing ordinance follows a loose pattern and often very similar wording at the beginning.  Part of that formal verbiage is "to give a name and a blessing."  It allows the baby's father to express the wishes and comforts the child will need to grow successfully as it helps all of us know how to support and identify this new little person.

Names, like all words, have meaning.  For example, my given name is Kathryn.  Most of my life I've thought it was an old English name meaning pure.  But says it's a variant of the Greek name Katherine and means pure.  Either way, I guess, pure is good.  My Mom used to tell me that she wanted to name me Kathryn Louise but my Dad said no.  His opinion was that "girls just go off and get married and a middle name just makes it too long."  For a long time I was kind of grateful... the thought of having Louise as a middle name when I was 12 or so was kind of horrifying!  I mean, that's like a grandma name.  Funny.  It doesn't sound quite so terrible these days.

As Church services progressed and we moved into our Sunday School class, the topic today dealt with names and blessings.  The lesson material was drawn from 2 Nephi, chapters 3-5.  Here, I'm only going to touch on a few verses.  At this point, an elderly Lehi takes each of his children aside to give them a final father's blessing.  Chapter 3 is the blessing of his youngest son, Joseph, and while he elaborates on many points throughout the rest of the chapter, I want to focus on verses 3-5 where he explains just who Joseph is, their family lineage and blessings to come to his posterity.  Specifically, he points out:

  • Joseph is his last born... the youngest child in the family, born in the wilderness after their family left Jerusalem.
  • Joseph's seed, or posterity, will not be utterly destroyed but will survive to continue their family line.  Not all of his sons received this promise... they were told that their future generations would dwindle in disbelief and die.
  • Lehi reconfirms that Joseph is his child, the "fruit of my loins."  I think at some point every child needs this reassurance of belonging in their family.  In effect, what their name is.
  • Their genealogy can be traced back directly to Joseph who was carried away to Egypt.  And he likely is the namesake for this Joseph.
  • They are the "broken branch" and still entitled to all the blessings promised to the house of Israel in the latter days.

For a young man whose entire life had been that of a poor nomad, this must have been wondrous information and an intensely spiritual bonding experience with his dying father.  I can only imagine that it would make quite the impression on me anyway.  How would you feel walking in his shoes?

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