This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample.)
The essential step to regain the presence of the Lord is taking upon us fully the name of Jesus Christ. By fully taking upon us the Lord’s name we approach the ideal of Zion.
The Book of Mormon contains several Zion accounts. The most obvious is found in Third Nephi. There we are introduced to people who initially were unprepared for the Lord’s presence and his Zion. Nevertheless, after a period of diligent preparation, these people managed to change their lives so that the Lord could come and establish Zion among them.
But there is another account that begs our attention: the account of the people of King Benjamin. These people were prepared for the establishment of Zion; they had been diligently keeping the commandments of the Lord,[i] and they were ready to ascend to a higher level of spirituality. King Benjamin employed his priesthood to facilitate a spiritual experience that took his people to that higher level. This level is where the ideal of Zion becomes possible in a person’s life; it is this level where preparations are finally complete so that we can come into the presence of the Lord. This level is marked by fully taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ.
To fully take upon us the name of Christ requires at least three things: (1) intervention by the priesthood, (2) receiving all of the saving covenants and ordinances, including those administered in the temple, and (3) living worthily of all that we have received.
Intervention by the Priesthood
Elder David B. Haight taught us of the responsibility and the opportunity of a priesthood holder to bring those of his stewardship to a point where they can fully take upon them the name of Jesus Christ. Referring to “a sacred experience in which he viewed the Savior’s ministry and came to a greater understanding of the power of the priesthood,”[ii] he said, “During those days of unconsciousness [brought on by illness] I was given, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. I was also given a more complete understanding of what it means to exercise, in His name, the authority to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven for the salvation of all who are faithful.”[iii]
King Benjamin understood his priesthood role to act as an advocate for the people and “to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom for [their] salvation.” By the authority of the priesthood, he facilitated a spiritual experience whereby his people received a greater endowment of the Spirit in a temple setting. We must remember that the responsibility of the priesthood is to bring people to the Holy Ghost, whose responsibility is to bring people to Jesus Christ—whose responsibility is to bring people to the Father.
King Benjamin sanctified himself, thus changing his purpose from being king and protector to becoming a savior to his people. The priesthood is the power to facilitate a conversion opportunity for those of one’s stewardship, to bring people to Christ so that they might more fully take upon themselves his name, and to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven that can be learned only by revelation. This astounding idea links priesthood authority, the name of Christ, and unlocking blessings for those whom we serve.
Receiving the Saving Covenants and Ordinances
The process of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ begins at baptism,[iv] and it continues by our subsequently partaking of the sacrament, in which we indicate our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.[v] In both cases, however, our ability to fully take upon ourselves the name of Christ, which is sometimes termed as being born again or being born of God, is usually something that happens later. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
Mere compliance with the formality of the ordinance of baptism does not mean that a person has been born again. No one can be born again without baptism, but the immersion in water and the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Ghost do not of themselves guarantee that a person has been or will be born again. The new birth takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord. Thus Alma addressed himself to his “brethren of the church,” and pointedly asked them if they had “spiritually been born of God,” received the Lord’s image in their countenances, and had the “mighty change” in their hearts which always attends the birth of the Spirit. (Alma 5:14, 31.)[vi]
Baptism and the sacrament point us toward making other covenants and receiving their associated ordinances. To the degree that we make and receive these covenants and ordinances, and live worthily of them, we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ.
Common Ways of Taking upon Ourselves the Name of Christ
There are several ways we commonly take upon ourselves the name of Christ. One way that we take upon ourselves his name is to accept him as the father or head of the earthly church to which we belong, the Church that bears his name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[vii] Our acceptance of him in this role transcends this world, for it is in the next world that we, having taken upon ourselves his name, will more fully see and accept him as the “Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,”[viii] the eternal head of the heavenly church to which we will belong: The Church of the Firstborn.[ix]
Another way that we take upon ourselves his name is by taking upon ourselves his priesthood. The Lord said to Abraham, “Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee.”[x]
Moreover, we take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ when we bear testimony of him. Testimony bearing and taking upon ourselves Christ’s name are linked in the latter-day commandment: “Take upon you the name of Christ, and speak the truth in soberness.”[xi]
We also take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ by assuming his work. Significantly, the Twelve Apostles are “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.”[xiv] By delegation, we take our part in the work of the Twelve, and thus we take upon us the work and name of Christ.
Born of God—the Mystery of Spiritual Rebirth
But there is another way of taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. This way speaks of a future event that is foreshadowed each time we partake of the sacrament and witness our willingness to take upon ourselves his name in this ultimate way. M. Catherine Thomas refers to this future event as “the mystery of spiritual rebirth.”[xv]
The idea of spiritual rebirth was introduced to Nicodemus by Jesus: “Ye must be born again".