3 Nephi 27:5-6
5…ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day.
6 And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.
The context is the Savior’s explaining that the name of his church must be “the Church of Christ.” He asks:
8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.
I think we sometimes read this passage with a shrug of the shoulders and a “Well, we aren’t called Lutherans or Baptists or some other name, so we are alright!” If that is our response, then we have missed the point entirely. The Savior is not just talking about a church’s corporate name, he is talking about a covenant name that is necessary to salvation. There is always a new name with each new covenant. So much so, that the words “name” and “covenant” can often be interchangeable in the scriptures without changing the meaning.
A new name is a new covenantal identity. In our verses, it denotes one’s relationship with the Savior. King Benjamin, Alma, and the Savior all affirm the necessity of this covenant relationship.
King Benjamin taught:
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7).
Alma told his father:
24 … I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God (Mosiah 27:24-26).
And, when the Savior showed himself to the Brother of Jared he said:
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters (Ether 3:14).
In Psalm 2, which was sung at the time of the king’s anointing during his coronation ceremony, he is given the new covenant name of “son,” and he quotes Jehovah as saying “this day have I begotten thee.” Thus the anointing of the king serves two purposes, one is the legal covenant of adoption, the other is giving him a new name as a part of his enthronement ceremony. He is now a “son” and therefore a legitimate heir of Jehovah.
The relevant principle to us is that we are promised that if we are righteous we will inherit “all things.” The systems of heaven are perfectly just and therefore must be perfectly consistent — “legal” in every respect. (D&C 132:7-14) Nothing is “acceptable” except it is done by a covenant that is ratified by an appropriate ordinance.
If we are to inherit “all things” we must be legally qualified to inherit — that is, we must be adopted sons and daughters of Christ just as the scriptures teach. That adoption can only be made acceptable by covenant and ordinance.
All valid new covenants must also include a new name. We must take upon ourselves the name of Christ, just as, in our society, an adopted child takes the name of his adoptive parents. That new name is a new identity. A simple example of new identities that come with covenant names is when a man becomes a “bishop.” He now has a new name/title and a new identity. But that new name and identity is only valid at church. He is still “Richard” among his friends and his associates at work. Similarly, all sacred new names are only valid in relation to the covenant they represent. Some covenants are formal, some informal, but they are all necessary. “President” is the name/title of a Relief Society president, just as “Sister” and “Elder” are name/titles of missionaries.
In those examples, accepting the call is the covenant, but that is meaningless without the appropriate ordination or setting apart blessing. In the New Testament, James said that very succinctly, “faith without works is dead.” In that passage “faith” is pistis, the Greek word for covenant or contract. “works” is a reference to the ordinances. That is, the covenants without the ordinances are dead.” Alma used James’s words the same way when he explained that the plan of redemption was “made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works (Alma 12:30).”
Therefore the name, “Church of Jesus Christ,” is more than just a corporate identity. It is an acknowledgment that its members are adopted children and heirs of the Savior. In our case, that covenant of adoption is renewed each Sunday when we take the Sacrament. But there is more, as the Prophet Joseph testified:
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
(The importance of new covenant names is discussed at length in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 495-517; second edition, 358-72.)