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What's in a name — especially a fresh one?

Saul of Tarsus was converted after seeing an angel on the road to Damascus. He changed his name to Paul and was a New Testament apostle.
Saul of Tarsus was converted after seeing an angel on the road to Damascus. He changed his name to Paul and was a New Testament apostle.
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In Sunday School class, we got talking about Zedekiah, the king of Judah. He has a walk-on part on the first page of the Book of Mormon. It’s a passing reference and doesn’t dwell on the disaster the man brought upon himself, his family and his nation by not living up to the promises behind his chosen name.

Originally, Zedekiah’s name was Mattaniah, but King Nebuchadnezzar renamed him. It’s how powerful rulers stamped the word “mine” on those beneath them; they changed their names. Zedekiah took the fresh name and its responsibility. His betrayal of the oath cost him dearly.

In ancient days, when someone gave you a new name, you were expected to serve them. King Neb also renamed Daniel. He called him Belteshazzar. But the name didn’t stick. Daniel had already pledged his life to an even greater power.

The custom of renaming people has also come down to us in modern times. When a bride takes her husband’s name, she is offering her life to him. For centuries, it meant she served at his beck and call. Not so much in our day.

Still, even today, people get renamed all the time.

Hollywood gave Marion Morrison a new name. He became John Wayne. After that, John Wayne was Hollywood’s boy.

Bobby Zimmerman became Bob Dylan and pledged his life to music making.

Gary Hartpence took the name Gary Hart and auctioned his soul for political clout.

Of course, things get doubly serious when God is the one giving people another name. He puts his seal on their hearts and writes their names on his palms. You better be ready for all that awaits you. The stakes are high.

In the Bible, Saul was persecuting the followers of Jesus, until he became Paul and made himself a prisoner of Christ.

Michael took the name Adam and started the world.

Gabriel became Noah and preserved it.

In short, when God renames a person, it means he has big plans in mind.

And the soul who gets renamed should be prepared to go the distance, to sacrifice all and serve with might, mind and strength.

I think as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we forget that sometimes.

Sometimes, if we’re not careful, moments of tremendous import begin to feel routine. We treat them as a repetitive ritual, not a life-changing moment.

We forget that getting ourselves “re-dubbed” means promising to serve at all costs.

Just ask Saul of Tarsus — the man who changed his name to Paul, then changed the world, even though it cost him his life.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com