Take Upon Ourselves His Name
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
September 26, 2002
Dean of the School of Business
I approach this assignment with trepidation. First, because of all of you who are gathered together this morning. When students come to one of my classes, it is because they are required to be there. And typically what they want to know from the class is whether what I am teaching that day will be on the test.
However, this morning you came because you should be here. And you come with the expectation that you will learn something that will be more important to you than just the answer for an exam question.
Second, I also carry the heavy burden of continuing the tradition of excellent presentations that have been delivered by literally hundreds who have preceded me at this pulpit. It is the burden of that responsibility that forms the underlying foundation for my talk today.
Before addressing that, I would like to explain something about the approach that I will be using. I am going to use concepts from my field of academic study, international business, to illustrate Gospel principles. This may be risky because some may accuse me of mixing the Gospel with the philosophies of men. That is certainly not my intent.
Rather, I am using this approach because many of us tend to compartmentalize or segment our lives. Especially as academics, we may have a box for our academic studies, and a separate box for the Gospel.
I believe that we should strive to eliminate such compartments in our lives. We should strive to blur rather than reinforce the compartments. We should not keep our academic disciplines distinct from the Gospel. Rather, we should allow our academic studies to be guided by our understanding of Gospel principles. Concurrently, I believe that as we seek for, we will find confirmations of our Gospel beliefs in our academic disciplines. This morning, I hope to be able to explain to you an example of how I have attempted to combine my academic studies with my Gospel studies.
One of the aspects of studying international business that I particularly enjoy is that our global business environment is constantly changing. One of the notable changes over the past few decades is the development of global branding. Without attempting to pass judgement about whether this development is good or bad, it is irrefutable that today we are increasingly surrounded by global brands.
I hope that you will recognize at least some of the global brands on the screen. The development of these global brands was not happenstance. It has resulted from a concerted effort by multinational companies to increase the consumer awareness and acceptance of their branded products.
These logos are not the brand. Rather they are symbols for the brand. The underlying products are not the brand. The brand is the combination of the products, images, and intangible feelings that we have.
Walter Landor described a brand with the following statement:
"Simply put, a brand is a promise. By identifying and authenticating a product or service it delivers a pledge of satisfaction and quality."
How is this promise developed? Let me attempt to distill the process into a few key elements:
The first step is to determine the characteristics of the brand. What associations do you want people to make when they think of the brand? These are termed the brand attributes.
How does the brand differ from others? What makes this brand unique? This is termed brand differentiation.
The next step is deciding how to make consumers aware of the brand's attributes and differentiating features. How will potential buyers become aware of our brand? This is brand promotion. I should note that this must be done on a consistent and continuing basis.
The Church has also commenced the process of developing a global brand image. You are probably all familiar with this logo. The general image of the logo is consistent around the world regardless of what language is used.
As you are probably also aware, BYU-Hawaii is engaged in this process of branding. We are attempting to create a consistent, global brand image for the University. The BYU-Hawaii logo that you are seeing on all of these images is a small part of that effort.
A brand's image is built over many years through countless reinforcements of the brand's attributes and differentiation. However, it can be destroyed very quickly. Let me briefly mention two recent examples. Enron, one of the world's largest corporations was destroyed by accounting manipulations. Arthur Andersen was perhaps the premier accounting firm. Its demise was caused by compromising one of its brand attributes, absolute accounting integrity, in its pursuit of greater revenue.
A more positive example of building a global brand is McDonald's. McDonald's has restaurant locations in 121 countries, including, I believe, all of your home countries.
As you look at the Golden Arches logo, what are the brand attributes that come to mind? Reasonably priced, good food. We might disagree about the quality of the food, but at least it is consistent quality. I know some people who do not care to eat at McDonald's, but are quite willing to use their rest rooms because they are clean and sanitary. That of course is one of the McDonald's brand attributes, a clean, bright environment. Another is fast friendly service.
Why have companies such as McDonald's devoted significant time and effort to creating these global brands? One obvious reason is that as we develop preferences for the brands, we will purchase those products or services rather than those offered by competitors. This loyalty to particular brands is termed brand equity.
Another, perhaps less obvious, result is the requirement to develop the brand image focuses the attention and efforts of employees throughout the world. It imposes a discipline on those who work with that particular product or service. They cannot just decide independently how they might like to develop and promote the product. Rather they must work continually and consistently to reinforce the global brand image.
It is this last concept of management discipline that I would like to address. However, before doing so directly, please allow me to develop some additional background by telling you about my family history.
Renee and I were married in August 1976, and on August 17, 1978, our son, and only child, was born. This picture was taken literally minutes after his birth.
You will notice that I did not put a name for our son on that slide. We had talked about several names, but when he was born, we had not made a final decision. After he was born, I changed my mind about all of the names we had discussed and suggested that he be named after my father. Renee agreed, and so he was named David Parry Wilson.
To help you understand why we decided this, you need to know something about my father. I was blessed to be born into a wonderful family and had a great relationship with my mother and father.
My first recollections of my father outside the home were of Coach Wilson, the basketball and baseball coach at Logan High School, the only high school in the small town in northern Utah where I was raised. I subsequently learned that he had been an All-Conference basketball player at the University of Utah. While teaching and coaching at the high school, he continued his studies to earn a Ph.D. and became Principal Wilson, my junior high and then high school principal. At the same time, during my teenage years, he was Bishop Wilson, the bishop of my ward. He then became Professor Wilson, the head of the secondary education department at Weber State College. I even took a class from him, earning an A, I might add. He eventually retired as a vice-president at Weber State. As President Wilson, he served in a stake presidency, and then was Elder Wilson as he and my mother served as senior couple missionaries. For the past twenty years he has been Patriarch Wilson and has given well over 1000 patriarchal blessings. He is also Brother Wilson, a sealer in the Ogden Utah Temple. As a sealer, he has had the opportunity of performing the temple marriages of 10 of his grandchildren, including sealing my son and his namesake, David, to his eternal companion, Maile, a year ago. Most important of all, over the years he has been my loving and caring father.
I didn't know what type of legacy I might provide for my son and I still don't. However, I had no doubts about my father's legacy. My father has spent 87 years developing the David Parry Wilson brand. I wanted my son to have the responsibility of maintaining that brand image. I wanted to impose on him the discipline required to maintain the brand, the good name of my father, his grandfather. To paraphrase the definition of branding that I quoted earlier, by identifying him with my father's name, I wanted my son to have the responsibility of delivering the expected quality.
This concept of naming children after their forefathers as a means to motivate them did not originate with me. Many others have also used it to provide the same discipline that I wanted to instill in my son.
President George Albert Smith, the 8th president of the Church, told of the following experience:
Six years after being called to be an Apostle, President Smith suffered a serious illness, which made it impossible for him to actively serve in his calling for more than two years and which weakened him physically for many more years. He moved to St. George, Utah, to take advantage of its warmer climate. While recovering there he had a remarkable dream:
These are his words: In St. George we arranged for a tent for my health and comfort, with a built-in floor raised about a foot above the ground, and we could roll up the south side of the tent to make the sunshine and fresh air available. I became so weak as to be scarcely able to move. It was a slow and exhausting effort for me even to turn over in bed.
One day, under these conditions, I lost consciousness of my surroundings and thought I had passed to the other Side. I found myself standing with my back to a large and beautiful lake, facing a great forest of trees.... I realized, or seemed to realize, that I had finished my work in mortality and had gone home....
I began to explore, and soon I found a trail through the woods which seemed to have been used very little, and which was almost obscured by grass. I followed this trail; and after I had walked for some time and had traveled a considerable distance through the forest, I saw a man coming towards me. I became aware that he was a very large man, and I hurried my steps to reach him, because I recognized him as my grandfather. In mortality, he weighed over three hundred pounds, so you may know he was a large man. I remember how happy I was to see him coming, I had been given his name and had always been proud of it.
When Grandfather came within a few feet of me, he stopped. His stopping was an invitation for me to stop. Then, and this I would like the ... young people never to forget, he looked at me very earnestly and said:
"I would like to know what you have done with my name."
Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen--everything I had done. Quickly this vivid retrospect came down to the very time I was standing there. My whole life had passed before me. I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said:
"I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed."
He stepped forward and took me in his arms, and as he did so, I became conscious again of my earthly surroundings. My pillow was as wet as though water had been poured on it--wet with tears of gratitude that I could answer unashamed. [George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel with Others, pp.110-12]
Even in ancient times, fathers were aware of the motivating factor of providing their children with the brand name of their forefathers, even though they did not use that term.
In Helaman we read:
"Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
"Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them" (Helaman 5:6-7).
This idea of giving children the name of their forefathers as a means of motivating them into good behavior may be the precursor to our modern day concept of branding.
Some of you may be wondering how this all applies to you. You may not have been given a special name to maintain. So what is the point of this?
The point is that last Sunday, those of you who partook of the Sacrament, took upon yourselves the most important name of all, that of our Savior.
Let me remind you of the words to the Sacramental Prayer:
"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen" (Moroni 4:3).
Why is it important for us to take upon ourselves the name of Christ? I would like to suggest at least two reasons:
First, we have been taught that it is only through our Savior that we can gain eternal life.
Mosiah 3:17-- "And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent."
Our Savior has purchased us through his blood, his atoning sacrifice. As we repent and are forgiven of our sins, we become one with Christ.
Second, bearing the name of Christ places upon us the discipline of living up to His standards and expectations, of living a Christ-like life.
3 Nephi 27:5-6--Have they not read the scriptures, which say 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;
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day."
It is not sufficient to just take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we must be obedient and endure to the end. This places a responsibility on us. Just as I wanted to put the responsibility of maintaining the good name of my father on my son, just as President George Albert Smith carried the responsibility of his grandfather's name, we have the responsibility by covenant of taking on the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
How are we doing in this awesome and eternal responsibility? I'm afraid that perhaps we may be too casual about this covenant rather than feeling the tremendous commitment we have made by taking upon ourselves His name. Might I propose that we undertake a self-assessment? Are we delivering on the promise of quality that we took upon ourselves? What attributes do people think of when they think about us. How do we differentiate ourselves? In this self-evaluation, we might use as a framework the process that is used by brand managers to develop their brand equity.
Please do not mis-interpret this. I do not want in any way to imply that the eternal covenant of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ is the same as the insignificant, temporal task of building a brand. What I hope we can learn from the brand development process is how we can better undertake our responsibility of carrying the Savior's name.
A first step in our assessment is to identify the attributes that we want to emulate. To help us review what those should be, I used another business practice, a survey. I asked a number of students to list those characteristics they thought would be found in true disciples of Christ. Their comments generated a long list of attributes. However, it is probably easier for us to remember the Savior's shorter, yet more inclusive list that he gave when he answered the question:
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
"This is the first and great commandment.
"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
"On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40).
Our efforts to love the Lord and love our neighbors as ourselves should result in behaviors and attitudes that differentiate us from others. We have our personal name, a distinctive e-mail address, and other identifying items to differentiate us from anyone else. Taking upon ourselves the holy name of Jesus Christ should also differentiate us from others. Are you distinctive and different from others who have not taken upon themselves Christ's name?
From an external perspective, carrying upon ourselves His name should be reflected in how we dress, how we speak, what movies we watch, what music we listen to, and what we eat or allow into our bodies. Too frequently I think we attempt to see how close to the limits we can come, how much we can get away with, how close can we come to being like others. For example, do we excuse ourselves for wearing clothing that violates our standards and covenants because that is the fashion. Do we use inappropriate language with our friends to be accepted by them? A better approach is to evaluate whether our behavior and actions identify us as disciples of Christ.
In His visit to the Nephites, the Savior taught this eternal principle:
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
"A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
"Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them" (3 Nephi 14:17-20).
We should strive to bring forth good fruit that represents our commitment to take upon us the Savior's name, to live a Christ-like life, and differentiate our behaviors and attitudes from others.
And we should strive to bring forth this fruit constantly and continually. As you may recall, I referred at the beginning of this talk to our propensity to segment our lives into boxes or compartments. When we are attending Church, we may behave one way, yet when we are with friends during the week, we may behave quite another way. We cannot be Christian in our behavior and attitudes only when it is convenient. We must be consistent and unending in our devotion to following His example. Enduring to the end, does not mean starting just before the end, or intermittently choosing to follow Him. We must be unceasing in our devotion.
Let me share with you the story of an sister from the former communist East Germany, Sister Gertrud Barthel. I believe Sister Barthel has truly taken upon herself the name of Christ.
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity on several occasions to travel to the former East Germany. When I have visited there, I have particularly enjoyed meeting those who were members of the Church during the communist times. They had to deal with a government that taught that there was no God and actively discouraged religious activity.
In addition, the government officials were concerned about potential threats to their control, so they organized a secret policy force, the State Security force, better known as the Stasi. The Stasi collected records of activities of individuals they considered as possible threats. They collected this information through a huge network of informers. The informers were sometimes volunteers but many were coerced into spying on their neighbors. Often the informers provided information on the activities of other informers. One could describe East Germany as a nation of spies spying on other spies.
Sister Barthel joined the Church as a teenager in the late 1940s as the communist government was initially coming into power. Since the Communists had prohibited the printing of religious texts, she did not have her own scriptures until several years after she was baptized. She watched the separation of Germany into two countries, one communist and one democratic, from the east side of the wall. In the early 50s she married. Her husband was not a member of the Church and still is not a member. Her daughter followed the communist anti-religion dogma and did not become involved with Church. Despite this lack of support, Sister Barthel remained an active member of the small Werdau Branch throughout the communist era. This dedication to the Church during the difficult and challenging Communist era in and of itself might be a demonstration of her commitment to taking upon herself the name of the Savior. However, there is more to this story.
In 1989, the wall came down, and the East Germans were finally free. As it became clear that the communist regime was crumbling, the Stasi officers attempted to destroy the huge volume of files that they had accumulated on their fellow citizens. This was an act of self-preservation for them. They didn't want the East German citizens to discover what they had done. However, the citizens were well-aware of the Stasi's activities, and they rushed to the Stasi offices to prevent the destruction of the files.
Most of the files were saved, and they are now public records open to anyone who wants to look at the information that the Stasi collected from their network of informers. Included in the files are the names of those informers who reported on their fellow citizens.
When I spoke with Sister Barthel about her life and experiences under the communists, I asked her what information about her Church activities the Stasi had collected about her. She said that she didn't know. Although she was confident that the Stasi had collected information about her and had a file on her, she had never looked at her files. When I asked why, she responded that there was no reason to look at the files. She said that it was possible that some of her friends had been coerced into providing information about her and their names would be in the files. She said that she didn't want to know who might have reported about her. Her words were, "Nothing good could come of that."
Nothing good could come of that! What a remarkable attitude of love and forgiveness from a remarkable sister. Has she adopted the attributes of being a disciple of Christ in her life? Absolutely! Has she differentiated herself in her attitudes and behavior? Definitely! Has she consistently lived according to her beliefs? Certainly!
For me, Sister Barthel is someone who has truly taken upon herself the responsibility of carrying the name of Christ. Her covenant to take upon herself the name of the Savior has been reflected in how she has lived her life.
It is my hope that we will recognize the responsibility that we bear as we have covenanted to take upon ourselves the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Just as President George Albert Smith was able to face his grandfather, I pray that we might each be able to say to our Savior when we meet Him, "I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed."