Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In who's name?

At church recently (and on more than a few other occasions) a speaker (adult) concluded their talk with the words "In the name of thy son Jesus Christ amen".

I hear this probably once a month or more at some point during church regardless of the ward I attend.  It catches my ear for some reason.  In the name of "thy" son is what's said.  As if the speaker were giving the talk to God instead of the congregation.  Or perhaps the speakers inadvertently keep switching in to prayer mode.  The entire phrase "In the name of......amen" has become so common place, rushed, slurred, and sometimes trite that I worry it's lost its meaning, and intent.  Like a vain repetition that we have become conditioned to repeat so we can end our talk/lesson already.

Closing a comment or any form of communication in the name of someone else is common phraseology beyond religion. Shouldn't be new to anyone. Political situations, government communications, military communication, many many contexts involve someone speaking "in the name of" someone else. It means the words are approved by that person or are in fact the words of the person but are being relayed by someone else. To share a message that in fact does not meet that criteria begins to head towards bearing false witness.  I pass no judgement on anyone's speech that I hear at church, this is simply to draw attention to something that I think merits attention.  This entire discussion is related to the commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain.  That's the context I'm speaking from.

The widely-held view of the third great commandment is that it prohibits calling on deity in a vain or exclamatory manner, as with other vulgarities. But think for a moment how an ancient Israelite would have understood  the commandment to not profane God’s name. Though offensive yes, exclamations or derogatory usage is not the same as taking His name in vain.  “Taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, as the commandment is rendered in Hebrew, means the invoking of God’s name to justify doing something that God did not ask you to do. Such things misrepresent Him. Likewise saying you are speaking for Him when in reality you do not, is a misrepresentation of Him. It's vain.  If we are going to say something in the Lord's name, seems wise to be sure that you are actually doing that and not just pontificating or sharing philosophies or theories mingled with scripture. The Lord gave a warning related to this in Matthew 7:22-23.

Maybe the commandment to not use the Lords name in vain has less to do with profanity and more to do with saying we speak for Him when we don't. Speaking for someone whom you have never met and who has never given you a message to convey, yet still saying you are doing so anyway would be something important to consider.  I sometimes imagine what it would be like if we were not culturally conditioned to conclude talks or lessons in church the way we do. I've never seen any rule or procedure that says we are required to conclude with the phrase this post is discussing.... but then again I haven't read the official church handbook of instructions recently.  There are many ways to conclude a talk, but it's hard to even conceive of doing it differently due to how deeply ingrained our cultural traditions are.  But perhaps we should give it some thought.

Granted not all of us are perfect in our speech, but this tendency I've been writing about is frequent enough that it's gone beyond a slip of the tongue.  It's almost revealing something about our mindset and how we understand what it means to speak in the name of Christ.

Do we know the person for whom we say we speak?  Or do we speak these phrases just to speak?


  1. Kellie-- you didn't add to our stresses! You were a blessing! But I would have hated to let you down. I'm flattered that you were reading my blog today.

    As for this post-- I too have often wondered if people are switching into prayer mode. Hmmmm....

  2. Do you have a suggestion of how I could close a talk without raising any eyebrows or red flags. I have thought about this concept somewhat and I agree with what you have suggested, but not sure what to do with the cultural tradition so entrenched among us. I have to speak for Easter. Would love to do it in a way the Lord approves.

    1. Anon

      I've seen Sunday school teachers who simply ended with no real "concluding phrase". They just ended, then motioned to the person who was going to say the closing prayer. I've seen others who will close a talk or lesson with their testimony, making the ending phrase refer to their testimony. “I leave this testimony in the name……” If you have a testimony (no matter how basic) that came to you from God and centers on Jesus Christ then closing in such a way would seem appropriate. Those are just a few ideas, I’m sure there are more.

      Sacrament meeting can have a strong cultural pull which complicates things. Ideally one would have enough of the Spirit to speak truth by that Spirit and thus the typical way to end is good.

      In a general sense as a people maybe just being more conscious of what we say, and its meaning, is a good step in the right direction. I don't believe the Lord is going to upbraid someone for doing the best they can to act and speak according to the light they have been given.

      Some people chose to not speak in church, or give lessons, or blessings due to uncertainty related to this very topic. They aren't sure about what they are saying so they refrain or decline to speak at all. I don’t pass any judgment on that, but have concluded that none of us are perfect and our focus should remain on God, and doing what we need to do to have the Spirit. Fear immediately opposes faith so we are left to choose between acting in faith or letting fear dictate. Sometimes there is uncertainty, not sure any of us can avoid it.

      That fact that you wanted to act and speak in a way the Lord approves sounds like words of someone who will come to the right conclusion.

  3. I love this. I have been noticing the same thing for quite some time, wondering why some do that, as well as why some speed through the phrase as they're leaving the podium with their materials. Also pondering what it means to take the Lord's name in vain, as some who use His name as exclamation seem to be possibly calling on Him. (Like "Sweet Brown" on youtube.) I often wonder if I called on Jesus like she does in that video if I'd feel His presence more in my life. Certainly raises interesting questions.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks, Taylor, for answering my question about how to end my upcoming Easter talk. Everything you said rang true to me. I actually do feel I will have enough of the spirit and have been seeking it that I could probably end it as "expected." But I like the idea of using my own testimony as the portion that I am wrapping up "in His name". Very good! Thanks for the help.

    1. Glad to hear anon. If you are living how you should, acting in faith, and humbly seeking the Lord and to do His will, there is every reason to have confidence the Spirit will enlighten and assist.