Review of Oaks, Dallin H. His Holy Name.

Oaks, Dallin H. His Holy Name. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998. [Mormon/Theology/Ritual/ Liturgy/Worship/Divine Name]

This small book reports a decade-long study by Elder Oaks of the use of the phrase, or equivalents, “the name of the Lord” in scripture. The word “name” appears more than 1,500 times, “mostly as references to deity or to the name of Deity.” Puzzled by the instruction that as an Apostle he was to bear witness of the “name” of Christ,” he began this study. “I have been amazed,” he writes, “at how often scriptural teachings on very important subjects refer to the name of Jesus Christ rather than to the Savior Himself. There is something important here–something heretofore rarely discussed in our literature.” (p. vii.) He says the book is not easy nor definitive. It deals “with ideas that are complex and difficult to explain, especially when applied to a multitude of scriptural texts.” (p. viii.) Even after a decade of study and thought, Elder Oaks asserts that “even now it [the book] only scratches the surface of a subject that is deep and important.” (p. viii.) The most relevant part of this study, and also the longest chapter in the book is chapter 5, “Name as Essence or Exaltation.” This chapter he again asserts only “scratched the surface of a subject that is holy and deep and little understood.” (p. 50.) “Name” in reference to Jesus Christ and the Father, signifies the “essence” and character of the one referred to. Therefore, to take upon oneself the “name” of either is to become like that member of the Godhead. Indeed, Elder Oaks, asserts at least twice that the potential deification of man is the purpose of the gospel plan of salvation, of which the temple ordinances are an integral and essential part. The Biblical thought is, that a change of name “signifies a change of nature or essence” of the person involved. The phrase to become a son or daughter of God, seems to be a code-phrase (my word), for the idea of deification. That is, those who through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel become sons and daughters of God, are promised exaltation and eternal life. This equation is most explicit in D&C 76:58. These sons and daughters end up on the “right hand” of Christ (Mosiah 5:9; 26:24.) Though he does not pursue this idea, it appears that this too may be a code-phrase suggestive of exaltation and deification. Elder Oaks says the word “exaltation” “means attaining the essence of Christ”–his phrase for becoming like Christ, or receiving the “fulness of the Father”–deification in short. Many scriptures explicitly teach or imply these principles and as noted, several of the important ones come from the Book of Mormon. One of the more interesting interpretations to be found in this section relates to the Savior’s reference to the name of his Father in the intercessory prayer in John 17:3, 6, and 26. Christ’s mission was to reveal the character and purpose of God, because this is the key to the entire gospel plan. When Jesus said it was eternal life to know God, this is what he was referring to. When one has taken upon himself the name of God, he has become like God. This knowledge of the essence and character of God was lost in the Great Apostasy, and with it the purpose of the gospel plan was lost. This information is so directly tied to the temple that it surprises me that it has not been referred to or cited in studies of the temple that have appeared in the decade since the book was written!

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