A Name to Live Up To


“Where did you get your name?” Elizabeth asked Jenny as they climbed to the fork in the branches of the old cherry tree and settled in to enjoy the spring sun shining through the leaves.

Jenny had never thought about where her name came from. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “I guess from my mom and dad.”

“No—I mean, where did they get it from to give it to you?”

“Where did they get if from?” Jenny repeated, puzzled.

“Well, Mother said that they named me Elizabeth and hoped that I’d be as strong and courageous as my great-great-great- grandmother Elizabeth. She crossed the plains with a covered wagon, and she walked most of the way and never complained a bit.”

Jenny smiled, but something in the way Elizabeth talked about her grandmother Elizabeth made Jenny a little envious.

“And she got married when she was seventeen,” Elizabeth went on enthusiastically, “and she had nine children. Four of them died when they were little, but she kept on going. She made hats to earn money while her husband served a mission. I want to be just like her: strong and valiant and faithful and courageous and wonderful.”

“Is that all?” Jenny laughed good-naturedly.

“Are you sure you’re not named after one of your ancestors?” Elizabeth queried her friend. “Maybe a famous queen named Jennifer or something? We could have magnificent times pretending to be the women we’re named for.”

“Nope,” Jenny said a little sadly. “I’m not named after anyone. I’m just me.”

“Well, ask your mother. Maybe she’s just never told you.” Elizabeth made it sound as though you weren’t important if you weren’t named after someone else.

“I could pretend that I was named after someone,” Jenny said, wishing that she could change the subject.

“It wouldn’t be the same,” Elizabeth persisted. “Somehow when you’re named after a true blood relative, it makes all the difference in the world.” Elizabeth leaned closer and whispered, “It makes pretending seem almost real.”

Jenny smiled. Sometimes Elizabeth’s dramatic ways made Jenny feel as if they were on television or something, not just friends talking to each other.

“Jen—ny! Jen—ny!” her mother called from the back door. “Time for lunch.”

“I have to go now,” Jenny said, “but I’ll see you right after lunch.” She climbed down from the cherry tree and ran into the house.

Mother was at the sink, filling water glasses with one hand and holding Joey, who was crying, with the other. Jenny was still thinking about what Elizabeth had said. “Why did you name me Jenny?” she asked.

Mother looked up startled. “Because we liked the name. Don’t you?”

“Yes. But why Jenny and not Ann or Margaret or some other name?”

Joey cried louder and hit one of the glasses with his two-year-old fist, sending water spraying across the kitchen.

“Joey!” Mother cried and began wiping up the water while trying to calm Joey down.

Jenny took Joey from her mother and sat down. But she couldn’t quit thinking about her name. Why couldn’t I have been named after some fantastic, wonderful woman I could tell stories about? She hardly noticed her mother taking Joey for his nap or even the taste of her sandwich. Why don’t I have the name of someone I can dream about and try to be like?

“Is anybody in there?” Mother put her nose next to Jenny’s and peered into her eyes and laughed.

Jenny laughed too. “I was just thinking.”

“I could tell,” Mother said. “But what were you thinking so hard about?”

“My name. Why am I just Jenny and not Jenny named after some other Jenny?”

“What?” Mother looked even more puzzled, so Jenny started from the beginning and told her everything.

“I can see why Elizabeth likes being named after her great-great-great-grandmother. She must have been a wonderful woman. But you do have someone wonderful whom you can try to be just like.”

“I do?”

“We all do. Let me show you.” Mother got her scriptures, then sat by Jenny and opened them to section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. “Read this,” she said, pointing to verse 77 [D&C 20:77].

Jenny quickly read it. “That’s the sacrament prayer on the bread,” she said.

“What does that have to do with me being named after someone wonderful?”

“Do you remember when you were baptized and Dad and I told you about the covenants that you were making?”

“Yes. You said that taking the sacrament each week was to remind us to keep those promises. But I still don’t understand. …”

“Read this part of the verse again,” Mother told her, “starting with the second ‘O God, the Eternal Father.’”

Jenny found the words, “‘… that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son’”—Jenny stopped and read it again—“‘that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.’”

“When we take the sacrament,” Mother explained, “and have been baptized as members of His church, we promise the Lord that we are willing to take His name upon us and to be called by His name.”

A warm tickle spread up Jenny’s back. “I do have someone I am named after!”

“Yes, but it is a very sacred thing. It is not something to pretend about in the cherry tree. It is not something to even talk about lightly with friends. But it is something that you should think about every time you partake of the sacrament—and every time you make an important decision! You are a member of Christ’s church. You should be like Him and live worthy of His name.”

“Wow! That’s a lot to think about.”

“It’s the most wonderful name you could ever hope to be called by. So don’t worry about Jenny being just a name. You have another name to live up to.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Ron Peterson