One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle, explored the concept of Naming in her book, A Wind in the Door. To summarize, Naming is a process by which a Namer understands a thing and Names it what it truly is. Like so many of the spiritual ideas in L'Engle's work, this one resonated with me. Scripturally, it would explain why God and His messengers so often name the people they speak with before they deliver their message.
There is also an immense social power in the power of naming. That is why stereotypes will always exist to some extent. Names are symbols. When you name something, you bring with it all the connotation and symbolism inherent in that name. Perhaps this is why we so often try to define the people in our lives by certain names. This is the jock. He is the geek. She is the cheerleader. They are the Mormons.
Sometimes names mean slightly different things to different people, which is why miscommunication happens. Names act as a mental shorthand, allowing us to mean far more than we actually say. The Church's struggle with the name "Mormon" makes perfect sense in this context. Some people think "Mormon" and think plural wives, devil horns and child molestation. Others think of charitable works, the MoTab and temples.
If we accept a name that might not fit us with all its connotations, we find ourselves explaining a lot. Yes, I'm Mormon. No, I don't have any sister wives. Yes, I go to the temple. Yes, I believe the Bible.
Yet, perhaps there is power in explaining a name as well. So long as we don't let ourselves be defined by the name, but choose to define the name itself, we can accept it. As we do this, we have to be careful that when we are Named, we are truly understood. That means taking a Name upon us which we keep sacred by the way we live, the way we treat others.
Sure, "Mormon" is a name which can apply to us, but "disciple of Christ" should be the ultimate Name by which we are known. That should be the name that He Names us.
And remember, according to L'Engle, in order to be Named, the Namer has to understand the core of who we are. To be Named Christ's disciple, we have to truly be His.