by Saint Mark (bio)
Names have always been a matter of concern for me.
Having been named after three men who were monsters to me in my youth has made me keenly aware of the meaning behind one’s name.
I was named after three me: my biological father, my maternal grandfather and my step-father. In that order. My biological father beat my mother and then me. My maternal grandfather beat my grandmother and mother’s siblings. And my step-father was emotionally abusive and a drug dealer. You can probably guess that I had some issues growing-up with these men’s names.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, some of these men have reformed themselves. My biological father no longer beats women. My maternal grandfather left my grandmother and headed south to Mexico. We don’t know the full details of what happened to him other than he started a new family. Hopefully, he treated them better than his family in the States. And, my step-father made the biggest reformation. He went to rehab, stopped selling and using drugs, cleaned up his life and his character, and now works hard as a legal dealer….of cards, that is.
My step-father’s improvement has made an impact on my life because his life illustrates the great message of Jesus Christ: ANYONE can change and in order to inherit eternal life and eternal bliss with our families, we all NEED to change. Watching him be kind to my mother by making breakfast and going shopping for her, be considerate towards me by calling me just to see how I’m doing, and be thoughtful to my little ones by writing Valentine’s Day cards to them makes me feel gratitude for my step-father’s willingness to change and his courage in choosing to change. He is fulfilling his potential as a great man, husband, father, and grandfather.
Long ago, I forgave each of these men whose names I bear. I believe everyone has the power to choose change and I believe that forgiveness helps to foster that change. Although I do not harbor anger or malice towards these men today, the experiences that came through these men’s earlier poor choices definitely have informed my paradigms of life on a multitude of topics such as being a father, overcoming genetic predispositions to anger and abuse, and names.
As a point of emphasis, I do not bring up the past to “throw in the face” of those who have made amends, for that would not be forgiveness. But, I am not ignorant that my past informs my present. I don’t sweep the past under a rug to hide my sins or pain or struggles. I confront the past openly and honestly to conquer it. I analyze and gain insight from what shaped me in the past so that I can free myself from my past and shape myself today. Moreover, I have learned from others who have overcome challenges and I know I can have an opportunity to help others overcome their challenges by sharing mine. Feeling isolated and alone during a challenge is the worst feeling a person can have (and one of the worst feelings I have ever felt) and I know that if we don’t share and help others to not feel alone during those rough times, I will have failed as a Christian and as a human being. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, emphatically, I am.
Anger, fear, vitriol, hate, shame, unkindness, grudges, name-calling, embarrassment, social pressures, etc. are not what I choose to shape me. Negativity is not my master. Only the Great I Am is the Master of who I am today. Jesus Christ and His teachings are “the Captain of my soul . . . the Master of my fate.” As for me, I choose the Christ to teach me and inform my present. I’m not perfect at following His every teaching but I’m working on it and that’s all He asks of any of us: to work on it, to change, to improve, to repent, to come unto Him.
Decades ago, I decided to no longer resent my names but embrace them for their extended meanings. My first name is a synonym for Jesus Christ. My first and second names are the names of a fierce warrior and so I strive to be a “fierce warrior” for the Savior, His Church, and His teachings. And my last name has many translations but the one I embrace the most is “new Zion.” Thus, in sum, I strive to create a new Zion for my own children that they may grow up to become the great men of Christ they have the potential to become. Despite my beginning disdain for my names and because of the example of overcoming personal challenges that my name-fathers have shown me and because of the added significance I have found for my names, I now accept my names.
Nevertheless, because of the etymology of my names, choosing a new name has always intrigued me. When MMM gave me the opportunity to choose my own moniker, I put a lot of thought into it.
For a time, I considered "Boston Mark" because I lived in Boston and plus I love to emulate "Seattle Jon" in all ways. But, I was graduating from law school soon and didn't really know which city I would end up in. Back to the drawing board. Finally, after agonizing over it, I came up with my current moniker: Saint Mark.
I know some of you who have read my posts have asked yourself the question raised in the above title. But, if you shift the emphasis, another question is raised: Why would you choose the moniker of "Saint Mark"? For various reasons, this contributor name has raised angst and concerns from some in the bloggernacle.
Some readers feel that because I use the name "Saint Mark" that I am "holier-than-thou" or feel that I am perfect and akin to the author of one of the gospels or am arrogant or am politicking for sainthood in the Catholic church (btw, I do know some card tricks).
The reason I chose Saint Mark is because I'm a Latter-day Saint in the Church of Jesus Christ. Thus, I thought it was a natural selection for a blog about Mormons.
All of us who are members of the LDS Church are saints in these modern times or latter-days before the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, Saint Scott and Saint Jon are the co-creators of MMM. Saint Tracy and Saint Cher are wonderful women. Saint Jimmer really knows how to ball and Saint Mitt is battling with a Newt.
This is not a novel or modern concept. In the Holy Bible we see that Daniel spoke of “saints [who] possessed the kingdom [of God]” (Daniel 7:22). The Apostle Paul counseled that we “salute every saint in Christ Jesus” and that “[a]ll the saints salute you” who are members of other congregations (Philippians 4:21-22). When Christ was resurrected, “many bodies of the saints which slept arose” from the “graves [that] were opened” (Matthew 27:52). Even Jesus references all of His followers as “saints” (see 3 Nephi 9; see also Doctrine & Covenants Section 1).
Thus, as followers of Jesus Christ, all Mormons have the name of Saint before our names, whether it's consciously placed before our names for a blog or unconsciously stated through our daily attempts to follow Christ in thought, in word, in deed.
From the Mormon who smells like cigarette smoke or is struggling with same-sex attraction to the Mormon who communes with Jehovah daily, we are all enlisted as saints to the Most High. We are each striving to live up to the title of "Saint" that was placed upon us at baptism when we covenanted with God to always remember Christ, to keep His commandments, to mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.
Sainthood in the LDS Church is not a status we attain; it is a promise we strive to keep every day.
Why Saint Mark? Because it is who I am and who I am striving to become.