When David A. Baxter was a child in Scotland, his life was very hard. His mother had divorced several times and his family lived in one of the worst places in Scotland in great poverty. He attended a neighborhood church and there he learned a Bible story about a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus had a hard life too, but in a different way. He, unlike young David, was very wealthy, but he was a tax collector and tax collectors were not very well liked. Zacchaeus was particularly disliked because he was wicked.
Read the story of Zacchaeus in the New Testament.
For whatever reason, when he heard that Jesus was coming to town, he became extremely curious to see him. He went onto the street where the Lord would come, but it was lined with excited people, all much taller than the short tax collector. He looked around and found a tree along the street. Enterprisingly, he climbed into the tree, where he now had a perfect view of the event.
Eventually, Jesus came and despite the many people waiting for him, it was Zacchaeus to whom the Savior called. He instructed the man to come down out of the tree so he could host Jesus in his home. Zacchaeus was startled, possibly because he was not one of Jesus’ followers or friends, but possibly also because, as far as we know, the two had never met. The witnesses to this moment were even more surprised. Why Zacchaeus? What caused the Savior to choose a sinner over all these good people to be his dinner companion? They perhaps didn’t understand that if Jesus only preached to the converted, there would have been no church. Throughout His ministry, He seemed to enjoy the company of those who were sinners but who had the potential to reform.
It turned out Zacchaeus was indeed one with the potential to reform. After spending time with the Savior and enjoying the kindness of someone when so few were kind to him, the tax collector decided to repent. He gave half his wealth to the poor and promised to make generous restitution to those he had cheated.
David Baxter was captivated by this story. He thought about how the Savior had known the name of an unpopular tax collector and wondered if God and Jesus Christ also knew his name. Jesus had saved Zacchaeus. Would He also save a little boy growing up in poverty in Scotland?
It was not even two years before David had the answer to his question. Mormon missionaries knocked on his family’s door. Mormon is a nickname sometimes applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His mother let them in only because she could see they were cold and wet, but his family discovered the message the missionaries brought with them was one they wanted and needed. They were soon baptized. David’s life changed and he became the first member of his family to go to college.
Read how David Baxter learned “Jesus Knows Your Name.”
Mormons, in some ways, have even more assurance that God knows our name than most. For most faiths, God is someone they have never met and who may or may not remember creating them. Mormons, though, believe we did indeed meet Jesus. We teach that God created our spirits and then kept us with Him in a premortal life for a while. We had a chance to live with Him and get to know Him. Of course, He also got to know us. He learned our personalities, our tastes, our commitment to the gospel. He loved us and wanted, as every parent does, for us to love Him. Some did. Some did not. Some chose to make God and priority and some did not.
Regardless of the choices we made, however, God knew us and loved us from the moment He created our spirits. He has given us every opportunity to succeed because of that love. He wants us to make it home again.
The Book of Mormon reassures us of this knowledge:
38 Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. (Alma 5:38)
God knows our names, but it is up to us, now, to regain our forgotten knowledge of Him. We need to study the Bible and the Book of Mormon and learn everything we can about Him. The better we know (remember) Him, the easier it will be to understand how He interacts with us. His relationship with us is deeply personal. No matter how many children He has, He treats us as if we were an only child, focusing on our own personal plan even while managing the plans of all His other children and the master plan for all the world. He has placed us in that plan—we need only accept the call.