Q: I am a newly converted member of the LDS Church. I receive the "Ensign" magazine every month and was wondering what the name means? I've asked a couple members of the church and they don't seem to know either. Can you tell me?
A: Welcome to the church and the fellowship of the saints. You have a grand adventure in front of you as you learn more and more of the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope your membership in the church brings as much joy to your soul as it has mine.
The word Ensign is used many times in the scriptures, both ancient and modern. It refers to a banner or symbol or flag which was raised in a high place, so that everyone can see it--like a beacon, indicating the principles or ideas around which the people could rally or gather.
During the exodus, for example, the tribes of Israel were told to raise the flag or "ensign" of their tribe in their designated place circling the tabernacle to indicate where each tribe was to camp. (see Numbers 2:2) In the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni ripped a piece of clothing, wrote stirring principles of freedom on it, and carried it throughout the land as a standard for the people to rally around. He called it the "Title of Liberty" but it could just as appropriately have been called "the ensign of liberty." He caused this banner to be raised like a flag in every city throughout the land. The prophet Isaiah compared Christ [the root of Jesse] to an ensign to which all people should gather. (see Isaiah 11:10-12) In the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord refers to Zion (or the New Jerusalem) as an ensign to the nations to which the righteous from all nations shall gather. (D&C 64:41-42) He also speaks of the ensign of peace and the ensign of the priesthood.
Ensign is a great title for the church magazine, because just like a banner or beacon raised on a hill, it broadcasts the standards and principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all the earth. It publishes the words of the Lord's prophet and apostles given in general conference. It is a standard around which the people of the world can gather to find truth.