This post continues my series on the Sacrament. And don’t worry, I’ll get to it. But there’s something important (and surprisingly relevant) I need to discuss first.
As you might know, I’m LDS. If you’re not LDS – or perhaps don’t even know what that means – you might know members of our church as Mormons.
When the church was newly organised back in the early to mid 19thcentury, the term Mormon was used first by enemies of the church and was considered derogatory. But over the years, the word became more widespread. And eventually we kind of adopted it ourselves. Over more recent years, the church started sites such as Mormon.org, and Mormon Newsroom, and also organised the “I’m a Mormon” series of videos and personal stories.
But Russell M Nelson – the President of the church and the man we consider to be a prophet (with everything that term implies) – has recently announced we need a correction in how we self-identify. The name of the church has never been the “Mormon Church”. Mormon was an amazing man, and the key figure in preparing additional scripture for our day. But it’s never been his church. It’s the Saviour’s church. And it’s named, and has always been named, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Nelson has reminded us that as a church, and as members of that church, that’s the term we should be using. And as individuals, rather than say we’re Mormons when asked about our religion, we should either use the full name of the church or the shorter Latter-day Saint (LDS for short).
Saints and Sanctification
Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with the Sacrament. But I’d been thinking a lot about the Sacrament and the next post in this series – continuing the discussion on the bread and water being blessed and sanctified. This was on my mind when I learned of the prophet’s statement, and it got me thinking about a connection.
I already knew that the word sanctification came from the Latin sanctus, meaning holy. But what about the word saint?
Well, it transpires that saint also comes from the Latin sanctus. And sanctus itself comes from sancire, meaning consecrate. So, we have sanctify, holy, consecrate, and saint all coming from the same root word. Hmm.
“[S]anctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy…” said the Lord to ancient Israel. (Lev 11:44)
“[S]tand ye in holy places, and be not moved…” he said elsewhere. (D&C 87:8)
And, “I give unto you… a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean.” (D&C 88:74)
This latter scripture reminds me of another from the Old Testament, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart…” (Ps 24:3)
It doesn’t take a long search to see just how often these words are used in connection with each other in the scriptures. To sanctify ourselves is to become holy. As part of that process of sanctification we consecrate ourselves so that our hands become clean, and our hearts pure. We stand in holy places as a way to aid ourselves in this process, and undertake the process so that we might stand in holy places.
And we do all this while we call ourselves Saints.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so far away from becoming holy that the distance is mindbogglingly vast. However, I am on the path (however small or pathetic my efforts might be). And apparently, for the Lord, that’s enough to be called a Latter-day Saint. To be a saint is to be on that journey, wherever we are on the path. To be trying, even though we just find it so, so hard.
That Ye May Sanctify
And this all brings me round to the Sacrament. In the last post I talked about how the Priests ask our Father in Heaven to bless the bread and water. But they also ask for these same emblems to be sanctified. They’re not ‘just’ sanctified though: they’re blessed and sanctified “to the souls of all those” who partake. (see D&C 20:77,79)
It’s not that the bread and water, in and of themselves, become something holy and special. Rather, these emblems when taken rightly become a means for us to become sanctified. They’re sanctified to our souls. These tokens of the Saviour’s atoning sacrifice help us draw closer to the Man of Holiness (see Moses 6:57).
As we eat and drink the Sacrament emblems, we symbolically take into our souls the mercy and grace Christ has so fully offered us.
“[I]f ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (Mor 10:33)
And as we remember that the words sanctify and saint are derived from the same Latin root*, we become aware that this ordinance of the Sacrament – the ordinance we partake of every week in church – is there to help us in our quest to live up to the title of Latter-day Saint. It’s there to help us honour our covenant commitments to obey, sacrifice, and consecrate.
My family and health situation means that currently I can’t always get to church every week. But I’m so grateful that when I can’t get to the Sacrament, the Sacrament comes to me. My father and sons hold the holy Priesthood, and with the Bishop’s permission, they minister the Sacrament to me when I can’t get there.
What a blessing this is. How grateful I am for this holy ordinance. And how eternally grateful I am for the One who makes it all possible. Jesus Christ.**
© Copyright Jeffrey Collyer, 2018
* Indeed, the words sacrament and sacrifice also come from the same Latin root
** See Mosiah 3:19
In this article, I’ve talked a lot about the Latin roots of the various words of saint, sanctify, etc. But they also come from the same root in Hebrew. Qdsh can mean a variety of things, including holy, sanctified, consecrate, saint.
But there is a further meaning that I think has particular importance. That is of being set apart or treated differently. Things – e.g. objects, people, rites, even days – that have been identified as being holy are described as qodesh. These are things that belong to the sphere of the sacred and, as such, should not be treated as one would treat other common things. In this sense, they are set apart from the rest of the world. (From the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, entry 1990)