One of the themes of this past April conference seemed to be the concept of sanctification. As I scanned back over the last 20 years of general conferences, no other occasion found more references to being sanctified. Here are some of the occurrences.
In speaking of service, M. Russell Ballard stated:
“I believe there is one simple but profound—even sublime—principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we wholeheartedly embrace this principle and make it the focus of our lives, it will purify and sanctify us so we can live once again in the presence of God.”
Can we be sanctified through our service to others?
H. David Burton seems to agree stating in his conference address that
“The work of caring for one another and being “kind to the poor” is a sanctifying work, commanded of the Father.”
Silvia Allred expresses the same idea.
“Helping one another is a sanctifying experience which exalts the receiver and humbles the giver.”
What is the role of sanctification in our lives and how do we accomplish it? Is it truly the result of service to others that can bring us sanctification?
According to Dictionary.com, ‘sanctify’ means to
1. to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate.
2. to purify or free from sin: Sanctify your hearts.
The scriptures note that sanctification is a key element of the gospel. In third Nephi, chapter 27, we find the Lord’s on definition of the gospel:
13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
As you can see in the final three verses, we told that no unclean thing can be admitted to the kingdom of God, in order to gain entrance, we must repent, come unto Christ and be baptized and be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. Sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a necessary prerequisite to entry into the kingdom. I see no mention of the works of men or service to others as warranting sanctification.
In section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we find another definition of the Gospel:
40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
Again, it is through Jesus Christ that we receive sanctification. What kind of a message is it to members of the Church that you don’t need to worry about coming unto Christ, just do lots of service and you will be cleansed from sin. Is that the message of the quotes from general conference cited above? How can one change the gospel to mean something it is not. Paul told the Galatians that anyone preaching another gospel should be cursed.
Another important reference to sanctification can be found in the book of Moroni:
1 AND now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
Here we find the criteria for membership in the church of Christ – baptism and being cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost were the conditions upon which one could be numbered with the people of the church of Christ.
I feel it is important to defend the purity of the Gospel. Having relegated sanctification to the fruits of service strikes at the heart of the restored gospel. It is tantamount to rejecting the Savior as the source of our sanctification when we promote the ‘sanctifying’ experience of service to others.
The scriptures teach that sanctification is provided by the Holy Ghost. It is not something that we can accomplish on our own. In order to be accepted into the kingdom of God, we must be cleansed and sanctified – to have our sins remitted. That is the condition the scriptures put on sanctification.