The Seven Sacraments
In Catholicism the process of Christian initiation involves three
of the seven sacraments together: Baptism as a beginning,
Confirmation as a strengthening, and the Eucharist as nourishment.
Baptism can be symbolized as being born into a new life in Jesus
Christ, marking the soul with a permanent spiritual sign which
consecrates the baptized individual for Christian worship. One who
is baptized is adopted into the family of God as a son or
daughter, made a member of the body of Christ, and is able to
share in Christ’s priesthood. It is by Baptism that an individual
is made a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism also has a more pragmatic purpose in forgiving the
baptized person of original sin and of all personal sins up to
that point in time. It is through reconciliation that all other
sins after baptism will be forgiven. The sacrament of Baptism is
necessary for salvation, although there are provisions for
salvation for “those who die for the faith, those who are
catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but
acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and
strive to fulfill his will” (Catechism 1281).
Jesus Christ commissioned his Church to "Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe
all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20). The sacrament of
Baptism is performed by pouring water onto the head of the
candidate or by immersing the candidate into water and calling
upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the Most Holy
Trinity. Bishops, Priests, or Deacons can perform the sacrament of
Baptism. In cases where a certain necessity arises, the Catholic
Church allows for anyone to baptize another person provided water
is poured upon the head of the individual and the words "I baptize
you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit" are said. Because of the permanent spiritual imprint that
is left on the soul of a person when they are baptized, Baptism
can be performed only once in a lifetime for a given individual.
There are no age prerequisites for Baptism, meaning infants can be
baptized as well as seniors. The Catechism offers the following
doctrine with respect to the Baptism of children: “Since the
earliest times, Baptism has been administered to children, for it
is a grace and a gift of God that does not presuppose any human
merit; children are baptized in the faith of the Church. Entry
into Christian life gives access to true freedom” (Catechism
Should a child die without having received the sacrament of
Baptism, the Catholic Church encourages the membership to pray for
the child’s salvation and put their trust in God’s mercy.
See Catechism 1275 to 1284.
The forth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints states: “We believe that the first principles
and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the
remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the
This article provides a glimpse into the serial process by which
an individual can be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. When we
exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, and are
baptized, we are forgiven of our sins through the Atonement of
Christ (see Chapter 8 on atonement) and can receive the Holy
Ghost. This process is reminiscent of what Paul was told by
Ananias following his dramatic conversion: “Arise, and be
baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16).
Before his ascension into heaven Jesus told his Apostles to teach
and baptize all nations (Matthew 29:19-20). Because baptism is a
requirement for membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, this
commission is as strong and applicable today as it was the day the
Lord commanded it. Baptism is a gateway through which blessings
may flow when an individual exercises his or her agency (free
will) to be baptized. It is after baptism that we are able to
receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Moses 6:52).
Baptism shows obedience and a willingness to follow Christ. When
Jesus Christ was baptized he did so “to fulfill all righteousness”
(Matthew 3:15). Jesus was baptized not because he was in need of
forgiveness from his sins, but because he wanted to set the
example for everyone to follow. The narrow path that Jesus wants
us to follow leads to eternal life, and the Celestial Kingdom is
made possible through the ordinance of baptism.
Jesus told Nicodemus “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a
man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus reinforced this doctrine while
visiting the people of the Americas after his Resurrection (and
before his Ascension), but in a more blunt and urgent tone: “Whoso
believeth in me, and is baptized … shall inherit the kingdom of
God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be
damned” (3 Nephi 11:33–34).
One of the most important aspects of baptism is the covenants we
make with the Lord. Covenants are two-way promises, meaning that
we promise to do certain things, and in return the Lord promises
to do certain things. The covenants we make at baptism are the
following: “When we are baptized we make covenants with the Lord
to: come into the fold of God; bear one another’s burdens; stand
as witnesses of God at all times and in all places; and serve God
and keep his commandments…When we are baptized and keep the
covenants of baptism, the Lord promises to: forgive our sins; pour
out his Spirit more abundantly upon us; give us daily guidance and
the help of the Holy Ghost; let us come forth in the First
Resurrection; and give us eternal life” (Gospel Principles,
We renew these covenants each Sunday when we partake of the
Sacrament (bread and water). These covenants are mentioned in the
sacrament prayer. This is discussed more fully in an upcoming
section on the Eucharist and the Sacrament.
Baptism is available to everyone who is at least eight years old,
has a desire to be baptized, and has shown the ability to be
responsible for their actions. Through modern day revelation the
Lord has revealed that the age of accountability is reached in
eight years, and those who are at least eight years old are
qualified to enter into the waters of baptism. Children younger
than eight years old cannot be baptized.
Should a child die before the age of accountability, he or she is
brought up into the Celestial Kingdom. Joseph Smith in a vision
recorded the following: “And I also beheld that all children who
die before they arrive at the year of accountability are saved in
the celestial kingdom of heaven” (D&C 137:10).
Baptism can only be performed under the authority and direction of
a bishop by those who hold the office of priest in the Aaronic
Priesthood or those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. Having two
priesthood witnesses present, baptisms are performed by completely
immersing the candidate into the water (all parts of the body
including hair), and then bringing them out of the water. This
process of immersion is to symbolize both death (being buried in
the water), and life (coming out of the water in the likeness of
the Resurrection)—see Romans 6:3-5 and D&C 20:73-74.
See chapter 13 in Catholic Roots, Mormon
Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on
Penance, Reconciliation, Repentance
Sins committed after baptism are forgiven through the sacrament of
penance, also known as confession or reconciliation. Jesus Christ
gave to his apostles the authority to forgive sins: “Whose soever
sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins
ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23). This same authority is
in place today through apostolic succession.
Sin in any form has the stunning effect of impairing God’s love,
damaging human dignity as a child of God, and injuring the
well-being of the Church. The consequences of sin are felt by the
faithful individually, the Church on the whole, and individual
Sins can be measured in terms of their effects, the degree in
which they wound the individual soul and the entire Church. There
are two major categories of sin: Mortal Sin and Capital Sin, with
venial sin being a subcategory of Mortal Sin: “Mortal sin destroys
charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it
turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his
beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him” (Catechism
Mortal sins are not committed accidentally and are done with full
knowledge and consent of the sinner. Mortal sins are described as
“grave matters” and may include those sins mentioned by Paul in
his letter to the Galatians, including adultery, fornication,
uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred,
variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings,
murders, drunkenness, and revellings (Gal 5:19-21). When a mortal
sin is committed without the consent or knowledge of the sinner it
is a venial sin. “Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even
though it offends and wounds it” (Catechism 1855).
Capital Sins are those “which engender other sins and vices. They
are traditionally numbered as seven: pride, covetousness, envy,
anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth” (Catechism glossary). These sins
are commonly referred to as the seven deadly sins, those from
which all of the sins of commission and omission flow.
We lose our communion with God through sin, but can regain our
communion through reconciliation—but only if we ask for it for
ourselves and for others. In finding forgiveness one must first
achieve conversion and repentance through sorrow for the sins
committed with a firm resolve to not commit such sins in the
future. This process of conversion encompasses the past and
future, being strengthened by the hope that God’s mercy will heal
the wounds of sin.
The actual sacrament of penance includes three distinct actions of
the individual seeking absolution, along with the priest granting
absolution to the individual. The three actions of the individual
include “repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the
priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of
reparation” (Catechism 1491).
Repentance, which is also known as contrition, is ideally
motivated by one’s faith and love for God, making it a perfect
contrition; otherwise, it will be imperfect contrition as it comes
from other less perfect motivations.
Confession involves the admitting the sin and taking
responsibility for it, thus freeing oneself from spiritual
decline, opening up to God, and bringing hope to the future.
Confession is often done in a confessional booth within a church
(this is the most common), but can also be done face to face with
Upon hearing a confession, the priest will prescribe specific
actions that are to be performed by the confessing individual in
order to heal the damage caused by sin and to enter into habits
that are consistent with being a disciple of Christ. This is often
a set of particular prayers and other such actions. The
prescription of such actions and the authority to forgive sins is
given only to priests, who have received such authority from the
The final step of reparation involves making public or private
amends for the wrong committed. This may involve such acts as the
returning of stolen goods, or repairing the damage of gossip by
communicating to others and the offended.
The sacrament of penance is first administered just before an
individual’s first communion. The youngest age at which an
individual can participate in penance was outlined in a letter
sent to the world's bishops by the Vatican Congregations for the
Sacraments and Divine Worship and for the Clergy, March 31, 1977:
“The age of discretion both for confession and for communion is
the age in which the child begins to reason, i.e. around the
seventh year, either before or after. From that time begins the
obligation of satisfying both the precept of confession and of
Catholics are “bound by
an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a
year” (Catechism 1457).
Catholics are encouraged to regularly participate in penance, even
for venial sins (everyday faults), in order to resist evil,
develop a healthy conscious, and take full advantage of the
healing powers of Christ. Frequency of one’s participation in
penance is linked to how merciful one can become—emulating the
mercy of the Father. Catholics are urged to abstain from communion
if they have committed a mortal sin and have not received
absolution through the sacrament of penance. Another form of
penance is the process of indulgences, whereby an individual can
obtain a diminution of temporal punishment as a consequence of
sin—for themselves, as well as for the souls in Purgatory. Only
the pope can grant indulgences to the faithful of the Catholic
Penance is critical in the spiritual life of every Catholic, as
without it the penitent cannot be reconciled to God, cannot be
reconciled to the Church, and will be subject to eternal and
temporal punishment as a result of sin. Through penance Catholics
can achieve peace of mind and conscious, spiritual comfort, and
the enabling spiritual power they need to cope with life’s
challenges with the adversary.
See Catechism 1455 to 1458, 1485 to 1498, 1854, 1855, and
During our time on earth, where we are expected to progress and
grow in mortality, we are likely to sin. Sin comes about because
of our weaknesses, our disobedience, and sometimes through
ignorance. John describes sin as “all unrighteousness” (1 John
5:17). Sin hampers our spiritual progress. Knowing this, God set a
path by which we could be forgiven of our sins—this path is
repentance, made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Before the time of Christ the Jews were instructed to sacrifice
specific animals in a specific way in order to receive absolution
from specific sins. In the ultimate act of love, Jesus Christ was
sacrificed by God the Father in payment for the sins of all
mankind. This great atonement for all sin brings forgiveness to
the children of God, through repentance, and allows the repentant
to get back on a spiritual track.
The process of repentance has been in place since the first man
and woman were on earth. Adam was instructed by the Lord on the
subject of repentance: “Wherefore teach it unto your children,
that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise
inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there,
or dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57).
True repentance puts a person into a state of humility and Godly
sorrow, requiring the repentant to possess particular spiritual
strength to adequately carry out the full process. The prelude to
and process of repentance may be accompanied by tears, fervent
prayers, and a feeling of sorrow. Elder Spencer W. Kimball said:
“There is no royal road to repentance, no privileged path to
forgiveness. Every man must follow the same course whether he be
rich or poor, educated or untrained, tall or short, prince or
pauper, king or commoner. … There is only one way. It is a long
road spiked with thorns and briars and pitfalls and problems” (The
Miracle of Forgiveness, 149).
The process of repentance involves seven key steps.
First, we must
recognize the sin that was committed.
Second, we must feel
sorrow for having committed the sin, recognizing the
transgression against the Lord and the pain that accompanies
such a transgression.
Third, we must forsake
that sin and commit in our hearts to refrain from engaging in
that sin again.
Forth, we must confess
our sin to the Lord and to the proper priesthood authority
(typically starting with the bishop) if the sin is serious. If
the sin has affected another person, confession must be made to
that person as well. For less serious sins, private
acknowledgement to the Lord is the most appropriate path of
Fifth, we must make
restitution as appropriate and necessary. This means doing all
we can to make right that which was wrong as a consequence of
the sin. For instance, stolen goods should be returned to the
victim and gossip should be rectified with all of the
Sixth, we must forgive
others so that the Lord will forgive us. The process of our
forgiving others allows us to be cleansed of the negative
feelings and characteristics that can be harbored when we fail
to forgive others.
Seventh, we must pledge
and do all we can to keep the commandments of God.
Through these seven steps of repentance, we are able to fully
enjoy the forgiving and the enabling aspects of the Atonement of
Jesus Christ. We are able to enjoy the freedom that comes from
being clean from sin, and more fully feel joy in our lives.
Church members are encouraged to make repentance a regular part of
their daily lives—morning and night. In our personal prayers and
thoughts we are able to recall our actions and identify those
specific actions that are out of harmony with the gospel of Jesus
Christ. There will be sins of commission (things we did that we
should not have done) and sins of omission (things we should have
done but did not). By identifying both of these types of sins in
our lives, and repenting of those sins, we can bring to our souls
the sweet solace of forgiveness and joy that only the Atonement of
Christ can bring.
See chapter 13 in Catholic Roots, Mormon
Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on
repentance and reconciliation
Eucharist or the Sacrament
Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if
any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread
that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of
the world… Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath
eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day… He that
eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in
him” (John 6:51, 54, 56).
The Catholic Church takes these words of Christ very seriously,
and literally, through the sacrament of the Eucharist (or
communion). The Eucharist is at the core of the life of the
Church, as within the Eucharist, Christ manifests and links his
Church and its membership with his atoning sacrifice to his
Father, freely offering the “graces of salvation on his Body which
is the Church” (Catechism 1407). The Eucharist commemorates the
Passover of Christ, encompassing the life, death, and Resurrection
of Christ made manifest during the liturgy.
The Eucharist, which is bread made from pure wheaten flour and
wine, is celebrated through an integrated act of worship that
includes the consecration of bread and wine that transubstantiates
the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. As a
consecrated host, “Christ himself, living and glorious, is present
in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood,
with his soul and his divinity” (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640,
1651). The Eucharistic sacrifice is offered by Christ himself,
acting by way of proxy through the celebrating priest(s), while at
the same time being present in the bread and wine.
Presiding at the Eucharist, often referred to as consecrating the
bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, can only be
performed by ordained priests or bishops. Deacons cannot perform
the act of consecration. To celebrate the Eucharist the priest
takes the bread and wine, invoking the blessing of the Holy
Spirit, and proclaims the words of consecration in a similar
manner to that which was done by Christ at the Last Supper: “This
is my body which is given for you… This cup is the new testament
in my blood, which is shed for you…” (Luke 22: 19, 20).
In addition to fulfilling the admonition of Christ as a sacrament,
the Eucharist is given as a recompense for sin for both the living
and the dead “and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from
God” (Catechism 1414). The Eucharist strengthens the union with
God, brings about forgiveness for venial sins, and can even
preserve the receiver from more serious sin. In strengthening the
individual, the unity of the Church is strengthened as the body of
Christ. “…Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory
with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with
his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this
life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to
the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints”
Catholics typically receive their first communion, along with the
sacrament of penance, at around the age of seven. The Catholic
Church counsels its members to be in a “state of grace,” being
free from mortal sins through the sacrament of penance in order to
receive the Eucharist. The church recommends that the Eucharist be
received at least once a year—weekly, even daily for some, is the
more preferred frequency.
See Catechism 1406 to 1419
Latter-day Saint Doctrine
Catholic Church uses the term “sacrament” to mean any one of the
Seven Sacraments. What the Catholic Church calls “sacraments”, the
Latter-day Saints call “ordinances”. One of the Latter-day Saint
ordinances is the Sacrament, the ordinance that is similar to the
Eucharist in the Catholic Church—meaning the bread and water taken
during a Church service in reverence to Jesus Christ.
Before his ascension,
Jesus Christ had a great desire for us to remember his atoning
sacrifice and to remain true in keeping his commandments. To
accomplish this, Jesus brought together his Apostles before his
crucifixion to partake of the Passover supper. The Apostles did
not understand that Christ would die soon in the great atonement,
and Jesus wanted to instruct them on the sacrament so they would
remember him and remain faithful to their covenants.
During the supper Jesus broke bread into pieces and recited the
stirring words that amazed the Apostles: “…This is my body which
is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The
Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible brings even greater clarity
to this scripture: “Take, eat this is in remembrance of my body
which I give a ransom for you” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew
After the supper Christ
took a cup of wine, blessed it in a like manner, and spoke the
words: “…This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed
for you” (Luke 22:20). Once again the Joseph Smith Translation
offers a more distinguishable rendering of the same event: “Drink
ye all of it. For this is in remembrance of my blood … , which is
shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of
their sins” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:23–24).
By providing this astounding instruction, Christ instituted the
Sacrament—bread and wine (later changed to water) that are blessed
by the holy priesthood and consumed by them and all other worthy
members of the Church. The bread and water of the sacrament are to
help us remember the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ given up as a
sacrifice in atonement for our sins.
Members of the Church are called to meet each Sunday (the Sabbath
day) for worship services and to receive the sacrament. Before
receiving the sacrament it is blessed by a priest in the Aaronic
Priesthood, or an individual holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The bread of the sacrament is administered by the priesthood by
breaking the bread into small pieces and then reciting on bended
knee these words: “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the
name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to
the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in
remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God,
the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the
name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments
which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to
be with them. Amen” (D&C 20:77).
The water of the sacrament (previously wine) is placed in small
disposable cups in elegant trays. A holder of the priesthood,
typically a priest, on bended knee says these words: “O God, the
Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ,
to bless and sanctify this wine [water] to the souls of all those
who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood
of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto
thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him,
that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen” (D&C 20:79).
After the bread and water are blessed, they are passed reverently
to the congregation by a deacon or other priesthood holder. The
blessing and passing of the bread and water is done separately so
as to create a time of reflection in-between receiving each.
Spiritual preparation to partake of the sacrament is important,
along with ensuring we are in a state of worthiness (void of
serious sin and with a repentant heart). Perfection is not
required to partake of the sacrament, nor is membership in the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—only a desire to love
and serve the Lord and to receive his blessings.
For Latter-day Saints, the Sacrament includes renewal of the
covenants with the Lord made at baptism. As the sacrament prayer
so eloquently states, we covenant to “take upon [us] the name of
thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which
he has given [us].” In return we are promised that we “may always
have his Spirit to be with [us].” By keeping these covenants we
will have the Spirit of the Lord and be given “knowledge, faith,
power, and righteousness to gain eternal life” (Gospel
See chapter 13 in Catholic Roots, Mormon
Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on the
Eucharist or Sacrament.
Confirmation and Gifts of the Spirit
In Chapter 6 we outlined in detail the role and mission of the
Holy Spirit as a key member of the Holy Trinity. Not covered in
Chapter 6 is the method in which Catholics receive the Holy
Spirit. The New Testament is rich with stories and testimony of
the faithful receiving the Holy Spirit.
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had
received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who
came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy
Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had
only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid
their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts
-Catholics receive the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of
confirmation. Like baptism, confirmation imparts a permanent
spiritual imprint on the soul of the confirmed, helping them
become more deeply rooted in Christ, more perfectly fortified in
their bond with his Church, and endowed with the strength to
testify of Christianity in both word and deed.
In the Roman Catholic Church the sacrament of Confirmation is
administered when an individual has reached the age of reason (the
time at which a person becomes morally responsible—about seven
years old). However, in 2002 the Vatican approved the U.S.
bishops’ decision to establish an age range for conferring
Confirmation as being between the ages of seven and approximately
16. At that time, in a communication by Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza
of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops, bishops were given authority to set more specific policy
in their own dioceses.
In addition to the age requirements, a candidate for Confirmation
must also “profess the faith, be in the state of grace, have the
intention of receiving the sacrament, and be prepared to assume
the role of disciple and witness to Christ, both within the
ecclesial community and in temporal affairs” (Catechism 1319).
Confirmation is performed by a bishop by anointing the forehead of
the candidate with oil (sacred chrism), accompanied with the
laying on of the bishop’s hand with the words “Be sealed with the
Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Although a bishop may delegate the
conferring of the sacrament of Confirmation to a priest, this is
typically not done, thus allowing a priest to celebrate Baptism
and a bishop to celebrate Confirmation. Despite such separation
between Baptism and Confirmation, there is still a clear and
distinctive connection between the two sacraments, starting with
the renewal of baptismal promises. This connection is strengthened
with the sacrament of the Eucharist, highlighting the harmony
between these sacraments of Christian initiation.
It is also most appropriate in discussing the sacrament of
Confirmation to discuss the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are
defined as: “Permanent dispositions that make us docile to follow
the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The traditional list of seven
gifts of the Spirit is derived from Isaiah 11:1-3: wisdom,
understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of
the Lord” (Catechism Glossary).
These seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are received through
sanctifying grace, when the life of God penetrates us. Such an
infusion can happen when one of the seven sacraments is received
in a state of worthiness, helping us to live a Christian life.
Proceeding from the Holy Spirit are the fruits of the Spirit that
are formed within us as the “first fruits of eternal glory”
(Catechism 1832). There are twelve fruits of the Spirit: “charity,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness,
faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity” (Galatians
5:22-23). These fruits of the Holy Spirit are the qualities
fashioned in our lives when we employ the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
and remain faithful in Christ.
See Catechism 1313 to 1321, 1832, and glossary.
Latter-day Saint Confirmation is an ordinance by which individuals
become a member of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy
Children of record (under the age of 8 years old) are shown on the
roles of the Church. However, it is only at their Confirmation (8
years old an above) that they become full members of the Church,
formally sustaining the covenants they made at their Baptism. New
converts are likewise confirmed following their baptism.
The second key aspect of Confirmation is the bestowing upon the
individual the Gift of the Holy Ghost. While all individuals are
able to experience the influence of the Holy Ghost, sometimes
referred to as the “Spirit of Christ” (John 1:4-9), only those who
are Confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints have the continual Gift of the Holy Ghost, often referred
to as the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
There is a distinct difference between the two as explained by
President James E. Faust: “The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ‘There
is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy
Ghost.’ Many outside the Church have received revelation by the
power of the Holy Ghost, convincing them of the truth of the
gospel. Through this power sincere investigators acquire a
testimony of the Book of Mormon and the principles of the gospel
before baptism. However, administrations of the Holy Ghost are
limited without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Those who
possess the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism and confirmation
can receive more light and testimony. This is because the gift of
the Holy Ghost is “a permanent witness and higher endowment than
the ordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” It is the higher
endowment because the gift of the Holy Ghost can act as “a
cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin”
(James E. Faust, “Born Again,” Liahona, Jul 2001, 68–71).
The gift of the Holy Ghost is given as a privilege to those
individuals who have exercised faith in Jesus Christ, entered into
the waters of baptism, and been confirmed as members of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With the gift of the Holy
Ghost a person can receive continual guidance and inspiration from
the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead.
Confirmation is performed following baptism through the laying on
of hands by those who are worthy in holding the Melchizedek
Priesthood. This means that individuals must be at least eight
years of age to receive Confirmation. The Lord by revelation
through the prophet Joseph Smith said: “Whoso having faith you
shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I
will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them” (D&C 33:15).
Although the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed upon a person,
there are no guarantees that the person will receive all of the
benefits associated with constant guidance from the Holy Ghost.
Each individual confirmed must “receive” the Holy Ghost. Elder
Bruce R. McConkie offers the following: “The gift of the Holy
Ghost is the right to have the constant companionship of the
Spirit; the actual enjoyment of the gift, the actual receipt of
the companionship of the Spirit, is based on personal
righteousness, it does not come unless and until the person is
worthy to receive it” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine,
Such worthiness comes through the sincere pursuit of keeping the
commandments of God and keeping our thoughts and actions
uncorrupted. In doing so, we can have not only the constant
companionship of the Holy Ghost, but also the gifts of the spirit.
These gifts, which are mentioned in several Biblical passages (1
Cor. 12:4-10, Mark 16:16–18, and Isaiah 11:1-3), give to us
specific spiritual powers to be able to bless the lives of others
and help lead us back to live with our Father in Heaven. The
Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants provide
detail on these gifts.
Although certain gifts of the Spirit are defined in scripture,
there are many others, “endless in number and infinite in variety”
(Elder Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of
Faith, 1985, 371). Each such gift is given for the benefit of
the receiver and for those whom he serves, directly and
indirectly. Gifts of the spirit include, but are not limited to,
faith, healing (to heal and be healed), exhortation, preaching,
speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, translation,
wisdom, knowledge, teaching, knowing Jesus Christ is the son of
God, believing the testimony of others, prophecy, and working
Latter-day Saint leaders encourage members to seek and understand
the gifts with which the Lord has endowed us. We develop these
gifts through prayer, fasting, and worship. Furthermore, we are
urged to seek after the “best gifts” (D&C 46:8). At the same time
we are warned that Satan has the power to imitate the gifts of the
spirit in an attempt to mislead us. Moses encountered such
trickery among the sorcerers and magicians of the Pharaoh as they
performed counterfeit miracles (Exodus 7:8-22).
See chapter 13 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more
comprehensive explanation and commentary on Confirmation and Gifts
of the Spirit
Marriage is a lifelong covenant made between a man and woman for
their mutual benefit and for the procreation and rearing of
children. When a valid marriage takes place between two
individuals who have been baptized into the Catholic faith, the
marriage is considered a sacrament.
The scriptures abound with passages acknowledging that men and
women were created for each other for the purposes of marriage:
“…It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen 2:18); “For
this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
Paul counseled the men of the church to “… love your wives, even
as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her” (Eph
Those who engage in the marriage covenant must do so of their own
free will and not by constraint or law (ecclesiastical or
otherwise). Should there be any such constraints, or a lack of
consent between the spouses, the marriage is void as they are
unable to achieve the binding to “become one flesh.”
Because of the seriousness of the marriage covenant, and in the
spirit of creating a lasting bond between man and wife, marriage
preparation is critical. While education in the family is of
primary importance, the Church provides formal training and
education to prospective spouses. For instance, Marilyn and I were
assigned an experienced Catholic sponsor couple and participated
in nearly six months of regular sessions with formal exercises,
discussion, and sharing between ourselves, under the guidance of
our sponsor couple, and occasionally our parish priest.
The sacrament of marriage is performed in the Catholic Church as
part of a public liturgical celebration. The liturgy and marriage
ceremony is performed by a priest, or Church authorized witness,
and attended by friends and family who also are also witnesses of
the ceremony. The celebrating priest receives the collective
consents of the soon to be married couple in the name of the
Church, and pronounces upon them the blessing of the Church. The
sacrament of marriage is binding until the spouses are parted by
Once married the couple is encouraged to share in one another’s
sexuality as part of “the conjugal love of man and woman…[where]
physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of
spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are
sanctified by the sacrament” (Catechism 2360). By procreating and
having children, married couples are able to participate in God’s
The Catholic Church does not prohibit the marrying of couples in
the Catholic Church where one of the spouses is not Catholic.
However, there is specific Canon Law governing such marriages: “1)
the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to
remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a
sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all
offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church; 2)
the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the
promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that
it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and
obligation of the Catholic party” (Code of Canon Law, canon 1125).
Even with the provisions of canon 1125, the Catholic Church
discourages such mixed marriages, feeling there is a strong
potential for strife and separation as a result of disunity in
religion. Should a divorce take place between two living
individuals married in the Catholic Church, they can continue to
be members of the Catholic faith in leading a Christian life, but
are counseled to refrain from receiving the Eucharist depending on
See Catechism 1605, 1625 to 1627, 1630, 1632, 1634, 1659, 1660,
1663 to 1665, 2360, 2398, and 2400.
Latter-day Saint Doctrine
Marriage is one of the most important ordinances that we as
children of God will ever receive during our time in
mortality—perhaps for all eternity. Not only does our exaltation
depend on entering into the covenant of marriage, but also our
happiness in earthly life and throughout the eternities. The
prophet Joseph Smith taught: “In the celestial glory there are
three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a
man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new
and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he
cannot obtain it” (D&C 131:1–3).
Marriage is ordained of God (D&C 49:15) and is “the most sacred
relationship that can exist between a man and woman” (Gospel
Principles, 241). Marriage has been a key component of the
gospel since the beginning and is so sacred and important that the
Lord has provided a way for marriages to last forever and not just
until “death do you part.”
For a marriage to be for time and eternity, it must be performed
in the Holy Temple by a Melchizedek priesthood holder who holds
the sealing power. Just as Christ gave Peter the power to bind on
earth and in heaven (Matt 18:18), so are specific priesthood
holders given this same power today (D&C 132:19).
The marriage sealing is a simple ceremony where a couple kneels at
the altar of the temple, surrounded by friends and family and two
specific witnesses. The man and woman covenant to one another
before God. The presiding sealer, acting under the direction of
the Lord, promises the couple being married wonderful blessings,
including exaltation, reminding the couple that such blessings are
predicated on their living righteous lives in keeping the
commandments of God. When the ceremony is complete, the couple is
declared to be husband and wife for time and all eternity.
Only Latter-day Saints who hold a temple recommend can be married
in the temple—there are no exceptions. Civil marriage ceremonies
can be conducted for Latter-day Saints who do not wish to, or who
cannot, be married in the temple. As with all marriages that are
not sealed in the temple, they are for life (time) only and cannot
be maintained beyond temporal death. Consequently, they will have
no claim on each other in the afterlife, nor will they have claim
to any of their children (who can be sealed to them in the temple)
See Chapter 17 for more details on the temple.
An eternal marriage is the pinnacle of a Latter-day Saint’s
spiritual and temporal life and should be taught, discussed, and
planned for from the very earliest age. President Spencer W.
Kimball taught: “Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the
decisions and has the most far-reaching effects. … It affects not
only the two people involved, but their children and … their
children’s children. … Of all the decisions, this one must not be
wrong” (“The Matter of Marriage” devotional address, Salt Lake
Institute of Religion, 22 Oct. 1976).
See chapter 13 in Catholic Roots, Mormon
Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on
The sacrament of Holy Orders in the Catholic Church is defined as
the following: “Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the
mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be
exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the
sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees:
episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate” (Catechism 1536).
See the webpage on Priesthood for more
information on Holy Orders.
Anointing of the Sick
The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick in the Catholic Church is
defined as the following: “One of the seven sacraments, also known
as the “sacrament of the dying,” administered by a priest to a
baptized person who begins to be in danger of death because of
illness or old age, through prayer and the anointing of the body
with the oil of the sick. The proper effects of the sacrament
include a special grace of healing and comfort to the Christian
who is suffering the infirmities of serious illness or old age,
and the forgiving of the person’s sins” (Catechism Glossary).
See the webpage on Priesthood for more
information on anointing the sick.