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The Seven Sacraments


Catholic Doctrine

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 1282).

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.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

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 Holy Ghost.”

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, 133).

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 Baptism

Penance, Reconciliation, Repentance

Catholic Doctrine

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 sinners.

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 1855).

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 the priest.

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 Catholic Church.

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 communion.

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 Church.

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 glossary.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

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.

  1. First, we must recognize the sin that was committed.

  2. Second, we must feel sorrow for having committed the sin, recognizing the transgression against the Lord and the pain that accompanies such a transgression.

  3. Third, we must forsake that sin and commit in our hearts to refrain from engaging in that sin again.

  4. 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 confession.

  5. 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 individuals involved.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

Catholic Doctrine

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” (Catechism 1419).

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 26:22).

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 Principles, 155).

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

Catholic Doctrine

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 8:14-17).

-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 Doctrine

Latter-day Saint Confirmation is an ordinance by which individuals become a member of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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, 313).

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 miracles.

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

Matrimony, Marriage

Catholic Doctrine

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 5:25).

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 death.

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 fatherhood.

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 the circumstances.

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 Marriage

Holy Orders

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.

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