What Does It Mean for Our Garments to Be “Washed White Through the Blood of the Lamb?”

White clothing represents purity and holiness:

  • When Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John, “his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them” (Mark 9:3).
  • When He visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He wore a white robe. As He prayed on the second day of His visit, His clothing became whiter still: “There could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof” (3 Nephi 19:25).
  • The Savior told the apostle John that people who have not “defiled their garments” will “walk with [Him] in white” and that everyone who “overcometh” will be “clothed in white raiment” (Revelation 3:4-5).
  • Joseph Smith described the angel Moroni as wearing a white robe: “It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant” (Joseph Smith-History 1:31).

On the other hand, filthy clothing represents impurity.

  • Alma asked how we would feel if we had to stand in God’s presence, “having [our] garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness” (Alma 5:22).
  • The prophet Zechariah saw a vision in which the high priest (representing all of Israel) stood before an angel clothed in filthy garments. The angel replaced the filthy garments with clean clothing, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment” (Zechariah 3:1-5).
  • Jacob said that he was diligent in teaching his people so that their blood would not be on his garments at the last day (Jacob 1:19). Mormon and Moroni both expressed a similar motivation for teaching the gospel (Mormon 9:35, Ether 12:37)

Isaiah told the children of Israel to wash themselves—to stop doing evil, and to learn to do good. He promised, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16-18). That imagery is easy to follow. It makes sense. But an angel gave Nephi an image which is more difficult to understand. He said, that the garments of the righteous “are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him” (2 Nephi 12:11).

This imagery appears multiple times throughout the Book of Mormon (Alma 5:21, 27, Alma 13:11Alma 34:363 Nephi 27:19, Ether 13:10). The apostle John (whom Nephi saw in his vision, wearing a white robe) also used the same imagery (Revelation 7:14, 1 John 1:71 Nephi 14:19).

The irony is striking: garments which are filthy when stained with our blood or with the blood of other people become pure and white when washed in the Savior’s blood. Why is that?

The Guide to the Scriptures tells us that, for the ancient Israelites, “the atoning power of a sacrifice was in the blood because the blood was regarded as essential to life.” But the Savior was different. As the Son of an immortal Father and a mortal mother, He had blood in his veins, but He had power over death. “No man taketh [my life] from me,” He said. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). He was executed as a prisoner, with seemingly no control over His circumstances. But He said to Peter, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew  26:53). On the cross, He announced His own death with the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

By choosing to suffer and die, He bridged the gap between mortality and immortality and opened a door for us to inherit eternal life. His blood represents the mortality which He took upon Himself and the suffering He willingly endured so that we could become pure and holy. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in the last general conference:

Renewal and rebirth…are not only possible, but they have already been purchased, paid for, at an excruciating cost symbolized by the blood of the Lamb who shed it (“The Ministry of Reconciliation,” General Conference, October 2018).

Today I will remember and be grateful for the suffering and death endured willingly by Jesus Christ. I will remember that, because of the blood He shed, I can be purified and sanctified, so that my garments can be spotless—pure and holy—when I again stand in the presence of my Father in Heaven.

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