What Is a Saint?

The angel who taught King Benjamin emphasized that all people, in their natural state, are in opposition to God. He said that we will always be in this state unless we “[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” and “[become saints] through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” He then listed a number of characteristics which we will develop as we become saints: submissiveness, meekness, humility, patience, and love (Mosiah 3:19).

In the King James Version of the Bible, the word “saint” is a translation of the Hebrew word qadosh (קָדוֹשׁ) or the Greek word hagion (ἁγίων), which mean “holy one.” Strictly speaking, a saint is a person who has been sanctified—purified from sin and made holy. (See “Sanctification,” The Encyclopedia of Mormonism.)

God challenged the ancient Israelites to become saints: “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God.” He taught them that they must take action to achieve this goal, but He also emphasized that they would not be able to do this alone: “And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you” (Leviticus 20:7-8).

Members of the church of Jesus Christ are called saints. (See Guide to the Scriptures: “Saint,” Ephesians 2:19, 1 Nephi 14:12.) This is obviously an aspirational term: we are known as saints not because we have become holy, but because we are following the path to become holy by the grace of God. (See Moroni 10:33.)

President Russell M. Nelson clarified the biblical use of the word “saints”:

Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love…. A saint serves others, knowing that the more one serves, the greater the opportunity for the Spirit to sanctify and purify (“Thus Shall My Church Be Called,” General Conference, April 1990).

President Nelson listed a number of attributes which saints strive to develop: tolerance and attentiveness to the pleadings of others, diligence, honesty, courtesy, and reverence.

Today, I will renew my resolve to become a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I will strive to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I will be mindful of the sacred title I bear as a member of the church of Jesus Christ, and I will strive to live in a way that is appropriate for a Latter-day Saint.

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