Though the word "sanctify" appears relatively infrequently in the scriptures, it is one of the most constant words that we hear in our Sabbath day observance (note that the Lord blessed and sanctified the Sabbath day). Forty-eight Sundays a year we hear and sometimes to ourselves, say the words "bless and sanctify this bread and this water." The sacrament, therefore, is sanctified in order to help sanctify us. This word, then, is at the heart of our Sabbath day worship.
The word "sanctify" comes from the root to make holy or dedicated. The Oxford English Dictionary defines sanctify as, to consecrate a thing; to set it apart as holy or sacred; to make a person holy; to purify or free from sin. Sanctify also means to set apart religiously for an office or a function, such as temples, chapels or, as noted, the Sabbath day itself.
Another aspect of sanctify is to render a person or a thing productive of or conducive to holiness.
In the Old Testament, sanctify is generally used in describing ritual cleansings and anointing that would prepare us, at least outwardly, to be free of ritual impurities. Thus, Moses "poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him, to sanctify him" (Leviticus 8:12). In our day, we are expected to do all in our power to make ourselves pure and holy that we can be worthy for the Lord to sanctify us. We are commanded to "sanctify yourselves; yea purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean" (D&C 88:74).
In order to do our part we need to separate ourselves from unholy and ungodly things (Moroni 10:32-33). How do we do this? We fast and pray, we "wax stronger" in our humility and become "firmer in the faith of Christ ... even to the purifying and the sanctification of (our) hearts, which sanctification cometh because of (our) yielding (our) heart unto God" (Helaman 3:35).
If we "come unto Christ" and "deny (our)selves of all ungodliness" and yield our hearts to God, then are we "sanctified in Christ by the grace of God through the shedding of the blood of Christ." It is through this covenant that we can "become holy (sanctified) without spot" (Moroni 10:32-33).As noted by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in the May 2008 Ensign, "The spirit brings the atoning grace of Christ, symbolized by His blood, both to justify (or pardon) our sins and to sanctify (or cleanse) us from the effects of sin, making us spotless and holy before God."
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News.