A friend of mine, a former mission president, recently wrote to me about the word "receive" as used during the confirmation blessing to new members. Read and understood in the context of Moroni 10:3-5, the word has changed what I now understand about receive. It means to "embrace, to accept, to trust, to begin to exercise faith in." Moroni's promise takes on a new meaning when the reader exercises agency to embrace the book, then by the power of the Holy Ghost, the Lord promises to reveal its truth to the believing heart. The same is true for the gift of the Holy Ghost. We are invited, possibly commanded, at confirmation to receive the Holy Ghost. But so many do not.
My friend is right in his understanding of this sense of receive. Receive comes from the root to grasp, to hold, to take, to seize, to catch. It is the same root for the word "box," which means something that holds something. It is also the same root for the word "hawk," which means something that grasps its prey (The Roots of English).
The Oxford English Dictionary defines receive as "to take in one's hand or into one's possession something held out or offered by another." Receive also means "to take from another by hearing or listening, to attend, or give heed to." Another definition, interestingly, is "to participate in or take the sacrament or sacred elements." Also, "in religious use, with reference to the acceptation of man by God or of Christ by man" as in "God shall deliver my soul from the power of hell, when He receiveth me" (Coverdale translation, Psalms 49:15).
It is important to note that there is a very large number of uses or senses of the word receive. In this discussion we are talking about receive in the active sense. "This distinction, however, is not always perfectly clear in actual use, and it is often difficult or impossible to determine which aspect of the word is meant to be prominent in particular instances. There is also much overlapping of its various applications, and in many examples it is uncertain whether a specific (active) or merely general sense is intended" (OED).This is also true in the numerous scriptural usages of the word receive. However, with discernment, and a little inspiration, it is clear that on numerous occasions the word receive is meant in its most active sense. "He that receiveth my servants receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father" (D&C 84:36-37).
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org