The prophecy in 2 Nephi 14 indicates that the people who will be in Zion “shall be called holy” (v. 3). What does it mean to be holy? Can we be holy today?
Definitions of the word “holy” include sacred, sanctified, set apart, dedicated to God, etc. These are all good things to be; however, they make it sound like we should be shutting ourselves off from the world. Describing ourselves as holy can cause some challenges — people may think we consider ourselves perfect or, at the least, better than other people. Thus the term “holier than thou.”
Jesus is referred to as the “Holy One of Israel.” God the Father is referred to as holy. In fact, of all the attributes of God, holy is the only one that is listed three times in a row. It’s sometimes said that when Jesus wanted to emphasize something, he said “verily, verily;” however, the Lord of Hosts is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Sounds like He’s really holy! For comparison purposes, the only other instance I could find of the same word used three times in a row was when the Lord said “wo, wo, wo unto this people” after Christ was crucified (3 Nephi 9:2).
So, if being holy is something typically associated with God, then can we as people be holy? There are some people in scripture referred to as holy (Elisha, John the Baptist, King Benjamin, Alma, to name a few) so it is possible to exhibit that attribute. It seems that the more that we take upon us the attributes of God — the one who is truly holy — the more we can be referred to as holy ourselves.
Clearly, we’re not of our own ability going to start performing great miracles as God does (although He can on occasion use us as instruments to make them happen). We’ll never be as perfect as God by never doing anything wrong (but we should certainly try out best). There is one attribute of God, though, that it is within our power to emulate – loving His creation.
When God views people, He looks past their faults and loves them regardless. Can we do the same? God’s primary desire for mankind is for them to be prepared to live with Him for eternity. Is it a priority for us to help people (in addition to ourselves) be prepared to live with God for eternity? If we can answer yes to these questions, then we are people who can be used by God and classified as holy people of God.
How can we accomplish the above? How can we act more like God than our human tendencies would typically allow? If you have given your life to the Lord, then God has given you a portion of His spirit, suitably named the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). If we follow the leadings of the Holy Ghost, it prompts us to behave as God wants us to and love others as He wants us to. In short, the Holy Ghost teaches us how to be holy.
So, allow the Holy Ghost to direct you in your decisions — not to be holier than thou but to be a holy person of God.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.
Thank you for a thorough definition of the word, holy. My comments yesterday on remembering a teacher who stands out were about a professor who directly told me to let the Holy Spirit guide me in all my decisions. This was amazing to me because her religion was not Christian, but I felt that God spoke through her. Your words reminded of that experience. May God bless you.