Introducing the speaker at a recent fireside, our stake president introduced the speakers as (and I’m paraphrasing here) “one of the Lord’s anointed… and his wife.” The phrase “Lord’s anointed” stuck out to me, even though I’ve heard it dozens, if not hundreds, of times, it stuck out to me in a way it hasn’t before. In the scriptures and church practice there are several types of anointings, although in this sense it was used simply to mean “a seventy.” So, I decided to take some time in the scriptures to see how it has been used.
First and Foremost, Christ is the Anointed One. The Bible Dictionary explains
Jesus is spoken of as the Christ and the Messiah, which means He is the one anointed of the Father to be His personal representative in all things pertaining to the salvation of mankind. The English word Christ is from a Greek word meaning “anointed” and is the equivalent of Messiah, which is from a Hebrew and Aramaic term meaning “anointed.”
Anointings occur frequently in the Bible. Acts as grand as appointing kings, or as simple as healing the sick were accompanied by anointing. But, the fact that Christ was anointed for his mission shows some of the power that can accompany anointings.
In the Doctrine & Covenants the phrase “Lord’s anointed” occurs exactly once. Section 135 states Joseph Smith “lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum.” Another section the Lord refers to Joseph as his anointed is 132, where he is “anointed and appointed” to the sealing power. There are several other mentions of anointings, including Vincent Knight (the bishop of Nauvoo) and William Law being anointed for their callings. Looking outside the D&C, the phrase occurs in the story of King David.
Before David became king, the Prophet Samuel anointed David to become king of Israel (1 Samuel, 16) . Of course, the anointing did nothing to remove the current king, Saul. Not only was Saul many years away from meeting his maker, he was very intent on helping David be the first one there. David fled, but eventually he found himself under ideal circumstances to kill Saul, alone and in a cave, with the king fast asleep. But, where the Spirit urged Nephi to quickly dispatch his enemy, David felt constrained, telling his soldiers
The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.
David left the cave, and, once a safe distance away, called for Saul. Saul felt repentant when David explained how he had spared his life, and everything was good until he tried to kill David again. Wash, rinse and repeat. Eventually Saul was killed in battle with the Phillistines, and David was able to take his God-given kingship. This is the connotation most often intended when speaking of the Lord’s Anointed; A chosen servant of God who, although they may be fallible, is upheld by the will of God and support of members. But we can’t leave it at this, there is one more important meanings associated with the Lord’s anointed.
Anyone familiar with temple ordinances knows that washings and anointings are a part of the endowment. Although the full temple endowment was not revealed until Nauvoo, the Kirtland temple was where the washings and anointings were first performed (1). Joseph offered the dedicatory prayer, now recorded in D&C section 109, and concluded it asking
O hear, O hear, O hear us, O Lord! And answer these petitions, and accept the dedication of this house unto thee… And also this church, to put upon it thy name. And help us by the power of thy Spirit, that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb! And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy. Amen, and Amen.
Here, the Lord’s “anointed ones” are the members attending the dedication. In this day and age, where the blessings and ordinances of the temple can be had by all worthy members, this is the meaning I like best. Although it may be used to refer to general authorities, it is the plain, literal meaning that makes sense; the Lord’s anointed are those in his church that are striving to become like him, and have been washed and anointed as a part of temple covenants.
1-From the introduction to the Joseph Smith Papers, history.lds.org, see nearly halfway down, or see the encyclopedia of mormonism: Washings and anointings.