The English word saint is derived from the Latin sanctus (holy). The typical use of the Greek word hagios (ἅγιος) in the KJV (which is defined usually as holy, sacred, pure, sanctified, consecrated, or separated) is holy in 161 instances, saint(s) 61 times, and Holy One 4 times.1 “Saints” are supposed to be identified as baptized followers of Christ — holy, sacred, consecrated, and pure — and in the scriptures they often are, but historically they have also fallen short of that description. Sanctification is the process of becoming a saint. For the natural man is an enemy to God…and will be for ever and ever but if he yields to the enticings of the holy spirit, and putteth off the natural man, and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord (Mosiah 1:16).2 It is a godly aspiration to become a saint or belong to the body of saints. Sainthood is not defined in the scriptures the same way modern religions portray formally-recognized and canonized individuals — although some (including Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi) have been exemplary role models for Christians and non-Christians alike. In an age of darkness and apostasy, the Lord spoke with St. Francis and sent angels to minister to him. He is appropriately referred to as a Saint. He lived the Sermon on the Mount. It is perhaps St. Francis who, above all others, proves a mortal may walk in the Lord’s steps. Christ did it first and more completely than any other would. But St. Francis surely followed.3 Many religious organizations — including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah (the largest denomination claiming Joseph Smith as their founder), as well as the Community of Christ, headquartered in Independence, Missouri (the second largest denomination) — equate the term “saint” with the term “member” and believe them to be synonymous. See also SANCTIFICATION.
1 Strong’s Concordance, G40.
2 “But if” is a Hebraism for “unless.” See Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 2:1173–1174.
3 “3 Nephi 12:38–39,” Oct. 15, 2010, blog post.