I am wondering about the doctrine behind the consecrated oil. Why do we use olive oil? Why don’t we use another kind of oil? I understand that it is a very old practice but why did they start to use it in the first place?
Dear Elder Rosales,
You are correct that the use of oil is a very old practice. The first mention of it is with Moses in Exodus 30:22-31. Oil has been used to anoint kings (1 Kings 19:15-16). It was used in rituals (as mentioned in Exodus) and in healing the sick (Luke 10:34). But why olive oil specifically?
As you know, the Lord uses symbols in His teaching, for various reasons. Olive oil is another such symbol. D. Kelly Ogedn, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU explains it this way:
“Anciently, oil pressed from olives was considered the cleanest, clearest, brightest-burning, longest-lasting of all animal and vegetable oils. It was also the purest of oils and was thus appropriate for holy anointings. Joseph Fielding Smith has written, “We find through all the prophetic writings that olive trees and olive oil are emblems of sacredness and purity.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Salt Lake City; Deseret Book Co., 1957-66, 1:152.)” I Have a Question
We know that all things are given to us by God are to typify of Christ or to point us to the Savior (2 Nephi 11:4). With that in mind consider:
- Christ being the only sinless person is the cleanest, clearest and purist.
- He is “the light of the world” or in other words the brightest-burning
- He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, or the longest-lasting
Another example of symbolism, in Hebrew Gethsemane means oil press, and Gethsemane is where Christ was “pressed” so hard by the weight of our sins that he bled from every pore.
Thus we see, that the use of olive oil is to direct our thoughts to Jesus Christ the source of our salvation, and the power of the Priesthood. The gospel is beautiful, isn’t it?