“Why are people anointed with oil when they receive a priesthood blessing?” Liahona, Mar. 2010, 44–45
The scriptures frequently refer to anointing, often associated with the healing of the sick. For example, in Mark 6:13 we read that the Apostles “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” And in James 5:14 we read: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
To anoint means to apply oil or ointment to a person’s head or body. In ancient times this was done for various reasons. Sometimes it was a sign of hospitality or of routine grooming. Those who were sick or injured were anointed with oil or ointment as medicine. But anointing was also done for sacred reasons. For example, holy anointing oil was used under the law of Moses (see Exodus 40:15). Prophets anointed priests and kings, and the sick were anointed with oil as part of the procedure of healing by faith and by the laying on of hands.
In the Church today, olive oil that has been consecrated (blessed by Melchizedek Priesthood holders) for sacred purposes is used in various sacred ceremonies, including administration to the sick. “Although the scriptures do not specifically so state, we may confidently assume that anointing with oil has been part of true, revealed religion ever since the gospel was first introduced on this earth to Adam.”1
Why is olive oil used rather than some other type of oil? This is never stated specifically in the scriptures, although New Testament parables use oil as a symbol of both healing and light (see Matthew 25:1–13; Luke 10:34). The olive branch is often used as a symbol of peace, and the olive tree is used in scripture as a symbol of the house of Israel (see Jacob 5). Olive oil can also symbolize the Savior’s Atonement, since the bitter olive, when crushed, provides oil that is sweet.