5. There are several things to consider in making sense of this
portion of the second anointing. First, the rite is apparently inspired by the
story of the woman who anointed Jesus in anticipation of his death. This story
is found in three of the four Gospels (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; and John
12:1-8. A similar, though distinct, story appears in Luke 7:36-50). Only John's
version of the story identifies the woman as Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus;
in other versions of the story, the woman is anonymous. All three versions of
the story state that the woman anoints Jesus for his burial. In the synoptic
version of the story (found in Matthew and Mark), Jesus declares that what the
woman has done will be spoken of as a memorial for her wherever the gospel is
The Gospels present the woman's anointing of Jesus as a prophetic gesture attesting to his immanent death. The second anointing takes this incident as the pattern for an esoteric rite by which a wife symbolically prepares her husband for burial, thus securing her position as heir to his blessings. When nineteenth-century LDS authorities preached that Jesus and Mary of Bethany were husband and wife, they were no doubt reading John 12:1-8 as a literal description of Jesus' second anointing. (Most contemporary Saints would regard those pronouncements as speculation, not doctrine.)
The idea that the anointing described in the Gospels is an ordinance meant to be repeated by others probably grows out of Jesus' statement about the woman being memorialized wherever the gospel is preached. It is perhaps noteworthy that the only other LDS ordinance spoken of as a memorial is the sacrament, which is taken in remembrance of Christ's body and blood.
While this portion of the second anointing is referred to in historical records as the washing and anointing of feet, the records indicate that portions of the body other than the feet were washed and anointed as well. One record speaks of anointing the feet, head, and stomach; another speaks of being washed and anointed "from head to foot." The rite would thus seem to resemble the initiatory. The fact that this rite is known as the washing of feet is probably due to the fact that feet are the focus of the story in John 12 (as well as in Luke 7). In John 12:3, Mary is described as anointing Jesus' feet and then wiping them with her hair.