Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is quite a comprehensive topic. Receiving this gift is the source of some notable blessings from God. Today I will discuss three of those blessings: Knowledge, a remissions of sins, and the love of God.

I want to stress that the common thread I found in my readings is that the Holy Ghost is a gift from God and must be received. Consider the words of Alma (Chap 34) on this point:
  • 37 And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;
  • 38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
The only thing that holds us back from the boundless blessings that our Father in Heaven would bestow upon us is our own pride and disobedience. Even before this week’s reading, I came to a realization that I had some incorrect ideas about the gift of the Holy Ghost. I had spent most of my life thinking I had received the Holy Ghost when I was confirmed after baptism. While thinking this way, I tried to interpret the gift of the Holy Ghost in context to my weak and flickering faith. I did not understand that receiving the Holy Ghost constituted a serious change in character, and resulted in spiritual blessings as meaningful and plain as they are described in the scriptures. It has not been until the last couple of years that I have really tried to apply gospel principles completely and consistently in my life. As I have done so, I’ve gained a personal understanding of the reality of this gift, and that when the Holy Ghost is promised as a constant companion, the Lord means it!


First, a warning from 2 Nephi 28:
  • 26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
  • 27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
  • 28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
  • 29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
This warning is echoed in other places, such as 3 Nephi 29:6, Mormon 9:7-11, and Ether 4:8. Given that the Book of Mormon was written for our time, I would take these many warnings to mean that this is a problem that we must contend with in our day. I’ve often thought of this in context of other religions who teach that there is no more revelation, but even in the church, I often hear people say, “Oh, those great revelations are only for the prophets.” or perhaps “We don’t need so many spiritual gifts now because of our technology.”

Clearly, if we ever find ourselves in the position of thinking we have enough of the word of God, or do not feel inclined to learn any more, then we should count ourselves warned. As Nephi goes on to explain, we learn “line upon line”, always building on what was learned before.
  • 30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

In another chapter, Nephi teaches somewhat of the workings of the Holy Spirit and describes how we gain knowledge (“wisdom”). Notice that he takes great care to point out that God is no respecter of persons and that has always operated like this and will continue to do so forever. We cannot mistake his intent here: This is how the gospel works. We can, and must, figure this out for ourselves. Here are the verses from 1 Nephi 10:

  • 17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision•, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous• also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy• Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all• those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old• as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
  • 18 For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
  • 19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course• of the Lord is one eternal round.
I was impressed by the word “diligent”, which seems to be used many times in conjunction with the blessings I am talking about today. In Webster’s, this word means “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort." It is derived from the word "diligere" which means to esteem, or to love. Truly, if we hold the Lord in esteem, we will be tireless in seeking after him, especially when we have been given the hope that we shall find him, for the “mysteries of God shall be unfolded” to us.

Remission of Sins

Nephi, ever a great teacher, tells us the connection between baptism, the Holy Ghost, and the remission of our sins in 2 Nephi 32:
  • 17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism• by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
  • 18 And then are ye in this strait• and narrow path• which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father• and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
Notice that he makes it clear when we are truly on the path: after we have received a mission of our sins. How? By “fire and by the Holy Ghost”. He repeats himself with different wording to make this concept clear. We are not on the path until we “have entered in by the gate … done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and … received the Holy Ghost”

So, if we have received a remission of our sins, we may know that we have received the Holy Ghost. How would we tell if we had received a remission of our sins, then? Consider the experience of the people of King Benjamin recorded in Mosiah 4:3:
  • 3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.
Joy and peace are the signs here. Mormon sheds a little more light on it in Moroni 8:25-26:
  • 25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism•; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission• of sins;
  • 26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth• with hope and perfect love•, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.
Mormon breaks the process down a little more into steps: repentance -> baptism -> obedience -> remission -> meekness -> Holy Ghost. Compare this to what Nephi said and what is said about it in D&C 19:31. It seems that these things are not all so much in order as they are interrelated. We go through this change of obedience, remission, and meekness all at once as the Holy Ghost become our companion and we receive it.

The Love of God

In the above scripture, that Mormon says that the Comforter will fill us with “perfect love”. King Benjamin gives instruction on how to receive this love and how to keep it. (Again, in Mosiah 4) :
  • 11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted• of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness•, and his goodness• and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
He says to remember the goodness of God, be humble, call on the name of the Lord daily, and stand steadfastly in the faith of Christ. And if we do this, then:
  • 12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain• a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
We will always rejoice, being filled with love, retaining a remission of our sins, and growing in knowledge! Powerful blessings!

Some parting thoughts

Who shall have the Holy Ghost? Nephi says:
  • And blessed• are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power• of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure• unto the end they shall be lifted• up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish• peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
Those who bring forth Zion will have not only the gift, but the power of the Holy Ghost.

Referring back to Moroni 8, Mormon tells his son that the Love of God “endureth by diligence unto prayer”. (There’s diligence again). Contrast this to the admonition in a little tract I got at a another church recently- it said I could simply read a short prayer and be assured of salvation. How dangerous to teach that we can but recite a prayer and be saved. Such a belief would insure that the spirit could not work within us- we would be lulled to think that we could "pray" just once and be assured that "all is well". The falseness of this doctrine should be obvious to all of us, and I look closer to home and I see false doctrines like this creeping into my own family. I teach my children to "say prayers" instead of "calling on the Lord". I teach them that there are certain times that we pray instead of the commandment that we should "pray often" and "without ceasing". None of this is deliberate or malicious, it's just the way things tend to get taught. It is easier to "say a prayer". It is easier to set a schedule for praying. If we take the spirit out of it, it all seems a lot simpler. And thus I am lulled away into thinking all is well in Zion. On the contrary, I must be diligent to keep myself and my home as sanctuaries for the Holy Ghost.

May we all be diligent in seeking and retaining the gift of the Holy Ghost!

No comments: