About half a year ago, I had the privilege of giving a talk on the Holy Ghost after a new member baptism. In thinking about how I would approach it, I thought that the best way would be to come up with a list of questions that new members might have about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and then try to find answers from the scriptures and the words of the prophets that would answer those questions.
The following was part of my notes, although I ended up not giving the second half.
Why do we need the gift of the Holy Ghost?
The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11)
Man is fallen and could not know anything about God by himself. To know anything about God and His character, the knowledge must be revealed to us. The Holy Ghost is the revelator, revealing all these things to us, line upon line. It is necessary for us to learn all those things if we are to someday become like God. Thus, we NEED the Holy Ghost.
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
What can the Holy Ghost do for me?
- The Holy Ghost leads us to truth. (John 16:13)
- The Holy Ghost testifies of truth so that we recognize it, telling us in our mind and in our heart.
- The Holy Ghost will teach us all things and bring all things to our remembrance. (John 14:26)
- It will prick our hearts (Acts 2:37) and reprove us of sin. (John 16:8)
- The Holy Ghost will lead us to do good. (D&C 11:12)
- It will show us all things that we should do. (2 Ne. 32:5) (It has reminded me of my duties and sometimes given me a feeling of urgency about doing them.)
- The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace. (Gal. 5:22)
- The Spirit is called the Comforter because it fills us with hope and perfect love (Moroni 8:26) at times when we really need comfort. (Example: At dentist office while getting my teeth cleaned and the scrapiness was getting to me. I prayed for comfort and was blessed.)
- It gives utterance (D&C 14:8), even in the very hour what we should speak (Luke 12:12)
- At time of need, it may reveal the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Alma 12:3)
- Mysteries are unfolded by the power of the Spirit (1 Nephi 10:19)
- He warns.
- He can enhance our skills and abilities to perform a task. (D&C 46:18)
- He sometimes impels us to action or restrains us from action. (1 Nephi 7:15)
- The Holy Ghost sanctifies us (Alma 13:12)
- A major effect of the influence of the Holy Spirit is to have increased vision, seeing things more as God does, deepening and broadening our understanding.
These things don’t happen all at once. They happen when we need them and when we pray for them. We can’t force the Spirit, and we can’t fool the Spirit. It knows the difference between a real need and when we just want to consume it on our lusts.
“We believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost being enjoyed now, as much as it was in the Apostles’ days; we believe that it [the gift of the Holy Ghost] is necessary to make and to organize the Priesthood, that no man can be called to fill any office in the ministry without it; we also believe in prophecy, in tongues, in visions, and in revelations, in gifts, and in healings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that the holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and that holy men in these days speak by the same principle; we believe in its being a comforter and a witness bearer, that it brings things past to our remembrance, leads us into all truth, and shows us of things to come; we believe that ‘no man can know that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Holy Ghost.’ [1 Cor. 12:3] We believe in it [this gift of the Holy Ghost] in all its fullness, and power, and greatness, and glory.” (Joseph Smith)
What is our responsibility with respect to the Holy Ghost?
There are some things the Spirit can’t do for us. Only we can do it.
· We are the ones that learn and live the gospel.
· The Spirit will testify of the truth to us, but it will not force us to believe. We make that choice.
· The Spirit may give us a feeling of urgency about doing something, but it will never force us to do it. We make that choice.
· We are the ones who make choices.
· We are the ones who obey or disobey.
· We choose our attitudes. (But we can choose to ask for our attitudes and desires to be changed.)
· We are to actively participate in our growth and development, by seeking learning by study and by faith.
· We are to be diligent and committed with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.
How can I know I am feeling the Spirit?
Joseph Smith told Brigham Young, how the Saints can know they are feeling the Spirit.:
“They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits. It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right.”
The Holy Ghost has what has been described as a “still small voice.” It is not often something that we hear with our ears. More often it is something that is felt and can easily be missed in a noisy, busy, environment.
What can I expect when receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and gifts of the Spirit?
Gifts of the Spirit are usually received quietly and privately, without outward manifestations.
To paraphrase what Joseph Smith said, the opinions of men are wide and conflicting about the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some call any supernatural manifestation the effect of the Spirit of God, and some think that there is no manifestation at all and it is all in the person’s head. So it is not surprising that people are so ignorant after so many centuries have gone by in darkness without revelation or just criterion to recognize the Spirit or gain knowledge of the things of God, which can only be known by the Spirit of God. Because of this, when the elders preach to people that they will receive the Holy Ghost if they obey the gospel, the people expect some wonderful manifestation, some great display of power, or some extraordinary miracle.
The human family tends to run to extremes in religious matters, and they want some miraculous display or they will not believe in the Holy Ghost at all. They think that when the elders lay their hands upon a person, the person must immediately rise and speak in tongues and prophesy. We believe in prophecy and the gift of tongues, but to say that these things always occur when elders lay their hands upon a person, is contrary to holy writ and the practice of the apostles.
All the gifts of the Spirit are not visible to the natural vision, or understanding of men. The word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are gifts of the Spirit, but who would know it? Faith and healing, power to work miracles are gifts of the Spirit too, yet they require time and circumstances to call them into operation. (end Joseph Smith paraphrase)
How do we learn to recognize the Spirit?
Joseph Smith said,
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis added)
Notice, he said we may GROW into the principle of revelation. Growth doesn’t happen all at once. We will make mistakes. We may ascribe something as revelation that isn’t, or dismiss something as not revelation when it really is. However, the important thing is to keep believing in it. If we ever feel like we are having troubles recognizing and following the Holy Ghost, we can pray for help to recognize and obey it.
If the Holy Ghost is a still small voice, and if it takes practice to tune ourselves to hear it, we must find ways to make ourselves acquainted with that voice as much as possible. The best way to do that is to study the scriptures every day and there we will find plentiful opportunities for the Holy Ghost to witness the truth to us. We will also find things that we want to know more about, and in seeking the answers with prayer and study and pondering, we will learn to recognize when the Holy Ghost is enlightening us. We will also find in the scriptures things we should do to improve in our lives, and this will make us acquainted with the Holy Ghost’s reproving voice. As we live the commandments and follow the Holy Ghost, we will align our thoughts and character more and more with God and become more and more acquainted with the feeling of peace that the Holy Ghost gives.
The better we are acquainted with the Holy Ghost, the more we will be able to trust. When warnings come, we will heed them. When we are given words to say, we will say them. When prophecy comes, we will give it. When necessary, we will have the gift of tongues or the gift of interpretation. Visions will be opened to us for our edification. When we are prompted to heal, we will heal.
How do we stay worthy of the Holy Ghost and keep it with us?
In February 1847, nearly three years after the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young and gave him this message:
“Tell the people to be humble and faithful and sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach [you what] to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.”
When Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon through the power of God, he learned that divine gift of translation was with him only when he was worthy to be guided by the Spirit. David Whitmer recounted:
“One morning when [Joseph Smith] was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.”
I’ve experienced that too. On certain occasions when I’ve been preparing church lessons, I have felt stymied and like I couldn’t do it. I realized I needed to repent of something…
One of Jesus’s analogies, He said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Unless we abide in the vine, we can do nothing. If Christ is the vine and we are the branches, the Holy Ghost is the sap of the vine. The Holy Ghost is what helps unify us.
Wilford Woodruff said:
“The great promise which accompanies the preaching of the Gospel, as revealed from heaven in our day, is that the Holy Ghost will be bestowed upon the sincerely penitent who obey its holy ordinances. Through the Holy Ghost a knowledge of things past, present, and to come is communicated and the mind and will of the Father made known. In this way the Almighty reveals His purposes to those who obey His commandments and whose lives are pure and acceptable before Him, so that they can be prepared for all the events and trials that may lie in their pathway.If there are any members of the Church who do not know by their own experience that this is true, they may be assured that they do not live up to their privileges. All Saints should be in close communion with the Holy Ghost, and through it, with the Father, or there is danger of their being overcome of evil and falling by the wayside.We, therefore, say to the Latter-day Saints: The Holy Ghost will not dwell in an unholy tabernacle. If you would enjoy the full powers and gifts of your religion, you must be pure. If you are guilty of weaknesses, follies and sins, you must repent of them; that is, you must thoroughly forsake them. In no other way can we please God. “Man of holiness” is His name [see Moses 6:57], and He delights in the efforts of His children to be pure.”If we do not have revelation, it is because we do not live as we should live, because we do not magnify our [callings in the priesthood] as we ought to; if we did we would not be without revelation, none would be barren or unfruitful.Let us lay aside all evil practices, all those habits which will prevent our communing with God….If these little things have a tendency to hinder our enjoyments and debase us in the eyes of the Lord, we ought to lay them aside and manifest a determination to do the will of our Father in Heaven, and to accomplish that work which is laid upon us to perform….When I do anything that prevents me from enjoying the Spirit of the Lord, as soon as I ascertain that, I immediately throw it aside.”
Brigham Young said:
…when the mind is open to the revelations of the Lord it comprehends them quicker and keener than anything that is seen by the natural eye. It is not what we see with our eyes—they may be deceived—but what is revealed by the Lord from heaven that is sure and steadfast, and abides forever.”
“When an individual, filled with the Spirit of God, declares the truth of heaven, the sheep hear that [see D&C 29:7], the Spirit of the Lord pierces their inmost souls and sinks deep into their hearts; by the testimony of the Holy Ghost light springs up within them, and they see and understand for themselves.”
How do I invite the Spirit?
- Pray for the Spirit
- Sing hymns
- Read the scriptures
- Help someone else
- Take the sacrament
How do I keep the Holy Ghost with me?
- Do not put off being obedient to commandments.
- Surround yourself with clean media influences.
- Seek good and not evil.