I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, that The Holy Ghost will touch your heart and mind as you read this.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we often speak of the gift of the Holy Ghost. What is it and how do we use it in our lives?
Let me present some definitions:
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones. He is often referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Comforter.
He can abide with us or withdraw from us according to our worthiness. By worthiness I mean our thoughts, words and actions.
In the church we often also speak of the Light of Christ.
The Light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. One manifestation of the Light of Christ is what we call a conscience.
So, the Light of Christ is our Conscience. Then what is the gift of the Holy Ghost?
All honest seekers of the truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, leading them to Jesus Christ and His gospel. However, the fulness of the blessings given through the Holy Ghost are available only to those who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and remain worthy.
After a person is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders lay their hands on the person’s head and, in a sacred priesthood ordinance, confirm him or her a member of the Church. As part of this ordinance, called confirmation, the person is given the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is different from the influence of the Holy Ghost. Before baptism, a person can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time and through that influence can receive a testimony of the truth. After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, a person has the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead if he or she keeps the commandments.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we can enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
There are two ordinances required for a child of God to enjoy this supernal gift:
- Baptism by total immersion, by a duly authorized Priesthood holder.
- Confirmation by the laying on of hands by a duly authorized Priesthood holder.
During the Confirmation ordinance we are commanded, through the Priesthood, to “receive the Holy Ghost”. This “receiving” is called the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Through that gift, we may enjoy his constant companionship and assistance throughout our lives.
For what reason are we given this gift? How do we use it?
What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
We are commanded to be perfect, but what does that mean? President Howard W. Hunter said:
“History provides many examples of good men and women, but even the best of mortals are flawed in some way or another. None could serve as a perfect model nor as an infallible pattern to follow, however well-intentioned they might be. … Only Christ can be our ideal, our “bright and morning star””
One fact is clear; we cannot be perfect in the same all-encompassing way that Jesus is perfect. Try as we may, we are just not strong enough in mind, spirit or body.
So how can we possibly follow the admonition to be perfect?
The answer: After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, we are expected to be perfect through repentance and obeying His promptings1.
- We can repent constantly and consistently
- We can use the gift of the Holy Ghost to know what we should think, say and do and be sure that those promptings are from God, our Father.
Using the gift of the Holy Ghost in this way allows us to be perfect in obedience, and to walk back into the presence of Jesus Christ. If we make a mistake we immediately repent, commit again to be obedient and continue on the path.
Like Adam, we are not deterred but determined to follow every prompting we receive from the Holy Ghost. Is it our intention to follow all of Father’s commandments? Yes, all of them.
This is the pattern of perfection. Each time we repent and obey, we become a little more sanctified. When we make this pattern our lifestyle we may become sanctified in full.
So how does it work?
Envision, if you will, a blank stage with yourself in the center. As the camera zooms in, you notice a beautiful crown resting on the back of your head. It is a crown of light and glorious to behold. You recognize this crown as the Light of Christ given to all men and women. The Holy Ghost is standing near with His arms wrapped around you. He is whispering into this crown. You feel and understand His words as thoughts in your mind and they warm your soul.
This is a simplification of the process whereby the Holy Ghost speaks to each of us through our conscience.
Conscience is a glorius gift from our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is given to all men and women at birth. It is a conduit, a microphone if you will, through which the Holy Ghost can speak to us in a very personal and intimate way. Now, He will not shout into the microphone. He whispers ever so lightly. Sometimes we don’t even sense a whisper but instead a smile or a nod, or maybe a disheartened sigh when we make a mistake.
Father is no respecter of persons. He speaks to each of us equally in this way with great love and concern. But He will not overwhelm us. Through the Holy Ghost, He gives us one commandment or prompting at a time. If we do not heed that prompting, He may wait for some time before giving us another.
Becoming Perfected In Christ
We can fine-tune our ability to listen by obedience to that which we receive. Conversely, by disobedience, we can harden our hearing to the point that the Holy Ghost leaves us to our own devices, and then we may be sifted as wheat by our common enemy. Make no mistake on this point; once we understand this process, disobedience is equivalent to rebellion.
Through disobedience it is possible to damage our conscience to the point where it is removed. Consider the term “hardened criminal”. They have made incorrect choices and ignored their own consciences for long enough to the point where they no longer hear the voice of the Holy Ghost. They don’t feel remorse for their crimes anymore.
Nephi explains what happens when we harden ourselves by frequent disobedience: 2 Nephi 26:11
11 For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul.
We need to exercise two skills in order to use the gift of the Holy Ghost:
- Our ability to listen
- Our ability to obey
Point of clarification: Most often, in my personal experience, the promptings come not as an audible voice, but as feelings or thoughts. It is as though my conscience, at the back part of my head, watches my every thought, word and deed. Based on those, it will intimate certain approvals or disapprovals. We can also receive mental images, ideas or actual promptings. Many gifts of the Holy Ghost work this way, the gift of discernment for instance.
If we are listening, we can hear some truly amazing things, not only promptings but pure intelligence, even the mysteries of the kingdom. In turn, if we always obey that voice we are on the very path that the Savior trod. We are on our way to becoming perfected through Him, and that path will lead us back to Him, eventually to behold His face and commune with Him as did the brother of Jared, Abraham, Moses, the three Nephites, John the Beloved, Joseph Smith and countless others. He is our ultimate destination, and we need not wait until the next life to reach Him.
Since we are not perfect like our Savior, what happens if we make a mistake and disobey a prompting? We immediately repent, obey the prompting if its not too late, and do better with the next one.
Think of it this way; The Lord is the building contractor and you are the house. He has a dumptruck full of the precise, hand-quarried promptings you need to obey in order to reach your full potential and return to His presence. But He will not dump them on us all at once. He gives us one and expects us to obey that one. Upon our obedience He will give us another one. When we disregard a prompting and do not repent, it is akin to throwing that brick back into the dumptruck. He lays one brick at a time, like the master craftsman that He is, but we must obey that prompting for the brick to be properly seated in the mortar of our house. Once the house is finally built, you open the door and the Savior himself will be standing there to say “welcome home thou good and faithful servant”.
He will build the house as quickly as we will allow Him, through our obedience to the promptings.
Please don’t mistake these truths and assume we can work our way to heaven. Our works alone will never be enough. It isn’t about the work we do. It is about becoming something beyond our carnal, fallen selves. It is about using the Atonement to repent and obeying His voice through our own consciences to become fit for His kingdom. On the other side of the coin, we cannot repent and then proceed to sin with impunity and expect to be saved in the kingdom of God. It takes true repentance, baptism by water and then baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. Neither repentance alone, nor works alone can save us.
As you read the following scriptures, imagine that same model you envisioned earlier where the Holy Ghost is speaking to you through your crown of conscience. Consider the word “live” in each of the scriptures and understand that when the Savior says “live”, He is not speaking of carnal or temporal life but eternal life.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.
Does this not give new meaning to the phrase “word of God”? Remember the iron rod in Lehi’s vision? Only those who held onto the iron rod made it to the tree of life. I can relate with surety, that holding firmly onto the iron rod spoken of in Lehi’s vision represents this pattern of prompting and obeying. Yes, most certainly the word of God also represents the scriptures, both ancient and modern, but first and foremost it represents the promptings of the Holy Ghost to us individually.
Again, the iron rod is the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Holding fast to the iron rod is obeying those promptings. If your scriptures and Ensign magazines burned up in a fire have you lost the word of God? Can you still hold fast to the iron rod?
Brothers and sisters, these promptings are your personal scripture, custom made for you and no one else, at a very personal and intimate level. They are given to you in the very instant you need them. I admonish us all to embrace this truth and the spiral process it entails. Which process is repent, listen, obey, and if we make a mistake repent again and follow the pattern.
You can think of this process as a spiral staircase. For each round we make, we are sanctified a bit more, until the “perfect day”.
Distinguishing the Voice of The Spirit
We can distinguish the voice of the Holy Ghost from another voice by remembering these points:
- The voice of the Holy Ghost is almost always selfless. In other words, if the prompting is to do something good for someone else, you can be sure it is from the Holy Ghost.
- His voice always prompts us to see others the way the Savior sees them.
- His voice never prompts to do bad things.
- His voice is never counter to the scriptures.
- His voice is kind and sweet.
- It is never vengeful, violent or cruel.
- His voice is never disparaging, it will not ridicule or make you feel bad about yourself, yet it will always call you to repentance when necessary.
- It is always hopeful and faithful.
If we desire the “brass ring” which is a place for ourselves in the Celestial kingdom in the very presence of the Father and our Master Jesus Christ, we must each be tried even as Abraham2. It is no small thing to desire that goal for ourselves, much more to reach it. But it is the goal He desires for us. In fact it is His work and His glory to see us through that accomplishment. That “brass ring” is the very reason we came to this university, of trial by experience, called earth.
Throughout the scriptures we are taught what is required to obtain the Celestial kingdom. The requirement is that we sacrifice everything we are and everything we have or may have.
Joseph Smith taught: “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”3
He may allow seemingly awful things to happen in our lives. But we are counselled to be not discouraged. When those trying times come, and they will come, we can have faith in the knowledge that this is the purpose for which we are here. We can have faith in Him, that He knows we can overcome and continue to listen, and obey that still small voice whispering into our conscience. He expects nothing less from us.
Isn’t it truly wonderful that Father has provided a way for us to become who we really are? Through the Gift of the Holy Ghost we can reach our full potential. If we follow the program, take the Holy Ghost as our guide, obey His promptings through our Faith in the one who is mighty to save, even Jesus Christ; we will one day stand before him, face to face and He will embrace us and welcome us home.
I pray each of us will use the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and fine-tune our Conscience to the point that we cannot be decieved and we do and say nothing but the will of our Father in Heaven.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.