Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the gift of the Holy Ghost. In one sense, nothing profound has come from that thinking. I’ve felt that my thinking has been worth the effort it took. I have enjoyed the spirit I felt while thinking about it and feel better prepared to received the Holy Ghost, but my thinking hasn’t something that can be reproduced in an essay.
Instead, let me list the scriptural passages that refer to the gift of the Holy Ghost specifically (rather than to any scriptures that refer to the Holy Ghost). The gift was the focus of my reflections.
It is promised in response to “What shall we do?” after Peter has told Jews at Jerusalem that Jesus, recently crucified, was the Messiah.
Its receipt by Gentiles, was evidence that could they, too, could be baptized
2 Nephi 28:26
Not hearkening to the gift of the Holy Ghost is used in parallel with crying “All is well” and saying “We have received, and we need no more.”
The gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the things that those who reject the words of the prophets reject: “the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
It was one of the gifts that has made the Nephites a highly-favored people.
Doctrine and Covenants 20:26
It is that by which the prophets speak.
Doctrine and Covenants 33:15
Those who have faith will be confirmed in the Church by the laying on hands. Then they will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Doctrine and Covenants 39:23:
We are to lay hands on and give the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who have been baptized.
Doctrine and Covenants 49:14
Those who repent and are baptized will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
Doctrine and Covenants 68:25
The gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the things about which parents in Zion are to teach their children.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:26
We receive knowledge from God through the gift of the Holy Ghost. This verse seems to say that the gift of the Holy Ghost “has not been revealed since the world was until now.” How can that be?
Doctrine and Covenants 138:33
The dead are taught about the gift of the Holy Ghost
After the time of Lamech, when Adam’s children turned to sin, the gospel began to be preached by the angels of God, by the voice of God, and “by the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Joseph Smith History 1:70
When John the Baptist gave Joseph and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic priesthood, they were told that it does not have power to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
One result of thinking about the gift of the Holy Ghost and reading these scriptures was that I began to wonder if I may not, in a certain sense, deny the gift of the Holy Ghost by my implicit attitude that his influence is to be found in some spectacular or unusual way. I have been given that gift by the laying on of hands and I live in such a way that I can have access to his influence. In spite of that, I don’t often see his influence in my life. Is that to say that perhaps I am overlooking it except when he hits me over the head?
I’ve been hit over the head by the Spirit on several occasions since I joined the Church in 1965. Those experiences have been important to my life in the Church since then (I write about them here), but they are not common, nor do I expect them to be. I am skeptical when I hear people speak who have frequent deeply spiritual experiences, often miraculous ones, and make sure that everyone in Testimony meeting knows about the latest of these experiences. For them the spectacular happens all the time, and I am skeptical. But perhaps I make a mirror-image mistake: Perhaps, like them, I identify the ministration of the Holy Ghost only with the times when it would be difficult to deny it, times when he hits me over the head. The difference is that whereas they see the spectacular everywhere, I see it seldom. However, if it is a mistake to identify the ministration of the Holy Ghost with the spectacular, then I am no more right than are they.
If I am entitled to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, it must be the case that his ministration is much more common than I have assumed and, so, not necessarily spectacular. But if it is not only in the spectacular, where do I find his ministration? I can’t think of anything to which I could point that would be sufficient to persuade my non-LDS friends who are also skeptical about divine things.
In spite of that, there is a quality to my life that I think I can identify with the ministration of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes it comes as knowledge, sometimes it comes as a good idea, sometimes it comes when, after struggling with an idea or problem, things hang together, sometimes it comes when, though I don’t have answers to my problems, I have peace. I could not prove that I have these more than someone who has not had hands laid on him for the gift of the Holy Ghost. In spite of that, I feel a difference in my life, a difference that it is not unreasonable to ascribe to the presence of the Spirit, and I have begun to think that difference is often there rather than only occasionally. Perhaps I would notice it more were I not overlooking it so often.