The Gift of the Holy Ghost

April 16, 2005 | 12 comments
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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.

Acts 2:38

It is promised in response to “What shall we do?” after Peter has told Jews at Jerusalem that Jesus, recently crucified, was the Messiah.

Acts 10:45

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.”

Jacob 6:8

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.”

Alma 9:21

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

Moses 5:58

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.

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12 Responses to The Gift of the Holy Ghost

  1. Katherine on April 16, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    Jim, my “hit over the head moments” seem to be brushes with the divine through the power of the Holy Ghost–a direct message sent from Heavenly Father to me at that moment. Most of my experience with the Holy Ghost is both still and small, and I suspect these more day-to-day manifestations are included in his commission to teach, guide, comfort, etc., which he carries out without much supervision. While I couldn’t say that I am _aware_ of the influence of the Holy Ghost every day, I could probably affirm it within any given week. I bet that I do have more of his influence than I recognize and that I would recognize his absence almost immediately.

  2. Daylan Darby on April 16, 2005 at 7:44 pm

    In his book (which I recommend) “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”, John Pontius talks about this a bit and describes an experiment. Carry a little notebook with you everywhere. When ANY type of inspiration (whether you think it’s your wild imagination or a prompting) enters your mind write it down. Also write down what action you took because of the inspiration and then (later) write down what events (if any) happened about the inspiration. Every week or so review your notebook – study it out in your mind.

    As I re-read my notebook now I see times when I was paranoid and times when I was truely blessed. Hopefully I’ll train myself to pay more attention to the Holy Ghost.

  3. Eric Russell on April 16, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    Jim, nice post. I have often felt the same.

    On a related note, I have noticed what I believe is a problem in our culture in how we perceive the role of the Holy Ghost. I think, frequently, we assume that it’s going to tell us to do something: tell someone we’re sorry for something we did, for example. The Holy Ghost very well could tell us to do some such thing. But we’re going to get frustrated if we expect the Holy Ghost to frequently prompt our actions.

    Rather, I have come to believe the Holy Ghost functions more as an acute conscience. In other words, the Holy Ghost might tell us that we ought to be sorry for something we did that we never really thought was wrong in the first place.

    Simply, I think the lesser role of the Holy Ghost is to tell us what to do, while its primary role is to remind us who we ought to be.

  4. SF Taylor on April 17, 2005 at 9:25 am

    The last 5 words of this verse are very interesting:

    3 Nephi 9:20
    20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

  5. Jack on April 17, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    SF,

    I’m not sure this is the same “and they knew it not” that Jim is alluding to. The Lamanites experienced such a powerful transformation in their lives that they had to know that SOMEthing was going on–even though they didn’t know precisely what that “something” was as defined by doctrine. However, I do agree with you–that we generally are quite unaware of much of the Holy Ghost’s influence as we plod along through life doing the best we can to be faithful–if that’s what you’re alluding to.

  6. Jack on April 17, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    By the way, good post, Jim–and timely. (for me, that is)

  7. SF Taylor on April 17, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    Jack:

    yep, that’s exactly what I was alluding to. Sometimes we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost and we “know it not”.

    It is truly humbling……..

  8. Mark Simmons on April 18, 2005 at 9:04 am

    I second Daylan Darby’s book recommendation.

  9. Zerin Hood on April 18, 2005 at 10:18 am

    Excellent post.
    Did you get your scripture quotes from Preach My Gospel, or from the topical guide researching on your own?

  10. Lamonte on April 18, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Jim,

    Thank you for raising an important issue for us all to consider. I can’t remember when I’ve had the “hit over the head” experience. I’ve certainly had strong spitiual experiences but as far as spiritual guidance is concerned, it usually comes in a quiet way and often I don’t even realize it until somtime later when I am in quiet thought. It’s sort of like prayer for me – I find myself in a stessful situation, I pray and then things seem to work out fine. Too often I don’t express gratitude for the blessings in my life, I just assume that things worked out well because I’m such a smart guy. ;-) Likewise, I think the Holy Ghost influences us more than we realize in helping us to make correct decisions and unless we take the time to contemplate the events in our life and how the gift of the Holy Ghost has assisted us, we may never realize what a great ‘gift’ it is. It sounds like your recent thought process has helped you better appreciate that blessing

  11. Jim F. on April 18, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    Zerin Hood: I used Infobase 2005 to do the search, but I assume that any reasonably good LDS search program can find them.

  12. tanya on February 21, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    How is it the HOly Ghost can only be one place at one time but in D&C 130:22-23 it says he dwells in us? I have been a convert for a little over one year and I still can’t understand this. I know I have had people say it is the Holy Ghost’s influence, but he feels much more than an influence, it feels as though he is with me. Please shed some light on this. This is really difficult coming from another religion. It seems to me that the word influence does not give the Holy Ghost justice. Could it be he is in all believers and yet only one place at one time? My e-mail is forever70s@comcast.net
    Thanks Tanya

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