Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gift of the Holy Ghost

                    The gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the choicest blessings that we can receive, and it comes to each person shortly after baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The gift of the Holy Ghost is given to each newly-baptized individual when we are confirmed as members of the Church.  Bearers of the Melchizedek Priesthood place their hands on our head and say, "Receive the Holy Ghost."  The priesthood bearers bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, but it is up to me and to you to actually allow the Holy Ghost into our lives.  We are entitled to guidance from the Holy Ghost as long as we remain worthy of His presence.

                    As we face decisions in our lives involving eternal blessings - whether great or small - the Holy Ghost can impress on our hearts and minds the direction the Lord would have us go.  This gift from Heavenly Father is one of our greatest resources for help and comfort.  In order for this gift to be useful and valuable to us, we must truly "receive the Holy Ghost" by seeking for the Spirit and listening to His promptings.  I am grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life and for my increasing ability to recognize and follow the inspiration He brings.

                    I have a picture of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which shows Joseph Smith kneeling at the feet of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  When I took the picture to be framed and was experimenting with different framing materials, I noticed that I felt the Spirit with certain materials but not with others.  I followed the promptings, chose the materials as prompted, and have a beautifully framed picture that I feel is acceptable to God.

                    Jesus taught His followers the importance of both baptism and the Spirit.  "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

                    We are "born of water" when we are immersed in water or baptized.  We are born of the Spirit when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism. 

Before Jesus was crucified, He promised his Apostles that after He died Heavenly Father would send a Comforter to be with them.  The Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, would testify of Jesus Christ, comfort the Apostles, and help them know what to do when Jesus was gone.  We, like the Apostles of Jesus, can be blessed and strengthened by the power of the Holy Ghost.

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:  for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak:  and he will shew [show] you things to come" (John 16:13).

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead.  The Apostle John wrote, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Holy Ghost:  and these three are one [in purpose]" (1 John 5:7).  The Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed this truth when he wrote the Thirteen Articles of Faith.  The very first of the thirteen was:  "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost" (Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith 1:1).

The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit.  He is a person, but he does not have a body of flesh and bones as do Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.  Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).

The Holy Ghost is also known as the Comforter, the Spirit, the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit.  He brings light and knowledge to all who sincerely seek.  He holds the power to seal those who overcome the world.

"Let them ask and they shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto them, and be made known from on high, even by the Comforter, whither they shall go" (Doctrine and Covenants 75:27).

                    "And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants 84:46).

                    "And who overcome by faith and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:53).

                    The Holy Ghost teaches and brings things to our remembrance.  He leads us to do good, testifies of the truth, and bears record of the Father and the Son.

                      "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

                    "For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 32:5).
                    "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:5).

                    "And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good - yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12).

                    "For, behold, the Comforter knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:17).

                    In order for us to receive this type of assistance from the Holy Ghost, we must be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands by those holding proper authority.  We must also live worthy of the presence of the third member of the Godhead.

                    A person can be influenced by the Holy Ghost before baptism because it is the Holy Ghost who helps people to know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer and that the gospel is true. The gift of the Holy Ghost can only be received after baptism.  The gift of the Holy Ghost is the privilege and right to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost at all times.  This gift is given through the laying on of hands by those who have proper Melchizedek Priesthood authority, and it remains in effect as long as we are trying to live righteously.  The Holy Ghost can bring us comfort, help us choose between right and wrong, and direct us in what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to do.  The answers to our prayers often come through promptings from the Holy Ghost.

                    We can learn to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost by seeking and obeying the promptings.  If we are worthy to receive help from the Holy Ghost and willing to listen to him, He will always help us.  Sometimes, however, it takes experience and practice to learn how to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

                    Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the following experience:  "One of our sons has always been interested in radio.  When he was a little fellow, his Christmas present was a very elementary radio construction set.
                    "As he grew, and as we could afford it, and as he could earn it, he received more sophisticated equipment.
                    "There have been many times over the years, some very recently, when I have sat with him as he talked with someone in a distant part of the world.
                    "I could hear static and interference and catch a word or two, or sometimes several voices at once.
                    "Yet he can understand, for he has trained himself to tune out the interference.
                    "It is difficult to separate from the confusion of life that quiet voice of inspiration.  Unless you attune yourself, you will miss it….  You can train yourself to hear what you want to hear, to see and feel what you desire, but it takes some conditioning.
                    "There are so many of us who go through life and seldom, if ever, hear that voice of inspiration, because `the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:  for they are foolishness unto him:  neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned' (1 Corinthians 2:14)" (in Ensign, Nov. 1979, 19-20).

                    The promptings of the Holy Ghost can be likened to the radio signals in this experience.  We must pay close attention in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  We must listen carefully to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and not allow the interference or things of the world to distract us from the message.  As we gain experience in listening to the Holy Ghost, we are better able to hear and understand him.

                    We talk about "hearing" or "listening to" the Holy Ghost, but He rarely speaks to us in an audible voice, such as another person speaks to us.  His promptings usually come in other ways as explained in the following scriptures.

                    "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?  What greater witness can you have than from God?"(Doctrine and Covenants 6:23)  If we feel peaceful about a question or decision, we can be fairly certain the Holy Ghost is telling us that we made the right decision.

                    "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2).  Sometimes the Holy Ghost gives us thoughts or feelings that we could not receive from any other source.  For example, we may know that a friend or family member needs help even before they say something to us.  This knowledge is an example of communication from the Holy Ghost.  A testimony that the gospel is true also comes this way.

                    "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:13).  The Holy Ghost can enlighten our minds by helping us understand things, such as the meaning of a passage of scripture we have read or a lesson we are studying.  He can also give us feelings of joy to help us know we are doing what is right.

                    When we receive promptings from the Holy Ghost, we should follow the promptings, even if it is sometimes difficult and takes courage to do so.  Elder F. Enzio Busche of the Quorum of the Seventy stated, "It takes courage and commitment to follow the promptings of the Spirit because they may frighten us as they lead us to walk along new paths, sometimes paths that no one has walked before, paths of the second mile, of acting totally differently from how worldly people act.  For instance, we may be prompted to smile when someone offends us, to give love where others give hate, to say thank you where others would not find anything to be thankful for, to accept jobs that others would be too proud to do, to apologize where others would defend themselves, and to do all the seemingly crazy things that the Spirit prompts a righteous, honest, listening heart to do" ("The Only Real Treasure," New Era, Dec. 1979, 5).

                    Promptings from the Holy Ghost tell us things that Heavenly Father wants us to know or do.  The blessings we receive from following these promptings outweigh any difficulty or inconvenience we may experience from doing so.

               "I cannot help but think back to the day when I, as an investigator of the Church, was confronted with the missionaries' challenge to prepare for my baptism.  This step seemed to be too big for me to take, but … I already had a testimony burning within me of the truthfulness of this work….
                    "So I accepted the challenge for baptism, with a fearful heart, but I told the missionaries that I would do it only on two conditions:  First, that I would never be called to any Church position, and second, that I would never have to give a talk."

                    This man needed courage to join the Church because joining the Church would require him to make changes in his life.  He decided to be baptized because the Holy Ghost helped him to gain a testimony of the gospel.  If this man had not followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost to be baptized and then to accept callings and assignments, we would have missed a great leader.  This man was Elder F. Enzio Busche of the First Quorum of the Seventy, the same man who made the previous statement.  When he spoke in General Conference, Elder Busche told about his baptism and concluded with the following statement:  "Without the loving influence and the power and security of the Holy Ghost, which I received by the laying on of hands after baptism to help me, I could not have done anything in my various Church assignments" (Ensign, May 1980, p. 27).

                    The journal of Wilford Woodruff, who later became the fourth President of the Church, gives another testimony of the blessings that come from following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  "When I got back to Winter Quarters [Nebraska] from [a mission to England], President Young said to me, `Brother Woodruff, I want you to take your wife and children and go to Boston, and stay there until you can gather every Saint of God in New England and Canada and send them up to Zion.'  I did as he told me.  It took me two years to gather up everybody, and I brought up the rear with a company.  When I got into Pittsburg with this company it was dusk, and I saw a steamer just preparing to go out.  I walked right up to the captain and asked him if he was ready to go out.  He said he was.  `How many passengers have you?'  `Two hundred and fifty.'  `Can you take another hundred?'  `I can.'  `Then,' said I, `I would like to go aboard with you.'  The words were hardly out of my mouth when the Holy Ghost said to me, `Don't you, nor your company go aboard that steamer.  … I turned and told the captain that I had made up my mind not to go at present.  That steamer started out.  It was a dark night, and before the steamer had gone far she took fire, and all on board were lost.  We should probably have shared the same fate, had it not been for that monitor within me" (Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, comp. Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. [1987-92], 5:239).

                    My oldest daughter shared an experience of being prompted by the Holy Ghost and how that prompting kept her and her siblings safe from danger.  Our family was at our cabin on the Iliamna River.  Jennifer was about to lead her younger siblings out the back door to play in the woods when she heard a voice telling her to shut the door and to stay in the cabin.  She obeyed and ran to the window to see what was out there.  She saw a huge brown bear right outside the window - right where the children would have been.  I am very grateful for the warning from the Holy Ghost and for my daughter's obedience!

                    After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young had a dream in which Joseph Smith appeared to him and gave him instructions.  (See Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1846-1846, comp. Elden J. Watson [1971], 529-30.)  These instructions were as follow.
               "Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be 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….
                     "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.  They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, 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.
                    "Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord."

                     The older I get, the more grateful I am for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I daily thank Heavenly Father for this great gift.  I feel more peace and joy when the Holy Ghost is with me than at any other time; therefore, I carefully "listen" for his promptings.  When I notice that I am not feeling his presence, I search for the reason why I do not and correct the problem as soon as possible.  I encourage you to listen for the promptings of the Holy Ghost and then to follow those promptings.  Those promptings come from God and are for your good.

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