The restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith restored many things that had been lost from the earth. The authority to baptize and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost was among things lost. John the Baptist restored the authority to baptize and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost when he laid his hands on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (JS-History 1:67-74).
There are many blessings associated with receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith wrote about the change he and Oliver experienced immediately after receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost:
…so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.
Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of… (Pearl of Great Price, JS-History 1:73 – 74)
The manifestations of the gift of the Holy Ghost are available to every baptized member. However, experience has shown that church members have a responsibility to seek after this gift. Unless we seek, even diligently, we may never experience it.
One of the obstacles we have to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is a lack of desire. Church leaders have taught that it is human nature to rely on ourselves when things are going smoothly in our lives, saying, “God helps those who help themselves”. This trite summation to dealing with our spiritual life can be costly because those who typically say this are those who rely on the arm of flesh, something that we’re expressly told not to do (2 Nephi 28:31).
It seems that we need to have difficult circumstances before we will humble ourselves and seek God diligently. The problem is some church members collapse spirituality before they find God. For those who do find God it would have been far better to have paid the price to know God before overwhelming trials came upon them.
I remember the first time I learned about the children of Israel who were bitten by fiery snakes and could have been healed by gazing on a pole with a man made serpent at the top (Alma 33:20-22). Many were healed by this simple act, but there were also many who would not look at the pole and died as a result.
I couldn’t believe that anyone would fail to look. But as I have grown older and had more experience I have observed similar aloofness from reason in myself and in other church members. For example, we’re told over and over again the importance of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost but many church members are like the following description given by Spencer W. Kimball:
“[There] are Church members who are steeped in lethargy. They neither drink nor commit the sexual sins. They do not gamble nor rob nor kill. They are good citizens and splendid neighbors, but spiritually speaking they seem to be in a long, deep sleep. They are doing nothing seriously wrong except in their failures to do the right things to earn their exaltation. To such people as this, the words of Lehi might well apply: ‘O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe’ (2 Nephi 1:13).” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p149)
I hope all of us are experiencing the gift of the Holy Ghost. But I think it is important to do as the apostle Paul advises, and be ready to give an answer, especially to yourself, the “reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)? Another way of saying this might be to ask yourself if you have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you have, what manifestations have you experienced to evidence this? Can you list three reasons for the hope that is in you?
If you are able to quickly list three evidences—wonderful! If you struggle thinking of three evidences, then you had best ask yourself, why?
I have gathered a few statements that may provide help to those who have difficulty listing three evidences. These statements may not be easy to read, but they contain much wisdom for those whose hearts are not hardened.
That’s why the Lord, in the revelations, lays such emphasis on gifts. It is through the various gifts distributed among us that we are able to get into the act. We are told repeatedly both to ask for gifts and seek for gifts (D&C 42, 46). Among the last words of the Book of Mormon are “Do not deny the gifts, do not reject the gifts” (Moroni 10:8). On the other hand, we are commanded not to ask for or seek for office. Yet nobody seems particularly interested in asking or seeking for gifts, while men constantly plan, scheme, and aspire to office. Martin Harris and others actually left the Church because their services were not recognized by high office. Martin Harris, who had the privilege of standing in the presence of an angel and turning over the plates, wanted an office in the Church, something which would only be temporary and a nuisance. Why, let me talk to Moroni for five minutes and I’ll give you the pleasure of sitting on the stand forevermore! “Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints”, Hugh Nibley, P. 435.
Second, our soft spoken apostle shares his thought on this question:
Unfortunately, some in the Church may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle. Their faithfulness has more to do with habit than holiness, and their pursuit of personal righteousness almost always takes a back seat to their pursuit of personal interests and pleasure. With such a feeble light of testimony for protection, these travelers on life’s highways are easy prey for the wolves of the adversary. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 34
And last Elder Kimball calls it as he sees it:
There are many people in this Church today who think they live, but they are dead to the spiritual things. And I believe even many who are making pretenses of being active are also spiritually dead. Their service is much of the letter and less of the spirit. Spencer W. Kimball , CR, Apr. 1951, pp. 104-5.
Brother Nibley, Elder Wirthlin, and Elder Kimball provide reasons why church members fail to acquire the gift Holy Ghost. As I read their words, I listed the following thoughts:
1. Seeking things of the world instead of the things of the Spirit (D&C 30:1-2).
2. Serving in the church out of habit and a sense of responsibility, but not loving and serving the Lord. (Matt. 25:1-12).
3. Some are spiritually dead because they are blinded by the precepts of men. (D&C 76:75)
What Shall We Do?
All of us can do better. All of us can grow in the gift of the Holy Ghost. The solution is just about as simple as “looking”. We need to train ourselves to consistently and sincerely do the basics of spiritual development. Following is a list that comes to my mind as I write this blog that can help each of us to do as the Apostle Paul taught, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the [spiritually] dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:14).”:
1. Repent, if you can’t think of anything to repent of then you haven’t been reading the scriptures.
2. Pray often and sincerely. Take time to talk with the Lord. Hide nothing.
3. Read, study, and ponder the scriptures, and the words of the living prophets.
4. Seek to fulfill your baptism covenant by pleading with the Lord to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost.
5. Seek for the gifts of the Spirit. Have you ever fasted and prayed for a gift?
6. Record spiritual experiences in your journal and appropriately bear testimony of them.
7. Pray for power in the priesthood for yourself or your husband, father, etc.
8. Attend the temple often. Think about the significance of the covenants you’ve made.
9. Sustain and pray for all church leaders, especially those who impact your life.
10. Make progress in your genealogical and home storage responsibilities.
11. Forgive those who have trespassed against you. Forgive yourself.
12. Pray for the leaders of your country.