Not all scripture is of equal value. For example, as valuable as the vision of the three degrees of glory is, it pales in importance to scripture that teach the doctrine of Christ. Why? The doctrine of Christ reveals truths that allow us to access the power of the atonement of Christ. The vision of the three degrees of glory is explanatory. One saves, and the other explains. In other words, a starving man would find more help in a hand full of rice than he would in a cook book about rice.
The following verse of scripture provides those who hunger for salvation in the Kingdom of God a hand full of doctrine to get them started in the right direction.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. 2 Nephi 31:13
This verse of scripture is forward looking. What one has done in the past isn’t discussed.
It has four parts to it: 1) Desire, 2) Making covenants through the ordinance of water baptism, 3) Receiving the gift of Holy Ghost, and 4) Receiving the baptism of the Spirit.
The focus of the first part of this verse is on the importance of desire. Nephi uses powerful words to convey this basic idea:
“full purpose of heart”—conveys the idea that one’s heart is committed
“acting no hypocrisy and deception”—tells of the singleness of one’s thoughts
“with real intent”—one’s real intent consist in the harmony of thought and desire
“repenting of your sins”—is an expression of one’s desire to change their life
Making Covenants Through the Ordinance of Water Baptism
“witnessing unto the Father”—acknowledging that Christ is the Son of God and Savior of mankind
Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost
“according to his word”—if one meets the aforementioned requirements the Lord will do his part
Receiving the Baptism of the Spirit
“then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost”—born again, remission of sins, sanctification
“speak with the tongue of angels”—inspired speech, speak the words of Christ
Those who covenant in the waters of baptism to follow Christ and diligently seek for the gift of the Holy Ghost will receive it.
Then as they remain faithful the day will come when they will receive the baptism of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit fulfills the baptism covenant. The prophets have said that the most important thing we can do in this life is to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This supernal gift is obtained, first and foremost, by having righteous desires (Alma 18:32) as outlined in verse 13. Church callings, commandment keeping, and other qualities of personal performance are not mentioned in this verse as the highest priority for obtaining the manifestations of the Holy Ghost.
One who repents is manifesting his/her desires for righteousness. Hugh Nibley used the following word picture to illustrate this point:
“Who is a righteous man? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him, and no matter how good he has been his entire life if he is not repenting he is wicked. The difference is the way he is facing. The man on top of the stairs facing down is much worst off than the man on the bottom of the stairs facing up. The direction we are facing is what determines if we are good or bad.”
The person at the top of the stairs could represent a church member who is good at keeping the commandments, and has held important positions in the church, but is a “tired saint who is fallen from his first enthusiasm”. But that is another subject: enduring to the end.