Heavenly Father has revealed that it is His work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). In other words, to make it possible for each of His sons and daughters to become as He is—a God. The promise continues—He will give us all that He hath (D&C 84:38).
Heavenly Father’s plan is to give us power, the unimaginable power to create worlds without end (Moses 1:4, 33) and to possess knowledge, all knowledge such that there is not anything save we’ll know it (2 Nephi 9:20).
Just as a journey of a thousand miles beings with the first step, the path to exaltation has a point of beginning. Joseph Smith had this in mind when he said:
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top and so it is with the principles of the Gospel – you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation.” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 348)
There are many principles of exaltation we need to learn. The 4th Article of Faith shows the way by teaching the first four principles:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Members of the church are very familiar with this Article of Faith. Each of these basic principles builds on the other until the ordinance of being baptized and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost is accomplished.
The scriptures emphasize over and over the importance of receiving baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:13, Moroni 6:1-4). We’re also taught that after baptism we need to continue to repent and seek to obtain a remission of our sins by fire and the Holy Ghost (D&C 19:31).
There are two parts to baptism; first, baptism by water, second baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost.
Joseph Smith taught:
“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half-that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” History of the Church, 5:499.
Receiving both the baptism of water and the Spirit is essential to receive salvation. Yet, I hear so few talks on this subject in our meetings. I’ve never heard anyone bear testimony that they have received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Yet, I’ve heard many testimonies where members tell about promptings of the Spirit. At this point in my understanding, I have come to believe that members can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost without receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. This appears to be taught by Nephi:
…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…2 Nephi 31:13
Based on my observation of nearly fifty years, I have come to believe that many members are on the verge of receiving important manifestations of the Spirit if they would only diligently seek them. They have fulfilled everything needed by keeping the commandments, but appear to be content with what they have. They don’t appear to hunger and thirst for more so they receive according to their desires (Ether 3:2).
On the other side of the coin, there are members who, though not “worthy” as those above, who then experience a crisis, and in their desperation plead with the Lord and receive from the abundant mercy found in Christ, and receive a remission of their sins by fire and the Holy Ghost because of their faith (Helaman 5:38-49).
The invitation is to “come unto Christ” and receive according to our desires. I hope that all of us will be like Lamoni’s father and will say to the Lord in earnest:
…What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy. Alma 22:15
Otherwise,”…what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. D&C 88:33