The Holy Ghost is Not a One Act Play

The prophet Nephi teaches that the gift of the Holy Ghost is given to those who “diligently seek” for it (1 Nephi 10:17). I don’t doubt the correctness of this verse of scripture. However, I don’t think that this verse tells the whole story. There are other verses of scripture, written by other prophets, that need to be bought into the discussion to more fully understand the workings of the Holy Ghost. 

Nephi seems to be a nearly “sinless” prophet. Not all of the prophets were like Nephi. Some initially resisted the Lord when He call upon them. I’m thinking of Amulek as I write this. 

I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart . . . Alma 10:6

I think its vital for followers of Christ to understand that the Lord works with His children in many ways. Nephi was quick to respond when the Lord called on him. Other prophets needed a different approach. The Holy Ghost isn’t a one-act play. He works with the children of men in a variety of ways. 

Amulek resisted the Lord until and angel appeared to him. Amulek wasn’t the first. It also took an angel to convince Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah to repent.

The Lord is willing to work with you and I and those we love in many different ways. I think its important to understand this and be careful not to write someone off because they’re not responding to the message of the gospel  as we think they should.

I’ll close with one of my favorite thoughts on this subject:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).



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7 Responses to The Holy Ghost is Not a One Act Play

  1. Log says:

    Well, there is one sense in which the Holy Ghost is, in fact, a one act play. This process is exemplified in Helaman 5 – where it is in full, this:

    40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?

    41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.

    42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.

    43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.

    44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

    45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.

    Of this incident, the Savior said

    3 Nephi 9:20 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.

    And, to clarify this further, Moroni said this about the same incident:

    Ether 12:14 Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

    Why does this matter? Because many believe that merely by the imposition of hands at confirmation that they have both received the Holy Ghost and been baptized by fire. Yet they know nothing concerning the fire, nor the unspeakable joy, nor the covenant which is impressed upon the soul at the time the gift is bestowed, nor the testimony borne by the Father at this time either. They remain, therefore, in their sins and resent them who try to teach them the true doctrine of the baptism by fire, and the sanctification that comes therefrom.

    Indeed, the full process is this:

    1. repentance.
    a. turning away from all sin, every worldly ambition, every worldly lust.
    b. setting one’s heart solely upon God, to learn and do his will.
    2. calling upon God in mighty prayer to be made clean / receive the Spirit / receive charity.
    3. godly sorrow for sin, borne by the Spirit.
    4. covenant of obedience impressed upon the soul by the Spirit.
    5. intercessionary prayer by Jesus.
    6. Spirit enters into heart / soul by fire.
    7. heart feels to burst / soul expands to receive joy and glory.
    8. cleansing the heart / soul of sin by fire.
    9. bands of death and chains of hell loosed / broken from heart / soul.
    10. born again / mighty change of heart / made innocent.
    11. receive testimony from the Father about the Son.
    12. filled with light, joy, and perfect love so long as one is diligent unto prayer and good works.
    13. receiving revelations / one with the Godhead / communing with God continually.

    All of this necessarily and swiftly follows after steps 1 and 2 are completed.

    An authority in my area believes that such an experience – the baptism by fire – constitutes one of those rare and unusual spiritual manifestations that should not be spoken of, as by its rarity it falls under the aegis of President Packer’s talk “The Candle of the Lord.” If this authority is correct and the baptism by fire is indeed a rare and unusual occurrence in the church, then the church is in a general state of apostasy.

    Moroni tells us that the baptism by fire was what made one a member of the Church in his day (Moroni 6:4). It is also wherein we take upon us the name of Christ (Alma 34:48) without which we are pollutions, hypocrites, and teachers who sell ourselves for that which will canker and who pollute the holy church of God (Mormon 8:38).

    As the baptism by fire is wherein we gain charity, it is again the minimum requirement for teaching and serving in the Church (D&C 4 [particularly verse 5]). The baptism by fire, because it is how we gain charity, is also wherein we are ennabled to keep the commandment to be perfect (D&C 88:125).

    To me, the scriptures univocally describe the gift of the Holy Ghost as a one act play – you either have the gift, which is received by the baptism by fire, or you do not.

  2. Log says:

    Yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19) is a different subject than the Holy Ghost.

    And to back up the assertion that it is through the baptism by fire that we receive charity, see Moroni 8:26.

  3. L says:

    It would be good to know the exact original teachings Orson F. Whitney referred to precisely as the Prophet spoke them. I suspect the conditions are far narrower than we might sometimes infer from that quote.
    My understanding of something I read elsewhere is that these kinds of blessings are given to a couple ***whose calling & election is made sure***. I believe the information I read was in the Doctrine & Covenants, although I am not able to locate the reference at this exact moment. (Does anyone else know where this is?)
    I have not read any other original sources that make me confident that any other parents can be sure their children will definitely repent sufficiently to live with them eternally.
    For an example, I would guess that Laman and Lemuel may not live with Lehi and Sariah in the next life….

  4. Jared says:


    You brought up many issues. I don’t have time to address them all. As a general rule the Holy Ghost is experienced by three baptisms: 1) water, 2) gift of the Holy Ghost, 3) fire and the Holy Ghost. The verses in Helaman are an exception to the general rule. I discuss this in the series on the Holy Ghost.

    As I see it, the most clear illustration of the three baptisms is seen in the Book of Mormon account of the people of king Benjamin. They had been baptized by water, they had experiences with the Holy Ghost (Word of Mormon 1:17), then after all of this, they experienced the mighty change which comes by receiving fire and the Holy Ghost.

  5. Log says:


    Words of Mormon 1:17 does not mention the baptism of the people by water, neither does it say that the people generally had experiences with the Holy Ghost, neither does it lend support for your tripartate baptsimal model unless you start from the assumption that there is a tripartate baptismal model in the first place.

    In any event, I would encourage the readers to take a look at these essays.

  6. Log says:

    I will also note that the scriptures uniformly speak of “baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost,” but never, so far as I can see, a separate “baptism of the Holy Ghost.” For illustration:

  7. K-Jo says:

    Loved this post! Thank you Jared.

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