I asked two questions about king Benjamin’s people at the end of part one, “Was this their first experience with repentance?” and “Was this their first experience with the Holy Ghost?”
I think the obvious answer is no. The people of king Benjamin had established the church and built a temple many years prior to receiving a remission of their sins as recorded in Mosiah 4:3. They followed Christ by living the same gospel principles we do today. They had faith in Jesus Christ, repented, received baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Book of Mormon says they had prophets and holy men and “…they did speak the word of God with power and with authority…” However, with all this they had never fully completed their baptism covenant by receiving a remission of their sins until the day king Benjamin had gathered them together. They had repented and had experiences with the Holy Ghost but they had never received a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost.
Remember, we learned in part 1 that the Savior taught that a remission of sins comes through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 12:2), therefore, we can conclude that a remission of sins and repentance are not the same thing, and “fire and the Holy Ghost” and the gift of the Holy Ghost are not the same. King Benjamin’s people experienced something new, something they had never before experienced. It’s evident from this account that there are dimensions of repentance, and the Holy Ghost being taught in these chapters, that invites our study.
This is a new idea for most of those who are reading this, so I’ll repeat it for emphasis. The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of “forgiveness” and the doctrine of “remission of sins” are different, separate kinds of experiences. The Book of Mormon also teaches that the Holy Ghost is manifested in different ways—three to be exact.
With the example of king Benjamin’s people in mind it becomes apparent to the student of the Book of Mormon that there is more to the doctrine of repentance and the Holy Ghost than is generally recognized.
Before going on, I should say that I’ve talked to several gospel scholars (BYU and elsewhere) about this subject and some knew about it while others didn’t. Those who know about it understand it as I do.
First, on the difference between “forgiveness” and “remission of sins”, so far I have found just one LDS writer who has written on this subject.
Blaine Yorgason wrote:
“Forgiveness Not Always a Remission of Sins…there can be a difference between being forgiven of a sin and obtaining a remission of sins.
If a person commits a particular sin and then feels bad enough about it to confess it in humility and ask forgiveness of the Lord, he or she is freely forgiven of that sin…In our day the Lord has said, “I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness” (D&C 64:7).
Interestingly, this forgiveness seems to be granted even though the person may be committing other sins at the time. Thus, one who enjoys lusting may at the same time repent of and obtain forgiveness for stealing or lying. Or one who gossips may repent of and obtain forgiveness for immorality.
Unfortunately, such a person, while blessed with forgiveness for all the sins he chooses to repent of, nevertheless “persists in his own carnal nature” because he is intentionally going “on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God.” Because he has not repented of all his sins, he “remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him” (Mosiah 16:5)… That is why forgiveness of some or even most of our sins is not, never has been, and never will be sufficient to bring us to Christ. Even though we are blessed for having repented of some things, we are not granted peace and joy through a complete remission of our sins…” I Need Thee Every Hour, by Blaine M. Yorgason, p. 113-115.
Brother Yorgason’s book was published in 2003 by Deseret Book. This means it passed the rigorous reviews of the church owned publishing company.
As followers of Christ we can repent of our sins in two ways. We can repent of them individually; one here and one there, or we can repent of all of our sins. The difference lies in our heart. Many of us have sins that are favorites and we don’t want to give them up. We learn to live with them by rationizing or ignoring them.
One of the difficulties in understanding the scriptures, as I’ve already mentioned, is that the prophets Heavenly Father provides for us to learn from lived at different time, understood the doctrines in different ways, and used a variety of terms to describe their understanding.
As followers of Christ and students of the scriptures who should be “feasting on the words of Christ”, we’re left with the task of learning the doctrines, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little… ”.
So let’s take a look at what the current thought is on the various ways humankind can experience the Holy Ghost.
To begin with, I’ll turn to the prophet Nephi. In 2 Nephi 31:13 he says something that caught my attention many years ago.
…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.
Nephi lays out three kinds of baptism in this verse:
1. Baptism by water
2. Baptism by the Holy Ghost (we would call this in our day the gift of the Holy Ghost because it comes as a result of baptism).
3. Baptism by “fire and the Holy Ghost”.
Nephi breaks down our experience with the Holy Ghost into two parts after receiving water baptism, “…behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost…”
BYU professor, and associate dean, Kent P. Jackson in his 1987, Studies in Scripture Volume 7, p. 224-225, published by Deseret Book, included the following commentary on Nephi’s writings on the Doctrine of Christ:
“Such a baptism involves more than the physical ordinance. It has three components: baptism in water, baptism of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of fire. ‘All three baptisms,’ said Joseph Smith, ‘make one.’ He explained: ‘The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected.’ All three components of baptism are essential if one is to be born again. ‘For by the water [baptism] ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit [baptism] ye are justified, and by the blood [baptism of fire] ye are sanctified.’ (Moses 6:60.) It was the baptism of fire—administered by the Holy Ghost—that King Benjamin’s people received. (See Mosiah 4:3.) It was this culminating baptism that brought them the remission of sins and ‘peace of conscience.’ It was through this baptism that they were ‘born of God’ and thereby acquired his spiritual image in their countenances, even as a child’s physical features and mannerisms reflect those of its parents.”
Last year at BYU Education Week I attended a class taught by a BYU religion teacher and to my surprise he taught the following:
He drew an ascending staircase with four steps and labeled them starting at the bottom,
4. The Baptism of Fire (Born Again, Mighty Change, Remission of Sins)
3. Gift of the Holy Ghost (Priesthood Ordinance)
2. Power of the Holy Ghost (brings testimony)
1. Light of Christ (conscience)
A baptized member of the church can repent and receive a forgiveness of individual sins. They can also receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 10:17). When ready, based on the Lord’s will, a person can advance by receiving a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost wherein they are born again, cleansed from sin, receiving a the mighty change of heart—fully converted, becoming a son or daughter of Christ.
 The scripture use various terms to refer to being “born again”. These include: remission of sins, converted, son or daughter of Christ, baptism of fire, sanctified, justified, and cleansed. When these words are used in many, but not all instances it could mean the same as born again.