What Does it Mean to Be Baptized by Fire and the Holy Ghost? Part 3

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The prophet Joseph Smith taught that we progress in the principles of the gospel like climbing a ladder.

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.” [1]

Certainly, being born again by receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a significant step towards exaltation.

The Savior said: Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. John 3:7

The Savior’s words draw our minds to the birth of a child. When I learned that my wife was expecting I understood that it would take approximately nine months before birth. A child needs to mature to be ready to be born. Those who have brought children into the world realize that birth is both a process and an event.

For many, the process to be born again begins when they are taught by the missionaries, they feel the Spirit (Holy Ghost) in their hearts and recognize that what the missionaries are teaching them is the truth. Those who are willing to enter into the covenant of baptism and afterwards diligently seek the Lord will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.[2]

As we have experiences with the gift of the Holy Ghost we can know we’re on the right path. The more experiences we have the greater our faith becomes. As we grow in our gift of the Holy Ghost we’re ascending the ladder to exaltation, one step at a time, just like Joseph Smith said.

The Lord has revealed to His followers that it is “my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).” In order for the Lord to do His work each of us needs to be to be proved to see if we “will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them…” (Abraham 3:25). Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquility.” [3]

Ascending the ladder to our exaltation can be likened to “conversions” as we encounter various challenges and difficulties and overcome them by our faith. Concerning suffering and adversity Elder Oaks added:

“Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call ‘the furnace of affliction’ (Isa. 48:10; 1 Ne. 20:10). Some are submerged in service to a disadvantaged family member. Others suffer the death of a loved one or the loss or postponement of a righteous goal like marriage or childbearing. Still others struggle with personal impairments or with feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or depression. Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become.” [4]

Full conversion, in the sense of being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost comes as we offer up a “broken heart and a contrite spirit”. A broken heart and a contrite spirit is often realized in “the furnace of affliction”. The fiery trials encountered in the furnace of affliction have the potential to break hearts and create the needed contriteness of heart that results in the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost… 3 Nephi 9:20.

When a heart breaks, it also opens to God who then can heal them.

And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them. D&C 112:13

A Word of Caution

The Book of Mormon speaks of the importance of being born again but it’s interesting to note that each of the examples the Lord provides of those who experienced this blessing were not actively seeking it. Enos went to hunt beast in the forest. He doesn’t indicate that prior to the hunting trip he had been interested in calling on the Lord. It wasn’t until he was already on the hunting trip that he started thinking about his father’s words, eternal life, and the joy of the saints. It appears that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him while he was thinking about these things and caused them to sink deep into his heart. In my opinion, this gave him the Spiritual energy to call upon the Lord all day and into the night.

Similar things occurred with king Benjamin’s people, Alma the younger, the fours son of Mosiah, king Lamoni, Aminadab and the Lamanites. Prior to their conversions they hadn’t been seeking the Lord. Circumstances came together in unexpected ways, their time had come and the purposes of the Lord were accomplished.

The Lord gives a stern warning to those who have received the baptism fire and of the Holy Ghost and after this should deny Him—“it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.” [5]


Those who have entered into the waters of baptism should have experienced the Holy Ghost and have a “testimony”. After baptism they are eligible to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost if they diligently seek it, then, in the Lord’s time they will receive the additional blessing of fire and the Holy Ghost, thus receiving a full baptism of water and Spirit for a remission of their sins. At this point, as Nephi teaches, they have entered the gate and are in the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.

Their task now is to maintain a remission of their sins and “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men…feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end”.


[1] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, P. 348.

[2] Joseph Smith said: There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. History of the Church, 4:555.

[3] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34

[4] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34

[5] 2 Nephi 31:14

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