Some unfinished thoughts on the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The Godhead, a quorum of gods
A quorum of three gods presides over this earth. In that priesthood quorum or Godhead, each member is in a different stage of Godhood, having a different role, being responsible for a specific dispensation¹ or mission unto us, mortal gods:
Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third the witness or Testator. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 190)
The Holy Ghost as a god
As the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is also a god. But He would be recognized by many – if not most – people on earth as the supreme God. They believe God is a spirit, without a physical body, that inspires humankind to do good and pursuit peace; and who communicates with people through good feelings and impressions. In fact, they are giving a quite accurate description of the influence and fruits of the Holy Ghost. It is no coincidence that the Holy Ghost is *the* god that presides over the telestial kingdom where most of us now seems to fit.²
Those who understand their relationship to the Father and the Son and search for a higher glory must also know the work of the Holy Ghost and seek His influence, as the first Comforter.
Priesthood ordinances and the Godhead
As we become more aware of our divine origin and potential, and strive to live the truth, we also develop a more personal relationship with the members of the Godhead. We pray to the Father in the name of our eldest brother, receive thoughts and impressions through the Holy Ghost; we are baptized in the name of the three gods; we receive and administer other ordinances using their authority; we simbolically learn how to enter our Father’s home and embrace Him.
Receiving the ordinances of the gospel is part of developing a personal relationship with the Godhead. Without a sincere effort to live the principles of the gospel and receiving their accompanying ordinances, we can not experience “the power of godliness” in our lives, have access to the “mysteries of the kingdom” and “the knowledge of God” or enter in God’s presence “even the Father, and live” (D&C 86:19-22).
The two baptisms
Some scriptures name the two first ordinances of the gospel as “baptisms” – baptism of water and baptism of fire.³ I find it significant as the expressions evoke the idea of a purifying process that demands both parts, as well as of an “immersion” in the principles symbolized in the ordinances. It’s sad that some won’t try to understand the profound beauty and meaning of these ordinances and reduce them to a matter of becoming members of the Church.
The prophet Joseph taught about how the two “baptisms” were related and had the ultimate goal to bring the influence of the Holy Ghost upon an individual. Instead of declaring the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost as a complement to baptism by water, the prophet sees the baptism by water as a preparatory step to receive the Holy Ghost:
Baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost. It is the channel & Key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 03)
None of us has authority to assign a member of the Godhead to do something; neither can we “transfer” the Holy Ghost to someone – He’s not our property and we have no power over Him. When laying his hands on a person’s head, an elder will say “receive the Holy Ghost”. Here we have a sentence in the imperative form. That means a commandment is being given. Not to the Holy Ghost, but to the individual receiving the ordinance.
As we make covenants with God, we don’t expect Him to come to us without trying to get closer to Him. In like manner, one can’t expect to “receive the Holy Ghost” without seeking such influence in his/her everyday life.
Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (D&C 88:63)
We can know for sure if are actually receiving the influence of the Holy Ghost:
No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator. (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 256.)
If the Holy Ghost is a revelator and we are commanded to receive the Holy Ghost, we are being commanded to receive our own revelation. Receiving revelation is receiving the Holy Ghost. The ordinance isn’t sufficient in itself. The outward ordinance is a necessary step to open the doors for an inward work. Paraphrasing what Joseph said, if a man or a woman receives the Holy Ghost, he or she will receive revelations from heaven. Otherwise, the Holy Ghost isn’t being welcome in our lives.
But if ye are not led by revelation how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 345.)
¹ “Distribution. … The dealing of God to his creatures …. a system of principles and rites …” Webster Dictionary, 1828 edition.
² “… glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser … These are they who receive not of his fulness … but of the Holy Spirit…” D&C 76: 81-86
³ See, for example, Matt. 3:11, 2 Ne. 31:13, D&C 39:6, Moses 6:66.