Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Covenant of the Holy Ghost

In Doctrine and Covenants, we are taught that those who are baptized should have manifested by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of sins. This indicates that it is not impossible to feel and be guided by the Holy Spirit, and even receive a remission of sins before we have been baptized and confirmed.

What is the difference between feeling the Holy Ghost and receiving the Holy Ghost?

Often, when teaching the gospel principle of the Holy Ghost to those new in the Gospel, we explain that it is having the Spirit with you always versus having it with you sometimes. I am sure this is accurate on one level, but as I've listened to many discuss the actions of the Spirit before and after excommunication, I've wondered if there isn't something more that we don't usually understand.

When we refer to "baptism," we really ought to be referring to "baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost," as Elder Packer suggests. Baptism without confirmation (or receiving the Holy Ghost) is only half an ordinance.

When we are baptized, we are dedicating ourselves to a change in behavior. We are being initiated as disciples of Jesus Christ, promising to humble ourselves in His service by repenting of sin, to follow His commandments, to represent Him in His absence, and to witness through our words and deeds that He is the Savior of the world, no matter our circumstances.

In order to help us with this VERY tall order, He promises the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide us in our actions, teach us all things we should do to be a representative of Christ, and create in us a "remission of sin" or, like cancer, an "abatement or diminution" of sin. This means that even though we are fallen and live in a fallen world, we can be blessed with a lessening of the effects of the Fall.

So the difference between feeling the Holy Spirit, and receiving the Holy Spirit is that when we are baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have dedicated ourselves to Christ and His Church. When we live true to the covenant we made to be His disciple, we are granted the gifts of the Spirit in pursuing that work.

When we are excommunicated, though it is possible to feel the Spirit and even experience the gifts of the Spirit, it is without the framework of covenant. And although a baptized person may not feel the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, it is when they are not being true to the promise they made to make their work His work.

It is completely understandable that a person who is baptized or excommunicated will not feel an appreciable difference in the influence of the Holy Ghost in their lives at the moment of the covenant making or loss. The difference isn't in their access to the Holy Spirit, as God speaks to all of His children who seek Him. The difference is in the life purpose of the individual.

The difference is in us.


  1. Just want to add, from D&C84,

    And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.

    In this sense, when we receive the Holy Ghost, we actually "receive" all the Spirit of the Lord is giving us as it brings us unto the the church. It's the same spirit, but we don't actually receive it completely in our lives (rather than just letting it enlighten us) until we come unto the Lord's servants and receive everything the Father has (see Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood).

  2. I agree the difference is within us. I was born in the church I don't remember much of my baptism and confirmation I was exed at 27 lived a worldly life for many years outside the church but never lost the Spirit. About 5 years ago I received a strong impression from the Spirit if I followed Him He would lead me to Jesus Christ. I was skeptical but followed anyway as he slowly brought my sins back into my memory one by one this eventually became 18 months of in depth repentance including apologies and restitution and finally resulted in an apparent dilemma long before I had wronged two people one could not be found the other was dead. As I pondered this problem for months it finally dawned on me that the atonement solves it and thus by taking me through my sins He had in fact lead me to Jesus Christ! At His urging I became a Christian and loved going to my mega church Saddleback it was so easy and fun but then I was prompted to return to the LDS church because they have more gospel. So I was re-baptized and re-confirmed clean as a whistle but I didn't feel a thing. I don't believe the Spirit flees us I believe we withdraw from Him. I believe baptism and confirmation are symbolic rituals with placebo power that varies according to our faith.


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