Among the most marvelous of all events as recorded in scriptures is when one receives the Holy Ghost. This is the promised gift that was pronounced by John the Baptist as would be brought by one who was mightier than he. It was the gift that was to be obtained by Jesus Christ himself. Upon being baptized, we are confirmed a member and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by one holding authority and extended the commandment to “receive the Holy Ghost”. This commandment is one that we must each pursue daily, that we might have His presence as our constant companion.
In the Book of Mormon, we learn from Jesus’s appearance to the Nephites the importance and power of the glorious gift of the Holy Ghost. He taught the Nephites, “unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” (3 Nephi 11:35). To receive this gift, it will come by one holding the authority to give this gift.
Just as Jesus was about to leave the Nephites after the first day, he gathered his twelve disciples from among them, and “he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one, even until he had touched them all, and spake unto them as he touched them… [And] the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost.” (3 Nephi 18:36-37) As this power was conferred upon them, they were able to teach, baptize, and give the gift of the Holy Ghost unto the people. The disciples then bestowed this gift upon the people the next day as they gathered to hear from Jesus again.
“And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.”3 Nephi 19:9
As the people gathered and sought for this gift, they prayed and were then baptized. Upon being baptized and coming out of the water, “the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (3 Nephi 19:13) Because of the power given to the disciples by Jesus, the people were able to have this Pentecostal outpouring at the waters of baptism.
The experience of the Nephites is not unique. Jesus’s experience at the River Jordan was similar as the Holy Ghost descended upon him like a dove when He was brought out of the water by John. The apostles relate similar experiences in the New Testament, including the Day of Pentecost itself. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery expressed the outpouring of the Spirit when they, too, were baptized.
“Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.
“Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.”Joseph Smith–History 1:73-74
These experiences are still not unique. Many have profound experiences upon being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. For many of us, however, we may have been confirmed when we were only a child. Yes, the Lord gives miraculous experiences to children, and that should not be discounted. But these experiences may not be profound.
Yes, it is imperative that I receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of my baptism and not some years later when I might be more adept at having such experiences. By receiving this gift at the time of my baptism, I can start learning what the power of the Holy Ghost is and how He can influence me in my life.
Joseph Smith taught many truths about the necessity of the gift of the Holy Ghost. I will reference two here.
“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but a half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half –that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:499
“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.”Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 199
The influence of the Holy Ghost is often felt by God’s children the world over. We receive inspiration, and truth is testified even before ordinances are taken part in. However, if we learn truth and fail to act on it through receiving these ordinances spoken of, then the influence of the Spirit will lessen in our lives. If we act and obey the promptings that we receive and work to receive the Holy Ghost through the ordinances and actions in our lives, His influence will grow.
This is where the words spoken to us when we receive the Gift are crucial to our understanding. Just because I was confirmed as a member of the church and given a gift does not mean that I am guaranteed to have Him with me always. I am to seek to obtain the gift. By seeking to obtain this gift, then I will receive a fullness of the Holy Ghost and have the mysteries of God endowed upon me, and the windows of heaven will be opened unto me.
The reception of the Holy Ghost is one of the greatest gifts that we could ever obtain. It was this gift that the Nephites desired and prayed for above all others. It is this gift that was promised by our Savior.
When Jesus was about to be crucified, He knew that He would no longer be able to be with His disciples, so He promised them another comforter. He promised them that they would not be left alone.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”John 14:16-18, 26
Jesus did not leave His disciples without a way to inspire, communicate, and impress upon them the truths that He taught them in mortality and before. He provided a method from the beginning to guide and direct each of us. By the power of the Holy Ghost, we are to learn all truth. We are not without a comforter. We are to seek this comforter.
By working to receive the fullness of the Holy Ghost, we are becoming sanctified. We are growing grace to grace. The Holy Ghost plays a crucial part in our exaltation. He testifies, reveals, comforts, and sanctifies. Together, with the blood of Christ and the water of baptism, the fire of the Holy Ghost is among these three cleansing agents to redeem our souls and bring us back into the presence of God.