The Holy Ghost
What is the Holy Ghost?
When I first gained my testimony of the Book of Mormon I was in the MTC; I was contemplating whether I should remain there. I decided to study Joseph's testimony regarding its coming forth. Days later as I was holding the book in my hands, a thought came to my mind: "It's true." There were no fireworks, no spine tingling, no tears, no change in emotion. That small statement was enough to keep me in the MTC and determined to serve and bear testimony in my weak way. Those two words changed my life from a selfish one, to one seeking to know and please God.
As I was taught the ideas others had of what the Holy Ghost was, I frequently felt my testimony inadequate when I related my conversion. The Holy Ghost was always described to me, by those I assumed who knew, as fireworks, a tingling or a burning in the bosom; in other words all the things I did not have in my first testimony. When I returned home over the next two decades, I became confused as to many things about the Holy Ghost.
For one, I could watch a movie, and be moved, sometimes to tears. This is what I was taught was the Spirit. I was confused because I thought the Holy Ghost testified only of truth, not of fictional movies. I reasoned that the testimony was not of the movie or television show itself, but of a principle that is true, such as love, compassion or heroism.
GWB a Good Man?
Another problem that disturbed me in 2004 was the adoration many members laid upon George W. Bush, a man who is a member, and still keeps secret his association with a Yale Secret Society. A man who destroyed in a way unprecedented fundamental, protected rights in the Constitution, the Constitution, which God declared, "pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil." Deception and PR campaigns to convince the populace that GWB was a good ole, no-nonsense country boy was one thing, but declaring that the Spirit declared to them that he was a good man, was quite another and it put my previous thesis that the Holy Ghost testified of "true principles, but not the actual truth" into serious question. How could the Spirit of Truth lead a mass of men into a deception over which Moroni saw, warned and lamented, just because it was only testifying of a true principle?
Another confusing problem, that was not confined to our religion alone, was that people, including myself, prayed and seemed to get "answers" that confirmed whatever they were already pre-disposed to want or believe. I have heard other pastors lament over "answers" their parishioners get. For example a man that was in financial straights buys a new car. When the pastor asks if he really thought that was a good idea, the man declared he had prayed about it, and knew that God wanted him to have this car. Firm answers don't come, and so this "good feeling" I have must be the answer!
By this time I was 39 years old, and by all rights, I should have had this figured out by now. Half my life was over, my children, not long from leaving the house and I was still equivocating over a fundamental principle of the Gospel.
In my struggles to gain my own personal revelation and connection to God, I went back to the "source" and had read many times statements from Joseph regarding revelation and the Holy Ghost. Despite reading the plain descriptions, I continued to overlay my learned tradition atop his statements, without knowing what I was doing. I already knew what revelation was like, or so I thought, I just needed the missing variable in the formula from Joseph.
"This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge..." (Joseph Smith, HC 3:25, p. 380)
Ok, taking this at face value, without overlaying my tradition is quite strange. In other words, when I weep when Fantine sings about her condition lamenting that a worthless boy impregnated her, dashed her hopes of love, and left her to ruin, this is not the Holy Ghost. When you hear a sweet story at a pulpit or in a book which moves the bowels of compassion within you, this is not the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost "has no other effect than pure intelligence." If we accept this as the Comforter, we have accepted a counterfeit revelation and we are subject unto the wiles and manipulations of unscrupulous men as well as the misguidance of the well-meaning.
The other day (Sunday, September 14) when I was driving with my son, we were talking about some gospel principles. I had a couple of ideas come into my mind. I had no reason to believe these were anything other than my own reasoning and logic. I decided to experiment. I would repeat the ideas that came into my mind as I spoke with my son. This was not a rote repetition of words, but ideas came, and I was free to talk about them, describe them in a way that made sense, be asked questions, and answer them. The more I did this, the more freely intelligence (logic/reasoning) flowed into my mind. This flow of information elevated to such a point where I knew the ideas I was discussing were true. I saw in my mind the lectures I was describing and I saw that they were holy, approved of God and the best, most complete means of knowing how to come to God understanding the Gospel that we have ever had in this dispensation. I called my wife LHB, spoke with her, describing the "experiment" I was undergoing, and bearing testimony that I finally knew what the Holy Ghost felt like. I bore testimony of the lectures and every part of my body was animated in this. Every part of my body was combined to this understanding and testimony. On a very overcast day, driving through Atlanta, I felt as if a sun, not visible, was shining on my spirit and my spirit could feel the warmth of it. My wife also received the testimony, and rejoiced with me. The period that we started until this point was about three hours and it gradually died down to normal in about two hours after, at which point I was exhausted. I had a spiritual union with the powers of heaven, with my son and my wife.
After this experience, I gradually began to recognized other times when I was influenced by the Holy Ghost. Once a start of a parable came to my mind from a simple phrase. This parable broadened and deepened as I thought about it.
Another time was at work, when I was working out a way to improve communications between the software developers in our department. As ideas flowed freely and easily, my boss commented, "you're in the zone now, M." A non-member boss recognized its influence because he had at some time or times in his life experienced it as well. He just didn't know what it was called, and doesn't accept that there is a God. Even if men deny Him, He will still work with them.
The Glory of God is Intelligence
"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." (D&C 93:36)
"And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. " (Abraham 3:19)
"A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God." (Joseph Smith, HC 4:34)
"Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits no man can be exalted but by knowledge. So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved." (Joseph Smith, HC 14:15 p. 314)
Revelation Will Require Sacrifice
The Holy Ghost won't be given to us only so that we gain idle knowledge, but we must do something with that knowledge. Knowledge revealed directly from heaven will likely require sacrifice to gain more. If we receive knowledge are refuse to act, our minds will become darkened, God will withdraw, and we will be left to kick against the pricks until we are sufficiently prepared to obey.
"The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law." (Joseph Smith, HC 5:28)
The Holy Ghost Works Upon the Intellect
"A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i. e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus." (Joseph Smith, HC 3:25, p. 381)
"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 14:26)
Given the forgoing, consider the following two scriptures:
"Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? "To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth. And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified? Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.
"Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God. And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God. Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
"And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;" (D&C 50:13-25)
"And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach." (D&C 42:14)
If our meetings and our counsels and our conferences are not lead and we are not taught be the Spirit of Truth, then we should find out why, and we should not shirk the duty we have to find the Spirit of Truth, because God surely holds the individual accountable and not the community. If there is darkness, we must chase the darkness from among us, and if "us" is unwilling, then we need to do it for ourselves. Likewise, if we are not enlightened by the Spirit of Truth, we are forbidden from teaching, for that teaching leaves our mouths and spreads darkness and confusion, and God has declared we will be accountable for every idle word.
The Holy Ghost bore witness, to me, of that which is actually true. It did not leave me without the responsibility to act upon the knowledge gained. That action has and will yet require sacrifice.
"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 14:26)
In the letter in which we recieved of D&C 121 Joseph wrote: "We received some letters last evening--one from Emma, one from Don C. Smith, and one from Bishop Partridge--all breathing a kind and consoling spirit. We were much gratified with their contents. We had been a long time without information; and when we read those letters they were to our souls as the gentle air is refreshing, but our joy was mingled with grief, because of the sufferings of the poor and much injured Saints. And we need not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were lifted and our eyes were a fountain of tears, but those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; it brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes the present with the avidity of lightning; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it moves the mind backward and forward, from on thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment..." (Joseph Smith, Letter March 20–25, 1839)