The power of God in this world is often demonstrated through the workings of the Holy Ghost. When we are baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are then given the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift is not the same thing as the power of the Holy Ghost, but we are more likely to experience the power of the Holy Ghost when we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. To have both the power and gift of the Holy Ghost is a potent agent for personal change.
Difference between the gift and the power
Anyone, in or out of Christ’s Church, who exercises faith in Christ, can experience the power of the Holy Ghost. He will work in their lives based on the amount of truth in which they exercise their faith. He can help to heal people, enlighten their minds with truth, and can comfort their souls. With all this, why do we need the gift of the Holy Ghost?
The gift of the Holy Ghost is different from what those outside of the Church have in that it can be a constant association rather than only an occasional visit. Not only that but what the Holy Ghost can do for someone with the gift of His companionship is far greater, and with a far greater reach than for those without the gift of His companionship.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is only one of the many blessings of having the holy priesthood alive and active in our lives. Without the true power and priesthood of God, we could not have the gift of His companionship. Every person who is baptized into the Lord’s kingdom is told, through the laying on of hands by those who hold the priesthood, to receive the Holy Ghost. This is a divine command for each of us to bring our lives into line with God’s commandments so the Holy Ghost can work with us and dwell with us. We have to make ourselves worthy of His companionship.
In the October 2015 General Conference, President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk entitled, “The Holy Ghost as Your Companion.” Here is some of the text of that talk.
We can, if we live worthy of it, have the blessing of the Spirit to be with us, not only now and then, as in such remarkable experiences as we’ve had today, but always. You know from the words of the sacrament prayer how that promise is fulfilled: “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.”
And then comes the glorious promise: “That they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77; emphasis added).
To always have the Spirit with us is to have the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in our daily lives. We can, for instance, be warned by the Spirit to resist the temptation to do evil.
For that reason alone, it is easy to see why the Lord’s servants have tried to increase our desire to worship God in our sacrament meetings. If we partake of the sacrament in faith, the Holy Ghost will then be able to protect us and those we love from the temptations that come with increasing intensity and frequency.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling. That alone should be enough to make us determined to qualify for the Spirit to be with us always.
When he says the “companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and the temptation less compelling,” he is saying that it becomes easier to repent and keep the commandments. Repentance is to bring our lives into line with God’s will so Christ’s atoning sacrifice can pay for our sins and wipe away the stains on our souls our sins cause.
The purpose of repentance is to come unto Christ. If we do not come to His gospel and receive baptism by His authorized servants and then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, we cannot be transformed into the kind of people who are worthy of walking back into the presence of God. Without this transformation that can only come from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, full salvation is out of our reach. Baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are essential to our obtaining full use of the atoning power of Christ. Elder Franklin D. Richards spoke in Conference in April of 1973 about “The Continuing Power of the Holy Ghost.” In his talk, he reminded us that one cannot be saved in the kingdom of God without receiving baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The purpose of repentance initially is to be able to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. After that, repentance is to keep ourselves clean so we can continue to have the Holy Ghost’s companionship.
When Nicodemus, one of the rulers of the Jews, came to Jesus at night and asked him what he should do to be saved, he was told, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5.)
In this dispensation we have been admonished to “go among this people, and say unto them, … Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, … for the remission of sins; And whoso doeth this shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church.” (D&C 49:11, 13–14.)
The power to change
One of the great powers of the Holy Ghost is the ability to change our hearts from what they are today to something better. He can actually change what we desire from moment to moment. He can take away our desire to be willful and disobedient to the Lord. He can change our hearts so we find joy in serving the Lord and the idea of sin becomes loathsome to us. In Helaman 15:7 Samuel the Lamanite is preaching to the Nephites and calling them to repentance. He tells them that “… faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart …” He uses the Lamanites then living as an example of those who had been turned from a ferocious and a bloodthirsty people to a people who were faithful to the commandments of God.
This is one of the quiet miracles of the Holy Ghost. He slowly changes the desires of our hearts from where they are to hearts that hunger and thirst for the good things of God. We do not have the ability to make this kind of change on our own. This is something that comes as a blessing, a gift from God, through the Holy Ghost. It is based on our continued repentance.
The power to comprehend
Those who are wicked cannot comprehend things of a spiritual nature. This is another gift we are given through the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. As we continue to study the scriptures, live the commandments, and follow the counsel of the prophets of God, the Holy Ghost expands our ability to comprehend the things of God. This gift allows us to comprehend the Savior’s role in our lives and helps us to understand that He really is our Savior. The Holy Ghost helps us feel more deeply a sense of appreciation for His sacrifice for us. It is true that the Spirit can, on occasion testify of truth to someone not yet baptized, but to get the full blessing of revelation we need the Spirit’s constant input and instruction.
He also helps us connect the dots so we begin to see the relationship between one doctrine and another doctrine. By connecting the doctrines, we begin to see that all the teachings of the gospel are related to each other, that they are all combined in such a way as to lead us back home to our Father in Heaven. We begin to see our place in the plan of salvation and that the plan of salvation is comprehensive and all inclusive. It leaves no one out. It favors no one but blesses all equally who will accept it and live up to it’s standards.
This is one of the first things people learn about the Holy Ghost – His ability to open our minds to new things. When we investigate the teachings of the Lord’s Church and we put Moroni’s test to the challenge, we receive the witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true (Moroni 10:3 – 5). That experience is slightly different for each person. It is deeply personal but undeniable. After the Holy Ghost has given us a witness we cannot deny that we had the experience. Our lives are changed in profound ways when the Holy Ghost reveals spiritual truths to us. What we could not believe earlier we now know to be true. It can happen in a moment, but that does not diminish the impact of the experience.
The power to become one
One of the great powers of the Holy Ghost lies in His ability to overcome divisions among people and bring them together in unity. Just as Satan seeks to divide all people to create discord, so does the Holy Ghost work to bring the members of God’s family back into unison in a spirit of cooperation and love.
This happens over time. When we have our hearts softened, and we begin to understand how much we depend on the Lord and His goodness, when we begin to feel compassion for our fellow travelers in mortality, we begin to feel sympathy and empathy for them. We begin to understand the universal nature of suffering, and we seek to overcome it wherever we find it. The softening of the heart by the Spirit causes us to become more humble and pliable in the Lord’s hands so He can shape us into instruments of love. We begin to be more accepting of others and more tolerant of differences.
The kinds of changes I have talked about here are not the kinds of changes that typically take place with the occasional brush with the Holy Ghost. These changes that take us from sinner to Saint or from divisive to inclusive in our nature are made over prolonged contact with this celestial tutor, the Holy Ghost. His role is to teach us to become like Christ. He testifies of truth wherever we run into it. He teaches us about ourselves, about others, and about God and how He operates in our lives. He helps us become more spiritually mature. He reveals the mysteries of the universe, the plan of salvation to our minds. He softens our hearts and changes our very nature.
We may not currently have an appropriate level of appreciation for the gift of the Holy Ghost. To have a member of the Godhead become a constant companion, to whisper peace to our souls and to comfort us in times of trial, to bring knowledge back to our minds, and to fill our mouths with wisdom when we need it most is an incomprehensible gift. It is only because of the priesthood that grants us this constancy of the Spirit’s companionship, as we keep ourselves worthy, that allows all these blessings to flow into our lives.