We often hear the Holy Ghost referred to as the Comforter. The name may seem self explanatory, but what is the significance of being a comforter? How does the Holy Ghost give us comfort? Do we share in His role as comforters? We call Him the Comforter for good reason, primarily because that is one of His greatest responsibilities.
Christ’s promise to His disciples
To Christ’s disciples, He was the first comforter they ever knew. He healed them, fed them, taught and led them through their dark times. For the three years of His ministry, their main source of comfort was Jesus. He answered their questions, gave them hope, and raised their dead. For us, the Holy Ghost is our main source of comfort, with the hope of someday receiving Christ as our second Comforter.
In John 14 Jesus told His disciples that another Comforter would come to take His place. The world would not be able to see or experience this Comforter because He would dwell within each member of the Church. They alone would be able to experience what this Comforter offered.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 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.
We show our love for God by obeying His commandments. In exchange for demonstrating our love for God, by obeying the commandments, the members of the Godhead will come and be with us. The Holy Ghost will teach us all things, and will bring all things to our remembrance that Christ has taught us through the scriptures. After making this promise Jesus promised that He would leave us His peace. This peace would help us not be troubled or fearful while we live in the world.
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26 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.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The Holy Ghost’s responsibility is to testify of truth, to remind us of the words of Christ, and to comfort us and give us the peace only God can offer. The comfort we are promised and the peace that comes from God are so tightly interwoven it is difficult to imagine experiencing one without the other. When we get on our knees and pray for relief from the trials in our life, isn’t it the peace that comes into our soul that comforts us the most?
Comfort doesn’t generally come in the form of physical relief, but emotional and spiritual relief. The physical relief can help us feel the emotional and spiritual easing of burdens more, but the real effect of comfort is what happens in our heart and mind, not usually so much what happens on the outside of us.
How is comfort given?
The most telling comfort we can receive comes from within. When the Holy Ghost settles our fears and dispells our anxieties, or helps us forgive or feel forgiven, that is when the peace of Christ enters our hearts and the turmoil of our world becomes a calm sea of tranquility. It is then we can think clearly, feel perceptively, and see things for what they truly are.
The Spirit speaks in whispers and quiet feelings. Often we have difficulty hearing Him when He speaks because we are so caught up in the chaos of our own situation. This prevents us from being able to hear the instructions and receive the gifts of love and acceptance that help to settle our soul and clear our head. It takes practice to learn to hear when the Spirit is talking to us. Sometimes He speaks in verbal thoughts that enter our mind, but often He speaks in impressions and feelings, which when followed or heeded lead to peace and comfort.
What is our role as comforters?
Something that surprised me as I read the Conference talks at the bottom of this article was the cooperative nature of comforting. The Holy Ghost doesn’t always give comfort and send the peace of Christ by Himself. The Lord set up earth life to be a family affair. We are here to learn how to watch out for one another and care for one another. The first covenant we make with God is our baptismal covenant. In it we promise to mourn with those who are mourning, to comfort those who are in need of comfort, and to represent Christ in all places and at all times.
One of the comments we make fun of home teachers for asking is the question, “Is there anything I can do for you?” We are often at a loss for how to help others. Richard C. Edgley, who was serving in the Presiding Bishopric gave a Conference talk entitled, “Enduring Together.” He gives a wonderful example of how we can work with the Holy Ghost to bring comfort and peace into the lives of those who are suffering. He tells of a columnist who wrote about a family in his ward who were in a serious automobile accident in which one of their children died.
Although the accident occurred several miles from home, the dust literally had not settled before someone from the ward stopped and was pulling through the wreckage. The rest of the ward knew about it before the cops and paramedics showed up.
“Ward members went to all three hospitals, contacted Eric at work, and organized into labor squads. People who didn’t get in on the immediate-need level were frantic for some way to help.
“In 48 hours, the Quigley yard was mowed, home cleaned, laundry done, refrigerator stocked, relatives fed and a trust fund set up at a local bank. We would have given their dog a bath if they had one.”
The author concludes with this insightful comment: “There is a positive side to the congregational microscope my ward lives under. … What happens to a few happens to all” (Robert Kirby, “Well-Being of Others Is Our Business,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 30, 2005, p. C1).
The writer makes an interesting observation when he says, “People who didn’t get in on the immediate-need level were frantic for some way to help.” Why would they be frantic to help? Elder Henry B. Eyring gives this explanation:
… the trials of mortal life for good people can still be heavy burdens.
You have seen such tests in the lives of good people you love. You have felt a desire to help them. There is a reason for your feeling of compassion for them.
You are a covenant member of the Church of Jesus Christ. A great change began in your heart when you came into the Church. You made a covenant, and you received a promise that began changing your very nature.
When we were baptized we promised to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stood in need of comfort.
That is why you have a feeling to want to help a person struggling to move forward under a load of grief and difficulty. You promised that you would help the Lord make their burdens light and be comforted. You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Elder Eyring goes on in the talk to speak about a family who lost a little child in death. As he was spending some time offering them what comfort he could he mentions this:
In the hour we sat together, they spoke far more than I did. I could feel in their voices and see in their eyes that the Holy Ghost was touching them. In words of simple testimony, they spoke of what happened and how they felt. The Holy Ghost had already given them the peace that comes with the hope of eternal life, when their son, who died without sin, could be theirs forever.
This is how the Lord usually works. He sends in all the troops, both His official representatives, the Holy Ghost and our brothers and sisters who have made covenants with Him to assist in bringing relief and aid to each other whenever and wherever possible. We work on the outside relief and the Spirit comforts the internal storms. In this way, the most complete relief is given.
It is difficult to feel peace in a time of stress and turmoil if your dishes are dirty, the floor needs to be vacuumed, the yard is a mess, and there is no food in the house. By taking care of the physical needs of the person, the Holy Ghost can work His wonders on the heart and mind of the person in need.
This article only skims the surface of the relationship between the Holy Ghost and us as members of the Church and our covenant responsibilities to bring comfort to others. It only touches briefly on the power of comfort the Spirit can provide. I strongly encourage you to read or listen to the three talks listed at the bottom of this page. I learned a lot from reading the scriptures and references these Brethren used in their talks.
The spirit is the primary source for conveying the comfort and peace only God can provide. What is beautiful is that we, as covenant children of our Father in Heaven are given the responsibility to help in His work of helping the Holy Ghost bring complete comfort and peace to others by the service we render. Heaven forbid we should find that we have interfered with the Lord’s efforts to comfort one of His children because we failed to fulfill our most basic covenant to stand as a witness for Christ in all things and in all places we are in. Our joy and the joy of those around us depend on our willingness to work with the Holy Ghost and become like Christ, a Comforter.
Richard C. Edgley
First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric