5

I just finished reading Chapter 16: The Gift of the Holy Ghost of the LDS book Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual. One section that caught my attention is the following:

“True it is that honest truth seekers come to know of the truth and divinity of the Lord’s work by the power of the Holy Ghost: they receive a flash of revelation telling them that Jesus is the Lord, that Joseph Smith is his prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the mind and will and voice of the Lord, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth. They gain a testimony before baptism. But it is only after they pledge their all in the cause of Christ that they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the heavenly endowment of which Jesus spoke. Then they receive a fulfillment of the promise: ‘By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.’ (Moro. 10:5.) Then they receive ‘the spirit of revelation,’ and the Lord tells them in their heart and in their mind whatsoever he will. (D&C 8:1–3.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4:98–99).

I'm not sure if I'm misinterpreting this paragraph, but to me it sounds as if only Latter-day Saints who acknowledge Joseph Smith as prophet and the Book of Mormon as divine revelation can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Two questions:

  • Am I right? Can only Latter-day Saints receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • If the answer to the question above is "yes": what are the implications for non-LDS Christians? Are there things that Latter-day Saints with the Gift of the Holy Ghost can do that non-LDS Christians (who--as we just agreed--lack of the Gift of the Holy Ghost) can't?
6

Terminology

The Gift of the Holy Ghost can be a confusing topic in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not because the doctrine is especially complex, but rather because we don't have well-defined terms.

For example, in the section you quoted, the following terms were used:

  • Holy Ghost
  • The Power of the Holy Ghost
  • Revelation
  • The Gift of the Holy Ghost
  • The Spirit of Revelation

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, especially in historical texts, but they are also sometimes used to mean very different things. This can make it a very difficult topic to study. I could add to the above list a number of other terms that are also used when discussing the Holy Ghost that also have ambiguous and overlapping meanings:

  • The Light of Christ
  • The Comforter
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • The Spirit
  • etc

I bring this up because I want to make sure we are both speaking the same language before answering your specific question. So let's define some terms. I think these definitions are generally accepted in the Church, but as I said, sometimes they are used in other ways and I want to make sure my answer is clear. Hopefully this helps explain the quote a little bit too.

  1. The Holy Ghost (AKA "the spirit", "the holy spirit", or "the comforter") is a non-corporeal being, distinct from God the Father and Jesus Christ but united with them in will and purpose. He is the member of the Godhead that we know the least about. You can read more about Him here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/holy-ghost?lang=eng

  2. The Power of the Holy Ghost is the ability of the Holy Ghost to influence, guide, or otherwise help God's children. This power can be experienced in many ways, but it is usually subtle rather than miraculous. The power of the Holy Ghost can be experienced by any one at any time in accordance with God's will, though we tend to notice and benefit from it more when we are trying to be good and do good. The power of the Holy Ghost in our lives is magnified when we are baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (more on this below).

  3. The Light of Christ is "the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ that gives life and light to all things". The Light of Christ permeates the universe. It influences us to do good -- it is how we "just know" that some things are evil (like murder) and other things are good (like sharing). The Light of Christ can be hard to distinguish from the Power of the Holy Ghost, since both are influences that direct us toward God, and sometimes the Holy Ghost exercises his power through the Light of Christ. You can read more about the differences between them in my answer here: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/a/60384/32287

  4. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the promise that a person will have the power of the Holy Ghost as a constant force in their life as they strive to be worthy of it. This gift is given to those who are baptized by the proper priesthood authority. Baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost are two sides of a single coin: In being baptized, a person is forgiven of their sins and makes a covenant to live in such a way that the Holy Ghost can continuously guide them and help them improve. Baptism in water provides an initial cleansing, and then the continuous influence of the Holy Ghost enables us to be further cleansed and sanctified thereafter. It is this constant presence of the power of the Holy Ghost in our lives that allows us to achieve our full potential as children of God.

  5. A revelation is simply a divine manifestation of any kind. It could be as dramatic as a heavenly visitation or as simple as a small feeling of peace. Obtaining an understanding of the truth of the Book of Mormon through prayer is a kind of revelation. Revelations are usually given through the power of the Holy Ghost.

  6. Gifts of the Spirit are specific things that the Holy Ghost can give us in order to better accomplish God's will. Perhaps the most famous of these, though probably not the most common, is the gift of tongues (eg, being able to speak or understand a language that you have never learned). Such gifts are generally sacred rather than spectacular.

  7. The Spirit of Revelation is one of the Gifts of the Spirit. It is available when the Holy Ghost "dwell[s] in your heart" and can therefore give you whatever knowledge you need in order to accomplish God's will. Those who have the Gift of the Holy Ghost and live worthily are natural recipients of the Spirit of Revelation. For more information, see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/the-spirit-of-revelation?lang=eng

Answers

Now to answer your questions! Yes, only those who are baptized and confirmed as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Once they have received the Gift, they must live worthy of it in order to maintain the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Those who are not baptized can still experience some of the Power of the Holy Ghost, receive certain Revelations, and feel the influence of the Light of Christ, but they do not have the promise of constant companionship from the Holy Ghost.

What does that mean in practical terms? The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is the state of being "born of the Spirit" which Christ mentions in John 3:5, saying "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". Thus, in order to achieve our full potential and eventually live with God in His kingdom, we must receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and strive to keep our covenants. Those who do not do this will be unable to receive all that God has prepared for them in the eternities.

(Those who don't have the opportunity to be baptized in this life can still receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost through "baptisms for the dead" -- another discussion entirely)

Additionally, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost naturally grants greater access to the Gifts of the Spirit, such as the Spirit of Revelation and many other gifts.

I hope that answers your questions :)

12
  • 2
    Very thorough answer (+1). So in short, non-LDS lack (1) the constant companionship from the Holy Ghost and (2) access to more "supernatural" gifts such as the Spirit of Revelation, correct? Jul 15 at 5:37
  • 1
    A very good response, +1 Jul 15 at 5:43
  • 3
    Makes sense to me! I just found this verse in Doctrine and Covenants (A volume of LDS scripture) Chapter 46 Verse 9, which says gifts of the spirit "are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me", which makes it sound like they are available to anyone who is earnestly seeking God.
    – Derek718
    Jul 15 at 6:29
  • 1
    The 2011 general conference talk from David A. Bednar linked under "The Spirit of Revelation" above is good, but here's a more recent talk on the same topic from the current President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, that is relevant: churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/… Jul 16 at 4:38
  • 1
    @Derek718 Thank you for the thorough explanation, which sounds generous and fair to the true seekers of God while retaining doctrinal consistency with explicit members o LDS. I have always admired LDS for their catechism (called "seminary") program as well as inculcating mission as well as very big on cultural impact, especially education. May God bless true seekers within the LDS church. Jul 19 at 6:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.