If Only They had the Gift of the Holy Ghost

A few years ago I was serving as a ward mission leader. I was talking with one of the missionaries about one of their investigators. He was expressing a little frustration, among the issues that were discussed, the missionary observed that the investigator:

Was not reading anything in the Book of Mormon.
Was not praying about what they were being taught.
Was not willing to attend any meetings.
Was not keeping any of the regular commitments.
Etc., etc.

Then the missionary said something like, 'if only they had the Gift of the Holy Ghost, I know they would make a great member of the church'. I thought this was an odd thing to say. I have always felt that the Gift of the Holy Ghost was a blessing that was given to those who have done the things which lead to the receiving of the Holy Ghost. That if a person had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, were baptized, lived righteously, etc., then they could enjoy the Gift of the Holy Ghost to influence their lives.

I have never felt that the Gift of the Holy Ghost itself really changed people. More that people who changed themselves in positive ways might enjoy the influence of the spirit. Of course the spirit needs to be felt to some level to motivate such change, but God is the judge of the sincerely of those who seek to know his will, and can bless peoples lives accordingly.

It seemed to me that this missionary might view the Holy Ghost as being something like a gorilla, who firmly grasps you by the neck and 'influences' you to do all the things that you should do. I tend to look at the Holy Ghost as being something more like a butterfly, and that if you do the things you should, and be in the right places, and say the right things, and do the right things, then it can gently influence you. Any harsh words or actions can chase the Holy Ghost away, and until we repent and change ourselves He may not come back.

There are however some examples of people who appeared to be somewhat compelled by the spirit to change. Paul and the Sons of Mosiah appear to be examples of this. These individuals appear to have been grasped firmly by the neck by the spiritual gorilla in a momentous event that they themselves did not appear to seek. In fact, these spiritual events appear to take place in the midst of a wicked life.

So I admit to being a little confused by this. Does the Holy Ghost change people sometimes, or do people that change themselves receive the Holy Ghost?


At 4/26/2006, Anonymous Geoff J said...

The missionary was wrong and you were right IMO. If a baptized member fails to keep her covenants then she can't always have the spirit with her so the Gift of the Holy Ghost is wasted on her.

God's invitation to come to him is always there for all of us. Sure, Paul and Alma Jr. and friends got special invitations, but they were still free to reject that invitation and refuse to repent if they wanted to (just like Laman and Lemuel chose to do). In the case of Alma Jr. and the boys, the record indicates their friends and families convinced God through prayer and fasting to send a special invitation. (We aren't told exactly why Saul/Paul got his special invite).

At 4/27/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...

Thanks Geoff, I was hoping I was not off base here.

At 4/27/2006, Blogger Tigersue said...

I firmly believe that someone can be touched by the Holy Ghost before baptism how else can investigators recognize truth? On the other had if they ignore those promptings to do those things that can lead to the development of testimony than change can't occur. I think you absolutely correct in what you think and have said. The missionary is forgetting how truth is taught.

At 4/27/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...


Thaks for your comment.

At 4/27/2006, Blogger RoAnn said...

It seems to me that when a person changes, there is a true interaction between the Spirit and the person's agency. I really like the contrasting images of the gorilla and the butterfly, Eric. The Holy Ghost witnesses and influences, but doesn't force.

The Light of Christ will help people listen to the Gospel message, and prepare them for a spiritual witness to the truths of the Gospel. When missionaries concentrate on being in tune with the Holy Ghost (through obedience, preparation, hard work and sacrifice), they can often discover how to motivate their investigators to do whatever they need to do to receive a witness from the Spirit. (Some people will resist all their efforts, however!) The new "Preach My Gospel" program is great in helping missionaries to get beyond just teaching concepts and principles,to adapting lessons to help individuals feel the Spirit.

Elder Holland has told missionaries that when their investigators say that they haven't kept a commitment to read the Book of Mormon, the missionaries need to act "devastated," rather than just brushing off the breaking of a committment to learn the truth of the most important message they have ever heard in their lives.

D&C 50:17-22 teaches that true spiritual communication involves the preacher and the receiver being in tune with the Spirit of truth. Once investigators have received a spiritual witness, we hope that motivates them to make further changes, which leads to baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.

IMO, it is that continual interaction of the Spirit and our will that helps us change, and will eventually enable us to become like our Savior.

At 4/28/2006, Blogger Eric Nielson said...


Wow! Great comment. Once again somebody said what I wanted to perhaps better than I did. Thank you.

At 4/28/2006, Blogger RoAnn said...

Thank you, Eric. Your post was beautifully done. And by writing it the way you did--with a very specific example, some relevant musings, a graphic image, and an intriguing question at the end--you prompted your readers to really think about the issue.


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