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?

12 Responses to “If Only They had the Gift of the Holy Ghost”

  1. 1 Geoff J April 26, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    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).

  2. 2 Eric Nielson April 27, 2006 at 8:34 am

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

  3. 3 Tigersue April 27, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    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.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson April 27, 2006 at 2:32 pm


    Thaks for your comment.

  5. 5 RoAnn April 28, 2006 at 12:04 am

    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.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson April 28, 2006 at 8:31 am


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

  7. 7 RoAnn April 28, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    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.

  8. 8 Joshua March 17, 2007 at 6:40 am

    Hey guys! The Holy Spirit is the person of Jesus. Want to know his character traits? Look at Jesus. Want to know His ways? Look at Jesus. Want to know His influence? Look at Jesus.

    “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord”. 2corinthians3:18

    This scripture was God breathed to show us how we can be changed from the inside out. It is done by beholding the glory of the Lord, the man Christ Jesus, our rightouesness and saviour!

    The Holy Spirit is neither a gorilla nor a butterfly, He is the person of Jesus. Praise the LORD!

    Come lets behold the JESUS we see in the GOSPELS and be transformed. :0)

  9. 9 Kullervo March 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    I’m not completely convinced that the Gift of the Holy Ghost as given and taught in the LDS church is practically meaningful at all.

    It’s the right to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, when you’re living worthily. So… you have to already be doing the right thing to have the HG. What, then, does the HG actually do for you?

    Other than as a medium for mystical experiences, that is (i.e., personal revelation). However, the proliferation of apparently genuine mystical experiences among non-members makes me question the particular and relative efficacy of the Gift.

    A sense of companionship? A source of comfort? I’m also not sure I se that there’s a real appreciable difference in people with the Gift and people without it. Plus, in order to qualify for the Gift, you have to be living righteously. In other words, you only get comfort and companionship from God when you’ve earned it. That doesn;t sit right with me.

  10. 10 Eric Nielson March 18, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    What does the Holy Ghost do for you?

    In general terms it is a blessing which follows those that believe. Personal revelation, gifts of the spirit, etc. can flow from this gift.

    I often question the genuiness of many so-called mystical experiences. I understand that this questioning can go both ways. While I have no statistics, my observations tell me the gifts of the spirit as experienced in the Mormon Church are much more …. practical than what I observe elsewhere. The gift of tongues might be an easy target of an example.

    My experience is quite the opposite. I see a glaring difference between people with and people without the gift. The idea of blessings coming largely as a result of obedience to commandments may be somewhat peculiar to Mormonism. There is the statement that whenever we obtain a blessing from God it is based on obedience to the law that the blessing is predicated on (Somewhere in the D&C, I am to lazy to find the verse right now). This makes perfect sense to me. Otherwise God is a respecter of persons and blesses people on his own whims. He would then play favorites. We do need to be careful and not take this to far. Some blessings are eternal in their nature and may not be apparent right away. And just because someone has a tough life it is not necessarily a punishment.

  11. 11 Kullervo March 22, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    I guess I just pretty much don’t believe a word of that.

  12. 12 Eric Nielson March 22, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    So, do you believe anything regarding the Gift of the Holy Ghost? Not necessarily what Mormonism teaches, but anything? I guess I do not know what else to say. It is difficult to have any discussion from such a reply.

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