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RS/MP Chapter 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by jennywebb on July 14, 2014

This lesson is available here on lds.org.

The following is not a lesson plan, but rather a series of questions and thoughts intended to aid in the study of the lesson material.

1. The mission of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of the Father and the Son and of all truth

His mission is to bear witness of the Father and the Son and of all truth.

• The phrasing here indicates a two-part mission: to bear witness of the Father and the Son, and to bear witness of all truth. Is there truth outside the Father and the Son? Does the mission of the Holy Ghost center around witnessing, or around truth? (Or both?) Perhaps the Holy Ghost witnesses truth in all its forms, wherever it is found.

He partakes of the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to those who serve the Lord in faithfulness.

• What does the use of “partake” mean here? There is a sense of joining, characterization, and consumption in “partake.” This understanding places the Holy Ghost in the position of a sort of conduit or link between the Heavens and Earth—he takes the heavenly into his self and then reveals (unveils) that portion on the earth.
• What are these “things”? Spirit? Teachings? Things can imply some sort of tangibility—what would that be?

The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.

• There is an interesting tension between the physical and the spiritual that runs throughout this first section, and particularly in this final quote. There seems to be something about our physical embodiment that hinders our ability to receive, recognize, and understand truth. Even if we are face to face with a heavenly being, that hindrance remains in place: truth remains an external experience and therefore loses some of its potency.
• However, the Holy Ghost can bypass this physicality by speaking directly to our spirits. Interestingly, the result of this spirit-to-spirit communication is then placed back into physical terms: the Holy Ghosts weaves truth “into the very fibre and sinews of the body.” So, a spiritual experience is necessary to bypass physical limitations, and yet the net result of these spiritual experiences is a reworking (or rewiring) of the physical body such that it retains truth.

2. The Holy Ghost manifests the truth to honest people everywhere

… he will bear testimony to honest people everywhere

• What is the significance of the qualifier “honesty” here? What is the relationship between honesty and being receptive to the Spirit?

… every sincere investigator on earth can gain a personal witness from the Holy Spirit of the truth and divine nature of the Lord’s work.

• Are the truth of the Lord’s work and the divine nature of the Lord’s work two separate things? If so, in what ways are they distinct? 

… the Lord will pour out his Spirit upon the faithful so they will know of themselves of the truths of this religion

• This implies that the reception of the multiple “truths of this religion” is an ongoing process that takes place in the lives of the faithful. Interestingly, the faithful are not necessarily identified as members of the Church (although of course they could be)—instead, the quality of faithfulness, like honesty, appears to facilitate being taught by the Spirit. 

3. Following baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost is given by the laying on of hands

You cannot get the gift of the Holy Ghost by praying for it, by paying your tithing, by keeping the Word of Wisdom—not even being baptized in water for the remission of sins. You must complete that baptism with the baptism of the Spirit. The Prophet said on one occasion that you might as well baptize a bag of sand as not confirm a man and give him the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands. You cannot get it any other way.

• Here, the gift of the Holy Ghost is emphasized as a gift—freely given, and unobtainable through any other means. One cannot obtain the Holy Ghost by completing a checklist and thereby “unlocking” a new “achievement”: instead, the gift of the Holy Ghost arrives through a physical action (the laying on of hands) that results in a spiritual immersion (the baptism of the Spirit). 
• How is the gift of the Holy Ghost related to the concept of grace in the Gospel?
• Are there other doctrines or concepts in the Gospel that are also related to this idea of being a gift? If so, what is their relationship, if any, to the gift of the Holy Ghost?

I believe in the doctrine of laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which we are brought into communion with our Father in heaven and learn of His ways, that we may walk in His paths.

• The use of the word “communion” here is interesting. Consider other instances of communion within the gospel, such as the sacrament, which is the most sacred part of the Sabbath worship. What are the similarities between receiving the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands and receiving the sacrament? How do each provide communion?
• What is the role of service here? Consider the relationship between service, blessing, communion, community, and sealing—are these separate acts, or are they distinct facets of the same thing?

4. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, members of the Church can have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion

While the emphasis of this section is on the constancy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we receive after we are confirmed, consider the following excerpts when read together:

It is the Holy Ghost who enlightens the mind of the truly baptized member. It is through him that individual revelation comes, and the light of truth is established in our hearts.

 

… that our minds might been lightened, that we might be quickened by the Holy Spirit to seek for knowledge and understanding concerning all that pertains to our exaltation.

 

We may after baptism and confirmation become companions of the Holy Ghost who will teach us the ways of the Lord, quicken our minds and help us to understand the truth.

• How does the Holy Ghost enlighten or quicken minds? What does it mean for a mind to be enlightened? 
• While the style and rhetoric here are spiritual (in the general sense), imagine these words written instead with the clarity and direction of an instruction manual. There is a straightforwardness here in these lines: if you have the gift of the Holy Ghost, there will be a direct, concrete, even physical effect on your mind, your thinking, and your understanding. 

5. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is available only to those who prepare themselves to receive it

… there are many members of this Church who have been baptized for the remission of their sins, and who have had hands laid upon their heads for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but who have never received that gift—that is, the manifestations of it.

• What is the difference between the act of confirmation (laying hands on the head to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost) and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
• Is receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost a one-time act of reception, or is it a state of being (and remaining) open to the ongoing gift?
• In what way are the manifestations of the gift of the Holy Ghost equivalent to the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost?

It is the privilege of every baptized person to have an abiding testimony of the restoration of the gospel, but this testimony will grow dim and eventually disappear unless we are constantly receiving spiritual good through study, obedience, and diligent seeking to know and understand the truth.

• Testimony, here, is described in terms of fluidity and change. What is the relationship of the gift of the Holy Ghost to this fluidity? Why is testimony of things eternal and unchanging itself subject to change?
• What is the difference between knowing truth and understanding truth?

6. As we remain faithful, the Holy Ghost will give us revelations to lead and direct us throughout our lives

We come back into the presence of God our Father, at last, through the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

• The other quotations in this section emphasize the role of the Holy Ghost  as a guide, a bringer of light, truth, revelation, and inspiration. This final quotation, however brief, makes clear the overarching purpose behind this spiritual guidance: the gift of the Holy Ghost is meant to guide us back to the presence of God.
• Within LDS worship, the endowment ceremony functions in many ways like the Holy Ghost: light, truth, revelation, and inspiration are given over a designated period of time, with the end result being a return to the presence of God. Are there other similarities between the Holy Ghost and the temple ordinances?

… and if we continue in God, that is, keep all of His commandments, we shall receive more light until eventually there shall come to us the perfect day of knowledge.

• One final note: we often speak of receiving more light until we receive perfect knowledge, but here the word order is slightly different. How is (or simply, “Is”) a “perfect day of knowledge” different from perfect knowledge? 

3 Responses to “RS/MP Chapter 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)”

  1. BrianJ said

    The quotes chosen in the manual were odd, not so much for their content but rather for what they omitted. Nowhere in the chapter was there any mention of the “baptism by fire”; i.e., arguably the single most important and unique role for the Holy Ghost.

    Moreover, of all the acts performed by the Holy Ghost, the baptism by fire would seem the most exclusive to those who had taken upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism. Anyone investigating the Gospel, for example, is free to receive a witness of the truth by the Holy Ghost, or revelation concerning their decision (or their impulse to traverse the Atlantic in search of India, or discover vaccines, or any other similar feat we often—in lore or scripture—attribute to the Holy Ghost directing non-Mormons).

    Along that vein, while there is an abundance of scripture supporting the Holy Ghost’s role as purifier, is there any scripture that mentions having him as a “constant companion”? (Specifically, that this constant companionship is in any way linked to baptism.)

  2. Michael said

    Will Chapter 15 lesson be up soon?

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