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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Chapter 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (2013), 181–90

During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith

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

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a Spirit, in the form of a man. The Father and the Son are personages of tabernacle; they have bodies of flesh and bones. The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, and has a spirit body only [see D&C 130:22]. His mission is to bear witness of the Father and the Son and of all truth [see 2 Nephi 31:18; Moroni 10:5].

Despite what President Smith says, neither the Father nor the Son have “bodies of flesh and bones.” This idea can only be inferred through other LDS scripture besides the Bible. I wonder why the Holy Spirit has a body if he never lived on earth. Isn’t that what Mormonism says you and I had to do in order to get our bodies? So why wasn’t he sent here by Heavenly Father as part of his progression to godhood? Very few Mormons have thought through this scenario.

In fact, LDS leaders have been confusing about the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit. The third member of the godhead is sometimes described as the Holy Spirit and sometimes described as distinct from the Holy Spirit. Mormon Apostle John Widtsoe stated, “The Holy Ghost, sometimes called the Comforter, is the third member of the Godhead, and is a personage, distinct from the Holy Spirit. As a personage, the Holy Ghost cannot any more than the Father and Son be everywhere present in person” (Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 76-77). However, the LDS Bible Dictionary claims the Holy Ghost is another name for the Holy Spirit (p. 704). Heber C. Kimball, first counselor to Brigham Young, taught, “The Holy Ghost is a man; he is one of the sons of our Father and our God; and he is that man that stood next to Jesus Christ, just as I stand by brother Brigham” (Journal of Discourses 5:179). Smith and the LDS editors don’t provide a lot of information on this here.

He partakes of the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to those who serve the Lord in faithfulness. It was through the teachings of the Comforter, or Holy Ghost, that the teachings of Jesus Christ were recalled by the apostles [see John 14:26]. It is through the teachings of the Holy Spirit that prophecy comes [see 2 Peter 1:21].

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is vital as the third member of the Trinity. Yet unlike Mormons, Christians believe the Holy Spirit is God, the three Person of the Trinity.

The Holy Ghost manifests the truth to honest people everywhere.

We believe the Holy Ghost is a revelator and that he will bear testimony to honest people everywhere that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30.)

The Holy Spirit can’t lie. So, the question is, how does a Mormon “know” the things listed above. Through a “testimony”? A “testimony” will not suffice at the judgment throne. (See Matt. 7:21-23.)

There is no need for anyone to remain in darkness; the light of the everlasting gospel is here; and 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.

There’s the “testimony” mentioned in the previous paragraph. But, again, I ask, “How do you, as a Latter-day Saint know this beyond a shadow of a doubt?” The Bible makes it very clear that subjective feelings can be deceptive. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” while Proverbs 28:26 adds that only fools trust in their heart. Because everyone is a fallen and sinful creature, it is possible to be swayed by emotions and desires. To believe something is true merely because one feels it to be true is no guarantee of truth. Jesus commanded His followers in Mark 12:30 to love God “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”

Peter said: “… God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted” by him (Acts 10:34–35), which means that the Lord will pour out his Spirit upon the faithful so they will know of themselves of the truths of this religion.

The quotation of this passage reminds me of something that I want to bring up now. Acts 10 is quoted. This is the Gentiles’ Pentecost. Verses 44-46 explain,

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”

Imagine, the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before they had been water baptized. If water baptism is a requirement to receive the Holy Spirit (as Mormonism teaches in baptismal regeneration), this wouldn’t make any sense at all. This is off topic, I know, but please allow the author to go on a tangent whenever he wishes! 🙂

The Holy Ghost will manifest himself to any individual who asks for the truth, just as He did to Cornelius [see Acts 10]. We have this statement in the Book of Mormon by Moroni, as he was just closing his record, chapter 10, verse 4:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Every man can receive a manifestation of the Holy Ghost, even when he is out of the Church, if he is earnestly seeking for the light and for the truth. The Holy Ghost will come and give the man the testimony he is seeking, and then withdraw.

While it is important to be respectful to our Latter-day Saint friends and not minimize their experiences, we need to point out that the rules have been rigged of this suggested “Moroni” prayer that really has but only one answer. After all, the investigator who declines the invitation to pray may be accused of not believing in prayer. On the other hand, those who agree to pray but don’t receive the “right” answer will probably be thought of as not having a sincere heart, real intent, or adequate faith. In response to the question “Shouldn’t Moroni’s promise always work” with someone who “has not received a testimony of its truthfulness?”

Daniel Ludlow, the director of LDS Church Correlation Review, confirms this suspicion:

“God cannot and does not lie, and his promises made through his prophets are sure. Therefore, any person who claims to have followed the various requirements but says he has not gained a testimony should check to see which step he has not followed faithfully or completely:

1. He should read and ponder the Book of Mormon—all of it.

2. He should remember the methods God has used in working with the peoples of both the Book of Mormon and the Bible—and ponder these things in his heart.

3. He should put himself in a frame of mind where he would be willing to accept (receive) all of “these things”—the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the way God works with men.

4. “With a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ,” he should ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ “if these things are not true.”

5. He should be able to recognize the promptings and feelings which will be evidences to him of the truth of “these things” (including the Book of Mormon) as they are made manifest unto him “by the power of the Holy Ghost.”(Ensign, “I have a question,” March 1986)

There is a psychological edge that the Mormon missionaries have when someone agrees to their challenge. After all, the investigator may eventually get the “right” answer in an attempt to please the missionaries, close family members, or friends who have come to the same conclusion. In the end, one’s good feelings may win the day, even if the object of the prayer is false.

It should be noted that Joseph Smith disregarded the immediate context of James 1:5, which speaks of gaining wisdom, not knowledge. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. In this verse James tells his Christian audience to ask God for wisdom when they are undergoing trials and temptations, not for testing various truth claims. (See James 1:3-4, 12-15 to understand the context.) First John 4:1 tells believers to “try [test] the spirits.” Why? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 were considered noble because they “searched the scriptures daily” and tested Paul’s words against what God had already revealed. In other words, Christians are to test all truth claims with the Bible, not with subjective experiences, even if that experience involves a supernatural “vision.”

When a Mormon friend brings up Moroni 10:4 in a conversation, you might ask your acquaintance whether his or her feelings have always been accurate. At one time or another, all of us have been fooled by our feelings, no matter how sincere we might have been. For example, Mormons believe that marriage is not only for life but also for eternity. Should it be assumed that the many Mormon couples who are divorced did not pray about their relationships beforehand? Surely knowing information about another person that could have exposed potential behavior problems—such as drug addiction, sex addiction, pornography issues, inward apathy to God, or repressed anger—would have helped with making a more informed decision. Yet how many Mormons must have “felt” God’s approval in relationships that were tragically doomed from the beginning?

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

The promise was made in the days of the primitive church of Jesus Christ that all who would repent, be baptized for the remission of sins and would be faithful, should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. That same promise has been made to all who will accept the Gospel in this dispensation, for the Lord says:

“And whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them.” [D&C 33:15.]

“And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them” (Acts 19:6).

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 by 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.

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.

If the God of Mormonism is not the true God, then it doesn’t matter how often a person with “authority” lays hands on another person’s head. The Bible does teach the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is eternal life that comes through belief. And they believe that in the filling of the Holy Spirit. Without the true God and the correct gospel, though, none of the Mormon ritual matters.

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

It is my judgment that 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. Why? Because they have never put themselves in order to receive these manifestations. They have never humbled themselves. They have never taken the steps that would prepare them for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, they go through life without that knowledge; they are lacking in understanding. When those who are cunning and crafty in their deceit come to them criticizing the authorities of the Church and the doctrines of the Church, these weak members do not have understanding enough, information enough, and enough of the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to resist false doctrines and teachings. They listen and think that perhaps they have made a mistake, and the first thing you know they find their way out of the Church, because they do not have understanding.

Or, maybe the alternative is true: they have found out things (perhaps on the Internet?) that cause them to rethink what they had been told all their lives. Right now the Mormon Church appears to be in damage control. The leaders have been publishing “Gospel Topics” essays to counter the information readily available on the Internet and published materials. A few years ago we saw a group of European Saints who felt they had been deceived because they didn’t know some pretty basic history of the church. Their conclusion has been very typical. See for more on this.

It is a commandment from the Lord that members of the Church should be diligent in their activities and study of the fundamental truths of the gospel as it has been revealed. The Spirit of the Lord will not continue to strive with the indifferent, with the wayward and the rebellious who fail to live within the light of divine truth. 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.

“It is a commandment from the Lord that members of the Church should be diligent in their activities and study of the fundamental truths of the gospel.”

We have the right to the guidance of the Holy Ghost, but we can’t have that guidance if we willfully refuse to consider the revelations that have been given to help us to understand and to guide us in the light and truth of the everlasting gospel. We can’t hope to have that guidance when we refuse to consider these great revelations which mean so much to us both temporally and spiritually. Now if we find ourselves in this condition of unbelief or unwillingness to seek for the light and the knowledge which the Lord has placed within our reach, then we are liable or in danger of being deceived by evil spirits, the doctrines of devils, and the teachings of men [see D&C 46:7]. And when these false influences are presented before us, we will not have the distinguishing understanding by which we can segregate them and know that they are not of the Lord. And so we may become prey unto the ungodly, to the vicious, to the cunning, to the craftiness of men.

If you are a Latter-day Saint, ask yourself, how can you know when there are “false influences” presented to you? Do you know by good feelings? As we discussed above, the Bible says that we should not depend on our feelings because they could lead us astray. In Acts 17, the Bereans were considered “more noble” than the Thessalonians because they searched the scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was true. (If anyone should have complained, it was Paul who could have felt that his apostolic authority was being questioned. Instead, he accepted their action with open arms.)

Paul explained in 2 Timothy 2:15 that the believer must make the effort to study in order to correctly understand truth. In the next chapter (3:16–17), he added that all Scripture given by inspiration of God is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” so that the man or woman of God might be competent and equipped to do good works. Christians are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” While it is true that faith does involve believing things that can’t be proven, it is foolishness to believe something that has already been disproven. If the Bible disproves a spiritual truth claim, it must be rejected.

If you are a truth-seeker, look at the Bible and see what it teaches. If what you read in the Bible disagrees with your theology—no matter how good the LDS doctrines may feel—run away! Reject it! I challenge you to take the Romans Challenge and see if your religion can stand the test.

The Spirit of the Lord will not dwell in unclean tabernacles, and when a person turns from the truth through wickedness, that Spirit does not follow him and departs, and in the stead thereof comes the spirit of error, the spirit of disobedience, the spirit of wickedness, the spirit of eternal destruction.

If what President Smith said here is true about the “Spirit of the Lord” “not dwell(ing) in unclean tabernacles,” then who among us can have the Spirit in our lives? Certainly not I.

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

The Lord has made the promise to all who will repent and remain faithful, exercising a spirit of humility and diligence, that they will be entitled to the guidance of the Spirit of God. This Spirit will lead them and direct them throughout their lives.

Every member of the Church has had hands laid upon his head for the gift of the Holy Ghost. He has a right to receive the revelations that are expedient and necessary for his guidance individually; not for the Church, but for himself. He has a right through his obedience, through his humility, to receive light and truth as it shall be revealed through the Spirit of Truth, and he who will hearken to that Spirit and seek for the gift of the Spirit in humility and faith shall not be deceived.

We must walk in holiness of life in the light and in the truth with proper understanding which comes through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost which is promised to all who will believe unto repentance and receive the words of eternal life. If we are in fellowship with this Spirit then we walk in the light and have fellowship with God.

It is the privilege of every member of the Church to know the truth, to speak by the truth, to have the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; it is our privilege, individually, … to receive the light and to walk in the light; 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. [See D&C 50:24.]23

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

Read this section again and notice how much of the onus is placed upon the backs of the individual Latter-day Saints! Again, I ask my Latter-day Saint readers, just how are you doing at that?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in good works and faithfully following God. But when the Holy Spirit’s presence is dependent upon your obedience, I just wonder how it is possible for anyone to feel close to God.

For more reviews on this manual featuring Joseph Fielding Smith quotes, go here.

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