My new friend, a delightful young mother from Lehi, said, “I found myself thinking, ‘Well, I’ve been endowed, I’ve been married in the temple. What now? I mean, enduring to the end sounds so….grim!”
All around the table laughed, but not because it was funny – rather because it rang so true. For example, when I was first baptized, the gospel was exciting – a whole new world of possibilities and promises lay ahead of me. The Lord blessed me tremendously, making sure that I was able to recognize just often enough that He was keeping those promises and that I was being blessed with insight, knowledge, understanding and opportunities to serve and grow.
I cruised along for more than a decade, enduring spiritual highs and lows and the occasional plateau. I read, I acted, and I learned. I received my endowments, and after a few years was able to be sealed. My wife and I served a part time service mission. I taught at a local jail, and truly learned to feel the spirit as I taught. I learned to recognize the insidious influence of pride in my life; I learned the importance of humility, obedience, and unselfish service. Then, when we stepped way out on a limb and volunteered for a full-time mission, even though I was not retired and had to quit my job during one of the worst recessions in decades, I learned that the two of us together had the faith to follow the Lord’s prompting in the face of worldly wisdom. By most standards we were an ideal LDS couple, highly committed to the faith and to keeping the covenants that we had made to each other and to the Lord.
Life was good. It still is. We were progressing, although I didn’t realize how slowly, and I had no idea at the time how much more the Lord was offering us.
I return now to my new friend’s statement – “I’ve been endowed, I’ve been married in the temple. What now?” I think far too many of us – good, faithful members of the church – kind of go into a spiritual holding pattern after we’ve been sealed in the Temple. If we’re not careful, we can slip into a pattern of waiting for our exaltation. In doing so, I believe we are shutting ourselves off from the greatest blessings that the gospel offers.
Let me offer a quote from George Q. Cannon, (Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, pp. 260–61.) courtesy of my dear friend, Kristine Marble:
This has come in our day. Yet we find, even among those who have embraced the Gospel, hearts of unbelief. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this?
I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have. Instead of the sick being healed, why, it is as much as you can do to get faith to believe that the administration of an elder will be attended with effect. There is not that seeking for the gift of healing and for the gift to be healed that there ought to be among the Saints. And so with other gifts and graces that God has placed in His Church for His people.
I say to you that it is our duty to avail ourselves of the privileges which God has placed within our reach. If we have done wrong, repent of our wrong and feel after God, and not be satisfied till we have found Him, and He hears and answers us, and He speaks by His divine power in our hearts, bearing testimony to us in such a manner as cannot be doubted that He hears us, that He is near to us, and that He is watching over us and ready to bestow upon us all the blessings that are necessary for our happiness here and hereafter.
Our Duty!!!! That sounds an awful lot like a commandment!
There are three things that I have learned of recently that serve as beacons, as goals, for my own spiritual progression. I speak specifically of:
Receiving the Holy Ghost / Baptism by Fire
Seeking and receiving our Calling and Election
Seeking and receiving the Second Comforter
I propose to discuss these separately in 3 articles. Since I began discovering the true depth of these doctrines, my spiritual progression has increased exponentially. I have personally experienced things that I thought were reserved only for others, or for the next life. I know the Lord is leading me step by step toward the realization of these blessings. I hope they bring as much joy and wonder to your life as they are bringing to mine.
Elder David A. Bednar offered the following in his 2010 Conference talk, which you can read here:
These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88:33.)
He goes on to counsel 3 things that must be part of our quest:
Put simply, when we are confirmed into the church, we accept a life-long responsibility to actively seek the gifts of the Holy Ghost – the Lord’s teacher, comforter, protector, the source of all intelligence. Moroni Chapter 10, the final chapter in the Book of Mormon, reads very much like a capstone, a summary, of the most important messages of this marvelous book of scripture. We are all familiar with the standard of scripture mastery that is 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.
Here we can easily detect the same pattern that Elder Bednar spoke of – Sincerely desire, appropriately invite, and faithfully obey.
The next verse, however, is potentially even more significant:
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Ye may know the truth of all things!! To know the truth of all things sounds like omniscience, doesn’t it? So, by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may become omniscient? I’ll let the reader figure out where that leads next.
I now quote Ether 3:19:
And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, doubting nothing.
The Bible Dictionary’s section on Faith includes the following:
Although faith is a gift, it must be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree. The effects of true faith in Jesus Christ include (1) an actual knowledge that the course of life one is pursuing is acceptable to the Lord (see Heb. 11:4); (2) a reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life; and (3) an assurance of personal salvation in the world to come. These things involve individual and personal testimony, guidance, revelation, and spiritual knowledge. Where there is true faith there are miracles, visions, dreams, healings, and all the gifts of God that he gives to his saints. Jesus pointed out some obstacles to faith in John 5:44 and 12:39–42 (cf. James 1:6–8).
Among the several distinct sections in Chapter 10 is one in which Moroni further exhorts us that we “deny not the gifts of God, for they are many” (verse 8); after which he proceeds to list the gifts of the spirit (verses 9-16). Moroni closes this section in verses 17-21:
And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.
Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith, there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.
From these quotes we learn that as a result of fully receiving the Holy Ghost, we may:
1) gain a knowledge of all things
2) exercise the myriad gifts of the spirit (a reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life)
3) gain “an assurance of personal salvation” (Calling and Election)
4) see the Lord and be in His presence (receive the Second Comforter).
Furthermore, there are many scriptures that refer to baptism by fire, a.k.a. Baptism of the Holy Ghost (D&C 20:41, D&C 33:11, D&C 19:31, D&C 39:6, 2 Nephi 31:14, 15, 17), but what exactly is “Baptism by fire”? 3 Nephi 9:20 says:
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
This is one of the greatest conversion stories in the Book of Mormon – that of the Lamanites in Helaman Chapter 5. They received baptism by fire, yet they knew it not! So, if they knew it not, after being surrounded by fire and taught by angels, how can we know if we have received the baptism by fire?
Bruce R. McConkie, in his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, says, under the heading “What is the relationship between baptism and having one’s calling and election made sure:
Baptism is the beginning of personal righteousness; it opens the door to celestial exaltation; it puts us on the path leading to eternal life. As Nephi expressed it, when we enter “the gate” of “repentance and baptism” and receive “a remission” of our sins “by fire and by the Holy Ghost,” we are then on the “straight and narrow path which leads to eternal life.”
This clearly implies that receiving a baptism by fire indicates that we have received a remission of our sins. Is this remission an “event” that occurs when we are confirmed and are comanded to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, or is this again a process as indicated by Elder Bednar? I would suggest that it can be both. The result, though, of baptism by fire, is a remission of sins, and a cleansing of the desire to do evil. It also represents a stepping stone toward having one’s Calling and Election made sure…….Part 2 – next week: “Seeking our Calling and Election”