The Holy Spirit—also called the Holy Ghost, Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of God, and the Comforter—is the third member of the Godhead.
While God the Father and Jesus Christ have separate and distinct resurrected bodies, the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. Together, the three members of the Godhead work with one purpose. The Holy Spirit, in his role, witnesses of God and Jesus Christ, shares “righteousness, and peace, and joy” (Romans 14:17), and testifies of truth.
People who have felt the influence of the Holy Spirit often mention feeling an impression that something is true or having a thought that leads them to do good. Some describe the Holy Ghost’s influence as a warm, peaceful, comforting feeling (see Galatians 5:22-23). On the day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus said they “were pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). These effects come by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The scriptures also explain that the Holy Spirit motivates people to act. Those same disciples on Pentecost felt the Spirit’s power and asked “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). For starters, Jesus taught His followers that the Spirit would help them know what to tell others about the gospel (see Luke 12:12). “…The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
When you want to know if something is right, the Holy Ghost will use that warm, calming feeling to confirm the truth or the right thing to do. The prophet Nephi taught, “For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:19).
The Holy Ghost bears testimony of Jesus and of true teachings by sharing a sense of peace and spiritual joy. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 5:13). When you feel the power of the Holy Ghost, especially during or after prayer, it is God’s way of confirming His will directly to you.
The power or influence of the Holy Ghost is not the same as the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost actively uses power to influence your spirit and fulfill His role (see “The roles of the Holy Ghost” below). But the gift of the Holy Spirit is something you receive after baptism. The Apostle Peter taught, People who have been baptized by someone with God’s priesthood authority and then conferred with this gift and who then remain worthy can have the presence of the Holy Spirit with them as a constant companion. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost doesn’t just happen. Like baptism, the Holy Ghost must be given by someone who has priesthood authority from God. After someone is baptized, a priesthood holder lays his hands on the baptized person’s head and offers a prayer to God, admonishing the person to “receive the Holy Ghost.” This pattern is the same as the pattern followed by Jesus’s Apostles Peter and John, who sought out those who had been baptized and then laid “their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17).
The reason baptism is required to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost is that “the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Helaman 4:24). Baptism washes away sin and prepares and purifies you so you can receive this gift. Likewise, after you are baptized, you must do your best to follow the commandments and continue to repent of wrongdoings so that the Spirit can remain with you and provide guidance and spiritual help.
From the beginning, the Lord said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh” (Genesis 6:3). In other words, because humans are mortal and will sin, there will be the possibility that the Spirit will leave. That happened to King Saul (see 1 Samuel 16:14). And Isaiah prophesied that this will also happen to many in our own day (see Isaiah 63:10). But the Apostle Paul taught that if you repent and strive to be worthy, you qualify for the blessings of the Spirit. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9). You can access the power of the Holy Ghost throughout your life if you keep God’s commandments, repent when you fall short, and seek His guidance.
When you have hard questions that need honest answers, God promises that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). That means that when you take your questions to God in sincere prayer, you can know the truth through the witness of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit “will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).
The Apostle Paul also taught, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3). When people say they have a “testimony” of God or Jesus, they are referring to a spiritual confirmation they have felt by the power of the Holy Ghost that has witnessed to them that God or Jesus are real. Jesus Himself described the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father.” And then He went on to clearly state one of the Holy Ghost’s primary roles as a member of the Godhead: “He shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
Knowing the hardships His Apostles would face after His death, the Savior promised that the Holy Spirit would help them. “And I will pray [to] the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). When you are anxious or sorrowful, the same promise can apply to you. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). That peace comes through the Holy Ghost, “which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God” (Moroni 8:26).
The Holy Ghost will teach you, but you must learn to recognize His influence and be willing to act on it. The Lord said, “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). If you will open your heart to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, He “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26), enabling you to recall and understand the teachings of Jesus Christ. As you use your God-given agency to make decisions in your life, “if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5) when you seek added direction from God through prayer.
Throughout scripture people are admonished to become sanctified before the Lord. Jesus spoke of sanctification in His Intercessory Prayer (see John 17:19). Simply put, sanctification means to be made holy or pure. The Holy Ghost can sanctify you. Because despite your best efforts to keep the commandments and live a good life, you will make mistakes and sin. In order to stand in God’s presence, you must accept Jesus Christ, repent, and reconcile yourself to God.
This purification of your spirit happens with the help of the Holy Ghost. The scriptures teach: “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:20). They further teach that following baptism, “Then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:17). When you repent and are sanctified through the Holy Ghost, you qualify for Christ’s mercy.
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