(The kids were so cute in their outfits from Grandma, I had to include some snapshots!)
My studies this week have been directed towards better understanding the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life. The receipt of the Holy Ghost is one of the four essential formal acts of the priesthood required for salvation. The Holy Ghost, God the Father and Jesus Christ make up the Godhead. It seems crucial to have a clear understanding of the role of the Spirit in my life.
My new personal insight this week:
If we always have the Spirit to be with us, we are forever expanding and opening our minds to the things of God.
Here's how I got there...
One of the covenants I made at baptism and renew with the sacrament every Sunday is to "always have the Spirit to be with me." Sometimes I feel it may be a little difficult to discern whether or not I am keeping this covenant. Clearly, in times of complete selfish break down, the Holy Ghost has left me. But what about the day to day, average times? How do I know?
I think my gauge has always been a general question of "Do I feel like I am on the right track? Am I at peace with what I am doing?" While these are good starting points, I decided it is, and should be so much more.
It seems often when we teach our children about recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost we speak of the warm and peaceful feeling in our hearts, "the burning in our bosom." While this is scripturally founded, and one way we may feel the spirit, a closer study has led me to have a deeper understanding. I like how Joseph Smith describes it:
"This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It [most] powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing intellect with present knowledge."
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149 as quoted in Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley)
As I read this description of the Holy Ghost last week it spurred me to want to understand what this meant. I looked up every reference in the the Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and other reference books, which I could find speaking of the Holy Ghost. It was amazing.
Roles of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost has several roles: Comforts. Testifies. Sanctifies. Directs.
The Comforter "knows all things." A visitation brings enlightenment. Gaining new knowledge. Sometimes this knowledge comforts us, gives us hope and faith with our greater understanding of the challenges we are facing.
Other times the Spirit teaches us. It testifies of truth, by opening our understanding and clearly revealing truth. Manifesting of Christ. Helping us see His life, and understand his doctrine.
Sanctification. At first I wondered how does this have to do with teaching us the things of God. But I realized we are sanctified as it is revealed to us our weaknesses and shortcomings. Once we recognize them, we are then tutored in how to overcome them. All this has to do with knowledge revealed through the Spirit of God. When we have a true understanding of how the pure love of Christ we are truly sanctified, having no desire to do evil.
Finally direction. Clearly this is a revelation of knowledge in the way to move forward. This can be the "still small voice" we speak of, or the quiet impressions and thoughts. But these thoughts and voices are directing us to build up the kingdom of God. Sometimes by preserving our safety or serving others and answering their prayers.
It is when I am not learning and feeling the pure intelligence flow through me I have lost the spirit. I have to use each moment, and try to study and pray and allow myself to be taught about the Kingdom of God.
Quoting Elder Richard G Scott from the October General Conference:
"President John Taylor wrote: 'Joseph Smith, upwards of forty years ago, said to me 'Br. Taylor, you have received the Holy Ghost. Now follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will become in you a principle of revelation.' Then he told me never to arise in the morning without bowing before the Lord, and dedicating myself to him during that day.' . . . I [Elder Scott] witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear. Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is the power or capacity to do it."
This deepened understanding of who the Holy Ghost is, his roles in my life, and how he provides personal revelation to me, are blessing me already. I feel more capable of keeping my covenant to always have his Spirit to be with me. However, it is not something that is done without effort on my part. Only through searching the scriptures, serving my family, praying, humbling myself, keeping my life free of clutter...can I have the time and ability to constantly be taught by the Spirit. A worthy challenge and goal.