Baptism of Fire

The question has come up about how the Lamanites could receive the baptism of fire and “know it not” when it happened.  Whole books have been written on this subject and I can’t do it justice in a blog.  So I won’t try.  I’ll make a brief comment:

The alternatives are:

1.  They knew something happened, but didn’t know what it was or what it should be called.
2.  They didn’t realize something had happened at all.

If the reason is 1, then the result is un-troubling because without a vocabulary to label the event it is easy to to understand whey they “know it not.”

Much more troubling is reason 2.  What if the baptism of fire is an event so subtle it could escape detection?  And if that is the case, then how is one to know when or if they have experienced it?

Some writers have made the baptism of fire such a remarkable event that it connotes salvation, even exaltation itself.  For those who accept that definition of the event, then to reduce it to an undetectable occurrence seems to somehow diminish it.

Joseph described the effects of the Holy Ghost on a Gentile (purges the blood and remakes them into an Israelite), and on a descendant of Israel (pure intelligence).  [I’m not going to give the cite from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, because I don’t have a copy with me while I’m writing this.  So you look it up.]  Both effects Joseph describes could be felt in a minimal way.  Neither would require it to be dramatic.

“Fire” is a description of quickening, purging sin, and receiving the love of God.  [Beloved Bridegroom gives a great explanation of fire as a symbol of the love of God.]  If you are living in conformity with such light as you have been given, receiving this kind of “fire” would not necessarily be physically detectable.  The real place where it would begin to show would be as a person prays, and then begins to receive answers, or “pure intelligence” as Joseph put it.  “A sudden flow of ideas,” which the recipient knows is beyond their capacity to think of or accomplish, would be another way in which the recipient would recognize its presence.

I think it is altogether possible for either explanation to be true.  No matter which explanation, I don’t believe it diminishes in any way the importance of this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.  It is, in my view, the event marking the beginning of the process by which someone becomes ultimately a new creature.  It is not the end of the journey.  I would use other words to describe that.

5 Responses to “Baptism of Fire

  • Thanks Denver.

  • Can people be converted without even knowing it? Can people come closer to Christ by accepting service? Can people come closer to Christ through a principal that may not even speak of God? I think they can. If their hearts are already ready from the service we gave them.

    It’s simple in my mind. Think if someone who was stranded on a island, found the Book of Mormon in a treasure chest, Then read the Book and felt the fire from the Holy Ghost. They “found God” but yet were not actually baptized because they were alone. Will they be saved? Well it’s clear with Alvin Smith and what Joseph said about him.

    Maybe the Lamanites were living some type of second great commandment without even knowing it. Maybe simply from the service they received from their brothers. This is why loving your neighbor is so important – maybe without telling them about the book of Mormon and the truth of it- Now should we? Yes- But in these times we live in, can we always talk about the Book? There are times where we simply just can’t share how you feel in this world (in a office meeting for example). But just have the love (that is supposed to be in our hearts) to invite the change that we seek from others, with our simple service. Instead of condeming and judging them for the faults that we all have.

    This is why simple service is so important and why the Atonement is so powerful.

    Service we give them-

    Let’s say that someone has been living a lie their entire life (which most of us do to a degree anyway). This person has been doing all amounts of evil you could think of (lie-cheat-steal) and we run across this person in our life, just for a split second. Let’s say that in the moment of our interaction with this person, we serve them in a way that melts their heart with gratitude (even for a split second). Example -Helping them shovel snow, letting them pull ahead of us as we drive, maybe just a wave and a smile in a hallway. Think about the last time someone smiled at you with sincerity, and how it made you feel? Think when someone took a load off of your shoulders and how much you LOVED them, even for a few seconds.

    Now let’s say they take that same spirit that enters their heart at the interaction with us -and they “change” even for a second (with love in their heart that we gave them)- and they pull around the corner of the street (after we let them in our lane), and they get into a fatal car accident?

    Now I know that this seems a little far fetched, But if the spirit that leaves our bodies is the same spirit that will enter into the next world, does that mean this person would be feeling happy? I think so. I would be confident when a missionary meets them at that veil, they will be so much more likely to accept whatever message they have for them with a open, melted heart that we helped them get (without them even knowing it).

    This is why service is so needed for everyone.

    I beleive the atonement can save people in all levels. But WE have to be there to help it into others lives.

    Denver thanks for taking the time to help me understand more about the Laminites (not knowing) You helped me a lot with the thoughts I just tried to write :)

    Eric

  • There are several scriptures in the Book of Mormon about this that I find really interesting. And the most unusual thing about them all is that they seem to indicate that the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost can occur PRIOR to baptism by water.

    Please know that I’m NOT trying to say that we should think baptism by water isn’t always necessary, because it is, as evidenced by the Savior Himself and all His teachings about it.

    But nevertheless, by the Savior’s own words in 3 Nephi 9: 20 (given in full below near the bottom of this comment) and by Moroni’s words in Ether 12: 14, we have at least two examples of the Baptism of Fire taking place with the Lamanites prior to their having any chance to be baptized.

    In Ether 12, Moroni seems to be referring to the account in Hel. 5 where the brother-prophets Nephi & Lehi were in prison with the Lamanites in the Land of Nephi and the Lamanites had this marvelous experience:

    Hel. 5: 45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.

    Moroni’s comment about this:

    Ether 12: 14 Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

    And then even more or at least equally surprising is in the account of Lamoni in Alma 19: 13. When he woke up out of his “coma”, he said:

    “For as sure as thou livest, behold, I HAVE SEEN MY REDEEMER; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name. Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit.

    And all this was prior to his having any chance to be baptized.

    Here’s what the Savior said:

    3 N 9:20 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.

    So, what am I saying? Two things: 1) It’s very interesting to note this; and 2) When we look at the account in Hel. 5, which Moroni specifically references, it seems that of the two options Bro. Snuffer has mentioned, the first one, that “they knew something happened, but didn’t know what it was or what it should be called” must be the case, because they certainly knew something had happened. (See verse 45 again). And if the accounts of Lamoni and his father in Alma 19 and 22 are also examples of people receiving the Baptism of Fire, which the Savior seems to be referencing in 3 N 9, then they also certainly knew something had happened, as they were in comas for hours and days.

  • The question being considered here is, “What did the Lamanite prisoners experience, to have the Lord later say that they were baptized by fire and of the Holy Ghost, yet “knew it not”. The Lamanite prisoners”saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire” (Helaman 5:43). They saw the glory called “fire”. And they experienced unspeakable joy, the gift of prophecy, heard the Lord’s voice. For me, that these prisoners knew something amazing happened to them is amply established by Mormon in Helaman 5.

    The real important question for me and for others like me is this, “Has the baptism by fire happened to me?’ OR do I have yet to experience it. Have the experiences with the Holy Ghost thus far in my life constituted a metaphorical baptism by fire or does the priesthood command to “receive the Holy Ghost” carry with it a promise that I may yet be literally baptized (immersed) by fire and of the Holy Ghost?

    Commentary after commentary suggest that the dramatic “baptism by fire” where glory is seen and accompanied by ‘marvelous’ gifts is the “exception” (Mormon Doctrine p. 67, also Encyclopedia of Mormonism), yet I still hope that the promised blessings are not just metaphor.

  • Joseph’s discussion regarding the effects of the Holy Ghost on a Gentile is found in TPJS on pages 149-50.