Laying On Hands

An interesting question:

Are you familiar with when the church decided to combine receiving the gift of the holy ghost by the laying on of hands and confirmation into the church? Reading 2 Nephi 31 I do not understand why these 2 are linked. I know Joseph explained that being baptized and not receiving the Gift of Holy Ghost  it is like baptizing a bag of sand. But was he talking about conformation? or receiving the commission to receive the holy ghost? Or did Joseph truly have the power to give the Holy Ghost (because of his true priesthoods) and it is different now because we only act as ordainers and do not truly have the power thereof? The reason I wonder these things is because I feel that the church is damning itself and the missionaries by having them go out and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and then set forth rules to be baptized because not only are you being baptized but joining the organization. Should the 2 go together? Should you have to believe in
Joseph Smith to be baptized unto repentance? Should you have to stop drinking coffee and tea to be baptized for the remission of your sins? To me baptism, receiving the holy ghost, and confirmation into the church should be separate. But what do I know?

Baptism and the Holy Ghost have always been linked together, but laying on hands has not always been included. Baptism and the Holy Ghost are linked whether or not there is someone who can lay on hands to give the gift. Understanding the scriptures and our history is necessary. The answer will contradict the traditional narrative. For many, traditions are preferred. Speaking the truth makes people uncomfortable, afraid and accusatory. If you replace the traditions with studied truth and give an answer that challenges the false tradition then you are “preaching false doctrine”, or you are ignorant. Those who believe false traditions think everyone is as ignorant as they are. Those people never take the opportunity to study and discover the truth.

Baptism precedes the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost always follows if the baptism was proper. The only condition for receiving the Holy Ghost is sincere repentance before baptism. If a person is sincere, then the gift follows automatically.

Nephi taught this plainly. His teaching was based on a dialogue between him (Nephi) and Christ and Christ’s Father. [The fact this conversation involved all three tells us a great deal about Nephi’s ascent up Jacob’s Ladder, because conversing with both Christ and the Father is only possible once a man has made the ascent. Another topic.]

On baptism and the Holy Ghost, Nephi relayed the truth: And he [Christ] said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. (2 Ne. 31: 10-15.)

Therefore, according to Christ and the Father, as reported by Nephi, the steps are:
1. Repent
2. Be willing to take upon you the name of Christ
3. Be baptized
4. If you do then the Holy Ghost will come upon you.

There is no mention of laying on of hands because the process and promise given by Christ and the Father does not require laying on hands. It only requires exactly what Nephi reported from conversing with Christ and the Father.

Likewise, in modern revelation the Lord explained His Gospel while omitting any requirement for laying on hands for the Holy Ghost: And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. (D&C 39: 5-6.)

Similar to Nephi’s explanation, Christ makes no mention of laying on of hands in this revelation to Joseph because it is not required.

In another revelation it is revealed: Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; (D&C 33: 10-12.)

Three verses following this, the laying on hands to confirm into the church is then mentioned, along with the Holy Ghost. But the formula given in the verses above is not changed by confirmation.

This was the pattern when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized. The JS-H account makes it clear when they received authority from John the Baptist that it had no authority to lay on hands for the Holy Ghost.

He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. (JS-H 1: 70.)

Despite this, when they were baptized both Joseph and Oliver immediately received the Holy Ghost (without the laying on of hands).

Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation. (JS-H 1: 73.)

This leads then to the question asked about laying on hands to give the Holy Ghost. This practice does appear in the Book of Mormon, and did start during the restoration. In the Book of Mormon it began when Christ personally laid hands on His Twelve and gave them this authority.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of these sayings, he touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one, even until he had touched them all, and spake unto them as he touched them. And the multitude heard not the words which he spake, therefore they did not bear record; but the disciples bare record that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne. 18: 36-37.)

What Christ said to these Twelve is later reported by Moroni.
The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 2: 1-3.)

Even when Christ gave this “authority” it was conditional and required the Twelve to take these steps before they could act on this commission:
-Call upon the Father
-Using Christ’s name
-In mighty prayer
-Only then could they have the right to give the gift (through authorization from Christ’s Father).

If you understand what is involved it makes sense for this right to come directly from both the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost is the “mind of the Father and the Son.”

...possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son. These three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things. (Lecture 5, P. 2.)

Christ set the example. He was baptized and immediately received the Holy Ghost. No one laid hands on Him. The gift was given because of His qualification for baptism. But there have been those who were given conditional authority to bestow the gift. They could only do so by consulting with the Father and Christ beforehand to insure it was God’s decision, not man’s, to give the gift.

In the restoration, the practice of laying on hands began in June 1831, the same month the “High Priesthood” was restored. The “High Priesthood” was restored in a meeting of elders that month, but was only later called the Melchizedek Priesthood. At the time of the conference it was correctly called the “High Priesthood.”

This event has been misinterpreted by the LDS Church, and re-characterized as restoring the office of High Priest. That is wrong. The office of High Priest has always been an Aaronic Priesthood office, held throughout the Dispensation of Moses by the eldest sons of Aaron in a line of succession. By New Testament times it was a political office, bought and sold by Roman influence, and belonged to the house of Caiaphus. This Aaronic Priesthood office had one occupant at a time. He presided over all the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood holders and ran the Temple at Jerusalem. Sidney Rigdon wanted the office of High Priest. According to David Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon persuaded Joseph to incorporate it into the church as an office which could be held by many, not just the presiding Aaronic Priesthood official. So today there are numerous “High Priests” in the LDS Church, all claiming they are of the Melchizedek Priesthood order, completely contrary to the Old and New Testaments. Another topic.

As to the laying on of hands, when the High Priesthood (later called Melchizedek Priesthood) was restored in June 1831, Joseph Smith recorded: “The authority of the Melchizedek priesthood was manifested and conferred, for the first time, upon several of the elders” at the June 1831 conference. (See JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 320, citing JS History Vol. A1, p. 118.)  This also clarifies that “elder” is a church office (not related to the High Priesthood because these church “elders” were already serving in their church offices before the High Priesthood was restored. Another subject.)

In the June 1831 Conference Joseph Smith ordained five, and Lyman Wight ordained eighteen, for a total of twenty-three. The results which followed were not altogether satisfactory. Subsequent performance by the ones ordained did not prove to mirror Melchizedek or Enoch. Of the five Joseph ordained,
-Lyman Wight was excommunicated in 1848
-Harvey Whitlock was excommunicated in 1835
-Thomas Marsh left the church in 1838, signed an affidavit against Joseph and contributed to his imprisonment by Missouri and was excommunicated in 1839
-Parley Pratt apostatized and was excommunicated in 1842, but reinstated in 1843.

Of the eighteen Lyman Wight ordained,
-John Whitmer was excommunicated in March 1838
-Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated in September 1844
-Edward Partridge died in 1840
-Ezra Thayer refused to follow the Twelve following Joseph’s and Hyrum’s deaths
-Joseph Wakefield was excommunicated in January 1834
-John Corrill was excommunicated in 1839
-Jacob Scott denied the faith
-Wheeler Baldwin joined the RLDS Church in 1859
-Martin Harris left the LDS Church, followed James Strang, but returned to the LDS Church and was rebaptized in 1870.

It is apparent that “ordination” to even the High Priesthood cannot guarantee a recipient will have faith sufficient to gain power in the priesthood. For that, like every other blessing, it is always required for the man to obtain it directly from heaven. The priesthood is predicated on a relationship with “the powers of heaven.” If the one ordained does not secure such a relationship with the Powers of Heaven, then the ordination will not produce the expected results.

Brigham Young was not among those who received this authority.

The first mention of the practice of laying on of hands to give the Holy Ghost followed the June 1831 Conference when, on June 14th, convert WW Phelps was told he would receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. (See JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 337, D&C Section 55.) This was because he was given the gift by one having the authority.

WW Phelps was promised the Holy Ghost (he was to receive it from one of those who received the authority earlier that month). But he was also told he would be ordained a church elder, and then he could likewise conditionally give the Holy Ghost to others if they repented and were first baptized and “were contrite” before God. (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 1, p. 339, D&C Section 55.)

The High Priesthood had been forfeited by the LDS Church (but not by Joseph Smith) as of January 1841. (See D&C 124: 28.)

Today church elders “confirm” new members and admonish them to “receive” the Holy Ghost. This is much like WW Phelps was told he could do in June 1831. For a man to hold the right to confer it, however, it must come by being given to the man by Christ and then confirmed by Father following “mighty prayer.”

In D&C 20 this right is confined to “an Apostle”– meaning one who qualified like the Twelve during Christ’s ministry to the Nephites. It says: An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize; And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons; And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ— And to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures; And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost; And to take the lead of all meetings. (D&C 20: 38-44.)

The LDS Church does not read that as limiting the power to do this to “an Apostle,” but instead focuses on “an elder,” and then extends the right to every man holding the church office of an elder. However, the Gospel, like God, is the same yesterday, today and forever. The language in Section 20 should be read to mean what is reported in 1 Nephi (in the dialogue between Nephi, Christ and the Father), 3 Nephi and Moroni, as set out above. Otherwise the Gospel changes.

In any event, the “gift” as given today by LDS elders is entirely conditional. It is an admonition to the newly confirmed member to “receive” the influence. It is much like what is available to anyone, anywhere, including investigators. If the Holy Ghost were not available to everyone then the promise in Moroni 10: 4 would not be given. No one could pray and get an answer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost if they were required to first have hands laid upon them.

There is no single denomination and no valid incantation that provides access to the Holy Ghost. No authority can remove it from the honest in heart. Nor is there authority, apart from that given by Christ and the Father (following mighty prayer and supplication) which can confer the blessing as a gift to a recipient. But the commandment to be baptized, when done in faith following repentance, will bring this gift to everyone. This is Christ’s Gospel.