The Holy Ghost can and does speak to everyone, Baptists, Lutherans, and Catholics included. C.S. Lewis could not have written and comprehended what he wrote and understood, unless the light of the Holy Ghost shown upon his mind. He declares the light of eternal truths in his writings. This is one of the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, or Comforter.
Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice and judgment. (Moses 6:61)
This is in contrast to the power given by Christ to lay on hands for the Holy Ghost. For power to do that, Christ touched (and must touch) the man given that power. When Christ actually gave power to give the Holy Ghost, the Book of Mormon account stresses repeatedly that He touched them: There is a difference between a visit by the Holy Ghost and having its presence always to be with you. “A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” (D&C 130:23.) This difference accounts for the Holy Ghost being available to all, on the one hand, and the power to lay on hands to confer the gift given by those upon whom Christ has laid His hands, on the other hand.
Many people believe they have the Holy Ghost with them when their emotions are stirred, or they are thrilled by some appealing talk, comment, praise or flattery. However these incidents do not increase light and truth, comprehension or intelligence and are not the Holy Ghost. They are only emotional experiences. Emotional experiences can be replicated in a number of ways. Music, movies, television commercials, general conference talks, books, testimonies, prayers and any number of physical experiences can create tears, goosebumps, or other things that we have incorrectly associated with the Holy Ghost.
Very often the truth conveyed by the Holy Ghost is hard to hear, difficult to follow, and breaks your heart. Sometimes the truth is bitter. But bitter truth is better than pleasing lies and flattery. It is a profound misunderstanding of the “Holy Ghost” when a person concludes it can never convey a message that condemns, convicts or challenges you. Much of what the Holy Ghost will convey – light and truth – causes pain, provokes change and repentance because you are convicted of errors.
Alma was tutored by the Holy Ghost and it convicted him of his sins. He described it as “my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.” (Alma 36:14.) “For three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.” (Id., v. 16.) He said “I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins.” (Id., v. 17.) He repented because he received accurate information by the power of the Holy Ghost showing him exactly where he stood before God. This enabled him to repent and return to God.
It is a mistake to conclude that only good feelings, reassurance and praise comes through the Holy Ghost. It is likewise a profound error to assume a message that challenges you, tells you bad news about your present mistakes, and warns you to change course is dark, evil or cannot be from God.
There is no organization controlling the Holy Ghost.
Missionaries quote Moroni 10:4, and admonish everyone to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is true. Investigators are promised that God will manifest the truth of it unto them “by the power of the Holy Ghost.” These are unbaptized, unwashed, and uninitiated investigators who are told they can hear the Holy Ghost speak truth to them. The Holy Ghost does, can, and will speak to anyone.
The claim an organization has a franchise over the Holy Ghost is hollow. The idea the Holy Ghost can be controlled is false. The fact LDS Mormons are acquainted with the Holy Ghost means very little. That acquaintance does not distinguish Latter-day Saints, and it does not separate others from the Holy Ghost and its ministrations, no matter who they are.
The Holy Ghost does not thrill, it informs. It gives understanding. Thrilling music can rouse you. A great TV show can give you goose bumps. That is not the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost enlightens minds, it enlivens senses, it brings light and new and more complete understanding.
“The first Comforter, or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence.” TPJS, p. 149.
“No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” TPJS, p. 328.
There are some people who have the Spirit with them in such abundance, that to be in their presence is to understand things better. Understanding, comprehension, light and truth—these are the effects of the Holy Ghost.
The word “apostle” means someone sent. An apostle of Jesus Christ must be sent by Him to claim to be His apostle.
Christ gave the power to baptize in 3 Nephi 11:19-21 by telling Nephi (and later others) He empowered them: “And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him. And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize.” Christ did not touch them because it is not required for this authority to be given by Him. He only said to them, “I give you power to baptize.”
Although the record does not mention any prior ordination, these disciples in all likelihood had been previously ordained. But when Christ came to the Nephites, He was renewing His church. All that was needed for Him to convey the power to baptize was (and is) for Christ to tell the recipient of the power that it is given.
“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. And I will show unto you hereafter that this record is true.” (3 Ne. 18:36-37.)
The Book of Mormon does show how it was given:
“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.” (Moro. 2:2.)
Laying on hands for the Holy Ghost is an ordinance belonging to an “apostle” or witness to whom Christ has ministered and empowered. Acts 1:22; see also Oliver Cowdery’s February 1835 charge to the twelve found at DHC 2:192-198, reproduced in part below.
In our own dispensation the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost was likewise an ordinance to be performed only by an “apostle” upon whom Christ laid hands:
“An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize; …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…” (D&C 20:38, 41.)
Section 20 was given in April 1830 when the term “apostles” was not associated with an organized church administrative body. At the time the revelation was given, the likely candidates for properly claiming the title of “apostle” were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. These four previously had the heavens opened to them. They had seen the plates of the Book of Mormon, and heard the voice of God declaring a message to them. However, there were many others in the earliest days who claimed to be “apostles,” and the term had no settled meaning in April 1830.
Today many Latter-day Saints associate the term “apostles” with a quorum that did not exist in 1830. Reference to this “quorum” could not have been the meaning used in Section 20. When this revelation was given, all the elders in the church called themselves “apostles” of Jesus Christ. That practice gradually changed after the quorum of twelve had been organized. Reinterpreting the term used in Section 20 because in 1835 there was an organization of a church quorum of twelve is not justifiable.
Arguably members of an administrative body, even if given the honorific title “Apostles,” would still need to qualify as “apostles” to have the power to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The quorum of twelve were chosen by the Three Witnesses and ordained as Apostles by them. Oliver Cowdery gave them a charge that imposed the same obligation on the quorum as would be expected of any “apostle.” Cowdery’s charge told them it was necessary to have Christ lay hands on them to complete their ordination:
“It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . . The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . . . You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves.” (DHC, 2:192-96, emphasis added.)
LDS practice does not limit laying on hands to an apostle Christ has touched and given power. Nor do members of the quorum of the twelve receive the charge given by Oliver Cowdery to the first apostles called by the Three Witnesses.
Many people foolishly conclude that the Holy Ghost is telling them something is “dark” or “evil” if it causes discomfort, pain or disappointment. The emotional response should be separated from deciding whether it comes from the Holy Ghost, or if the message is truthful. Does it enlighten? Does it impart knowledge? Does it cause a desire to change? Repent?