The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the Comforter–these are all titles referring to the same person. In fact, you’ve probably heard several other titles for this individual. But who is the Holy Ghost, really?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that there are three beings that make up the Godhead in heaven. These beings are God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. These three members of the Godhead are united perfectly together in bringing about the Plan of Salvation.
God, who is also referred to as ‘Heavenly Father,’ is the Creator of the Plan of Salvation. God is also the focus of worship for members of the Church.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer for all of God’s creations. All living creatures that have ever lived, or ever will live upon the earth are God’s creations. All things were created through Christ at the command of Heavenly Father.
The last member of the Godhead is the Holy Ghost, and He acts as a messenger. The Holy Ghost is different from our Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit does not yet have a body of flesh and blood. However, this spiritual state is necessary, as the Holy Spirit would not be able to perform all his sacred duties with a physical body (Doctrine and Covenants 130: 22).
Each member of the Godhead is their own entity in and unto Himself. They are separate beings. However, they are united as one in their overall purpose and objective. This belief tends to cause some confusion, because the Godhead is often seen as one substance, or essence, by many other Christian religions.
Responsibilities Of The Holy Ghost
The Spirit can give us many different types of messages. In times of temptation, He will warn us of the dangers of sin. When we are devastated by the loss of a loved one, the Holy Ghost will comfort us and remind us that we will see them again. There may be times that someone near us needs help, and the Spirit can guide us to him or her. There is really an infinite number of ways that the Spirit can act as a messenger for us.
One of the very important messages that the Spirit carries is a confirmation of gospel truths (Moroni 10:4-5). This is why so many members of the Church can tell you that they know the Church is true, even though they don’t have clear scientific data.
In addition to being a messenger, the Holy Ghost is a protector. Whether we are guided away from danger, or given help to overcome it, the Spirit will, essentially, have our backs. Many members of the Church have stories about a time they were prompted to do something, or not do something. Then they later realized that by following the prompting, they avoided very serious danger–even life-threatening danger. You yourself may even have a story like that.
The Holy Ghost is also a sanctifier. It is through the power of the Spirit that we can receive heavenly blessings. The Spirit can prompt us to do righteous things that will enlighten us. Through sanctification, we can become free from temptations and addictions. Orson Pratt taught, “Without the aid of the Holy Ghost, a person … would have but very little power to change his mind.” To return back to our Father in heaven, we needed the atonement to pay the price for our sins. But we also needed the Spirit, who can help us learn from our mistakes (Mosiah 5:2).
You may have heard the term the “light of Christ” before. But be careful not to confuse the light of Christ with the Holy Ghost. The light of Christ is given to everyone, and it encompasses our ability to know right from wrong. That knowledge is the light of Christ. The desire to choose the right, and the ability to change, comes from the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Spirit can be our teacher (John 14:26). Through Him, we can learn how to do what our Heavenly Father desires for us (2 Nephi 32:5). If we listen to Him, He can teach us how to make better choices, and live up to our eternal potential.
The Holy Ghost can also help us to understand difficult concepts (1 Corinthians 2: 9-12). I personally had an experience with this. There was a particular doctrine of the Church that I really struggled with: understanding why a certain behavior was wrong. It was especially difficult to understand because I didn’t struggle with this specific behavior personally. It didn’t seem wrong to me. So I couldn’t use my confusion as a rationalization for my behavior.
I understood the reasoning logically, but emotionally, it didn’t make sense. So I studied this topic. I read what the leaders of the Church had to say about it. I asked for understanding, and I received an answer. It wasn’t an answer that would satisfy many people—probably even most people. But it was exactly what I needed to hear to understand. Something confusing that had the power to turn me away from the gospel became a subject that now brings me peace.
The Holy Ghost vs. The Gift Of The Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost can speak to all people. You don’t need to be a certain age, race, or gender to feel the Spirit. You don’t have to have a particular religious or political affiliation to feel the Spirit. There would be no way for the Holy Ghost to confirm the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ if He could not communicate with the vast majority of the people on earth.
However, not everyone has the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 130:23). Those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost are blessed to always have his spirit to be with them. By having the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can constantly be spiritually improved. A person may hear the gospel and have the Spirit confirm the truth of it; but without the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, they will, unfortunately, inevitably lose that testimony.
Receiving The Gift Of The Holy Ghost
The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a privilege that is only allowed under certain conditions. After someone has been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they will be given a blessing. Members of the Church who have the Melchizedek Priesthood perform this blessing by placing their hands upon the head of the person being blessed. This action is referred to as the laying on of hands (Doctrine and Covenants 33:15). Then, through the Spirit, the priesthood members will bestow a blessing that will gift the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to the person being blessed (Acts 2:38).
There is a catch though. Like I mentioned earlier, the gift of the Holy Ghost is a privilege. You have to be worthy to have the Holy Ghost to be with you. There are locations and environments where it is difficult to feel the Spirit. One should strive to avoid those places.
In addition to physically being in a place where the Holy Spirit can dwell, members of the Church must also remember Jesus Christ always, genuinely repent of our sins, and partake of the Sacrament worthily. If a person who has the Gift of the Holy Ghost defiles his or her body through serious sin, the Holy Ghost may depart.
How Does The Presence Of The Holy Ghost Feel
There are about as many ways to feel the Spirit as there are people. Sometimes the Spirit can be felt very strongly. In these moments, people can be overcome with joy and even start crying in happiness.
Usually, though, the Holy Ghost is a very subtle companion (Helaman 5:30). There are many times in my own life where I’ll look back on an experience and realize I had been prompted to do something, however in the moment, I didn’t recognize the prompting as a message from the Holy Spirit.
Learning to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost in your life is a skill that will need to be acquired through practice. It will take time to understand how the Spirit communicates with you specifically. Many members of the Church pray for guidance to learn His unique way of talking to them. Even though I grew up in the Church, I was in college when I really understood how the Holy Ghost communicates with me personally.
The Spirit doesn’t always feel positive. The guilt we feel when we do something wrong comes from the Spirit. That is his way of trying to teach us to make righteous decisions. Even though feeling guilty sucks, we should be glad to feel it. We are on very spiritually dangerous ground when we no longer feel guilty for making unrighteous choices.
At the end of the day, gaining a belief in, and love of the Holy Ghost is up to you. He’s there. He wants to help you, and He can. But the Holy Ghost is like the sun, and you can stand in the light, or you can stand in the shadows.