What is THE ESSENTIAL Role of the Holy Ghost?
By Anthony Sweat
Let me start by asking some questions:
-How can you know if the atonement is working in your life? -How can you know if you’ve been cleansed of the sins for which you’ve repented? -How can you receive the Lord’s grace—his strengthening and enabling power—in your everyday life? -What makes it possible for the Savior’s healing and understanding power to come to us? -How can we have our hearts purified, our very natures changed and transformed into better people?
I’ll get back to the answer in a moment…
Often when we teach and speak about the roles of the Holy Ghost we overlook perhaps his most important function. He is the comforter, yes. Gratefully, He guides us. He testifies of eternal truth, of course. All of those roles are very, very important. However, if we only teach these things (which, in my experience, is the most common way people discuss the Holy Ghost in church settings), I think we miss his most essential duty: to deliver the blessings of the atonement of Jesus Christ into our lives. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve taught, “The gift of the Holy Ghost … is the messenger of grace by which the blood of Christ is applied to take away our sins and sanctify us” (“The Power of Covenants,” Ensign, May 2009).
Did you catch that?
It is the Holy Ghost that cleanses our sins and purifies us. Most people, especially most youth, don’t seem to grasp that concept. For example, ask this question to your class: Who cleanses our sins? Most people will say, “Jesus.” While it is Jesus’ atonement that made it possible for us to be cleansed from the stain of sin, it is the Holy Ghost—as the messenger or deliverer of the atonement—who actually does the cleansing. Take a look at these scriptures (the 3 Nephi 27:20 one is listed in the YM/YW learning outline next to “The reception of the Holy Ghost sanctifies us”; emphases added in the following scriptures):
- • 2 Nephi 31:17 “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”
- • Alma 5:54 “they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit”
- • Alma 13:12 “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence”
- • 3 Nephi 27:20 “Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”
This isn’t just a Book of Mormon doctrine. Paul referred to it multiple times as well in the New Testament:
- “That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:16)
- “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Perhaps my favorite one does come from the Book of Mormon, however:
- “And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ” (Moroni 6:4).
If I were facilitating this learning outline on the roles of the Holy Ghost, I would emphasize this doctrine as clearly and with as much holy passion as possible!
(Can I get an Amen?! Who can say, “Hallelujah?!). Why, you might ask? Because not only is this truth (that the Holy Ghost delivers the atonement into our lives) perhaps the single most important function of the Spirit, it is also perhaps the least understood, and possibly the most applicable in our lives. Just look at this quote from President Eyring (one of my favorites): “If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost during this day, or even this evening, you may take it as evidence that the Atonement is working in your life. For that reason and many others, you would do well to put yourself in places and in tasks that invite the promptings of the Holy Ghost. …The reception of the Holy Ghost cleanses us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” (CES Fireside for Young Adults, September 10, 2006, Brigham Young University).
On another occasion President Eyring said, “Reception of the Holy Ghost is the cleansing agent as the atonement purifies you…. And when he is your companion, you can have confidence that the Atonement is working in your life” (“Come Unto Christ,” Brigham Young University Fireside, 29 October 1989).
So, who wants to be cleansed from sin? Who wants to know if they have been forgiven? Who wants to be strengthened and helped by Jesus’ grace? Who wants to be understood and guided? Who wants to be healed from hurt? Who wants to be changed and transformed into a better person? Who wants the atonement? Then get the messenger of mercy, the deliverer of divinity, the agent of the atonement: The Holy Ghost.
Anthony discusses other truths related to the Holy Ghost (such as “How Can I know When the Holy Ghost is Speaking to Me?” “How Can I Avoid Being Deceived When Receiving Revelation?” and “How can I Recognize and Develop Spiritual Gifts?”) in his book HOW? Essential Skills for Living the Gospel . ( http://www.anthonysweat.com/