Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Thinking the Spirit…

Posted by joespencer on March 6, 2007

Let me begin simply by stating that I approach this topic with fear and trembling.

The question I want to think about is quite simple: What is the Holy Ghost? And let me qualify that question simply by saying that I am only interested in what the scriptures have to say on the subject, at least for now.

The passage that seems to me to be of most interest is 3 Nephi 11:24-36. It’s a bit long, but let me excerpt here the most important points. The passage of course covers two topics: baptism practically, and baptism theologically. Baptism practically is perhaps simple: it is to be done by immersion, with certain words, and it is necessary to “inherit the kingdom of God,” according to a commandment issued by “the Father” to “all men, everywhere.” But baptism theologically is never so simple. Here is the initial passage:

Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one. (3 Nephi 11:25, 27)

It seems quite clear here that Jesus is offering a clarification of the theology of baptism: we are to be baptized in the name of three, and yet He says we are to be baptized in His name; but He clarifies that by saying that the three are one. Simple enough, right?

But here is a first difficulty: if they are one, then why is the Holy Ghost left out of the “in” business in verse 27? The Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son, but no such thing is said of the Holy Ghost. That this is not a textual oversight seems clear from verse 32: “and I [the Son] bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me….” Again the reciprocality between the Father and the Son is clear, but the Holy Ghost has some other place. Here the Spirit is not simply left out, but rather is taken up into the “Trinity,” but with a clearly different role: neither the Father nor the Son bears record of the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost bears record of both. There is something interesting at work here.

Krister Stendahl pointed out years ago that 3 Nephi is characterized by a Johannine theology, and I think this is vital to making sense of this passage: the Father and the Son bear record of each other in a kind of reciprocality, and the Holy Ghost has the task of bearing record of precisely this reciprocality, of the Father and the Son in relation. In fact, here is Joseph Smith speaking in what must be a related register:

Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages according to Abraham’s record are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.

I’m reminded of the intertwined Latin words testimonium and sacramentum. A sacramentum (from which our word “sacrament” obviously derives) was a solemnized contract/agreement between two people. So-and-so agrees to do x and so-and-so agrees to do y. In order to seal up the agreement, a third person was needed (usually an authorized governmental or religious figure), and this sealing was called the sacramentum. The third person who stood in sealed up the sacramentum precisely by offering a testimonium, which, as any etymological dictionary will tell you, means “the memory/witness of the third party (literally, stander),” from tri- sta- and mens. It is the third party that seals up the agreement or covenant between the two.

Doesn’t this sound like the passage from 3 Nephi 11?

I think this is especially important in light of the passages that discuss the “Holy Spirit of Promise,” both in the D&C (section 132, for example) and in Ephesians: in the latter, the promised Holy Spirit seals up the faithful in the Son as a son to the Father. That is, it follows our own sacrament prayer: we approach the Father in the name of the Son, at least, inasmuch as the Spirit is always to be with us, sealing up that covenantal relation (obviously, typological thinking plays a very important part here).

So let me get to the point, at last. It seems to me that one of Joseph Smith’s fundamental insights (read: most earth-shattering revelations) was about what we ought to recognize when we encounter the “Trinity”: a Father and a Son who are sealed up by the Holy Spirit of Promise. In other words: the Trinity gives us the Nauvoo temple ceremonies, especially the sealing ordinance (notice that I am bypassing the “metaphysical” insights one can speak of here). What we are to recognize is how it is that the Spirit binds up the two Adams Paul speaks of (even typologically… what Alma would call spiritually… cf. Alma 36-37). In fact, such an insight hands us right over to the thing that obsessed Joseph’s thinking more than anything else in the last few years of his life: what will happen at Adam-Ondi-Ahman, where Adam and Christ will come face to face, and all those who have ever held the keys of the priesthood (interpreted, I think, in the broadest sense; that is, not in terms of offices, but of keys) will have their sealings to that Father-Son pair sealed up by the most Holy Spirit (I won’t here go into how Brigham interpreted all this!).

Now, I’m just trying to think about this here. I’m still not sure how to think about most of this. But I’m beginning to recognize something as I read Joseph and Brigham and especially the D&C about all of this: the Spirit is, from start to finish, a question of community. And this calls into question, for me at least, what I have been taught all of my life: that the Spirit is a personalizer. As I go back through the scriptures and read each reference to the Spirit, I’m being struck by the fact that the Spirit is never a personalizer, but always a gatherer, a sealer, a unifier. And this, it seems to me, would have major implications for thinking about what it means to study, teach, think, act, and work by the Spirit.

But those implications remain to be worked out.

38 Responses to “Thinking the Spirit…”

  1. Robert C. said

    Joe, very thought-provoking. I am going to do something I rarely do but should do much more of, that is censor my own comment that I was about to post—it got way to rambly and distracted. Instead, let me just ask if you have any coherent thoughts on the Spirit of Christ and light of Christ as discussed in the D&C (sections 84, 88, and 93 in particular) as it relates to the Holy Ghost. The way that light is used in those passages suggests to me a very strong sense of community (better: communion) relating to the Holy Ghost.

    Also, regarding the Spirit as personalizer, I think I know what you mean (didn’t this come up in our discussion about applying the scriptures, how the Spirit can help us apply the scriptures to ourselves?). On the other hand, I think the difference you seem to be pointing to is not inherently a huge difference (but a difference with perhaps dramatically different implications). What I mean is that I think what is most important about the so-called personalizing role of the Spirit, as typically conceived, is that it bridges the distance between me as an individual and something else (God, or “a true principle/precept”). I think the direction you are going may indeed rule out the principle/precept notion of personalizing, but I’m guessing we won’t have to jettison the idea about bridging the distance between God and me-as-an-individual (although I think we indeed will be able to significantly refine this idea).

  2. John said

    Define personalizer, Joe.

    I believe the function of the Holy Ghost is more accurately described in the Book of Mormon than in the subsequent literature, primarily because the book itself is a product of direct revelation and so strongly influenced by the power of God himself. In the Johannine-esque theology, the Father and Son relationship is so indissoluble, there hardly seems room for anything else.

    Because of my predilection to give more credence to the 1829 descriptions of the Godhead, I have always felt a strong aversion to strictly anthropomorphized (personalized?) depictions, such as that found in D&C 130:22. (It is a gross oversimplification, IMHO.)

  3. “Personalize”: vt., to alter or to rework something had by a community in such a way that it applies to, can be appropriated by, or meets up with the needs of a particular individual; to foster appropriation or application.

    A scene is playing in my head:

    In the classroom, the teacher suddenly feels to move away from the “lesson plan” by sharing a story about how little Nicky down the road did such-and-such. The teacher assumes that this divergence is the Spirit’s attempt to “personalize” the lesson for someone in the class, who needs to hear this story. I assumes that the teacher thus assumes precisely because the teacher assumes that the Spirit is a “personalizer.”

    I hope this helps clarify that point.

  4. m&m said

    I personally think the Spirit can be both a personalizer and a communityizer. :) I think the Spirit as personalizer can also fulfill the role as communityizer. I don’t think these two concepts are mutually exclusive. But I really like the idea of the Spirit as a “gatherer, a sealer, a unifier.” But that can be done at a personal level, in a personalized way…and also, those personalized experiences can bring us together as a community of people who have had such experiences. Or maybe I’m rambling and don’t really get what you are driving at. :)

  5. robf said

    Joe, I like where this seems to be heading, but want to think about it some more. It makes me wonder about how the Spirit links the Father and the Son, and how it links us to them as well.

    I want to think more about the teachings about the Spirit in the Lectures on Faith, where the Holy Spirit seems to be like a shared mind between the Father and the Son. Is there a way that the Spirit links the Father and the Son and us so that we become of the same mind?

    Is one difference between the Light of Christ and the Spirit that the LOC helps us differentiate right from wrong, while the Spirit helps us determine what we need to do in the very moment to be living according to the mind of God, telling us “all things what you should do” ( 2 Nephi 32:5)? Would the Spirit be mediating our relationship with the Father and the Son, by making it possible to know their will and at the same time sealing our relationship to them somehow? Lots to think about.

  6. m&m said

    I think the Holy Ghost’s role is so multi-faceted and necessary to our salvation that in many ways, we really can’t compare it to the Light of Christ. One of the examples of this is that the Spirit is the Purifier. It is through Him that the Atonement is made effectual in our lives. We couldn’t come into the Lord’s presence (now or eternally) without the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some of how I see Him “linking” us to the Father and the Son is literally making us more like them, little by little, burning off the dross and refining us, making us pure.

    I do like this idea of having the “mind of Christ” (see 1 Cor. 2:16 — I think that whole chapter is relevant to this disucssion actually) as well, per comment #5.

  7. cherylem said

    Joe and everyone,
    First of all, great original post and great discussion.

    I especially liked the idea of the Holy Ghost bearing record of the Father and the Son but not precisely the other way around.

    I liked this too and wondered if you could reference it more specifically:

    “In fact, here is Joseph Smith speaking in what must be a related register:

    Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages according to Abraham’s record are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God
    the third, the Witness or Testator.”

    And I liked this:
    “It is the third party that seals up the agreement or covenant between the two.”

    And this was thought provoking:
    “As I go back through the scriptures and read each reference to the Spirit, I’m being struck by the fact that the Spirit is never a personalizer, but always a gatherer, a sealer, a unifier. And this, it seems to me, would have major implications for thinking about what it means to study, teach, think, act, and work by the Spirit.”

    Just to add a few thoughts:

    Our understanding of the Holy Ghost has evolved, I think, like everything else. The LDS belief in the three persons of the Godhead are reflected, as you have said, in the Book of Mormon (1829) in 2 Nephi 31 and 1 Nephi 10-11, but the actual conception of the Holy Ghost as a third separate person seems to have arisen later – perhaps in the Lectures on Faith. Therefore D&C 130:22-23 (1843) is a more involved statement than Article I, for instance.

    Regarding the Holy Ghost and the Godhead generally, it seems to me that the “Eternal Father” is the ultimate source of life for Christ and us (excluding perhaps the eternal uncreated intelligence or mind of man). He is the Father of our spirits (spirit bodies) and the great model for Christ.

    The Son (Christ) has these roles: creator and redeemer of the world; prophet, priest, king, living sacrifice. Father of our spiritual rebirth. Father by divine investiture. Father by virtue of being the creator.

    The Holy Ghost has these roles:
    intimately involved with Christ in our spiritual rebirth (Moses 6:64-68, 2 Nephi 31:17)
    intimately involved with Christ in justification adn sanctification
    With Christ, our advocate for the Father
    Source of all good gifts, including the remission of sins (see Moroni 7:44-48, John 14:26, 1 Nephi 10:17-19, 2 Nephi 31:17)
    We have no revelation about the nature of the person of the Holy Ghost except the “no physical body.”

    The light of Christ: not a person, but an impersonal power/law/light/love/intelligence of God that is in and through all things, a power used by all three persons of hte Godhead, and shines on all men.

    Given all that, this is what I understand about the Holy Ghost:
    There would be no working atonement without the Holy Ghost.
    There would be no creation, no spiritual rebirth, no sanctification, no good gifts that we would experience personally or communally, without the Holy Ghost.
    There would be no changed hearts without the Holy Ghost.

    So not only, I think, is the Holy Ghost the testator of the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost is essential in the progress of man back to the Father through Jesus Christ.

    The Holy Ghost is why I think it is so important to study the scriptures. It is through the scriptures that we know the Holy Ghost intimately, because just as the Holy Ghost testifies of Christ and the Father, in the absence of Christ personally, the “word” is the next best thing, and the Holy Ghost testifies to us as we read the scriptures, imperfect as they are. Our minds are opened, our knowledge multiplied, according to what we can learn and know personally.

    Which is not a statement of arrogance, but of humility. The Holy Ghost communicates with the minds of men and women. Smart men and women can sometimes think complicated thoughts, but sometimes the most wonderful communication is not between smart and smart , but between the Holy Ghost and the accepting mind, at whatever level that mind can accept. The communication, I find, is wordless, sometimes symbolic, sometimes transcending even the symbolic.

    Our danger is thinking too small about the Holy Ghost, in my opinion.

    Those are my thoughts for tonight.


  8. m&m said

    Our danger is thinking too small about the Holy Ghost, in my opinion.

    Didn’t Brigham Young say that most of us live far beneath our privileges with regard to the Holy Ghost?

  9. m&m said

    In other words, great thought! ;)

  10. John said

    Click here to view scriptures referenced by Cheryl (#7)

  11. cherylem said

    Thank you John. I see I made another reference error also: It is Moroni 7:44-48 (not Mormon)

    I still don’t know how to go back and make corrections, so . . . could you do this for me? [corrected]

    I should have first mentioned Moroni 10:1-18. It is interesting to me how very often the scripture will say something about the Spirit, and then about Christ (10:17-18). They are so closely related, I believe they actually cannot be separated, exactly. They appear do the work of God in tandem with each other. Often in the gospels we read that Jesus was filled with the Spirit.

    Regarding the Spirit being involved in our sanctification, see:Alma 13:12 and 3Nephi 27:20.
    I will post the reference to the Spirit being our advocate, later.

    Also, I wanted to add the idea that the Parable of the Ten Virgins has everything to do with the Holy Ghost:

    The oil in the Parable of the Virgins:
    D&C 45:
    56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
    57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.

    D&C 33:16-17
    16 And the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction; and the power of my Spirit quickeneth all things.
    17 Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom –

    That is, the oil in the lamp is the receipt of the Holy Ghost, the daily life lived with the Holy Ghost as guide.

    And I wanted to add that one way to look at all the uses of the oil in the church is to see/experience the Holy Ghost through the oil.

    And assuming that Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit/Spirit are basically all referring to the same thing.

  12. cherylem said

    Here is the reference for the advocate:
    Rom. 8: 26-27,
    26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
    27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

    (NIV: 26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.)

    Again, this is a shared role, and Christ and the Spirit are once again linked in action and purpose:
    • • •
    34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

    (NIV: 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.)

  13. I’m sorry, everyone, that this has taken me so long to get back to, but I have had a week far busier than normal.

    Simple stuff first: I took the Joseph quotation from Ehat & Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 65. It can also be found in TPJS, 190; Discourses of Joseph Smith, 35; and a number of times in The Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings.

    Robert asked very early, and the question has been persistent, regarding the “light of Christ.” I’m not sure I’m too comfortable presenting my opinion on this important question without going back through those passages quite carefully, but at least in the past I’ve found them to be teaching something radically different from what is usually read into them. I’m not sure what “the light of Christ” is in any metaphysical or doctrinal sense. I read the phrase as being a quite straightforward statement about how things look in “light of Christ.” This is not, however, to get into places where Jesus is simply called “the Light,” especially the “Light which lighteth every man,” etc. I’d have to take those up thematically, which I’ve not done.

    Several people have made mention to the Lectures on Faith. It’s been too long since I’ve spent any time in that lecture (I’m fascinated by lectures 1, 2, and 6, but the others have never really called to me much). Rob’s comments make me wonder what more is there that I’m missing. I’m not sure, in the end though, how profitable it is a source for thinking about these kinds of questions. I’m pretty well convinced that Joseph had a minor, if any, part to play in the production of those lectures (I understand them to be Sidney’s brainchild). I regard them as binding in the sense that the old proclamation on marriage is binding on us. The ideas are quite interesting, but I’m hesitant to accord them any lasting status, though I could be talked out of this by someone who has spent some serious time with them.

    A couple of people also brought up the idea that our conception of the Holy Ghost has evolved. I have to admit that I’m not very sympathetic to this point of view. Or rather, I agree that Mormon thinking about the Holy Ghost has evolved, but I think that the evolution that can be traced is a trajectory that leads away from, not towards, the truth of the matter–at least as it is laid out in the scriptures. Joseph Smith’s discourses in Nauvoo do not seem to understand the Spirit in any way too different from what is written in the Book of Mormon and in the earliest revelations. I think the one statement about the bodies of the Father and Son and the non-body of the Spirit have been taken to a rather radical extreme. (I should probably add that I’m very uncomfortable with the theological license taken in positions that advocate a kind of spiritual or light-ish substance that permeates everything, etc. Though I’m quite aware of D&C 88, etc., I’m hardly convinced that we read that revelation carefully enough to have anything coherent to say about most of it.)

    I should add to this last point that I think there is an important structure at work in the Book of Mormon that is, I’m pretty sure, universally unrecognized (I’m the only person I know of who has pointed this out): there seems to be something like a theological lapse in the stretch between Benjamin and Christ’s visitation. The small plates discuss the Abrahamic covenant, the interrelations of the Jews, the Gentiles, and Israel more broadly, and the theology of the Trinity extensively, and then Jesus does all over again when He comes, but there is basically no mention of any of these subjects in the meanwhile. I understand Jesus as coming back and returning things to what was taught “in the beginning,” turning back the clock if you will. Hence, to look to Abinadi as a resource for thinking about the Holy Ghost is, I think, not quite the approach the Book of Mormon itself suggests: Nephi and Jesus are the ones who have quite a bit to say about it, and their understanding seems to me to be remarkably like what Joseph taught throughout his life.

    As for the personalizer/communityizer distinction: if we can say that personalizer means precisely the process of disrupting one’s personal position so that one is directed beyond one’s own individuality toward others in the community, then I think the Spirit does both. But “selves” and “individuals” (at least in any absolute sense) are not, by definition, “part of” a community. Community outstrips all personal-ity, if I’m not misunderstanding the scriptures.

    Anyway, some responses for now. I do hope to hear more coming of this discussion.

  14. Cherylem said

    I was typing the following out while you posted – instead of trying to change this to incorporate what you just said in #13, I think I’ll just go with it:

    I’ve been thinking some more about Joe’s original post. Joe wrote:

    “The question I want to think about is quite simple: What is the Holy Ghost? And let me qualify that question simply by saying that I am only interested in what the scriptures have to say on the subject, at least for now.”

    Simple, ha.

    I printed out the discussion so far, spent some time reading it, and kept coming back to a basic question about Joe’s first question: “What is the Holy Ghost?”

    My question is: Why is it important to think about this? This may seem obvious, but the more I thought about it, the more unobvious it became. So Joe and others: why is Joe’s question important? Why is it important and/or necessary to know anything about the Holy Ghost?

    My second observation is regarding Joe’s next statement: “I am only interested in what the scriptures have to say on the subject, at least for now.”

    I think “discovering what the scriptures have to say on the subject” may be a several-month study. So again, simple? Joe, you are a master of understatement.

    I think the whole subject calls for some definition of terms and perhaps some methodology. For instance, so far:

    Joe has emphasized the Holy Ghost’s role as witness, testator and sealer, even witnessing and in some way sealing the Son to the Father, and us to the Father through the Son. (Did I get this right?) When speaking of this role of the Holy Ghost/Spirit, Joe mentioned the title: Holy Spirit of Promise. Joe has made a distinction between what is commonly thought of as the personalizing effect of the Holy Ghost as the gathering, communal purpose of the same.

    John believes more can be learned from the BOM regarding the function of the Holy Ghost than any other source, including any subsequent literature.

    Robf wonders about the difference between the Light of Christ/Holy Spirit, and speaks about the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the mind of the Father and the Son, and to our minds.

    m&m points out that the Spirit is the purifier, the medium that makes the atonement effectual in our lives, the means by which we enter God’s presence (m&m, do you have some references for this?)

    And then I jumped in with a bunch of stuff with perhaps random points. However, my main contribution is to suggest that where-ever the Christ is, the Holy Ghost also is – that the work they do they do together, not separately.

    So far, we have come up with different emphases and different roles and functions for the Holy Ghost, including witness, testator, sealer, an explanation of role within the trinity (Joe’s), a bridger of mental and spiritual distances (RobC), mediator, purifier, a “linker” (m&m), intimately involved with the work Christ also does (spiritual rebirth, justification, sanctification, our advocate with the father), source of all good gifts including the remission of sins (me).

    Already the subject is bigger than the handle we have on how to discuss it.

    Joe and others, where/how do you want this discussion to go? Can we bite off a small portion at a time?

    One question I have is this: Do all these terms refer to the same being: Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Spirit, Holy Spirit of Promise, Comforter?

    And one methodology that could be used is to actually find all the scriptures relating to this subject and set up a table as to what they are describing/teaching. As I said: months. And maybe this is not what Joe or others have in mind at all.

  15. nhilton said

    This is a great question, Joe! It’s really not possible to entertain it appropriately or completely on the blog. However, I appreciate the opportunity to collectively consider the question even if we don’t articulate our conclusions or thought processes well here.

    Last year I had to speak on the subject in Sacrament Mtg. I found it one of the HARDEST talks I ever gave. Why? Because so LITTLE is actually said about the Spirit in the scriptures. It’s all so implied, inferred, etc. So much of it comes through personal experience. Even the very gender of the HG is conjecture when you delve into all authoritative sources on the subject. The HG is *almost* as discreet as our Mother in Heaven. Asking any thoughtful member of the church “what is the HG?” will be met with an “ah…..” and then they’ll tell you some things that it is and some things that it isn’t but it’s really hard to excavate totally.

  16. robf said

    Cherylem, before we task you with creating the “Holy Ghost Omni-table” I think we should reconsider your first question. Why is it important to understand the Holy Ghost? We’re taught that the Holy Ghost leads to Christ, but I can’t recall any teaching that it is important to “know” the Holy Ghost like we are expected to “know” Christ and Heavenly Father. I’ll have to ponder that some more.

    In the meantime, I’ve never really been comfortable with the common teaching that “The Spirit of the Lord” that Nephi talks to in 2 Ne 11 is the Holy Ghost. Anyone else have any thoughts on that?

  17. Robert C. said

    I’ve been wondering a fair amount about this ever since BrianJ asked about the NT understanding of the Holy Spirit (in the context of Mary’s vision I think). And I agree it’s an overwhelming topic, and I think I deserve most of the blame for making this topic even more unamanageable by racing straight to questions about these issues in the D&C.

    I propose we start with Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and proceed chronologically through the Book of Mormon, looking closely to see how the concept develops, considering relevant terms in the OT pre-exile (and in Ether) as background, but not only indirectly considering how these terms are used the D&C or NT so as to keep the project manageable (and by “project,” I simply have in mind an on-going series of blog posts).

    I think robf’s question is a good starting point for this approach, but I think it might warrant a new thread. I don’t have time to start such a thread, at least right now, so let me just make a couple of preliminary thoughts here. 1 Ne 11:11 says:

    And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.

    Actually, I’m fairly stumped by robf’s question. I tend to think of this as the same as the Holy Ghost, but but perhaps I’m being too influenced by D&C 130:22 (“the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit“) in thinking about this. (Oops, I’m already straining the rule I just proposed in terms of trying to focus just on Nephi’s use of terms!) Or perhaps I don’t have the latter part of D&C 130:22 in mind enough: “Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us“—what Nephi is describing does not seem like this in-dwelling description of the Holy Ghost. Actually, I’m inclined to think that the distinction between Holy Ghost, Spirit, etc. isn’t important to Nephi, they all refer to God’s influence, with the exact form not really specified. I’d like to learn more about what “spirit” means in ancient Hebrew thought (esp. as it pertains to the spirit of life in the creation account), I think that would help me make progress on these questions….

  18. m&m said

    Because so LITTLE is actually said about the Spirit in the scriptures.

    This comment took me off guard a bit, because I feel there is actually quite a bit about the Spirit in the scriptures, even if some of it is also implied, inferred, etc. Am I missing something?

    Why is it important to understand the Holy Ghost?

    I think the fact that the gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the basic, “first ordinances” (a la AoF 4) gives Him a foundational place in our doctrine and in what we should be seeking to understand. His role is absolutely essential in our salvation. After all, JS said that you might as well baptize a bag of sand if you aren’t going to give the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism by water. :) I also think that understanding faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost can yield more understanding of the mysteries of God. The layers of the onion can be peeled off as we understand these gospel elements more, through study and experience.

    One last thought…JS talked about how it’s only after receiving the first Comforter and continuing faithfully after that reception that we have the possibility to receive the Second Comforter.

    I am amazed at the blessing of having the gift of the presence of a member of the Godhead. To me, the Holy Ghost allows me to feel the presence of God even as the veil is still there. He prepares us for being in their literal presence, whenever that might happen.

    m&m points out that the Spirit is the purifier, the medium that makes the atonement effectual in our lives, the means by which we enter God’s presence (m&m, do you have some references for this?)

    I have a more that I could add to that list if we are wanting to really flesh this out. I’ve been wanting to write up what I have gathered for a while (I have a couple of posterboards with things on them), so maybe I should think about doing that sooner than later? (Would that be helpful here?)

    In answer to Cheryl’s question about references:
    – purifier: Scriptures about sanctification (e.g., 3 Ne. 27:20) would cover this concept. I think this would be an example of where there is also a lot of inferred information about this…if we are sanctified as we receive the Holy Ghost, then scriptures about being sanctified, cleansed from stain, having our garments white, etc. could be connected. I also have read many GA quotes that in numerous places that support this whole concept.

    -If the purpose of the atonement is to cleanse us, then the connection I see is that the sanctification and purification that the Holy Ghost makes possible brings the power of the Atonement into our lives. Also, Elder Eyring once said (don’t have a reference, it was a talk my hubby heard) that when we feel the Holy Ghost, we can know that the Atonement is working in our lives.

    Perhaps the following is a similar comment:
    “Of all the things to which the Holy Ghost testifies, and which you may have just felt, none is more precious to us than that Jesus is the Christ, the living Son of God. And nothing is so likely to make us feel light, hope, and joy. Then it is not surprising that bwhen we feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, we also can feel that our natures are being changed because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We feel an increased desire to keep His commandments, to do good, and to deal justly.” (Also from Elder Eyring, from a talk given at a CES fireside.)

    And, from Pres. Faust: “The full benefit of forgiveness of sin through the Savior’s Atonement begins with repentance and baptism and then expands upon receiving the Holy Ghost.”

    As to the last point, on a poster board where I compiled a bunch of scriptures that I felt teach about the Holy Ghost, I have this quote at the bottom. Elder McConkie spoke of the Holy Ghost and how through Him we can receive “revelation and the sanctifying power which alone will prepare men for the companionship of gods and angels hereafter.” (I think this is from DNTC.)

    Also, “We can be sanctified by the Spirit, have dross and evil burned out of us as though by fire, become clean and spotless, and be fit to dwell with gods and angels.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Ten Blessings of the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov 1977, 33)

  19. brianj said

    Joe: thanks for the thoughts. You’ve put a lot on my mind over the last few days—with this post and others. I’m particularly interested in the concept of the Holy Ghost testifying of the unity of the Father and the Son. That seems so important that I am surprised I hadn’t noticed it before—it seems it should be obvious, like a giant iceberg. And like an iceberg, I think I barely grasp the full meaning of it, with so much “under the surface.”

    As for the Holy Ghost connecting with me personally: I think of this role as being served by Jesus, not the Holy Ghost. Jesus was the one who suffered my sorrows and groaned under my sins, just so that he could “succor me” (Alma 7:12).

    And while we’re on the topic…. I think I understand and agree with you, Joe, about the need to lose the personalization/the individual and be bound up in the community of the Father and Son. And surely that unity is so perfect that it’s not completely wrong to see it, as John says in #2, as leaving no “room for anything else.” But I wonder if this relates to the “condescension of God.” Couldn’t we see the act of including us in their unity—of making room for us—as the ultimate disturbance of that unity, and therefore an illustration of God’s condescension?

  20. Wow, I’m very pleased with the several directions things are going. Thank you all for your dedication and thinking.

    Of all that’s been said here, Brian’s words strike me deepest. Thank you for these thoughts. I have thought a great deal in past months about the place of the Holy Ghost in the Godhead, and along the lines of this post (as the communityizer, etc.), but I had not thought to recognize the role of the personalizer in Christ. That is truly beautiful, and it is something I need to think about a great deal more. Expect thoughts on this soon. Again, thanks.

    I would like to see this post proliferate into a series of posts that take up this question quite broadly. Months, Cheryl says. It’s worth it. I’d like to think these several threads out to their conclusions (whatever that means). I like Robert’s comments on how this might be done, though I’m inclined to say it would be best to begin with 3 Nephi, and then perhaps to take up other references in the Book of Mormon. I suppose I’m inclined in this direction because Jesus is so amazingly clear on the subject.

    In fact, let me connect up some of the basics of what He says with what m&m has said here. She introduces the subject of the Comforters, and this points to a kind of preparatory role played by the Spirit: as the “first” Comforter, the Spirit prepares one for the presence of the “second” Comforter. This seems implicit in Jesus’ discussion in 3 Nephi. He suggests there that the Israelites are to receive the presence of the Son, while the Gentiles are to have the Holy Ghost. Does this play into the themes of adoption in the scriptures? Or does this point to something else? Why this separation of tasks between the Son and the Spirit, and why is the split along the line drawn between Israel and the Gentiles? What does this teach us about the Abrahamic covenant?

    Let me address the 1 Nephi 11 question just briefly. I’ve heard (I imagine most have?) the idea that perhaps Nephi here encounters “the spirit of the Lord,” that is, the pre-mortal Jesus. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with such a reading, but I’m also not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of reading the Spirit there as appearing physically in some way. I think I’ll try to take up that passage on the wiki in the next few days, to see what I can’t sort out (I’ve got to spend 10 hours at a youth conference tomorrow, and I wish I could take my laptop to get something done during it!). At the very least, I think it is important to recognize that in the Book of Mormon broadly, there seems to be something of a distinction between “the Spirit” (which seems to be more connected with a kind of experience) and “the Holy Ghost” (which seems to refer to a particular Being or Person). But how this should affect our reading, I’m not sure.

    Lastly, I’ll write what should have been first: something of a response to Cheryl’s question about why this question of the Spirit is important. At least this: what led me to post on this was the relative disagreement (without contention, etc.) we had about what it means to teach by the Spirit, a disagreement that, I imagine, is at root wrapped up in how we think about the Spirit Itself. That is, teaching by the Spirit will mean something very different, depending on whether the Spirit is a personalizer or a communityizer, on whether the Spirit is something that dwells within me or not, on whether the Spirit is preparator or a sealer, etc. If for no other reason: to think this question is to prepare ourselves to read the texts that deal with the Spirit….

    Thanks again all. This is the ideal kind of conversation, the very sort of thing I hoped would happen on this blog personally.

  21. m&m said

    Jesus was the one who suffered my sorrows and groaned under my sins, just so that he could “succor me” (Alma 7:12).

    Hmmm…but how does He succor you? Isn’t that through the Holy Ghost? I think the Holy Ghost’s role is not desiring to create a personal connection with Him per se, but His role is also inseparable in the relationships we want to build with the Savior and the Father. I feel that however I know and feel connected with the Savior and the Father is only through the Holy Ghost’s power and influence in my life. Jesus “succors” (runs to and comforts) us via the Comforter. To have the Spirit with us can mean to have the Savior with us until the point when He personally can. (Although, if we read the Savior had the Spirit with Him, I wonder if His role would end upon reception of the Second Comforter. Somehow I doubt it. I suspect it’s about an adding upon, not replacement. But I’m not sure since we don’t hear about the Holy Ghost being invited to the abode that will be created when one reaches that pristine point.

    I’m still a bit confused about the communityizer role when I think of how personal the role of the Holy Ghost all feels. I know that the Spirit plays a huge role in gathering, in bringing us together as the Savior’s people. But I also feel that He personally gathers me to Him. I think I might be getting caught up in semantics, but I worry that looking through only the lens of communityizing might cause some to miss the personal nature of what the Spirit can do as well. Joe, can you help me here? Sorry if I’m being dense.

  22. I’ve made a few comments at the wiki (1 Nephi 10:11… not 11:11, notice). This verse marks the first mention of the “Holy Ghost” as “Holy Ghost” in the Book of Mormon, and it is in the context I mentioned above, of the Holy Ghost working on the Gentiles. There are a number of instances of the same title in the subsequent discussion that closes chapter 10, and then three or four during Nephi’s vision in chapters 11-14. And then reference disappears until 2 Nephi 26. This has got to be quite significant. The fact that usage of the title seems to be so carefully placed suggests to me that the Book of Mormon is drawing a distinction between the “Spirit” and the “Holy Ghost,” though I imagine the distinction is not as strong as one might suppose (they might be regarded as titles for the same “Being,” but each title might denote a very different function and context, for example). So, here is a start. Any thoughts?

  23. brianj said

    m&m, #21: I don’t think we are in disagreement. The “how”—the way in which Christ connects with us—is surely through the Spirit. But my point was to ask “how” the Spirit—or the Godhead in general—knows what kind of comfort we need; i.e. How does God know what I need? Alma 7:12 suggests that it is because of Christ’s mortal experiences that he knows us, knows how to comfort us, understands our personal needs, etc.

  24. m&m said

    Ah, yes. OK, I’m getting more what you were driving at. I am interested that those verses also say that the Spirit knoweth all things…but the Savior’s experiential pain gives Him an extra, added measure of empathy, apparently…which might be interesting to think about in terms of our own pain and afflictions. ??

  25. robf said

    One problem I have with 1 Nephi 11 as Nephi meeting the Holy Ghost is that such an experience would appear to be unprecedented in all of scripture and modern Church history. I’ve heard some claim it is such a remarkable experience because of that, but I’m not sure that makes any sense, though I’m unsure how else to read it.

  26. Cherylem said

    By the way, for what it’s worth, This is from the Wikipedia entry on Holy Spirit. I have no idea of the author, but sometimes these come from the Encyclopedia on Mormonism (may not be the case in this instance, however):

    Latter-day Saint views

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the name “Holy Spirit” has many references, depending on its usage and the context in which it appears. The term “Holy Spirit” can denote the Holy Ghost; Spirit; the Spirit of God; Spirit of the Lord; Spirit of Christ (or Light of Christ) or even Spirit of Truth. Latter-day Saints teach that these terms are distinct from one another, showing the many aspects and/or functions of God.

    For example, the Spirit of God has been used as a synonym for the “Holy Ghost”, which is a usage that denotes the nature of the Holy Ghost, a distinct personage of the Spirit and an actual distinct and separate person of the Godhead. Spirit of God has also been used to denote a force or power which is impersonal and fills the immensity of space. This latter use is not the Holy Ghost, but denotes a “non-personage”, as the Power of God or the Light of God that emanates everywhere.

    Examples of these distinctions are shown within the Bible (King James Version) verses as:

    Holy Spirit – Psalm 51:11; Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13

    Spirit – Romans 8:16

    Spirit of God – Genesis 1:2; Exodus 31:1; 1 Samuel 11:6; Romans 15:19

    Spirit of the Lord – Judges 3:10; Isaiah 11:2; Acts 8:39

    Spirit of Christ – Romans 8:9 (notice here how the word “Spirit” is linked to “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ”); 1 Peter 1:11

    Light of Christ – 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 5:14; 1 John 1:7

    Spirit of Truth – John 14:17; John 16:13; 1 John 4:6

    There are many other such references within the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

    In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Holy Ghost is considered a third and individual member of the Godhead; by virtue of their holy nature and the everlasting covenant existent between them, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit operate as “One God” (united in the attributes of perfection and pursuit of a common, divine goal). The Holy Spirit exists as a distinct and separate being from the Father and the Son, having a body of spirit with no flesh and bones, whereas the Father and the Son are said to be resurrected individuals having immortalized bodies of flesh and bone.

    Though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is technically “Non-Trinitarian”, their belief in the Godhead is often misinterpreted as an endorsement of Trinitarianism.

  27. robf said

    In my own post starting to think through some of the Biblical texts about the Spirit, I’m really struggling to think of how to best start thinking the Spirit. This is bringing out what I see as the main difficulties in studying the scriptures. How should we best go about it? Should we view all scriptures equally, as providing a unified view? Or should we try to look at them as a collection of different texts, with multiple authors and views? If so, how do we best determine how many voices are present, and what they are? Since there are so many competing thoughts on who wrote various parts of the Bible, how do we deal with that? Are all parts of the Bible equally valuable? How would we answer that question? What about modern scriptures, should they take precedence? To what extent are we justified in reading our modern understandings of modern LDS scriptures back into the ancient texts? What about the teachings of the modern prophets?

    In short, I find that trying to better understand the scriptural teachings about the Spirit is really problematic and fraught with peril at every turn. Its pretty scary, really. It seems like a vital topic, but one that despite all our talking about the Holy Ghost, is very poorly developed in a rigorous or systematic way within our teachings.

    I’m wondering if we can really get a clear view of the Spirit from the scriptures, or if this another instance in which we all see “the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (JS-H 1:12) or any of the scriptures, for that matter?

  28. m&m said

    all parts of the Bible equally valuable? How would we answer that question?

    Probably with the Spirit. :) Seriously, though, I don’t think there is any way to hope to gain any comprehensive understanding about what the Spirit is except through the Spirit. I think rather than be fearful, we should be hopeful that the cohesiveness that needs to fall together will if and as we study something this significant. And that whatever is less significant (if there is anything in that category) will fall out of place in the study process. This from someone who is still probably looking more from the outside in on that kind of process (I suspect my study has only scratched the surface, and has been less Biblical per se and more comprehensive, but still, the phrase “fraught with peril at every turn” just sounded so depressing.) :) Maybe it needs to not be looked at something that needs to be fleshed out in a “rigorous or systematic way” but rather within the fleshy tables of the heart in a quite, dew-from-heaven kind of a way.

    OK, sorry, late-night ramblings….

  29. robf said

    m&m, thanks for the thoughts. I’m just wondering if we’re supposed to be asking these types of questions about the Holy Ghost. I can find all kinds of scriptural injunctions to seek after Christ, and to pray to the Father, but don’t really know that praying “about” the Holy Ghost is appropriate or wise.

    So, I guess I sit here like Nephi–knowing that the Lord “could” reveal this to me, but maybe not so sure that he “will”! Leaving me to ponder it in my heart, and online.

  30. Joe Spencer said

    Rob, I will have more to say on this subject shortly, though in the meanwhile (sorry, m&m), I remain in fear and trembling.

  31. cherylem said

    Returning to this post of long ago, I participated in something recently that you might find interesting. A friend of mine (J Harold Ellens ) is interim pastor at a local Presbyterian church. For the past year or more they have been studying and focusing on the Holy Spirit, both in sermons and in a study group that meets after church. Their studies led them to the decision that the Holy Spirit was evident in more denominations than their own, and they have begun to explore how the Holy Spirit works in other faiths. Eventually it was Mormonism’s turn and last Sunday Hal invited me and my daughter to come and serve as a resource person for Mormonism. That is our invitation to be present was not a request for a presentation, but rather a request for us to be there to answer questions.

    Since I am pretty comfortable in this type of environment I immediately said yes, and my daughter was game too.

    It was astounding. I brought some information on the First Article of Faith that I have taught in RS and GD, including an introduction to the light of Christ as this is different than the Holy Ghost. I also brought some information regarding the parable of the ten virgins and their oil symbolizing the Holy Ghost.

    The questions came fast and furious and the 45 minutes allotted flew by. At the end Hal laughed and said, “Cheryl, you have almost converted us all.” Then someone said, “Can you come back?” Another said, “Can you come back next week?”

    Of course I said yes. But this was astounding on several levels:

    1) They had spent a WHOLE YEAR, by choice, studying the Holy Ghost
    2) They were prepared to receive information about and by the Holy Ghost
    3) We truly had something new to bring them.

    I remembered when we talked about spending a year studying the Spirit, either here or on another post. Yet here is a group of people that have done just that. And when I began to talk to them about our understanding of the Holy Ghost and its role, they were spellbound.

    It was remarkable.

  32. robf said

    Wow, hope you will update us on the next visit with them. What kind of questions did they have? What did they find new or compelling?

  33. cherylem said

    I thought I’d return and report (see #31). I once again attended this Presbyterian study group. My daughter had a migraine so I went alone. I actually printed out this entire post and subsequent discussion, in preparation for my second meeting with this group, so thank you Joe for this discussion.

    Robf#32, first, to answer your question, what did they find compelling at our first meeting:
    1) This church (the Presbyterian) emphasizes Jesus as Savior above all else. The fact that they were studying the Holy Ghost was a bit of a departure for them theologically. That is, they really don’t have a doctrine (as far as I can tell, and I can be wrong) about the daily workings of the Holy Ghost. So my immediate plunge into our First Article of Faith fascinated them, and the fact that I was prepared to talk about the Holy Ghost as something (someone) important, critical, and DAILY found a receptive audience.

    2) The idea of the Light of Christ also fell on fertile ground. This was something they had discussed in other terms.

    3) I asked them if they wanted to hear my conversion story (when I was 27) and they were all enthusiastic about this. I told them an abbreviated version, emphasizing the wash of the spirit that I felt at that time. Several of them had also felt this “wash” at important times of their lives – it resonated with them.

    4) I emphasized receiving the Holy Ghost as a gift and as an ordinance at baptism. This was something new to them and they were very interested.

    That’s what I remember about session #1.

    In between I emailed Hal and thanked him for the opportunity and asked him if he minded if I brought Books of Mormon to give away for round 2. He agreed.

    And I wanted to also mention that Hal kept the discussion positive throughout during the first session. He mentioned Mormons he had known – especially as a chaplain in the Army (Hal is in his late 70s and has a storied career). His wife MaryJo had grown up in a southwest community and had dated several Mormons.

    So in general session 1 was positive and even thrilling

    Session 2 was no less so, though more broad-based. Remember that I was there to answer questions, which I did, while continually bringing every discussion that I could back to the subject of the Holy Ghost.

    I began with a brief discussion of what the gift of the Holy Ghost means – that we believe in constant revelation from the Spirit – a true companionship.

    I first answered questions: do you believe in the Devil (most of the people in the group do not believe in a literal devil – and I will not explain here my own beliefs on this subject). I explained in broad brush terms Mormon cosmology, talking about the ultimate sin – the sin against the Holy Ghost (again emphasizing that importance). I mentioned our belief in a pre-existent “war,” relating this to some writings from the Second Temple period for Hal’s sake (200 BC to 300 AD or so)

    Could I explain our temple worship? (There is a temple within 10 minutes of this location) Again, broad brush terms, especially noting that our temple worship symbolically brings us out of the void into experience, journeying through life until we re-enter the presence of God. I emphasized our belief that the fall is a fall UP. I knew this would resonate because Hal has actually written about his belief in a positive fall, and I knew he would have shared this belief. I explained our belief that we existed before we were born, and would continue to exist after death. I introduced the idea of eternal progression.

    Do you believe in multiple lives? someone asked. No, I replied.

    Question about temple marriage. Why can’t everyone attend a temple wedding? I explained that the wedding ceremony was actually the highest ordinance we have. I described the sealing room and invited everyone to take a tour of the temple the next time – whenever that is – that it is refurbished/remodeled. I also acknowledged, in response to a question, that some LDS do not understand the terrible and often lasting pain it causes non-LDS family members who are excluded from their children’s weddings. (I have some experience with this – as probably some of you do also.)

    Request to see our LDS scriptures. I handed mine around. Question as to whether we use only KJV, accompanied by a comment from a woman that she finds KJ impossible to understand.

    Question about baptism for the dead. I explained this in a way I thought they could understand: that entrance into the kingdom of God is an opt-out program, and that one of the things the temple symbolizes, and we become part of that symbol – is the universality of the gospel, the universality of God’s desire for everyone to re-enter his presence. Hal interjected: the temple, to a Mormon, he said, is a gift of grace.

    Yes, I agreed.

    I brought us back to the Holy Ghost. I used some of the materials above (some of my own, I admit, in #7) to explain how important the Holy Ghost is.

    From a man: “We should have been more prepared to talk to you.” He had printed out our articles of faith. He asked about #5, the laying on of hands.

    I explained, briefly, that we are a restoration church. That we believe authority was lost. That in our church laying on of hands is critical – that it serves as a conduit from God through the priesthood via the spirit to give power or healing to the person so blessed. I explained a little about the priesthood and about our overall organization. I mentioned very briefly callings (and repeated, from session #1, that we’re an all-volunteer organization).

    “I am very interested in this” the man said. “Can you send us your meeting schedule?”

    I explained about wards, about geographic boundaries. My ward is in a different stake, but I invited all of them to come to a GD lesson after the first of the year and hear a lesson on the BOM, and after our time flips to 1:00 so they could attend without missing their own church. (Hopefully I will still be teaching – so many bloggers have called for my head as I am a signer of What Women Know!)

    “We want you to come back again,” someone said.

    Hal cleared his throat. “Maybe next summer” he suggested. (as in, NOT next week again).

    The man again asked for our meeting schedule. He gave me his address so I could mail the same to him. I am mailing him schedules of wards close to him, and mine.

    I told everyone I had brought Books of Mormon, with Hal’s permission. If they wanted to, they could take them home.

    There were 16 people in the room. I gave away 10 books. That’s pretty good, as one person had told me last week she already had one, and there were some couples.

    My experience is that when 10 Books of Mormon are given away in that kind of environment, at least 1 or 2 baptisms will result.

    And I want to address this in my next comment: bringing people to church (which I have done twice in the last year). But I may not write this until tomorrow.

    All in all, two good discussions with Presbyterians on thinking the Spirit.

  34. Jim F. said

    Very impressive, Cheryl.

  35. brianj said

    Cheryl — thanks for all the detail. I kept trying to think of a clever way to put this, but I’ll just say it straight: I feel very blessed to be able to participate in this blog with you.

  36. Joe Spencer said

    Fantastic, Cheryl. Thanks for the report.

    What a work this is, no? Onward, sister, and on, on to the victory!

  37. robf said

    Thanks Cheryl, sounds like a wonderful conversation you had there. I wonder if we are having enough of these kinds of discussions? Do we really know what others are searching for that we might be able to help them with? What do they bring to the table that we may not be considering? Thanks again for sharing!

  38. Robert C. said

    I immediately thought of Cheryl’s experience when I received an email announcing a 2-day Calvary Chapel bible study camp in Salt Lake, Feb 5-6 (see here for details). I won’t be able to attend, but perhaps others who follow this blog might? I’ve had very positive experiences through my efforts to learn more about the Bible from my Christian brothers and sisters, and I think this camp would be a great experience.

    I will say, however, that I think it’s important to be quite careful in such situations that one’s interest is pure in the sense that it’s not to do missionary work per se. Rather, I would think that one’s “purpose” for something like this should be first and foremost to learn about the Bible; secondarily, perhaps, to learn more about the way others approach the Bible; next, perhaps, to benefit from a mutual exchange of ideas and thoughts, including the opportunity to share your own ideas about approaching the Bible, which may or may not lead to so-called missionary opportunities.

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