Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Can the Holy Ghost really dwell in us?

Posted by Robert C. on March 16, 2007

Because of Joe and robf’s recent posts on the Holy Ghost, I started looking more at D&C 130:22-23:

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.  [emphasis mine]

As a testament to the usefulness of the wiki, I noticed that someone posted some relevant discussion and a link to the Book of Abraham project which is spearheaded by W. V. Smith at BYU. What is interesting is that according to William Clayton’s diary and another account thought to be recorded by Willard Richards, Joseph Smith taught that “a person cannot have the personage of the Holy Ghost in his heart” (emphasis mine; the wiki has links to these sources), contrary to what the D&C passage says, “were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”

How are we to make sense of this?!

First let me say that, although I understand these sorts of issues might be a testimony-shaker for some, I find these sorts of issues exciting. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it has to do with the fact that oftentimes at church I feel like we are told all the answers by our leaders and we just have to do what we already know to be true (“the thinking has already been done”—what I think is most wrong about this phrase is that it leaves no room for one to worship with all one’s heart, mind, and strength…). Without getting distracted by this topic of truth, knowledge, and thinking as typically perceived in Church culture, let me just say that I think this is a good opportunity for us to really think carefully about what we take as authoritative and what it means to study the scriptures.  I think that we will learn much more about these issues by taking these ideas in their historical situation of tension than we would if the prophet came out and simply “set the record straight” for us, letting us off the hook in terms of studying and thinking for ourselves (perhaps we might think similarly about the fact that Joseph Smith didn’t really get to finish the JST…).

I think one very interesting issue this raises is whether we should be more “loyal” to Joseph Smith (setting aside the issue of reliability of the diaries for now) or to the “current Church” (by which I mean roughly that we should accept the canon of scripture as we have received it). I’m somewhat inclined toward the latter, and I think this would be the more common view in Church culture (not that I think this makes it more true, I’m just trying to point out that I’m just “floating with the current” on this one, likely out of laziness, though I think the more common view among so-called intellectuals would be to read this as an editorial “mistake” so perhaps I’m swimming against the current here; the more common cultural belief I think is largely a result of historical controversies such as Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory which are typically dismissed by saying that current prophets trump old prophets, in addition to a general aversion to sticky historical issues). So I’m inclined to believe (presumably, contra Joseph Smith, and Joseph Fielding Smith as I’ll discuss below . . !) that the Holy Ghost can dwell in us because that’s what the D&C passage says (another possibility is that “Holy Ghost” in this D&C passage is “really” referring to the Spirit instead; see more on this difference below).

If (IF!) the Holy Ghost can dwell in us, what is a personage? I think this is an interesting question to consider, even if one ultimately decides to reject this phrase in the D&C as a mistake. Joseph Smith used “personage” to describe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (if you have access to Gospelink, a simple search for “Holy Ghost personage” in Ehat and Cook’s Words of Joseph Smith will give you several examples). This might lead us to think of the Holy Ghost in terms of a human form, though I think there are other interesting possibilities which I tried to sketch on the wiki (where I link to and briefly discuss relevenat entries in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). In Doctrines of Salvation, Joseph Fielding Smith is recorded as saying:

The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, and has a spirt body only. As a Spirit personage the Holy Ghost has size and dimensions. He does not fill the immensity of space, and cannot be everywhere present in person at the same time. He is called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Truth, and the Comforter. [p. 38]

Having been raised in the Church, I’ve heard something like this before, but I never knew where it came from, so it was interesting for me to find this source. However, I’m hesitant to believe this unquestioningly. Joseph Fielding Smith also makes a distinction between the Holy Ghost and “the Spirit which fills the immensity of space and which is everywhere present. This other Spirit is impersonal and has no size, nor dimension” and should be referred to as an “it” rather than a “he” (“although when we speak of the power or gift of the Holy Ghost we may properly say ‘it'”) [p. 49]. But enough from Joseph Fielding Smith—I think it’s interesting to know where beliefs such as this come from, but I don’t think we should simply take what Joseph Fielding Smith says (esp. since it seems some of this was simply recorded by Bruce R. McConkie in personal correspondence) as an excuse not to study out these issues for ourselves (esp. in light of what seems to be some historical uncertainty regarding these doctrines).

I need to conclude this (time and space limitations!), but I’m not quite sure how yet. I recently expressed my agreement with Matthew that we should be careful not to read the scriptures as if they were univocal. I think this is particularly true regarding the Holy Ghost (the Wikipedia article on “Holy Spirit” interestingly notes that the term “Holy Ghost” was adopted from the Church of England’s Common Prayer Book in the King James Bible; I think it’d be very interesting to try to trace the history of this usage back through Latin and Greek writers closer to NT times…). For the most part, I don’t think it really matters whether we conflate the Joseph Fielding Smith’s Holy Ghost vs. Spirit distinction—in fact, I think for most passages of scripture this would be a hopeless and pointless endeavor. Nevertheless, my hope and belief is that in pondering these issues we will be able to draw closer to the Spirit, enjoy the Gift and gifts of the Holy Ghost more, and that this pondering will help us come to know God’s word better. (Notice I’m trying to make up for the lack of substantive closure in my post by giving it the form of a Sacrament meeting talk conclusion!)

28 Responses to “Can the Holy Ghost really dwell in us?”

  1. robf said

    Robert, as I’ve pondered these questions this week, I’ve frankly gotten almost nowhere. I read the D&C 130 wiki post again this week, along with almost every other scripture I could find about the Spirit/Holy Ghost. It’s probably been twenty years since I’ve been as confused by the scriptures as this whole thing has me right now. Pretty humbling.

  2. m&m said

    a person cannot have the personage of the Holy Ghost in his heart”

    With some things I have read lately, I think there may be something different from the “personage” and the influence of the Holy Ghost that can dwell in our hearts. He as a personage can only be in one place at a time, according to whatever I read (wish I could remember what it was!) It takes me back to my mission when we would use the sun analogy; the sun is an entity but we can all feel its influence. That doesn’t mean the sun itself is “on” us, but we can be affected by it. (OK, maybe not the best analogy, but that’s sort of how I deal with this seeming discrepancy). Maybe there is something about Him being a Being of spirit that allows that influence to spread or be given via priesthood power? I dunno. I don’t pretend to have sure answers, but that is what has been swimming in my head.

  3. m&m said

    Another scripture that is interesting with relation to this discussion is the following:

    Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
    Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground (D&C 8:2-3.)

    Not that I know what exactly that tells us with relation to the questions posed, but thought it was interesting. :)

  4. Matt W. said

    I recently thought about something like this, but am still vague on my conclusions.

    See here.

  5. Jim F. said

    Robert, a note about your wiki entry: I don’t see why “exterior appearance” is at all forced. Spirits have shape and form, the equivalent of exterior appearance, or else we could not see them. They have material bodies, though of “a finer matter,” matter that can be seen by spiritual eyes. So it seems to me that the best case for “personage” is that it means “appearance.” Not, for example, that Joseph is recorded as saying, “Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage.” I don’t think that makes any sense unless “personage” refers to a shape. (I also don’t think we can completely depend on the 1828 Webster’s for helping us understand Joseph’s language. That Noah Webster found certain words to be used in the ways he reports doesn’t mean that frontier people used those words in the same way.)

    By the way: I corrected a typo in the wiki but forgot to click on “minor edit only.”

  6. Rob Osborn said

    As a side note of pondernace-

    God speaks to us in three ways-

    1. His own voice
    2. By the voice of his servants, including- mortal, immortal, or in spirit form
    3. By the holy ghost

    Now to bring logic in to play. If the Holy ghost is an actual personage, he can only be in one place at a time. There are however many instances where whole multitudes were filled with the holy ghost all at once. So is this “holy ghost” ministering angels? They can’t really be because ministering angels do not minister the “holy Ghost”, they minister as agents sent from god. So then is this holy ghost a substance with real physical properties? It is. So then, if the holy ghost can physically dwell as a literal substance in multiple people at the same time then it is not actually a real personage, neither is it a ministering angel as they have their own mission, unless one wants to call a spirit a holy spirit.

    Maybe we could look at it from a different dimensional state. For instance water can be both a solid and a gas (ice, steam). For wording here we could say that although ice and steam are both water, they have different definitions and usages. Maybe the holy ghost can be viewed as the same- for instance- rather than specifying the term “holy ghost” to a personage, what if we just called this substance (which it truly must be) a gas! Able to exist everywhere at once and yet be separate all in the same note. What if we called this gas the light of truth! This light of truth is kind of like radiation in the sense that it leaves a mark wherever it is and penetrates. This light of truth which can be viewed like radiation is spread out from the presence of god to fill the immensity of space as a gaseous substance. Because it is finer than our matter which we can see it is called “spirit” (noting the invisible).

    Now, the way this all works is that the holy ghost is or could be nothing more than the “light of Christ” which is in all things. This light can dwell in our hearts in the form of truth. I see the holy ghost as more being like the light of Christ than anything else. So much so that it is very hard to distinguish the two in purpose and being. The light of christ is something that could actually penetrate our hearts. We often hear of people who “exert” their spirit when they talk. People who listen to these people feel their spirit in their own hearts. The question is though, if my spirit came out of my body and went into them? I would surely hope not, eh eh! So what then are we truly talking about then when we feel each other’s spirit? And, how does that distinction help us relate to what this holy ghost is or how it works?

  7. Rob Osborn said

    To help clarify my last post as I was obviously rammmmmbling on….

    What I was really trying to say is that maybe we are visiting this subject witha too literal approach. When we go to a scout jamboree we say that we feel the great “scout spirit” there. But we do not really feel an actual separate “scout spirit” enter our body, we just feel the going ons of the matter with our spirit as others exert their doings. Kind of like spiritual communication. maybe this “holy ghost” is the same thing. Where lots of good works are centered in a physical area we can say that we feel the spirit of the lord- not that his actual spirit enters our body, but that we are in spiritual communication with the Lord.

  8. m&m said

    When I run into questions like this, I like to read what prophets have said. I found the following…for discussion, not to try to play quote war.

    The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage.

    Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p.61
    Now I repeat—the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, he constitutes the third person in the Trinity, the Godhead. The gift or presentation of the Holy Ghost is the authoritative act of conferring him upon man. The Holy Ghost in person may visit men and will visit those who are worthy and bear witness to their spirit of God and Christ, but may not tarry with them. The Spirit of God which emanates from Deity may be likened to electricity, or the universal ether, as explained in our manual, which fills the earth and the air, and is everywhere present. It is the power of God, the influence that he exerts throughout all his works by which he can effect his purposes and execute his will, in consonance with the laws of free agency which he has conferred upon man.

    The Holy Ghost is a personage in the Godhead, and is not that which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. It is the Spirit of God which proceeds through Christ to the world, that enlightens every man that comes into the world, and that strives with the children of men, and will continue to strive with them, until it brings them to a knowledge of the truth and the possession of the greater light and testimony of the Holy Ghost.

    This seems to say to me that the Holy Ghost as a personage can literally come and dwell with a person for a time, where Pres. Smith talks of the Spirit of God as more that light of Christ kind of essence. I wonder if both of the elements that Rob Osborn is talking about can really come into play.

    And from BRM on the scripture in D&C 130:

    That is to say, according to the eternal laws ordained by the Father, there are certain separate and distinct things to be done by a spirit member of the Godhead. He is to dwell, figuratively, in the faithful and he is to speak to their spirits in a special and particular way, which he can do because he himself is a spirit.

    I also am rather intrigued by the fact that the only sin that is unpardonable is the sin against the Holy Ghost. That tells me there is something rather unique about that gift, and something about the Holy Ghost’s conferral of true testimony that is different than even a testimony from the Savior Himself. (Matt. 12:31-32) ) In my mind that that separates Him from the influence of the Light of Christ in a significant way. Also that He is conferred via priesthood ordinance and that is necessary for salvation, whereas the Light of Christ lights every man suggests to me that the Holy Ghost is something different.

    Like I said, though, just mulling…and curious to keep hearing others’ thoughts on this!

  9. Robert C. said

    First, my deepest apologies to everyone who read this post, only upon rereading it this morning do I appreciate how hard it is to read! (I ended up as an economist largely because I am much better with mathematical concepts and symbols and numbers than I am with words—if I were a better writer, I probably would’ve had the courage to go to grad school in Russian literature or something instead of economics….)

    robf #1: I hope your confusion turns into a productive-type of humbling. I don’t think I expressed the fear and trembling that I feel with sticky issues like this—I enjoy wrestling with issues like this in a way similar to the way Joe has described, very difficult but very exhilirating (I was an 800m runner in high school which is often considered the most masochistic track event—perhaps my feeling about these kinds of issues is aptly compared to my feelings of apprehension and yet exhiliration regarding a gruelling physical work out…).

    m&m #2: I really like this distinction you make between the personage vs. the influence of the Holy Ghost, I think this might be a very fruitful way to think about the issues and differences at play here.

    m&m #3: Thanks for the cross-reference to D&C 8 which supports the “dwell in your heart” concept, I hadn’t notice this part of that passage before.

    Matt W. #4: Thank you very much for the link to your NCT post. (I also like how you footnoted your sources, I wish I’d used more footnotes and less parentheticals in my post above!) I’ll read through the comments when I have a bit more time and perhaps summarize them here for the benefit of others.

    Jim F. #5: Very good point about form and the way in which spirit can appear, I think you’re right. I changed the wiki in an effort to reflect this. I have a tendency to think about the Holy Ghost as simply the way that God (the Father and Son…) speaks to us in our minds and heart rather than as a separate “being”/”personage”—more in line with the way Joseph Fielding Smith describes the light of Christ. But it seems this distinction between the three members of the Godhead, not just the Father and the Son, was a distinction that Joseph Smith took as quite important, so I need to rethink my understanding of the Godhead (also, before now I’ve been inclined to downplay the differences between our understanding of the Godhead and other Christians’ beliefs in the Trinity; this post is giving me a renewed appreciation for the differences).

    Rob Osborn #6 & #7: Your description is similar to the way I’ve tended to think about these things, which is one reason it was interesting for me to go back and read what Joseph Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith said about these things, b/c they seem more emphatic that the Holy Ghost is a personage that cannot be in multiple places at once nor can it actually dwell in us. (I’ll try to dig out a couple more quotes to this effect when I have a bit more time.)

    m&m #8: (I was a little unsure of where your quotes began and ended, so I edited your comment indenting the quotes where I thought appropriate—let me know if I erred.) I really appreciate the quotes you always manage to pull out, on this blog as well as elsewhere. I think you are right in seeing a definite distinction between the Light of Christ vs. the Holy Ghost, at least as Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, and I think Joseph Smith Jr. all seemed to understand it (though, again, I’m not sure this means we should assume this such distinction when reading various terms in scripture, esp. in the Bible and BOM…).

  10. Rob Osborn said

    It should also be noted that the holy ghost and the gift of the holy ghost are two separate things. This had me thinking a few weeks ago when I was preparing my lesson on the HG at church. It is only after we recieve the gift that we can speak with a new tongue- the tongue of angels. So this tells me that the gift of the HG is something more than his holy spirit being given to us as a guide as that can happen to those who have not yet recieved the gift and yet are led about by the spirit of truth. I got to thinking that the gift of the holy ghost is that authoritive truth becomes born in us and becomes us- the HG is our own spirit which is the same spirit that God has.

    Sometimes the scriptures speak of being moved upon by the HG or even the HG speaking through us. To me this could mean that when we speak the words of eternal life which is already in us, we speak the mind and will of God. The mind and will of God are his words- literal words! According to the D&C though, the words of truth that God speaks is called the “spirit of Christ”. It is this spirit that dwells in our hearts and is the same spirit we exert when we speak by the power of that truth within us. This is what it means when we are moved upon by the Holy ghost- we are moved upon by the words of Christ within us in the form of light which is truth. Liken this to a concert-

    Everyone has been to a concert. When everything is just right we are moved upon by the music- this is called the spirit of music. but it is actually just our own spirits that recognize truthfulness in the music itself and it’s healing powers. So when I say that I feel the spirit and the person right next to me says that he doesn’t just means that I am discerning the true light within me and he is not even though the light lays dormant in him also. Is it fair to say that the same light (light of Christ)that quickens my understandings (guides me in truth) is the HG? The scriptures seem to state that. When God says that he will pour out his spirit “more abundantly” he is speaking of the HG. So what does this mean? And, why is it that when we become more and more perfect we become brighter and brighter until the perfect day? I believe this light is what we call glory. This glory is the HG within us. This HG within us is the light of Christ which we can recieve more and more. Light is truth, truth is spirit, and spirit is glory!

  11. robf said

    The scriptures command us to seek Jesus, and promise that we can come to know him. I can’t find any similar promise for seeking to “know” the Holy Ghost. Perhaps, in his role, he is not to be addressed or approached or known or even considered directly? The more I try to think about the Holy Ghost, the less of the Spirit I seem to feel. Whereas when I think about Christ, try to “always remember Him,” I seem to “have his Spirit to be with” me. Maybe that’s why Joseph Fielding Smith said not to speculate too much about the Holy Ghost? Not sure what to make of that, since obviously the Spirit is very, very important and essential to us in this realm of existence–yet we aren’t supposed to know much about it/Him?

  12. Robert C. said

    Rob Osborn #10: Interesting thoughts, I’ll have to think some more about this.

    robf#11: Great JFS quote, thanks. I too get the sense that a lot of this type of thinking is a distraction (woops!), though I find it’s very helpful for me to consciously recognize this, and even to think about why this might be the case. I like how you say “perhaps in his role, he is not to be addressed or approached or known or even considered directly.”

  13. m&m said

    was a little unsure of where your quotes began and ended, so I edited your comment indenting the quotes where I thought appropriate—let me know if I erred.

    Thanks for doing that…it was late and I was lazy. I’ll try to do better next time. :)

    I’m not sure this means we should assume this such distinction when reading various terms in scripture, esp. in the Bible and BOM…).

    Can you explain a little more what you mean? Examples, maybe?

    robf, I think this is a really good point. I don’t know that it’s completely off base to seek to understand how the Spirit works and who He is, but I do agree that on the whole, His is a supporting role, to testify of the things that matter most to us, of truth. That, though, would suggest that He can testify of truth of how He works, too, no? :) But in the end, I agree that we are to seek to know and become like the Savior (so we can be like and know the Father) and the Holy Ghost facilitates that process.

  14. Michelle said

    btw, I think I read somewhere that y’all prefer first names here. So I’m switching to Michelle. :)

  15. Michelle said

    Michelle = m&m, to clarify

  16. Michelle said

    One more thought…as I was studying this topic a little last nite, I ran across this:

    Alma 39: 6
    For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you, my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.

    I wonder what it means to have the Holy Ghost “have place” in you? Have others heard that few of us have received enough to be able to commit the unpardonable sin? Does this connect in any way to the discussion in understanding potential different roles/levels? of the Holy Ghost?

  17. Rob Osborn said


    It sounds as if the HG as mentioned in that scripture might be the “light and knowledege of God”.

  18. John said

    I’m glad I caught the tail-end of this thread, otherwise I would have missed a very important transformation. (#15)

    First names are overrated. Handles can often be more descriptive and unique. My handle also happens to be my first name, but I chose it for the sake of anonymity. Sad.

  19. Michelle said

    otherwise I would have missed a very important transformation. (#15)

    Actually, my name hasn’t been a secret for a while. Do you want me to go back to my handle? I quite like it, actually, which is part of why I use it. :)

  20. Robert C. said

    mulling & musing Michelle: Your handle always reminds me of when we were spelling out the name of candy at my in-laws so our son wouldn’t wouldn’t start pestering his grandpa for m&m’s and, well, as you can imagine it didn’t work too well! In respone to #13, what I meant in #9 was simply that even if we have a particular belief regarding the understanding that the latter-day Smith prophets had regarding the Holy Ghost vs. the Spirit, and if this is what we believe is the way things “really are,” I don’t think that means that every time we read the word Holy Ghost or Spirit that we should assume that the text has this same distinction in mind. It might be an interesting—even useful—distinction to consider in certain contexts (e.g. robf got me wondering about the Spirit that gives Nephi the cosmic tour in 1 Ne 11), but perhaps in most contexts, trying to think about this distinction may be just a distraction. We’ve discussed before the idea that there seems to be only a heaven-hell distinction in the BOM and that if we assume that BOM writers had an understanding of the three degrees of glory, we might be doing violence to the text. I’m just trying to make a similar point regarding a Holy Ghost vs. Spirit
    distinction. Also, as I mentioned in the post, the Wikipedia article on the Holy Spirit notes that in translating the King James Version of the Bible, the term “Holy Ghost” seems to have been heavily influenced by the Church of England’s use of the phrase and it seems to have landed in the KJV somewhat arbitrarily (i.e. not based on some distinction in the earlier manuscripts; most modern translations go with “Holy Spirit”). I am curious, however, what we might learn by keeping such a distinction in mind while reading the D&C (though it may be that JS’s learning about this post-dates most of the D&C revelations, and perhaps it doesn’t really matter what Joseph thought, if he the Holy Ghost—or Spirit!—was dictating these revelations to him, his own understanding may’ve been moot; this point may also be important to consider in thinking about the BOM and Bible too, undermining everything I’ve just said—note that some believe the KJV is the most inspired translation, even on points where modern textual scholarship disagrees; my belief is that we use the KJV more for historical reasons than a belief that the KJV is more inspired than all other translations…).

  21. mulling and musing Michelle said

    Thanks for your thoughts and clarifications.
    I feel like I’m having a bit of an identity crisis on this blog….
    And, btw, part of the reason for my handle is that I LOVE M&Ms. Plain. If there is ever a Feast on the Word blog party, that will be what I bring. :)

  22. Matthew said

    I’m looking forward to the day when we do have a feast upon the word blog party…

    As for handles, I don’t think we have any special preference for first names. On the blog when someone goes to create an account it says “If you are comfortable doing so, we encourage you to create your account with your real name as your user name. Doing so helps create a sense of community here. Further, using your real name means proper attribution is given to your work.”

    Maybe we should discuss changing that text.

    But, fwiw, the idea is that offline connections are facilitated by not masking online identities. Our world is small enough that the person who reads a comment or edit may have been in the same ward or institute class as the person who wrote it. That connection might be lost if the identity of the writer is masked. My experience is that when people know each other they are more likely to apply the principle of charity in reading what they wrote.

    That said, there are a lot of reasons people prefer posting anonymously. The most important part is that they share their thoughts and ideas with us.

  23. I just use my name so that you will all feel obliged to buy my books if I ever finish writing one. :)

    Rob, you really raise some interesting questions that have had me thinking for a few days. I’m sorry I’ve been having continued internet troubles that have made it rather difficult to get on here and respond to them properly.

    The question: are we to think the Spirit at all?

    I have to confess that the question caught me off guard (it seems perhaps to have done the same to you?). My “thinking” about the Spirit generally began a few years ago when I first read Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (with Jim F., incidentally). The book is not (at least in any obvious way) about the Holy Ghost as such, but because of how deeply its framework probed the meaning of the word “Spirit” (or rather Geist in German), I was shocked out of my preconceptions.

    Since then, all of my thinking about the Spirit has been, really, a loosening up of things, rather than a tightening down of them. That is, thinking the Spirit has not been, for me, an exercise in establishing what the Spirit is, but in recognizing how rich the language of the scriptures is regarding the Spirit.

    Unfortunately, that experience was hardly communicated in the process of my first post here on the Spirit, which was primarily a limitation (although, to be quite strict, I was trying to limit interpretation of the phrase “teaching by the Spirit” far more than I was trying to limit interpretation of the Spirit). The further that conversation proceeded, the more convinced I was that the limit I was imposing was actually a kind of consequence of the broadened “concept” of the Spirit that has more and more opened to me as I’ve “thought” the Spirit. That it, my second post was grounded in a realization that the richness of scriptural language regarding the Spirit imposes, uniquely, a limit on what it means to “teach by the Spirit.” That is a curious thing, but so it occurred to me.

    But this is getting too long. The point is rather simple: isn’t thinking about the Spirit supposed to be broadening rather than narrowing? Whenever we try to reduce the Spirit (the Spirit!) to some kind of simple, conceptual framework, the project must inevitably backfire, and the Spirit itself will leave us. But if our thinking is an attempt to allow the Spirit to break the bounds of our thinking, then we will feel the abundance of that Spirit again.


    But worth thinking through.

  24. m&m M said

    Thanks for the explanation. Let me know if there is ever a party. :) I think I’ll stay Michelle here, if that is y’all’s preference.

    Joe asks: are we to think the Spirit at all?
    My own thoughts are that some of that is probably helpful. Too much might lead to a sort of missing the mark? I dunno…mulling over this….

  25. Matthew said

    Joe 23. Interesting comment. I am especially interested in this part “But if our thinking is an attempt to allow the Spirit to break the bounds of our thinking, then we will feel the abundance of that Spirit again.” This suggests both that we have to have bounds (else what is there to be broken) and yet we must be open to them being broken. Though I hadn’t thought of saying it so well, this makes a lot of sense to me. It is a mixture of real belief and humility about our own beliefs.

    But is this quality of both having bounds and allowing for them to be broken unique to the spirit? or is this true of the entire gospel.

    The thought experiment I mentioned in my comment earlier is my way of both having bounds (i.e. real beliefs) and allowing for them to be broken.

  26. Eric Jorgensen said

    Hi everyone. I am a newbie to the blog today and I first want to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments. This is an excellent discussion. It happens that I’ve been pondering on the difference between the “light of Christ” and the “Gift of the Holy Ghost” and so my Google search led me to this blog. Like some of you have expressed, I believe that understanding the distinction of these two things and understanding the operation of the Holy Ghost is essential to our journey here. Hence I am seeking and learning whatever I can find out.

    I’m going to throw out a few thoughts here. I don’t know if they are correct, but they seem relevant and this seems like a nice group of people to bounce them off of.

    #1: Perhaps most spiritual experiences are from the light of Christ and not from the gift of the Holy Ghost. I’ve recently shifted toward the opinion that much of what we attribute the Holy Ghost is really due to the action of the light of Christ. This has stemmed from the fact that many people who are not members of the church get genuine spiritual guidance in much the same way we hear in fast and testimony meetings. I’ll spare the details, but it is just very clear to me that my muslim, hindu, protestant, catholic, and jewish friends have meaningful brushes with the spirit, especially in answer to their prayers. Their experiences are very similar to those of my friends in the church.

    #2: “Receiving the Holy Ghost” seems much more significant than members often think. I will take as my text here 2 Nephi 31:13, in which Nephi says that to “receive the Holy Ghost”, certain requirements must be met: Namely, a full and sincere repentance of sin followed by baptism. Nephi later suggests, and we understand as members, that sincere obedience and continual repentance are requirements for retaining this gift. I think it is especially interesting that Nephi implies in vs. 17-18 that we have not grasped the iron rod until AFTER we have been “baptized by fire”. This suggests that the way to the fruit of the tree of life, the way to the Love of God (whatever that is) is accomplished primarily through the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    #3: “Receiving the Holy Ghost” may refer to two different things. Just as we are justified in preparation to become sanctified, the laying on of hands at baptism may be preparatory for another, sanctifying ordinance. It is interesting that bestowing the Holy Ghost is something that is associated with apostolic authority in the scriptures. (Moroni 2:2, D&C 84:64, and possibly D&C 132:7) We pray in the sacrament that the spirit may “always be with us”. It is also interesting that that footnote d from the sacrament prayer on the bread takes us to John 14:16, which speaks of the second comforter.

    These are some of the main points I have been tossing around in my head. Please comment on them, as I would love to hear more about what you are thinking.



  27. robf said

    Eric, thanks for the comments. Makes me think about being pronounced clean from the blood and sins of this generation–I’ll have to ponder that some more. Also makes me wonder, do Gifts of the Spirit come by way of the Holy Ghost, or are those also more related to the Light of Christ? I’ve always been taught that the Holy Ghost works through the Light of Christ–but suppose I still have a lot to think about what specific role the Holy Ghost plays in all this vs. our being more or less aligned and in tune with the Light of Christ. Hmmmm. Thanks for the “soul food” to mull over.

  28. I need to work up a post on the “light of Christ.” I’ve never quite been comfortable with anything I’ve ever read on it, and my own thoughts make, I think, some progress, but they are nothing I’d say I’m comfortable with either. I’ve definitely got to do some thinking.

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