289: The Gift of the Holy Ghost     

ConfirmationThis episode on the gift of the Holy Ghost is the fourth in a series discussing what the Articles of Faith refer to as the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. All four have featured Samuel M. Brown, author of the book First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple, with this episode marking the third time he is joined by philosopher and theologian Adam S. Miller. How is the Holy Ghost, and more specifically the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” generally viewed and discussed by Latter-day Saints? Do we as Mormons explore it with as much richness as it deserves? In this discussion, Brown and Miller focus primarily upon the Holy Ghost as seen most clearly in the deep relationships in which we are immersed in families as well as with each other in the body of Christ. In the ordinance in which the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed, the individual is first confirmed as a member of the church and congregation, and only then do they receive the Holy Ghost. Are both parts essential? Is the Holy Ghost even separable from the context of community? And might we also consider the congregation’s “common consent,” its affirmative response in welcoming the individual into the community, as a key element of this most important ordinance? Is it in the ordinance itself that we “receive” the Holy Ghost, or might this simply be a promise of something fully received later? Finally, what is the purpose of the Holy Ghost? How does it affect us?

Please listen and then join the conversation in the comments section below!

Links:

Samuel M. Brown, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple (Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2014)

Samuel M. Brown, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford, 2012)

Adam S. Miller, Grace is Not God’s Back-up Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans (2015)

Adam S. Miller, Letters to a Young Mormon (Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2013)

Adam S. Miller, Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2012)

Comments

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8 comments for “289: The Gift of the Holy Ghost     

  1. August 18, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I enjoyed this podcast and this topic, it is always a fascinating thing to explore the Holy Spirit. There’s only one thing in this episode that made me cringe a little and that was the suggestion that the Church has abandoned the doctrine contained in the Lectures on Faith. Absent of any kind of official statement that I am aware of, I’m assuming that this idea has been formed because of the removal of the Lectures (the “Doctrine” portion of the Doctrine and Covenants) from the LDS standard works. There are some statements that suggest that the doctrine is “incomplete” but I don’t agree with those statements.

    Of all the things Joseph Smith could have chosen to be representative of the “Doctrine of the Church” he chose to put these lectures in the forefront. If we believe this man saw the Father and the Son, then why do we question what he felt strong enough to form the “doctrine” portion of the “Doctrine and Covenants”?

    Are we going to remove the sentence from the testimony of the three witnesses that says, “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.” because it sounds to trinitarian and doesn’t mesh well with D&C 130:22? Or should we remove all the verses in the Book of Mormon that seem more trinitarian than LDS? Remember when Zeezrom asks Alma “Is there more than one God? And he answered, No.” (Alma 11:28-29)

    Bruce R. McConkie stated as recently as 1972, “In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language – that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true.” (Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University).

    Joseph Fielding Smith stated: “I suppose that the rising generation knows little about the Lectures … . In my own judgement, these Lectures are of great value and should be studied. .. . I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ”

    There is a misconception perpetuated in this podcast that the Lectures on Faith teach that there are only two members of the Godhead. It’s easy to see how one could assume that by a very poor reading of the fifth lecture.

    The very first verse in the lecture states: “We shall, in this lecture speak of the Godhead: we mean the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” So it is clear that the LDS conception of a Godhead that includes three is present in Lecture 5.

    The very next verse addresses the idea of “personages” which word can mean different things depending on context. It can mean:

    1. Exterior appearance; stature; air; as a tall personage; a stately personage
    2. Character assumed.
    3. Character represented.
    (Source: Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)

    In the Lectures, D&C and other quotes, I believe that the word “personage” is what causes much of the confusion. In D&C 130:22, the Holy Ghost is referred to as a “personage of Spirit”.

    I think it’s important to note that while D&C uses the term “Holy Ghost,” the Lectures on Faith never use the term “Holy Ghost,” they always use “Holy Spirit” when discussing the third member of the Godhead.

    Joseph Smith once stated: “an 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…are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator” (TPJS, p. 190).

    Here each member of the Godhead is referred to as a “personage.” I believe that it is in the same context as the word personage is used in the Lecture 5, where it could be understood as “character assumed” or “represented”.

    Lecture 5:2 states: “There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things—by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible: whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space—They are the Father and the Son:”

    Note that there it doesn’t say that “There are ONLY two personages,” the lecture is focusing in on the Father and Son specifically at this point by saying “there are two personages who…” and goes on to describe their unique attributes.

    In the Lectures and in D&C 130, there are distinct differences between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father and Son both have bodies of flesh and bone while the Holy Ghost does not. In the vision of Stephen recorded in Acts, we see the same presentation as Joseph Smith saw in his first vision: two personages, not three. The Lectures on Faith are consistent with the first vision and Stephen’s account.

    There is another spot where there is some confusion in Lecture 5, we read: “The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle.”

    The Father is called a “personage of Spirit” which is the same language as D&C 130, but the complete sentence in Lecture 5 is “The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power” there are some additional words besides just “spirit.” Later on in the lecture things get a little more interesting, we read:

    “the Son being filled with the fulness of the Mind, glory and power, or, in other words, the Spirit, glory and power of the Father—possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom: sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father—a Mediator for man—being filled with the fulness of the Mind of the Father, or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father”

    We see the phrase “spirit, glory and power” used earlier, shown again here to be synonymous with “mind, glory and power.” We then see the synonymous phrases “Mind of the Father” and “Spirit of the Father” as a further example of how “mind” and “spirit” are synonymous in the context of this lecture.

    If we back up a little we can see that it would be appropriate to say that the Father is a personage of “mind, glory and power.”

    How can someone be a personage of spirit or mind, or of glory or power? These things seem to be literal in some places and more abstract or symbolic in other places. If we take the word personage and apply it as describing “exterior appearance” in the context of spirit, perhaps it makes sense, but what about mind? There are two full lectures that address the character of God and the attributes of God, respectively. It appears, from my study, that as a whole the lectures are more concerned with the character, attributes and perfections with God rather than trying to identify his corporeal nature as D&C 130 does.

    The Lectures refer to the Holy Spirit as the Mind of God and that it is mind shared by the Father and the Son and the means where by we each become one with them. I don’t think this is to be literally interpreted. I don’t think that there is a Spiritual being that exists externally of all other beings, including God, as a disembodied brain of some kind.

    Lecture 5 also states, when defining the Godhead for a second time as containing three: “these three are one, or in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things: by whom all things were created and made, that were created and made: and these three constitute the Godhead, and are one”

    I’m not going to claim that I clearly understand the mechanics of all this, but I can say that D&C 130 is a good place to go if you want to understand the corporeal nature of the members of the Godhead in a simple statement. I think the Lectures on Faith are a good source to go if you want to understand characteristics and attributes that can help you to understand what kind of being God is so that you can have the ability to exercise faith in him. I do not think that the Lectures contradict LDS doctrine or portray a “less evolved” version of our theology. I think there have been several ways to explain the various dynamics of the Godhead over time, but these represent facets of the whole rather than distinct evolving phases.

    The Lectures on Faith do not cover everything. They have specific purpose: to demonstrate what faith is, the object in which it must rest, and the effects of faith. When discussing the kind of being that God is, they don’t mention the physicality of his nature, but lean toward identifying his character and attributes like love, power, justice, mercy, etc.

    Once you understand that, then I think you can delve into them and begin to ponder the rich complexities. Apologies for the length of this comment, feel free to disagree on any point or correct any errors or assumptions I might have made.

  2. James
    August 21, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    I have a hard time trusting the Holy Ghost. I have witnessed people bear their testimony of falsehoods with emotional immense emotional responses as if they are being effected by the Holy Ghost. I have witnessed people employing rhetorical techniques to make it appear they being moved upon by the Holy Ghost while speaking. I have witnessed people stand during the most boring Sacrament Meeting and declare that the spirit was really strong. I have witnessed people seek earnestly for comfort, peace or confirmation of truth from the Holy Ghost and receive nothing. The Holy Ghost is to unreliable and too easily counterfeited to be trusted.

  3. Bonne
    August 24, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    In the words of John D.,I am asking because I am dying to know. Sam, are familiar with the writings of Dr.Remen (Kitchen Table Wisdom?) I have been reading her this summer while listening to the First Principle’s discussions and there are several passages and themes where I hear a choral duet. Adam, have you read social worker/researcher Brene Brown’s books. I find a lot of parallels in your discussions about the stories people create about their lives. Dan, thank you for hosting these conversations…. A social worker who loves your thoughtful podcasts.

  4. CL
    August 30, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    I wonder if the Holy Spirit is the divine feminine: God the Father, God the Mother and God the Son. Attributes of the Holy Spirit are typically feminine qualities.

    • August 30, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      This presentation by Margaret Barker makes an interesting case for it. http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2015-fairmormon-conference/the-mother-in-heaven-and-her-children

      I don’t think you’ll find anything concrete or definitive, but there’s pretty compelling evidence both ways. I do believe there is some kind of connection there, and I wouldn’t be surprised or offended if the Holy Ghost was our Heavenly Mother.

      You have three persons, the Father, the Son and the “Holy Ghost” or the hagion pneuma (sacred breath). It’s a family and who is missing to make it complete? If LDS doctrine says that husband and wife are co-creators now and into the next life, well do the math.

      Think of how women veil their faces in the temple. There’s something concealed about the Mother, but why? I’m not sure, I don’t think it has anything to do with protecting her or her having a lesser role. I think there is something else going on, and having studied it a little, I get the feeling that it’s something very cool.

      I willing to admit that there are other ways to look at the Holy Ghost as not being the Heavenly Mother and things still making sense. I think we are missing a ton of information for a variety of reasons. I don’t think much more will be revealed until we can work on the simple stuff like not being jerks to each other. I look forward to a day where there can be clearer info, but I enjoy contemplating possibilities.

      • CL
        August 31, 2015 at 8:45 am

        Thank you for your comments and for the reference to Margaret Barker’s presentation–less than a month ago! I would like mormonmatters to do a podcast on this idea.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          August 31, 2015 at 8:53 am

          I am unlikely to do an entire Mormon Matters episode on the theory that Heavenly Mother is the Holy Ghost, nor on Margaret Barker’s work (I try for quite broad topics). For your own reading, however, Janice Allred published a book of essays with Signature Books called God the Mother in which one of the key essays is her argument that Heavenly Mother is/could be the HG. Here is a link to that essay:

          http://signaturebookslibrary.org/god-the-mother-03/.

          Essay number 2 in that collection is about feminine metaphors for Jesus.

          Good luck in your exploring!

  5. Adam Leavitt
    September 14, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I have listened to this twice now and I just love this dialogue. It strikes at the heart of what I often detest about lessons on the Gift of the Holy Ghost which is that Mormons have this exclusive claim on this gift.

    Dan, I really appreciate how hard you push your guests to get to the questions that your listeners, like me, want to ask. After an amazing and rich discussion about Sam and Adam’s framing on this topic and how comfortable I am living in that sort of framework, I immediately pushed back and said to myself, “yeah right! What would my Bishop or SP think if I taught this sort of stuff in a lesson or over the pulpit.” As you pushed back and asked this exact question just as I was thinking it, I knew you were thinking about how listeners like me would absorb this discussion and I was very pleased with the responses. Living in my own mind with a framework like this is one thing but when the rubber meets the road, we have to meet people where they are and not feel the pressure to cave into the exclusionary viewpoints that many literal thinkers have.

    Keep it up Dan!

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