One of my favorite parts about BYU-Idaho, or rather, one thing I actually liked about BYU-Idaho, was the religion classes. Systematic, academic study of the Standard Works was something I’d never experienced before and I loved it.
One thing that hit me like a ton of bricks in the middle of a religion class at BYU was this: I don’t know who the Holy Ghost is. Even my religion instructor admitted ignorance on the subject, though speculation abounded.
The identity of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is a big deal to us, so much so that it is one of the defining characteristics of our faith. The first Article of Faith asserts the separate identities of the members of the Godhead, turning 1700 or so years of theological history on its head. From the Bible Dictionary, under the entry for God:
We learn from the revelations that have been given that there are three separate persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. From latter-day revelation we learn that the Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit without flesh and bone (D&C 130: 22-23).
Fair enough. So in the scriptures we learn about Heavenly Father:
- He is our Father in a very literal sense.
- He has a physical body (hands, arms, legs, eyes, etc.).
- We worship Him.
- We pray to Him.
- He is a God.
Similarly, Jesus Christ is very similar to His Father.
- He is our spiritual brother.
- He obtained a physical body during His time in mortality on Earth.
- We worship Him.
- We pray in His name.
- We do ordinances in His name.
- He is a God.
The Holy Ghost is a “personage of spirit.” We can conclude from this and a couple other passages in the scriptures that a personage of spirit looks like a man, but has no physical body.
To illustrate our ignorance, and the relative scarcity of information on the subject, I took the liberty of interviewing myself about the Holy Ghost:
1. Is the Holy Ghost our spirit brother? A: Umm. I would guess so? I think?
2. Is the Holy Ghost a “God”? A: He’s in the Godhead, right? So I would have to go with Yes. I think.
3. Do we worship the Holy Ghost? A: Not really. It’s not the Church of the Holy Ghost. We don’t pray in the name of the Holy Ghost. We definitely use the Holy Ghost. He’s our constant companion. But we don’t worship Him. If I prayed to the Holy Ghost, I would definitely feel like I’m doing it wrong. So the answer is no, probably.
4. Will the Holy Ghost obtain a body? A: That would only be fair, right? I have no idea. Maybe?
5. So that means the Holy Ghost is inferior to God or Jesus? A: That doesn’t sound right. Maybe? It would seem so.
6. Is there only one Holy Ghost? A: Probably?
7. Why don’t we know anything about the Holy Ghost? A: Good question.
See what I’m getting at here?
Now, before this turns into another “Unbridled Speculation” thread, let me say that I’m not necessarily looking for the answers to these questions, per se. What I’m really wondering is, why do we know so little about the Holy Ghost, his identity, his relationship to the other members of the Godhead, etc. compared to Christ and His Father? Or if the information’s out there, why don’t I know it, even in light of me being a 25-year-old member who has served a full-time mission and has studied the scriptures pretty darn well for my whole life? Is his/her/its identity so irrelevant that we simply don’t need to know? So the Holy Ghost’s identity is just majorly de-emphasized in our curriculum? And yet the Holy Ghost’s function is fundamental to our theology, our search for truth, people joining the Church, finding out its truthfulness, etc. Take the following things into account:
1. The Holy Ghost is our constant companion. We don’t know the identity of this being that is supposedly with us always? Not only that, but the Holy Ghost “dwells within us!” How comfortable are you with the idea of a being you don’t know living inside you? Is this figurative or literal?
2. The Holy Ghost is essential for salvation, in a roundabout way. We must have a testimony of Jesus Christ in order to be saved, and the only way to truly have a testimony of Christ is through the Spirit. Yet we don’t know what the Holy Ghost actually is?
So why the mystery?