The Fourth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads,
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second,Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
As I have written before I love the fact that this is simultaneously so simplistic and so complex. The entire gospel of Jesus Christ is summed up in this one little sentence, and yet it has provided me with three full blog posts already, with a couple more in the works, and countless hours of pondering and meditation. And I do not believe that these words, nor their order, were arbitrarily chosen. First, we must have Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that he is the Son of God and that through his sacrifice there is an infinite and eternal Atonement made for mankind. If we have faith in that truth, then we will be led to Repentance, to seek forgiveness for our sins, to make those changes in our lives and behavior that brings us into alignment with the will of God. We will know that it is both possible and necessary to repent and to be once again worthy of a place in the Kingdom of God. And this internal, spiritual conviction will lead us to the outward, physical manifestation through the ordinance of Baptism, where our sins are washed away and we covenant with our God that we are willing to keep his commandments and follow his Son. But Baptism by water is not complete, it is only half of the ordinance, and requires the Baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
After we are baptized we have the opportunity and the obligation to have hands laid on our heads by those who hold the Priesthood of God and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. That is a tremendous blessing and responsibility. The Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, can dwell with us as long as we are worthy of his companionship. And the scriptures teach that “by the power of the holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5), and that he “will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).
As I mentioned earlier, the ordinance of baptism is not complete without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we refer to these two ordinances as Baptism and Confirmation, and at the time that one is given the gift of the Holy Ghost the act of Baptism is confirmed and one is then officially a member of the Church. Baptism is not enough, one must also receive the Holy Ghost, which is referred to as the Baptism of Fire.
There is a great little object lesson that I learned on my mission that we used to teach about baptism and the Holy Ghost and it involves a tea bag, I prefer to use a nice fruit tea that turns the water red for effect. You explain that we are like the tea bag and are unable to reach our goal of heaven (which is up) because we are weighed down by the sins we have committed, represented by all the filling inside the tea bag. So we carefully open the tea bag, and dump out the insides into a glass of water, which represents being baptized. This is where it’s great to use a fruit tea, since it colors the water red and we can use the great Isaiah scripture, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Now the water is red, but the tea bag is white. Now, that we’ve been baptized, can we get to heaven? Nope, the tea bag is still too heavy. We need the Holy Ghost and the Baptism of Fire. (This is the cool part, and trust me, it’s perfectly safe!) Openthe tea bag up, it should form a cylinder, or column, and light the tea bag on fire. Sit back and watch, when the bag is mostly burned away it will become light enough that it will rise on the warm air from the fire and float away, toward heaven! (Here’s a YouTube video demonstrating this)
It is the Holy Ghost that enables us to return to our Father in Heaven. Simply having Faith, being Repentant, and being Baptized is not enough. Without the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, telling us all things what we should do and guiding us as we make decisions we would not be able to return to heaven. And that is exactly why God has given us this gift, to have a member of the Godhead with us, to “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (Moroni 4:3, D&C 20:77). As we listen to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and yield our hearts unto God, we will find ourselves doing those things that we are prompted to do by the Holy Ghost, which will never lead us astray, but will always lead us in paths of righteousness. We will find ourselves doing those things that God, himself, would do, were he in our place, because we are being led by a member of the Godhead. We will find ourselves becoming godly. Again, I will quote one of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon, two verses before the end, Moroni writes, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32). And if we deny ourselves of all ungodliness, we will become godly. And we can know that we are denying ourselves of all ungodliness as we listen to the Holy Ghost and heed his promptings, for he will always teach us what is right.
It is a great privilege that we have to have the Holy Ghost be a part of our lives. We can live each day with personal revelation and know exactly what our God would have us do. We can daily yield our wills unto His and strive to be more like him. I can think of no greater gift or benefit in my daily life than the gift of the Holy Ghost which teaches all things, which testifies of Christ and of the Father and which brings all things to my remembrance. I am grateful for this gospel of Jesus Christ and for all of the blessings that it has brought into my life and for all of the joy and happiness I have found as I have followed the Holy Ghost.