This entry is based on a talk given by President James E. Faust in the April 1989 General Conference.
Christ had always prophesied that his life would end earlier than expected – leaving the Apostles to administer the workings of His church on the Earth. The very thought of that must have been worrying for the Apostles. However, Christ always spoke of peace and comfort to them. In fact, He promised to send them the third member of the Godhead – the Holy Ghost. He said “I will not leave you comfortless…But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:18,26).
The Holy Ghost has many roles and influences on those who receive it’s gift of being a constant companion. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the mysteries of God’s kingdom “are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him.” (D&C 76:116). The Spirit of God is vital if we are to learn and grow in the Gospel, what a blessing!
However, if we want the fullness of this power in our lives, we need to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is possible to feel the enlightenment before receiving the gift. For example, Cornelius (a Roman centurion) felt the power of the Holy Ghost in Peter’s teaching and testifying and “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” (Acts 10:44) – and they hadn’t yet received the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is necessary for seekers of truth who wish to gain a testimony of Christ and His Gospel before baptism.
In the journey of Lehi and his family, they were miraculously given a “round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whether we should go into the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 16:10) – the Liahona. This device led the family through “the most fertile parts of the wilderness,” (1 Nephi 16:16), the safest way to the promised land. However this compass had another miraculous feature. The Liahona pointers did work “according to the faith and diligence and heed which [they] did give unto them.” (1 Nephi 16:28) Because of this inspired compass, the family reached their destination. The Liahona was a sure compass – and it is a perfect object lesson for the working of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. As we use our curious gift, paying heed to its still, small voice and staying worthy through our faith and diligence to have it – we will be comforted and guided through the more ‘fertile’ areas of life and reach our desired destination. “And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” (1 Nephi 16:29)
However, because of the effectiveness of small and simple things, that too is how Satan works. Thomas R Rowan explained “Author and commentator Malcolm Muggeridge once told a story about some frogs who were killed without resistance by being boiled alive in the cauldron of water. Why didn’t they resist? Because when they were put in the cauldron, the water was tepid. Then the temperature was raised ever so slightly, and the water was warm, then a tiny bit warmer, then a bit warmer still, and on and on and on. The change was so gradual, almost imperceptible, that the frogs accommodated themselves to their new environment—until it was too late. The point that Mr. Muggeridge was making was not about frogs but about us and how we tend to accept evil as long as it is not a shock that is thrust on us abruptly. We are inclined to accept something morally wrong if it is only a shade more wrong than something we are already accepting.”
This is frighteningly true. If we are ready to accept something that is only slightly wrong, we gradually become worse and worse until “the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Nephi 28:21) The Holy Ghost is given so we can detect those movements and steer clear of them.
Not only does the Holy Ghost give guidance, it also gives comfort – hence the title ‘The Comforter’. It can give us feelings of comfort and I’m sure that even just the knowledge that we have the third member of the Godhead with us is comfort enough.
Even if we feel lost, if we are faithful to our covenants we make when receiving this gift, we will never be left comfortless. It will lead us to our just reward with our Father in Heaven. The Prophet Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young in a dream and told him
“Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and to be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the still small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the Brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God.”
As Joseph Smith said, the Holy Ghost will not lead us astray and we will be able to recognise its influence if we are aware and listening for it. “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy sceptre an unchanging sceptre of righteousness and truth.” (D&C 121:46) As we live, earnestly striving to keep this wonderful gift effective in our lives, we will truly have a sure compass!