“The Gift of the Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 76
I humbly pray that the Spirit of the Lord will sustain me while I address you here this afternoon and discuss with you a statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith when he visited President [Martin] Van Buren, president of the United States. The President asked the Prophet what difference there was between the Prophet’s church and the other churches of the world. The Prophet answered: “We have the correct mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.” Then he said: “We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost” (see History of the Church, 4:42).
I would just like to mention a few things that occurred to me that we have by virtue of the Holy Ghost, which each of us, as members of the Church, receives by the laying on of hands by one who has the authority to thus administer that gift.
To me, the gift of the Holy Ghost is as important to man as sunshine and water are to the plants. You take them away, and the plants would die. You take the Holy Ghost out of this Church, and this Church would not be any different than any other church. And it is manifest in so many ways in the lives and the devotion of the members of the Church.
Just recently at an area conference in Toronto, the prime minister of Canada said to President Tanner: “I don’t see how you can get your people to do so much without paying them.”
When I think of what our people do in this Church without having to be paid with money for what they do, I know that it is a tremendous thing. You take the General Authorities here on the stand. When they were called to be General Authorities, there was nothing said to them about whether they would receive an allowance to live on. I remember when I was back in Washington, just after President Benson was called to be a member of the Twelve and he had not yet been out West to be ordained and set apart. I was then the Presiding Bishop and attended his stake conference. And he said: “Bishop, will there be any provision that we will have a living while we are serving as General Authorities of the Church?” And I said: “Well, there will be a little allowance. But,” I said, “you will have to live differently than you have done back here unless you have got a little bit tucked away!” I happen to know of an offer that was made to him while he was in the Department of Agriculture that, in those days, was a tremendous offer; and he passed that by to come back here to be a member of the Quorum without any assurance that he would have an allowance given to him.
I think of when President Tanner was called to be one of the General Authorities. President McKay told us that he was in line to become the prime minister of Canada and that he was at the head of several great industrial organizations in Canada. I am sure that if he were to stand here now, he would tell you that when President McKay asked him to be one of the General Authorities, he did not discuss with him anything about an allowance that he would receive.
I could go on down, and each one of these men could tell you how they gave up their businesses and their professions, and why did they do it? Because they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost that made it possible for them to do what Jesus advised: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
When I was the Presiding Bishop and one of my counselors, Bishop Ashton, died, I asked for Brother [Thorpe B.] Isaacson. He was then at the head of a large insurance business that he owned and operated. And when President George Albert Smith asked him if he was willing to serve as my counselor, he said: “Yes, but I would like to go back East and arrange with my company to appoint a manager, because you know in the insurance business so much depends on renewals. But,” he said, “if they won’t let me do it, I’ll tell them to take the business.” I happen to know that the tithing he had been paying was just about the equivalent of what his allowance was when he became a counselor in the Bishopric! And not only that, for the first six months after he received his allowance, he turned it back to the Church. He said: “I’ve never been on a mission, so it is about time I did something.”
Now if you could hear from each one of these men! For instance, I had a business with ten men and two girls working for me, and the President of the Church sent my father over to see how I would like to go to California and preside over the Hollywood Stake. I won’t take time to tell you all the details. In sixty days I’d sold my business, I’d sold my beautiful home, and moved my family down to California with no allowance to live on. I had to start all over again.
Then when I was in business here in Salt Lake and President Heber J. Grant called for a thousand short-term missionaries, he said: “Bishops and stake presidents are not exempt.” I was then a bishop. I landed back in New England—left my wife and seven kiddies and my business in the hands of my brother-in-law. You don’t do things like that with normal men! It takes men inspired by the Holy Spirit.
We have 28,000 missionaries in the world today paying their own way and maintaining themselves, and we have had hundreds of thousands since this Church was organized and the only reason that they do it is because they have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Most of them from their infancy have looked forward to the day when they could go on a mission.
I think of a little story President Benson told us a short time ago when he told about being at a banquet back in the East. He sat next to a minister, and the minister said: “Mr. Benson, I’d like to visit with you after the banquet.” So they got in another part of the building, and he said: “Now there are two things in your church we would like to copy.”
Brother Benson said: “And what are they?”
“Well, first, it’s your missionary system,” he said. “You send your missionaries all over the world. You don’t pay them; you make them pay their way to their field of labor, maintain themselves while they are there, and all the Church does for them is to pay their return fare when they come back.” He said: “Now in our church, we have a missionary fund. But,” he said, “we offer to pay our men to the field of labor, to maintain them while they are there, and then to return them after they are released—and we can’t get anybody to go!”
Now that is the difference when you are operating in the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. It is God’s kingdom. He is the only one that can put his Holy Spirit into the hearts of his people.
No one in this world could duplicate what we did here last night when we held a conference of the priesthood of the Church. It was broadcast in over 1,700 different buildings and I imagine that we had an estimated attendance of over 200,000 men and boys, all bearing the priesthood of God together. No wonder Peter said: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people [we are peculiar to the world]; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Now think of this choir back here that has been singing to us so wonderfully. They have been doing it now for over fifty years. (I don’t suppose all of them have, but the Choir has!) And we don’t have to pay them anything—350 of them that gather here week after week to practice and then come to sing for us.
Down in the South, when I was president of the mission down there, I went to one of the beautiful new chapels there—not of our Church—and the minister showed us through. The ground had broken away so that the basement was above the ground level, and I said to the minister: “Do you know what we would do with this if we had it?”
And he said: “What?”
I said: “We’d improve it and use it to entertain our young people.”
“Well, Mr. Richards,” he said, “you can do it. You have trained leaders, you don’t have to pay them. But we haven’t got them, and we can’t afford to pay them.” Now I knew he could not because one of our members sang in his choir each week and was paid by the minister for singing in the choir.
What if we had to pay all of these folks here, and then all of our ward choirs, and all of the auxiliary organizations. And, just think!—on Friday we had a gathering of the Regional Representatives of the Twelve. I don’t remember just how many were there, but I think about 190. They are businessmen, executives, and professional men, and go all over the country without any compensation for their work in order to help build the kingdom. Thank God for the gift of the Holy Ghost! No wonder the Prophet said that included all things.
Now one of the finest illustrations we have in holy writ of what the Holy Ghost can do for a man is in the case of Peter. You remember when Jesus met with them in the last supper and told them that there was one among them who would betray him, Peter said something like this: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
“Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” And Jesus said: “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (See Matt. 26:3–35.) Then when Jesus was taken prisoner and Peter sat in the outer room, two different women came up to him and said: “Thou also wast with Jesus” (Matt. 26:69); and he denied it emphatically. Then a man came, and he even denied it with curses. And when he was through, he heard the cock crow, “and he went out and wept” (Matt. 26:75). Now that was Peter before he received the Holy Ghost.
Jesus commanded his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endowed with the Holy Spirit; he said it was necessary for him to go away or the Comforter could not come. And he said: “But the Comforter … shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
Now look at Peter after he received the Holy Ghost and when he was commanded by the chief priests not to preach Christ in the streets of Jerusalem. He said: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). He was as fearless as a lion.
I toured the Central American missions with the mission president a few years ago. We went into one of the great cathedrals there and on one of the walls were oil paintings of the original Twelve, showing how they were put to death. Paul was beheaded at Rome by Nero. Peter was crucified with his head downward because he didn’t consider himself worthy to be crucified like his Lord. That is Peter after he had received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Compare that with when he denied the Savior.
Now you could find that with all of our people, if you wanted to apply it—all through the work of the Church. We dedicate an average of one beautiful chapel a day throughout this Church and the people contribute to it; their tithes and their offerings make it possible to build these buildings, and they do it because of the Holy Ghost that they receive by the laying on of hands when they become members of this Church.
Now just to illustrate that: When I was back in the South, there was an itinerant preacher that came through Atlanta, telling the leaders of churches how they could get out of debt. He quoted the words of Malachi: “Prove me now herewith, … if I will not open you the windows of heaven” (Mal. 3:10). And he told those people that if they would pay their tithing for ten months, they could get out of debt. I talked to him afterwards, and I said, “Reverend, I would like to bear you my testimony, that you are getting pretty close to the truth.” I said, “We have been paying our tithing all our lives.” Then I said: “There is just one thing I can’t understand. You say it is the Lord’s law of blessing his people, and if it is, wouldn’t it be better to be blessed all their lives than just to be blessed for ten months?”
And he said: “Oh, Mr. Richards, we can’t go that far, yet!”
We could not build these beautiful buildings and carry on this great program of the Church if it rested upon the shoulders of men with their own capacity and ability.
I see it is time for me to close!
God bless you all. I thank him with all my heart and soul for the restoration of the gospel, for the restoration of the holy priesthood, for all the gifts and blessings that we enjoy by virtue thereof, including the gift of the Holy Ghost. When I was appointed a member of the Twelve, I said from this pulpit that I would rather have my children enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost than any other person or individual in this world; and I feel the same today, for them and for me, and for all of you, and I leave you my love and blessing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.