“Courting the Spirit,” New Era, Aug. 1990, 33
When I was a young man I fell in love with a beautiful girl. More than anything in the world, I wanted to receive her love and eternal companionship. I therefore behaved my best, spoke my best, and gave my best as I courted her and sought to gain her favor. Even after she had promised herself to me, I recognized the need to continue the courting. My desire was, and still is, to please her and to avoid any offense. She is my inspiration, my motivation to live on a high and noble level.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost is cultivated in much the same manner. To obtain his influence and companionship, we must be our best; we must be worthy of his presence. I see five things we must do to attract and retain the Holy Spirit.
We must not pollute our mortal tabernacles in any way. We must live the Word of Wisdom; we must not misuse our powers of procreation; we must do whatever is possible to avoid disease or other enemies of our physical bodies. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).
We must guard against all suggestive ideas and other satanic influences. “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion” (D&C 121:45–46).
Few things are more repulsive than evil minds and the filth they produce. Can one hope to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Spirit when his mind shares time with the evil one? I think not.
Manifestations of the Spirit of God, we are told, are forfeited in the absence of faith. Moroni spoke openly of the gifts of the Spirit, then cautioned: “All these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away … only according to the unbelief of the children of men” (Moro. 10:19).
We must understand “that the Holy Ghost may have place in [our] hearts” only when we exercise faith in Christ (Moro. 7:32). How can we be acceptable to the Holy Ghost without recognizing and acknowledging those of whom he testifies and bears record? Loving and seeking the Christlike life opens our lives to the power of the Holy Ghost.
Gifts of the Lord cease when faith is missing. The same applies, and the problem is compounded, when iniquity is present. Alma said, “No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Alma 11:37). Similarly, no unclean person can achieve a lasting relationship with the Spirit of God.
We must pray, feast upon the words of Christ, and walk uprightly before God. The Spirit of the Lord teaches us to pray (see 2 Ne. 32:8–9). The words of Christ help us to understand who the Holy Spirit is and how he may be invited into our presence (see 2 Ne. 32:1–3). The Spirit of God persuades us to do good and to believe in Christ (see Ether 4:11–12; Moro. 7:16–19). So prayer, scripture study, and righteous living are musts.
But why seek for the Holy Ghost? You might ask, “What’s in it for me?” Answers to this question are abundant if we listen to those who have associated with the Spirit of the Lord. Their testimonies help to answer questions about the value of associating with the Holy Ghost.
If so, you must do as Nephi directed: “Enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, [for] it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:5).
If so, you must read the word of God, acknowledge God’s goodness, ponder, and ask of God. Moroni testifies that through doing this, “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro. 10:5).
While I was a mission president in Texas, I was informed that a particular missionary had lost his testimony and wanted to go home. Some checking disclosed that doubts of the divinity of his call had been planted in the young man’s mind by an investigator. In an interview with the so-called investigator, I experienced special discernment that enabled me to know that the man was actually a minister of another religion, posing as a college student and pretending to be honestly examining the Church. Confronted with what had been revealed to me, he became confused and admitted his fraud. With the truth known, the missionary stayed and completed an honorable mission.
To be born of God, you must be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, be of service to God and your fellowmen, and, as King Benjamin taught, “Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7).
On one occasion, a missionary in the final week of his mission reminded me that I had given him clearance two years previously to serve a mission. The clearance had been extended with some reservations on my part because his life before his mission had been dotted with transgressions. He said, “You allowed me to go into the field after due repentance and after I promised that I would be strictly obedient and would work diligently. I can assure you that I have worked hard and have obeyed every rule.”
Then he said something very significant. “I will always wish I had never done those things in the first place. But I feel that my sins have been forgiven. I feel perfectly clean.” He had been cleansed through selfless service and by developing a close association with the Holy Spirit. He had been through the refiner’s fire, and impurities had been burned away.
You can hear, feel, and know the revelations of God. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord promised, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, … this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8:2–3). Joseph Smith also said, “By learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 151).
Gifts such as the power to heal, to be healed, or to speak in tongues, according to the prophet Moroni, “come by the Spirit of Christ” (see Moro. 10:17).
Nephi said, “Do you not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?” (2 Ne. 32:2).
Thirty years ago, while I served as a missionary in the Near East, my companion and I were assigned to visit a branch that had been torn apart by apostasy. We approached our assignment humbly and prayerfully. A crucial meeting was scheduled involving the disaffected parties. After we had fasted and prayed earnestly, my companion stood with confidence and spoke with the tongue of an angel. That young, inexperienced elder’s words healed wounds festering in the hearts of men much older than he, prompted confessions, and literally saved a branch of the church.
If so, do as Alma and Paul suggested: “Pray continually, … and thus be led by the Holy Spirit” (Alma 13:28).
The Holy Ghost can give you assurance in all that you do. You, too, may receive the type of assurance given to Nephi and Lehi: “Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world” (Hel. 5:47).
The Holy Ghost can bring you power to perform beyond your natural abilities. He can provide you with the help of unseen powers in all that you do—the power to speak with convincing authority, to receive promptings that enable you to say things you had not planned, and to receive impressions, which if heeded, bring blessings to you and others. Mortals may have great abilities and potential, but however great these mortal powers may be, they are only a shadow of the powers that can be claimed through a linkage with the Holy Spirit.
It is wise from time to time to think about whether you really know the Holy Ghost. If your introduction to this divine companion seems incomplete, review your baptism and confirmation and determine whether you have really received him as you were commanded to do. Pay attention to your physical cleanliness, the cleanliness of your thoughts, the extent of your faith in Christ, your inclination to avoid sin, and your prayer and study habits. Determine whether spiritual experiences are sprinkled generously throughout your daily living. If you find yourself wanting, have the courage to place your life in order.
If you will do these things, you need never be alone, for you will have the most important companionship of all—the Holy Ghost.