Archive for September, 2012
I want to belatedly express my thanks to James for his willingness to share his testimony on the topic of the baptism of fire and to QB and JR for adding their perspective. I firmly believe that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a life-changing event and one that every person of faith should seek.
As I pondered the comments, I thought it would be important to re-emphasize several scriptural concepts associated with this marvelous experience.
Let me first quote from 2 Nephi, chapter 31, versus 17 and 18:
“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate;”
We have, on occasion, had visitors to this site who suggest that the baptism of fire can also be a result of a long life of service and devotion to the gospel; that it can be the outcome of a quiet imperceptible change over a long period of time. The question that I must ask: Is the symbolism of a ‘gate’ consistent with this suggestion of unnoticeable change over time? If we are not on the ‘strait and narrow path’ until we have passed through this gate, how can one justify a long life of service and faithful performance of one’s duty as this gate? If both baptism by water and baptism by fire are required to be on the strait and narrow path, how many people are there?
“for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it;” (3 Nephi 27:33)
One may feel justified that their stalwart service in the church warrants this type of blessing, but what if this is NOT the case? What if this ‘mighty change’ is, indeed, THE GATE to the path to eternal life? Would you not, as JB and Enos did, be willing to pray as long as it took to get an answer?
Receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost does not mean that we are ‘saved.’ Nephi poses the question in 2 Nephi, 31:19 as “…after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?” The answer follows:
“…Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.”
As I read this, we are told that we received this blessing by relying on the word of Christ and by expressing ‘unshaken faith’ in God. I would first note that twice in the same sentence, we are told to rely on Christ. This gift does not come through our bishop or stake president or an apostle, it comes directly from Christ. As Christ explained to the Nephites, the disciples which he chose would baptize them with water but He reserves the right to bestow the second baptism…
“Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost;” (3 Nephi 12:1)
Now returning to the doctrine of Christ as described in 2 Nephi, chapter 31. Here are the things found in verse 20, that we must do after receiving the baptism of fire:
press forward with a steadfastness in Christ
have a perfect brightness of hope,
and a love of God and of all men
feast upon the word of Christ
endure to the end
Just as Lehi, Sariah, and Nephi were depicted in the dream of the tree of life, we are told to latch on to the iron rod, which we know to be the word of God – and what I believe to be personal revelation. That is the essence of the strait and narrow path, guided by the iron rod.
We are to exhibit hope, there are no circumstances on earth that should distract us from the attainment of our goal – eternal life. Hope is not allowing our focus to move away from our target.
Those that are on the strait and narrow path should exhibit the love of God and love of their fellow men.
If you look at the index in the back of the triple combination, the entries for ‘word of God’ or ‘word of the Lord’ begin with 1 Nephi 2:2-3 where Lehi is told in a dream to leave Jerusalem. Lehi was ‘obedient unto the word of the Lord.’ This tells me that personal revelation is important as we continue along the strait and narrow path.
The race goes to those who finish. We are told that we must endure to the end to claim the ultimate prize.
In the first chapters of Mosiah, King Benjamin brought all the believers together to hear the words that he was commanded by an angel to deliver. They took his message into their hearts and offered mighty prayer unto God. They were blessed with a remission of their sins – they were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.
” And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” Mosiah 4:4
King Benjamin then reiterated to them what was necessary to retain a remission of their sins; what they must do to carry this baptism of fire with them going forward. This is found in verse 11 of Mosiah, chapter 4:
“… I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”
To retain a remission of our sins, we are to remain mightily humble, there should not be a shred of pride in us. We cannot allow our experience and perceived gift as giving us any position relative to others around us. Just as with the disciples selected by Christ, those who have received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost must be servants to all.
To retain a remission of our sins, we must pray often. This second baptism, I believe, is what is necessary to have a true relationship with Christ. We are to commune with Him regularly, daily, moment by moment.
” Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” D&C 88:63
We are also called upon in the above scripture to ‘stand steadfastly in faith.’ We are to shed doubt and mistrust. We must continually look to Christ and Him only.
What should life be like among a group of those who wish to retain a remission of their sins? This is what is found in a continuation of chapter 4 of Mosiah:
” And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.
And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.”
What better description of Zion is there than what is found here in the admonition to those who desire to maintain the fruits of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? We are to live in peace, we are to care for one another, we are to love and serve, we are to care for those in need. Such is the kingdom of God, such is Zion.
” And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” Mosiah 4:26
The experience of the people of King Benjamin can be applied to us in this sphere. We are to seek the remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, we are to retain a remission of our sins be continuing in faith, prayer, and in the service of our fellow beings. In this are we able to remain justified, in this are we able to be called Saints.
Ending his words to the people, King Benjamin stated the following:
” And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”
The warning to the people was that they had to continually be on guard lest they should lose their justification, that their state of having their sins remitted cease. There is value in the words that caution us to remain prayerful, vigilant, and humble. Having received a remission of our sins does not mean that we cannot fall to sin. It does mean that we can carry forward this remission of sins by humble performance of our duty to God and to our fellow man.
So… what happens if we ‘fall of the wagon?’ What if we allow ourselves to be once again enveloped in the darkness of sin? I would suggest we turn to the experience of Joseph Smith as found in D&C 20, verses 5 & 6:
” After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world;
But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;”