The scriptures recite stories of both success and triumph as well as failure and futility. One such contrast is described in Matthew, chapter 17 where Peter, James and John are taken by Christ up a high mountain where Jesus was ‘transfigured before them.’ They were then presented with Moses and Elias conversing with the Savior and heard the testimony of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (Matt. 17:5). I can only imagine what these men thought as this scene was rolled out before them. They fell down and were ‘sore afraid.’ To me, this kind of experience would bolster my faith and eradicate any fear yet upon their success, their return from the mountain, these disciples were presented with their own futility, as found in the same chapter
14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
The disciples, including Peter, James, and John, found that their lack of faith prevented them from healing the child. That faith would give them the power to move mountains and make it possible for them to do anything. What is this faith and how does one obtain the power to be a conduit of heavenly power?
After the last supper, Christ told Peter that he was sought as a prize by Satan. He was given the assurance by the Lord in Luke, chapter 22,
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Here again, the necessity of faith was brought to the forefront in the discussion between Christ and Peter, who was told that he had not yet been converted. We know, of course, that Peter still had to pass through the trial of denying his relationship with the Savior, one that caused him to weep. The question, in my mind, is how this conversion and the acquisition of faith to transpire? How does Peter become ‘converted?’
One can, of course, point to the day of Pentecost, where the disciples were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost, as described in Acts, chapter 2,
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The narrative continues with the following statement, “And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” Of particular note, found at the beginning of Acts, chapter 3, was the following,
1 NOW Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
7 And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
8 And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God:
As I pondered this specific miracle, among the many miracles done by the apostles, the questions were formed: How did the lack of faith demonstrated by these disciples of Christ give way to the faith and demonstration of priesthood power following their baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? What is the linkage between the two? What did Peter’s baptism of fire unleash that then allowed him to be successful in healing the lame when before He could not heal the lunatik?
I would suggest that the conversion of Peter, the second baptism, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, unlocked his ability to exercise the priesthood power in healing the lame man. The remission of sins and the sanctification of that experience allowed Peter to become a conduit for the powers of heaven in strengthening his brethren. Likewise, it was the collective event of the baptism of fire that preceded the demonstration of ‘wonders and signs’ by the apostles documented in the description of the day of Pentecost.
This same baptism of fire was experienced by the disciples of Christ during His visit to the Nephites following his resurrection, as described in 3 Nephi chapter 19:
7 And the disciples did pray unto the Father also in the name of Jesus. And it came to pass that they arose and ministered unto the people.
8 And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.
9 And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.
10 And when they had thus prayed they went down unto the water’s edge, and the multitude followed them.
11 And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized.
12 And he came up out of the water and began to baptize. And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen.
13 And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
14 And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.
The disciples that Jesus had chosen were the first to be re-baptized with water and were then baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. They were also part of the miracle of the sacrament where the multitude was filled by the few loaves brought by the disciples. These same disciples were responsible for greater works of God as described in 4 Nephi,
5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
Did this baptism of fire unlock the disciples’ ability to perform the works of God? I would suggest that the answer is ‘yes.’ In some incomprehensible way, the second baptism was a prerequisite to the apostles’ ability to heal the sick and perform the other miracles recorded in the scriptures. The baptism of fire carries with it the sanctification of the body, all sins are put in remission, and the person is clean. It is then, in this sanctified condition, that the apostles were able to channel the powers of heaven in the performance of miracles.
In the meridian of time, both among the Jews and the Nephites, the twelve were shown to experience the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost prior to their miracles and healings. Could it be that, just as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate to the strait and narrow path (2 Nephi 31:17-18), that the same baptism of fire is the gate to the demonstration of the works of God by His apostles?
What does our modern leadership say about the second baptism? Here is one example from the general conference address by Boyd K. Packer in October 2007:
To my great surprise, I was called to meet with President David O. McKay. He took both of my hands in his and called me to be one of the General Authorities, an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
A few days later, I came to Salt Lake City to meet with the First Presidency to be set apart as one of the General Authorities of the Church. This was the first time I had met with the First Presidency—President David O. McKay and his counselors, President Hugh B. Brown and President Henry D. Moyle.
President McKay explained that one of the responsibilities of an Assistant to the Twelve was to stand with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a special witness and to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ. What he said next overwhelmed me: “Before we proceed to set you apart, I ask you to bear your testimony to us. We want to know if you have that witness.”
I did the best I could. I bore my testimony the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward. To my surprise, the Brethren of the Presidency seemed pleased and proceeded to confer the office upon me.
That puzzled me greatly, for I had supposed that someone called to such an office would have an unusual, different, and greatly enlarged testimony and spiritual power.
It puzzled me for a long time until finally I could see that I already had what was required: an abiding testimony in my heart of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. I may not have known all about it, but I did have a testimony, and I was willing to learn.
I was perhaps no different from those spoken of in the Book of Mormon: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added).
Over the years, I have come to see how powerfully important that simple testimony is. I have come to understand that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9; D&C 93:29). He is a father with all the tender love of a father. Jesus said, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27).
Next year, in the General Conference held in April 2008, Christofferson added this clarification:
You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality.
As I read and re-read these recitation of the church’s apostles experience, I came away with several points of his presentation. One, a simple testimony is all that Packer believes is needed to be an apostle. Apostles shouldn’t expect any great, unusual, or different spiritual power. Two, Packer has wrested the scriptures in 3 Nephi to support an incorrect conclusion. The 300 Lamanites, as referenced in 3 Nephi 9:20, weren’t the recipients of some long term imperceptible change as suggested by Packer and Cristofferson, rather they could not understand what was happening around them and had to be instructed as to what they were experiencing. The event is recorded in Helaman, chapter five. I would note that in the footnotes associated with verse 45, there is a pointer to 3 Nephi 9:20. This reinforces the point that the idea that “they knew it not” should not be used to support the idea that the baptism of fire is a process rather than event. Rather, they needed to be ‘coached’ as to what was happening. They knew it not because they understood it not.
If our modern apostles don’t believe that the baptism of fire is integral to the gospel, and what I would consider a prerequisite to extending the power of the priesthood, how can we expect them to perform the miracles attendant to this position? If the church is a ‘true’ restoration of the past organization, should we not expect the apostles to exhibit the same attributes as those twelve selected by Christ among the Jews and the Nephites? Should they not be the conduit through which the powers of heaven rain down miracles upon the members?
I believe that we all can have faith work in our lives. We each can be the recipient of miracles based on our individual faith. However, I believe that the scriptures puts a specific emphasis on the performance of miracles by those twelve who are called to serve in the position of apostle. They are to demonstrate the works of God rather than the works of men.
Following His exposition of the gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, verse 21, Christ told the twelve what should be done in His church:
…ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
What works was Christ referring to? According to 3 Nephi 26, verse 15, He ”healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them…”
These are the works of God. These are the miracles and wonders performed by Peter and the apostles among the Jews. These are the healings performed by the twelve apostles among the Nephites. These are the works of God that should be demonstrated by those who are called to the same position in the modern church.
Why is it not happening? It is because the church is in apostasy. It is because the leadership of the church has changed the everlasting covenant which is the fulness of the gospel (D&C 66:2). Without a correct understanding of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the gospel is not that which was defined by Christ, and the works of God cannot be demonstrated in His church. This is the message of the 27th chapter of 3 Nephi.
We are all called upon to repent and return. I suggest we get moving in that direction.
What think ye?