If you are a member of the Church, then you’ve likely experienced it before. You’ve had moments in your life when you knew that you were feeling the Holy Ghost’s influence – those sweet, peaceful, sanctifying, all-encompassing sacred experiences when you knew that the Holy Ghost was giving his sacred approval. During those times, He might be witnessing to you that what you are hearing, reading or saying is true. He may also just be letting you know that your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ love you and care about you. As the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost plays an absolutely critical role in the Eternal Father’s plan.
If you are a normal human being, you have probably also experienced times in your life when the Holy Ghost’s influence was not as easily perceptible; and when it was felt, it was felt less strongly. We all go through ups and downs in our spiritual progression. They help us to recognize the difference between bitter and sweet – which encourages us to “refuse the evil and, choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). The atonement of Jesus Christ helps us in this quest.
So, yes, ups and downs are normal. However, there is a pernicious lie circulating among Church critics within and without the Church.
This lie is probably the single most foul lie the adversary uses against those who are going through a faith crisis. It is that an individual cannot trust the spiritual witnesses that they’ve received. He tells them that those sweet, peaceful, sacred experiences that they have had were nothing more than the imaginary products of wishful thinking. Wow, don’t you feel darkness just reading that lie? It feels wrong because it is wrong. The adversary is “the father of all lies” who teaches us that we “must not pray”. (See 2 Nephi 2:18; 32:8).
Yet, I’ve heard critics of the Church use this argument over and over again. Why? It’s because we, as a people, place such a huge emphasis on receiving personal revelation to verify the truth – much more than any other church/religion out there. You don’t hear adherents to other religions saying, “I know that this church (or religion, or book of scripture) is true because I have prayed about it and the Holy Ghost has revealed the truth of it to me.” You just don’t hear it – regardless of what critics say.
It’s ironic. We are often labeled as sheepish followers of a tyrannical, patriarchal hierarchy. But, at the same time, our “hierarchy” is consistently and frequently urging us not to simply believe in the restoration or Jesus Christ just because of what others say but to gain our own spiritual witness of the truth through sacred communion with the Holy Ghost.
Let’s be honest. Perhaps the greatest ability one can gain during his or her mortal experience is the ability to recognize, listen to, and respond to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s be honest again. Perhaps the greatest thing that Satan can do to distract you from achieving your full potential is to dull your sensitivity to the Holy Ghost’s influence either via sin – or by making you believe that what you are feeling and have felt is an imaginary neurological anomaly.
Jesus Christ warned against denying the Holy Ghost. He said, “Deny not the spirit of revelation, nor the spirit of prophecy, for wo unto him that denieth these things” (D&C 11:25).
The Nephite members of the Church in the Book of Mormon experienced first hand the consequences of denying revelation through the Holy Ghost: “Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God. And it was because of the pride of their hearts… making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation… therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands” (Helaman 4:11-13).
Moreover, the Book of Mormon gives several warnings and prophesies for those who neglect the importance of revelation:
“And they shall contend one with another… and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Nephi 28:4)
“Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?” (Jacob 6:8).
“And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should… contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:37-38).
“Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost! Yea, and wo unto him that shall say at that day, to get gain, that there can be no miracle wrought by Jesus Christ; for he that doeth this shall become like unto the son of perdition, for whom there was no mercy, according to the word of Christ!” (3 Nephi 29:6).
“They are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; and they are denying the Holy Ghost. And after rejecting so great a knowledge, my son, they must perish soon, unto the fulfilling of the prophecies which were spoken by the prophets, as well as the words of our Savior himself” (Moroni 8:28).
“And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever” (Moroni 10:7).
I hope that you and I can take whatever measures necessary to humble ourselves and believe the words of God and His prophets concerning the third member of the Godhead and the essential role that he plays in revealing “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).