When the Spirit Leaves

[ 9 ] Comments

by jspector106

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

(Articles of Faith 1:4)

Another of the unique doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the gift of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, received following our baptism and during our confirmation as a member of the Church.

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:17)

…The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have, whenever one is worthy, the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  More powerful than that which is available before baptism, it acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin.  (Bible Dictionary, Holy Ghost:Entry)

Without getting into a long discussion on the differences between the terminology of Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, The Spirit, The Spirit of the Lord, The Spirit of God, or the Light of Christ, let it suffice to say that we are blessed with the Holy Ghost as our constant companion as long as we are worthy of Him. And as we exercise our agency, sometimes our actions can cause us to lose our connection to the Holy Ghost. I don’t think we can totally drive away the Spirit of the Lord because that Spirit abides with everyone to help them discern truth from error.

For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.” (D&C 84:45-46)

And I love this quote from Joseph F. Smith:

“The question is often asked, Is there any difference between the Spirit of the Lord and the Holy Ghost? The terms are frequently used synonymously. We often say the Spirit of God when we mean the Holy Ghost; we likewise say the Holy Ghost when we mean the Spirit of God. The Holy Ghost is a personage in the Godhead, and is not that which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. It is the Spirit of God which proceeds through Christ to the world, that enlightens every man that comes into the world, and that strives with the children of men, and will continue to strive with them, until it brings them to a knowledge of the truth and the possession of the greater light and testimony of the Holy Ghost.” (Gospel Doctrine:pg 67)

And this one from President Benson.

“Spirituality—being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord—is the greatest need of Latter-day Saints. We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives. When we have the Spirit, we will love to serve, we will love the Lord, and we will love those whom we serve. Spiritual-mindedness does not come without effort. We live in a very wicked world. We are surrounded with propaganda that evil is good and good is evil. False teachings abound that affect us. Almost everything that is wholesome, good, pure, uplifting, and strengthening is being challenged as never before.  One reason we are on this earth is to discern between truth and error. This discernment comes by the Holy Ghost, not just our intellectual faculties. ” (Ezra Taft Benson, Come unto Christ, p22)

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)

When we are close to the Holy Ghost, we can expect to receive personal revelation for ourselves and our family, special promptings to act, and confirmation of truth.  At times, when our personal worthiness is in question, we may feel far from the Holy Ghost and not receive the answers we seek.

But what happens to those who, through acts of sin, unbelief, or other reasons, distance themselves from the companionship of the Holy Ghost? After all, it is the very first commandment we are given after our baptism, to “Receive the Holy Ghost.”

And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.”  (Mormon 1:14)

When the Spirit leaves:

  • Can we truly discern the things of God without the Holy Ghost as our guide?
  • Do we lose our eternal perspective?
  • Do we allow the things of lesser consequence to overshadow the things of greatest consequence?
  • Do we feel a sense of loss from not having the Spirit with us constantly?
  • Do we care?
  • How do we get it back when we are troubled by doctrinal and historical issues?

One point that must be clear, it is seldom that our Heavenly Father, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost actually leave us. It is we who leave Them.

(Originally published on Mormon Matters 6/25/2009)

9 Responses to When the Spirit Leaves

  1. Paul says:

    Loved this essay the first time I read it at MM and here, too.

    I note that when I go through troughs in which I do not feel the spirit, I rarely miss it right away. It is only looking back and realizing that I am not where I ought to be (or thought I was) that I see that it is missing. Analogous to to leaving the house without my wallet and not noticing until I have to pay for something at the store (or worse yet, after being pulled over for a traffic violation). I consider myself fortunate to have enough habits that bring me back to places where I might re-connect with the spirit. I worry, frankly, much more for some of my children who have abandoned those habits and who lead their lives outside the influence of the spirit. I wonder in my darkest moments how they will find it again.

    • templegoer says:

      Paul, my understanding of the Abrahamic covenant is that our precious children will be called upon by the Lord by virtue of the covenants that we have made-however we may define that invitation. I don’t believe that for one moment our Father abandons His children in the hour of their need. I’m really not sure how this works, but I have been taught by those who know better than I in age and wisdom that our children are not lost to God.

      • Paul says:

        templegoer, I believe this is true also. And I’m glad i can believe it without understanding it. 🙂 The prophet Joseph taught of the power of the sealing ordinance, and I have great trust in the ordinances of the priesthood.

        I wrote today on my own blog about the peace that comes in prayer despite my hand wringing.

  2. Angie says:

    I have long been interested in the process by which we lose the Spirit in our lives entirely. It is rarely a singular experience, but seems to be more like the adage about boiling frogs alive where little by little we do (or fail to do) necessary things to welcome that influence in our lives until we find ourselves afield. In the past few years I have watched some friends and loved ones become very far afield, choosing to leave marriages, church membership and testimonies. From my vantage point outside their hearts and heads, it seems a sudden and disastrous choice but I know that isn’t really the case. I am only seeing the most recent steps. I find myself grieving and wondering how those who have ‘felt to sing the song of redeeming love’ fail to ‘feel so now’ but ultimately it serves as both a wake up and reminder call for me that it is the little things that will take me away if I am not vigilant. I try to use these sad experiences to notice the difference and take myself back to fuller companionship with the Spirit when I find myself too far removed.

    We have had several wonderful returns to full fellowship in our ward in the last year and without exception it has been because they saw the happiness of loved ones and determined to seek out the Spirit in an effort to replicate similar happiness and companionship. I think that is the way of conversion and recommitment for all of us but it only happens if and when we determine to want what we realize we no longer have.

  3. Bonnie says:

    I have to agree with Paul; when we distance ourselves from the spirit we rarely miss it immediately, even though as Angie states, it seems so sudden from the outside. When we work with the spirit, we can feel its encouragement, enlightenment, and steadying. It’s sort of like walking with someone with whom you’re having a lovely conversation. You can get to talking animatedly and all of a sudden realize that they stopped and are “way back there” while you’ve continued on, immersed in the dialogue that has become monologue. We realize this when we take a breath and stop talking, waiting for a confirmation or a response. “Whoa. Where’d you go?”

    This is a constant thing with me, because one aspect of mania episodes is the ability to get wound up in my own monologue, working along at a pretty good clip, not checking how I’m doing. I’ve learned I have to pause and make myself stop and listen.

    And ask for more. Elder Scott’s talk has changed my life and my way of interacting with the spirit. I’m so given to running off excitedly on the first thing the Spirit says, and have had to teach myself and remind myself to ask “Is there more?” until there is no more. Sometimes I’m like the obnoxious listener tapping my foot while someone else is talking. I hope I someday learn.

  4. There’s a great talk Uchtdorf gave a few years ago called “Of Things that Matter Most”. I think he does a great job of outlining the importance of getting back to the basics, and slowing our lives down so we can once again feel/recognize the Spirit in our lives.

    Here’s the link: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/of-things-that-matter-most?lang=eng

  5. Jeff Spector says:

    Thanks to all for your comments. I think I have seen the results of the Holy Ghost being absent from a member or ex-member’s life.

    1. I have sat in on a number of disciplinary councils, particularly for reinstatement. And one of the common traits of the men involved was there true expression of remorse for what they did. At least they could not articulate it in front of the council. Perhaps they did to the Stake President, but not to all of us. When I once questioned the SP on whether the person was truly repentant for what they did, he said that they have been living without the Holy Ghost for so long, they have a hard time speaking about it. Not sure I totally bought into the answer but I understood the concept of not having the Holy Ghost.

    2. For my less active children, when we ask them to pray over our food, there is a big difference in the feeling in the prayer than when my wife or I or my active son give the prayer.

    It is quite palpable.

  6. Cheryl says:

    “Do we feel a sense of loss from not having the Spirit with us constantly?”

    Possibly. There have been times when I’ve not felt the Spirit readily (mostly during periods of figuring out anti-depressant medication and such, re-learning how the Spirit could communicate with me), and it was hard. There are times even now when I feel the loss of the Spirit and it’s not because I’m doing anything horrid –I’m simply not seeking His companionship.

    My MIL, shortly after her excommunication, told me that “living without the Holy Ghost is like flying blind.” She felt an immediate loss. I don’t know if she still feels it (it’s been 14 years), but does one get used to living without the Holy Ghost? Or does one yearn and ache for it? I might ask her…

  7. jspector106 says:

    I think you can get used to it. The memory fades after awhile. And for those who continue in their behavior, they also rationalize away the feeling of having the Holy Ghost with them.

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