The Spirit Speaketh of Things as They Really Are, and of Things as They Really Will Be

The Spirit has always testified of Jesus Christ. Before His birth, the Spirit testified of Him as Jehovah and as the coming Messiah and Savior. After His birth the Spirit now testifies of Him as the Savior who has worked out the Atonement in all of mankind’s behalf. Those who earnestly sought and obtained God’s Spirit before Christ’s coming—including the Nephite prophet Jacob—received a clear witness and understanding of who He would be and what He would do.

Writing about Christ sometime around 500 B.C., Jacob recorded the following about the power of the Spirit:

“…Beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him…He that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.” (Jacob 4:12-13)

Questions:

-Do you believe that true prophets (and their followers) who lived centuries before Christ had a clear understanding of who He would be and what He would do?

-Do you believe that you can have a clear understanding of who Christ is and what He has done through the Spirit?

There Are Many That Harden Their Hearts against the Holy Spirit

Nephi felt that he could communicate God’s word through speech better than he could through writing, because the witness of the Spirit could more easily be dismissed or ignored by those who would read his words than by those who could hear him speak.

“And now I, Nephi, cannot write all things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.” (2 Nephi 33:1-2)

Questions:

-What causes a person to harden his or her heart against the Holy Ghost?

-Are many hearts hardened against the Book of Mormon…even the hearts of those who have never read it?

-Do you feel the witness of the Holy Ghost testifying of the truth of the Book of Mormon as you read it?

-How many read the Book of Mormon with a hardened heart and, consequently, block the witness of the Holy Spirit?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. …

“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, ‘Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.’ (1 Sam. 3:10.)” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

Teachings of the Seventy

“The heart is a tender place. It is sensitive to many influences, both positive and negative. It can be hurt by others. It can be deadened by sin. It can be softened by love. Early in our lives, we learn to guard our hearts. It is like we erect a fence around our hearts with a gate in it. No one can enter that gate unless we allow him or her to.

“In some cases the fence we erect around our hearts could be likened to a small picket fence with a Welcome sign on the gate. Other hearts have been so hurt or so deadened by sin that they have an eight-foot (2.5-m) chain-link fence topped with razor wire around them. The gate is padlocked and has a large No Trespassing sign on it. …

“… The condition of our hearts directly affects our sensitivity to spiritual things. Let us make it a part of our everyday striving to open our hearts to the Spirit. Since we are the guardians of our hearts, we can choose to do so” (Gerald N. Lund, “Opening Our Hearts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 33, 34).

If Ye Enter in by the Way, and Receive the Holy Ghost, It Will Show You All Things What Ye Should Do

Nephi declares that God grants spiritual understanding, to those who sincerely seek it, through the Holy Ghost.

“…After I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:4-5)

Questions:

-What is the best way to ask for spiritual understanding? Is it as simple as saying a sincere prayer and asking God?

-How many who read the teachings contained within the Book of Mormon are willing to take this step to sincerely pray for understanding and seek a confirmation of the truth from the Holy Ghost?

Feast upon the Words of Christ

Nephi teaches that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost and mortals who receive the Holy Ghost can speak by the same power.

“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? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:2-3)

Questions:

-Who is speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost today?

-Where can one go to feast upon the words of Christ?

Has the Lord called prophets in our time to teach us and guide us?

-If you had the opportunity to hear someone speak with the tongue of an angel, to what lengths would you go to take advantage of that opportunity?

-Can only a prophet speak by the power of the Holy Ghost? What qualifies one to speak by the power of the Holy Ghost?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“To feast means more than to taste. To feast means to savor. We savor the scriptures by studying them in a spirit of delightful discovery and faithful obedience. When we feast upon the words of Christ, they are embedded ‘in fleshy tables of the heart’ [2 Corinthians 3:3]. They become an integral part of our nature” (Russell M. Nelson, “Living by Scriptural Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 17).

“If you and I are to feast upon the words of Christ, we must study the scriptures and absorb His words through pondering them and making them a part of every thought and action” (Robert D. Hales, “Healing Soul and Body,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 15).

Do the Things Which I Have Told You I Have Seen That Your Lord and Your Redeemer Should Do

After teaching about the baptism of Christ and the importance of baptism for all of God’s children, Nephi teaches about how a person should move forward after being baptized.

“Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. 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 done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and of the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.” (2 Nephi 31:17-18)

“And now my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? 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.” (2 Nephi 31:19-20)

“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. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21)

Questions:

-How many knew about the necessity of baptism before Christ came to the earth?

-Did others, besides the Nephites, who were of the house of Israel practice baptism before the ministry of John the Baptist?

-Was the idea of baptism completely new to the Jewish people when John the Baptist began his ministry?

-Is there any reason to doubt Christ’s power to save your soul in the kingdom of God if you press forward after baptism as described in the verses above?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Sins are remitted not in the waters of baptism, as we say in speaking figuratively, but when we receive the Holy Ghost. … We become clean when we actually receive the fellowship and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is then that sin and dross and evil are burned out of our souls as though by fire. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 290).

“The ‘doctrine of Christ’ as taught by Nephi in his grand, summational discourse focuses on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It does not, in this declaration, attempt to cover the entire plan of salvation, all the virtues of a Christian life, or the rewards that await us in differing degrees of heavenly glory. It does not, in this declaration, deal with the offices of the priesthood, the ordinances of the temple, or many other true doctrines. All these are important, but as used in the Book of Mormon, ‘the doctrine of Christ’ is simple and direct. It focuses on the first principles of the gospel exclusively, including an expression of encouragement to endure, to persist, to press on. Indeed, it is in the clarity and simplicity of ‘the doctrine of Christ’ that its impact is found. Nephi knew it would be so. He wrote, ‘I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying’ [2 Nephi 31:2]” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 49–50).

“The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions about such things as education, missions, careers, marriage, children, where we will live with our families, and so on. …

“… As the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost also testifies of the Savior and God the Father [see John 15:26; Romans 8:16]. He teaches us ‘the peaceable things of the kingdom’ [D&C 39:6] and causes us to ‘abound in hope’ [Romans 15:13]. He ‘leadeth [us] to do good … [and] to judge righteously’ [D&C 11:12]. He gives ‘to every man [and woman] … a [spiritual] gift … that all may be profited thereby’ [D&C 46:11–12; see also Moroni 10:8–17; D&C 13–16]. He ‘giveth [us] knowledge’ [Alma 18:35] and ‘bring[s] all things to [our] remembrance’ [John 14:26]. Through the Holy Ghost, we ‘may be sanctified’ [3 Nephi 27:20] and receive ‘a remission of [our] sins’ [2 Nephi 31:17]. He is the ‘Comforter,’ the same who was ‘promised unto [the Savior’s] disciples’ [D&C 88:3]” (Robert D. Hales, “The Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 105).


 

He That Endureth to the End, the Same Shall Be Saved

The prophet Nephi shares the revelation he received regarding the importance of remaining faithful (in thought and deed) in this life after entering the baptismal covenant and receiving the Holy Ghost.

“…Thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, ye, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 31:14-15)

“And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.” (2 Nephi 31:16)

Questions:

-What does it mean to endure to the end?

-Why do some fail to finish what they started after entering the baptismal covenant and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost?

-How easy is it to question the witness of the Holy Ghost received early on, when later one does not have the same level of the Spirit’s purifying influence in his or her life?

-What can cause the influence of the Spirit to diminish over time?

-How quickly can one regain the full influence of the Spirit after repenting and recommitting to follow Jesus Christ? Is the amount of time needed to regain the Spirit’s strong influence connected to how far from the Spirit a person has drifted?

-Does any of the above apply to those who are baptized by someone who does not have God’s authority to do so?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Enduring to the end is the doctrine of continuing on the path leading to eternal life after one has entered into the path through faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Enduring to the end requires our whole heart or, as the Book of Mormon prophet Amaleki teaches, we must ‘come unto him, and offer [our] whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth [we] will be saved’ [Omni 1:26].

“Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil, staying in the mainstream of the Church, humbly serving our fellow men, living Christlike lives, and keeping our covenants. Those who endure are balanced, consistent, humble, constantly improving, and without guile. Their testimony is not based on worldly reasons—it is based on truth, knowledge, experience, and the Spirit” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Press On,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 101).

He That Is Baptized in My Name, to Him Will the Father Give the Holy Ghost

Nephi continues to teach about baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost.

“…The voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.” (2 Nephi 31:12)

“Wherefore my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 31:13)

Questions:

-Is it possible to be baptized, by one who holds authority to do so by God, and still not receive the Holy Ghost? Why would the Holy Ghost’s influence be muted or absent?

-How important is it for a person to enter the waters of baptism with a repentant heart and a sincere will to serve the Father by following Christ?

-Why might a person be tempted to enter the waters of baptism with less than pure motives?

-What is the baptism of fire that occurs if a person does enter into a true baptismal covenant with pure motives?

-Is the baptism of fire always a dramatic experience? Whether “dramatic” is the right word or not, is it always an exceptional experience? Does the fire burn differently for different people (depending on their personality and circumstances)? How often does one need the purifying effect of the Spirit’s fire to stay the course in following Christ?

-What does it sound like when someone speaks with the tongue of an angel?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“The ordinance of confirming a new member of the Church and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is both simple and profound. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands upon the head of an individual and call him or her by name. Then, by the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of the Savior, the individual is confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this important phrase is uttered: ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’

“The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—‘Receive the Holy Ghost’—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed ‘receive the Holy Ghost’ and its attendant spiritual gifts. …

“Praying, studying, gathering, worshipping, serving, and obeying are not isolated and independent items on a lengthy gospel checklist of things to do. Rather, each of these righteous practices is an important element in an overarching spiritual quest to fulfill the mandate to receive the Holy Ghost. The commandments from God we obey and the inspired counsel from Church leaders we follow principally focus upon obtaining the companionship of the Spirit. Fundamentally, all gospel teachings and activities are centered on coming unto Christ by receiving the Holy Ghost in our lives” (David A. Bednar, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 95, 97).

 

“We are commanded and instructed to so live that our fallen nature is changed through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. President Marion G. Romney taught that the baptism of fire by the Holy Ghost ‘converts [us] from carnality to spirituality. It cleanses, heals, and purifies the soul. … Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and water baptism are all preliminary and prerequisite to it, but [the baptism of fire] is the consummation. To receive [this baptism of fire] is to have one’s garments washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ’ (Learning for the Eternities, comp. George J. Romney [1977], 133; see also 3 Nephi 27:19–20).

“Hence, as we are born again and strive to always have His Spirit to be with us, the Holy Ghost sanctifies and refines our souls as if by fire (see 2 Nephi 31:13–14, 17). Ultimately, we are to stand spotless before God” (“Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 81).

Their Speech Shall Whisper out of the Dust

Nephi prophesies that—after his father’s descendants have been displaced by settlers (Gentiles) from the Old World—the voices of the Nephite and Lamanite prophets would whisper out of the ground to their descendants and to the entire world.

“…I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men…The prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. For those who have been destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit…and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (2 Nephi 26:14-16)

Questions:

-Does the Book of Mormon have a familiar spirit to many of those with Native American heritage?

-Does it have a familiar spirit to many others around the world who also have ancestry linked to the house of Israel?

-On the broadest scale, does the Spirit whisper to the heart of every earnest truth seeker that the Book of Mormon is God’s word to the entire world?

Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God

Nephi reemphasizes that his record (and the records of the Nephite prophets who would follow him) is intended to be a testament of Jesus Christ to both Jew and Gentile, wherever they might live across the entire earth.

“…As I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 26:12-13)

Questions:

-How does Christ work with the Holy Ghost to manifest Himself to those who believe in him?

-Does the passage above suggest that the effort to believe needs to be exercised before the witness of the Holy Ghost will come?

-Are mighty miracles, signs, and wonders occurring among those who have steadfast faith in Christ?

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?