The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Godhead, which consists of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit. This third member is often the least understood by many Christians, and yet His role is critical to our lives on earth.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, believe these three are not one being. They are completely unified in every way except physically. This is demonstrated through two verses in the New Testament of the Holy Bible.
John 10:30 says, “I and my Father are one.” In the centuries following the death of Jesus Christ and the apostles, councils convened and decided scriptures like this one signified a unity of physical being. Not all Christians agreed, but this view, put to a vote, prevailed. However, such an interpretation ignores the explanation given by the Savior a few chapters later.
In the Great Intercessory Prayer given by the Savior, He said,
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are (John 17:11)
From this we can see the oneness is that of spiritual unity, not physical oneness, since we do not include all of Jesus’ followers in our trinity. Jesus taught in this prayer that He and His Father were one in the same way all Christians are to be one.
Mormon beliefs teach that God and Jesus Christ have perfected and glorified bodies, but the Holy Spirit is a Spirit only. He has several assignments designed to help us in our life’s journey. In fact, without His help, we would have little chance of returning to our Heavenly Father.
In the Book of Mormon, we learn the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus Christ and God.
“And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; 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 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 31:18)
The Holy Spirit, then, makes it possible for us to know for certain that God lives and Jesus Christ is our Savior. Without this witness, we would have to guess, and few would accept that reality. The Bible promises us in James 1:5 that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God and He will tell us what we need to know. This knowledge comes through the Holy Ghost. We will receive an answer through warm and comforting feelings in our heart (because Satan cannot bring a feeling of peace) and in this way, we can know God and Jesus are real. We can also use the testimony of the Holy Ghost to know what doctrines are true and which church is God’s church. To receive this witness, we must pray and ask for an answer, committing ourselves to act on the answer. We must not ask unless we’re willing to accept and live by the answer.
Some people warn others not to pray, saying you can’t tell who is answering you. However, Mormons believe that since God promised He would answer us, we can trust Him to find a way to make sure we recognize the source of all truth. This is the role of the Holy Ghost—to give us answers we can recognize as coming from God when we pray. The more we pray, the better we will become at recognizing what the Holy Ghost feels like.
Mormons convey the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism. Mormons can be baptized at age eight, which they consider the age of accountability, when a child is old enough to know right from wrong if he’s been taught, and to pray to know what is true. They are expected to pray for a testimony prior to their baptisms. After they are baptized, they are confirmed members of the Church and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Prior to this, they have the Spirit of Christ and can receive periodic promptings from the Holy Ghost to help them recognize truth. However, after they are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by someone with the proper priesthood authority, they can have the Holy Spirit with them all the time, as long as they are living worthy of His presence.
A Mormon teenager who enters a friends’ home to discover the parents aren’t home and the teenagers who are present are making plans to drink can receive a warning from the Holy Spirit to leave the home. If she chooses to ignore the warning and stay, she may find herself on her own, since the Holy Spirit can’t be where wickedness is, and choosing to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit tells Him He is not welcome. However, the teen who obeys will protect herself from very difficult situations. A driver who has a sudden spiritual impression to pull off the road may discover she has avoided an accident that happens moments later to the cars just behind her. This does not mean we can avoid all trials or dangers. However, it helps us to avoid those that are not necessary for our personal growth and plan or to avoid many—but not all—hardships.
Another role of the Holy Spirit is to serve as a comforter.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever (John 14:16).
Life is sometimes very difficult. No life is without sadness or trial because we came here in part to learn and to be tested. However, Jesus promised not to leave us comfortless and so he sent the Holy Spirit. Even when we feel all alone in our trials, He can be there, if invited, to help us through it and to provide comforting companionship and reassurance.
The Holy Spirit also helps us receive spiritual gifts and to be sanctified as we repent. As we can see, although He may get talked about less than the other two members of the Godhead, He plays a powerful role in the success of our mortal lives.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.