Baptism is something that is common to many Christian factions across the globe. Many favor the “sprinkling” method, while other Christians, like Mormons, use the “immersion” method as was the baptism of Jesus Christ.
Baptism by immersion in water by one having authority is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to receive eternal salvation. All who seek eternal life must follow the example of the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, www.lds.org – Definition of Baptism)
In other words, when you are brought up out of the water you are clean from every sin and are as a newborn baby, fresh and new. It is at that moment in time you will be the most perfect you will ever be since your birth. It is an exhilarating feeling, although the occurrence in my life took place in a distant time.
I was baptized by Elder John Boynton, then one of the Twelve Apostles, June 1836, at Kirtland, Ohio. Previous to accepting the ordinance of baptism, in my investigations of the principles taught by the Latter-day Saints [Mormons], which I proved by comparison to be the same as those mentioned in the New Testament taught by Christ and His Apostles, I was thoroughly convinced that obedience to those principles would impart miraculous powers, manifestations and revelations. With expectation of this result, I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority; and having thus yielded obedience to these ordinances, I was in constant expectation of the fulfillment of the promise of the reception of the Holy Ghost. The manifestation did not immediately follow my baptism as I had expected. (Lorenzo Snow as quoted by Preston Nibley, “The Presidents of the Church, Deseret Book 1945)
This is not an uncommon response, even for a future prophet of God. Sometimes it takes awhile before we feel the full manifestation of the Holy Ghost in our lives. In a moment when we are earnestly seeking truth in sincere prayer, oh yes, the influence of the Holy Ghost can be felt as a soft whisper in your heart that sweeps through your entire body. Or it can be felt as a sense of certain rightness and truth. The Holy Ghost manifests itself in many, many ways . . . but all of them identifiable.
President Snow goes on to say:
Some two or three weeks after I was baptized, one day while engaged in my studies, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of the work-that I had not realized the fulfillment of the promise, “he that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine,” and I began to feel very uneasy. I laid aside my books, left the house and wandered around through the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of day, to retire for secret prayer, to a grove a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed and the heavens seemed like brass over my head.
At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not fore go evening service, and as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed, retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel. I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, then I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes; and immediately the spirit of God descended upon me: completely enveloping my whole person, filling me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O the joy and happiness I felt.
No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge, that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the Holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism. (Ibid)
And so President Snow described his own experience of feeling the Holy Ghost for the first time. The specific responsibility of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth, all truth. And as Lorenzo Snow reluctantly knelt to pray, the heavens opened and truth was testified of in a tangible and sweeping manner.
Sometimes, when we expect the burning bush or the parting of the Red Sea in order for God to prove himself we shall receive nothing. For they who seek signs have no real testimony of God or understanding of His mission and purpose in the eternities. But . . . there is one manifestation of the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, which is almost felt each time we seek acknowledgment of truth. For me, it is a warmth and surety which sweeps over my body and my brain’s acceptance of truth as it is testified to me without conscious thought. Meaning, I don’t say to myself:
“Okay, I’m ready. Hit me.”
My spirit hears the testimony of the Holy Ghost and consciously recognizes that spiritual transaction of knowledge with sure realization of truth.
As the prophet Moroni promised in the last chapter he wrote before burying the plates and fleeing his enemies:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:3-5)
At all times and in all things the Holy Ghost will testify of truth. After baptism, performed by one in authority, the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed upon you. At this time you make a choice, will you live your life in such a way that you may have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, live up to the covenants you’ve made with Christ and begin your first steps on that journey to our heavenly home, or revert to your old ways turning from all you’ve just been given.
The Holy Ghost will be your companion and comforter, as described by Jesus Christ, guiding you through this treacherous journey we call mortality. You may not received a sudden and magnificent manifestation of his presence, but if you pray and listen quietly, asking for clarification or testimony of a truth, you will feel him as he testifies to you.
It is a precious, precious gift the Lord left with the early saints when He ascended to heaven. President Joseph F. Smith said of his own experience:
. . . the influence and power of the Holy Spirit that I experienced when I had been baptized for the remission of my sins. The feeling that came upon me was that of pure peace, of love and of light. I felt in my soul that if I had sinned-and surely I was not without sin-that it had been forgiven me; that I was indeed cleansed from sin; my heart was touched, and I felt that I would not injure the smallest insect beneath my feet. I felt as though I wanted to do good everywhere to everybody and to everything. I felt a newness of life, a newness of desire to do that which was right. There not one particle of desire for evil left in my soul. (Joseph F. Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Report, April 1898 66)
And so it is, the Holy Ghost, the third member of the godhead, testifies of truth . . . even to the recognition of the purity of our spirits living in this physical reality. He is a gift from God, a compass as it were, that we may be carefully guided on our journey home.