Gift of the Holy Ghost
Alma recounts the many blessings the Nephites had received in their generations : Having been visited by the spirit of God, having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation; and also many gifts : the gift of speaking with tongues, and the gift of preaching, and the gift of the holy ghost, and the gift of translation (Alma 7:4). According to Alma, these many blessings come from the spirit of God and include the gift of the holy ghost.1 “If God sustains everything through His holy spirit, which is also sometimes called the Light of Christ, then is it not already within you? If it is already within you, then you can decide to ‘receive’ it by opening yourself up to its influence. If you decide to ‘receive’ it by opening yourself up to its influence, then you may be able to take it into yourself as a gift from God[.] If that gift becomes a permanent source of influence within you, then have you received the gift of the holy ghost? If this is within you, then is it your own? If your own, then do you have the holy ghost as your constant companion?”2 The holy ghost can come and visit with a person but not tarry with them.3 If it comes and visits with them, then it is said the person has “received” the holy ghost. This kind of visit is conditional. It is dependent upon the worthiness and desire of the recipient. If they “grieve” the spirit by misbehavior, it will depart from them. For the holy ghost to become a constant companion which tarries, it is said to be the gift of the holy ghost, because the one with this endowment has received a gift from God, and it is given to them by God to be theirs.4
Baptism and the holy ghost have always been linked together, but laying on hands has not always been included. Baptism and the holy ghost are linked whether or not there is someone who can lay on hands to give the gift. Baptism precedes the holy ghost, and the holy ghost always follows, if the baptism was proper. The only condition for receiving the holy ghost is sincere repentance before baptism. If a person is sincere, then the gift follows automatically. Nephi relayed some truth about baptism and the holy ghost : And [Christ] said unto the children of men, Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said, Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my beloved Son. And also 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. 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 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. But behold, my beloved brethren, 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 — yea, 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 13:2–3). “Therefore, according to Christ and the Father, as reported by Nephi, the steps are : one, repent; two, be willing to take upon you the name of Christ; three, be baptized; and four, …the holy ghost will come upon you.” There is no mention of laying on of hands, because the process and promise given by Christ and the Father does not require laying on hands. It only requires exactly what Nephi reported from conversing with Christ and the Father. Likewise, in modern revelation the Lord explained His Gospel while omitting any requirement for laying on hands for the holy ghost : And verily, verily I say unto you, he that receives my gospel receives me. And he that receives not my gospel receives not me. And this is my gospel : repentance, and baptism by water, and then comes the baptism of fire and the holy ghost, yea, even the Comforter, which shows all things and teaches the peaceable things of the kingdom (T&C 23:2). Similar to Nephi’s explanation, Christ makes no mention of laying on of hands in this revelation to Joseph, because it is not required. Christ set the example. He was baptized and immediately received the holy ghost. No one laid hands on Him. The gift was given because of His qualification for baptism. But there have been those who were given conditional authority to bestow the gift. They could only do so by consulting with the Father and Christ beforehand to ensure it was God’s decision, not man’s, to give the gift.5 Christ, however, can give the permanent gift of the holy ghost by His touch (see 3 Nephi 8:10; Moroni 2:2).6See also HOLY GHOST.
1 “God’s Many Works, Part 5,” Aug. 17, 2012, blog post.
2 “God’s Many Works, Conclusion,” Aug. 18, 2012, blog post.
3 WJS, 170, 173, 268n5. The original Willard Richards entry reads, “But the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit — and a person cannot have the personage of the h.g. in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. It may descend upon him but not to tarry with him” (JSP, Journals Vol. 2:326, Appendix 2, 1–4 April 1843, 405).
4 “BFHG, Part 2,” Aug. 21, 2012, blog post.
5 “Laying On Hands,” Aug. 19, 2014, blog post.
6 “Clarifying Distinctions,” Oct. 7, 2015, blog post