In the twilight of his earthly ministry, the Savior began to prepare his Apostles for his inevitable departure. He assured them, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
Although these remarks were directed toward the Apostles of the primitive Church, the Lord’s promise extends to every member of the Church. Upon conditions of worthiness, the Holy Ghost can abide with parents and children, home teachers and visiting teachers, as well as Apostles and prophets.
In that poignant discourse on the Comforter, so eloquently recorded by John the Beloved, the Lord explained in some detail certain ways in which the Holy Ghost may influence our daily lives. The following true accounts illustrate that influence.
A heavy spirit pervaded the funeral congregation as the services for a young mother who had died in childbirth drew to a close. The eulogies had been eloquent, but many who were gathered there that day felt some bitterness. How could a loving Father in Heaven allow such a lovely mother to be taken, leaving behind a family of four little ones to be cared for alone by a grieving father?
At the conclusion of the formal program the young father calmly rose from his seat and walked to the pulpit. “I sense your grief and concern,” he said quietly, “but there is something I should tell you to comfort you. The first hour after my wife’s death I didn’t know how I could possibly stand it—how I could possibly go on without her. But then a sweet, peaceful spirit filled my soul, and since then I have had the assurance that everything will be all right. Don’t worry about us, we’re going to be just fine.”
This same comforting spirit distilled upon the congregation. Everyone went home comforted.
In his magnificent benedictory address, King Benjamin instructed the Saints that in order to overcome the natural man we must yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). Alluding to the fact that the Holy Ghost actively strives to help us overcome our sins, Alma also admonished his brethren to “contend no more against the Holy Ghost” (Alma 34:38).
Following is a true account of a middle-aged businessman who very vividly felt the Comforter enticing him to do good.
Brother Paul Penrod had been plagued with an enslaving smoking habit for two decades. He sincerely wanted to be active in the Church, but somehow this habit constituted a seemingly insurmountable barrier between him, the Lord, and Church activity.
One blustery, wintry day at work, disgusted with his inability to refrain from smoking one cigarette after another, he felt a subtle spiritual nudge which prompted him to drop his work and tell his employees he’d be gone for the rest of the day. Despite the chilling weather and the deep, new-fallen snow, he hiked into a secluded mountain canyon. Intent on seeking the Lord in private circumstances so he might pour out his soul aloud, he hiked until the snow was hip-deep and he could walk no farther.
Then and there he approached the Lord with great humility. He pleaded with the Lord to strengthen him so that he might be free from the insidious power that nicotine held over him. After mighty prayer, he arose a new man.
The chains were broken. He had sought the Truth and the Truth had made him free. Six months later he was called to be the bishop of his ward. He served faithfully and well.
The aspiring college professor had been struggling through the years of graduate school, hoping to obtain a doctorate from one of the nation’s leading universities. Preparations had been carefully made for his final oral examinations. He and his wife had fasted and prayed intently for several days, invoking the Spirit of the Lord to attend him in his pending trial and time of proving.
The night before his oral defense, this young man tossed and turned and could not sleep. Then, as he gradually began to relax, he saw in his mind’s eye the questions that would be asked the next morning. He began to mentally prepare the answers for each question as it arose in his mind.
The next morning he arrived at the examination at the appointed hour. To his pleasant surprise, the first question asked by his doctoral examination committee was the first question he had encountered in his thoughts the previous evening. Then, as the examination unfolded, question after question was raised in the same order in which it had occurred the night before. Needless to say, he passed the exams with an impressive performance. He has dedicated his life and profession to serving the Lord.
It was the early 1930s; the handsome American youth had only been in Czechoslovakia for a few weeks. With absolutely no language training he had come to preach the gospel to the Czech people in their own tongue. The time had arrived to preach his first sermon to a group of Saints and interested investigators. His experienced companion had labored diligently to help him write his speech and had also provided a phonetic guide to aid in the pronunciation of this very difficult language. Now he must face the congregation alone.
The moment of truth arrived, and the senior companion suffered in silence as his youthful counterpart proceeded to violate every grammatical rule in the entire Czech language. However, all was not lost, because his pronunciation was so atrocious that few in the audience could tell what he was saying anyway.
After the meeting, the young elder felt somewhat embarrassed and disappointed until a matronly investigator approached him. With tearstained cheeks and trembling voice she told him (through an interpreter), “I felt that everything you said was true—I’d like to be baptized.” The promise in the Book of Mormon is that “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” (2 Ne. 33:1).
Some of God’s choicest servants—Enoch, Moses, and Elijah—were slow of speech. While a radiant countenance and eloquent speech are desirable qualities in preaching the gospel, it is the Holy Ghost, not the sentence structure, which begets conversion.
The young couple glanced at each other anxiously as the distinguished-looking brethren entered their home and seated themselves on the sofa. The mother gently rocked the twin babies she had delivered two months previously, while the two older children, ages three and five, stared inquisitively at these men who had such earnest faces.
Now the stake president spoke: “Sister, how would you feel if we told you the Lord has called your husband to be the bishop of a brand new ward in Zion?”
She looked at those four little children, her mind anticipating the added responsibilities she would have as her husband attended to his bishop’s duties. Without hesitation she replied, “If that’s what the Lord wants, I’ll support my husband every way that I can.”
Her young husband had thought such a call might come to him someday—perhaps in his forties or fifties after he had adequately prepared himself. But now he was scarcely thirty. Although the Spirit had alerted him a few days previously that the call would come, still he felt totally inadequate and completely overwhelmed.
He spent several sleepless nights contemplating the magnitude of the call. How does one go about organizing a new ward? How could he be sure whom the Lord desired for his counselors, Relief Society officers and teachers, home teachers, Sunday School teachers, ward choir director, or editor of the ward newspaper? He could not shake a disquieting, hollow feeling.
Then, a few days later, all the bishops in the stake met with the stake presidency. Older, experienced bishops shared their counsel and recommendations. The young bishop received handbooks of instruction, a bishop’s training manual, priesthood bulletins, and other helpful materials. Members of the stake presidency shared wise counsel, the result of rich experience laboring in a variety of capacities in the Church. All the brethren knelt in prayer together and invoked the Spirit of the Lord to guide and direct them in their stewardships as common judges in Israel.
Later, the bishop recalled that as he drove home that day, he felt strongly the presence of the Spirit. Just as one’s limbs tingle when he sits in an awkward position too long and the blood rushes into a hand or foot that has “gone to sleep,” the infusion of the Spirit was physically perceptible. Confidence and comfort came to him. He was now anxiously engaged in the Lord’s work.
During the years that followed, the bishop enjoyed the companionship of the Holy Ghost in making hundreds of decisions relating to the welfare of the Saints in the ward. He also learned the very important lesson “that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36; italics added).
This is a key to having the influence of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood power of God. On the other hand, “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved” (D&C 121:37).
In modern revelation, the Lord provides us with a strategy or formula for retaining the gift of the Holy Ghost so that the Comforter may abide with us continually:
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:45–46; italics added).