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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

    What is the difference between the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Christ, and the Light of Christ?

    Brent Bulloch, instructor at the Tempe Institute of Religion adjacent to Arizona State University. In the scriptures, the Holy Ghost is called by several names, such as: “the Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of the Lord,” “the Spirit of Truth,” “the Holy Spirit,” and “the Comforter.” Some of these same terms are also used to refer to the Light of Christ, which may also be called “the Spirit of Christ,” and “the light of truth.” Although the names given them are sometimes the same, the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost are different and distinct.

    The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit and a member of the Godhead. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “the Holy Ghost should not be confused with the Spirit [the Light of Christ] which fills the immensity of space and which is everywhere present. This other Spirit is impersonal and has no size, nor dimensions; it proceeds forth from the presence of the Father and the Son and is in all things. We should speak of the Holy Ghost as a personage as ‘he’ and this other Spirit as ‘it,’ although when we speak of the power or gift of the Holy Ghost we may properly say ‘it.’” 1

    The terms “Spirit of Christ” and the “Light of Christ” are most often used in the scriptures synonymously. Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave this explanation about what the Light of Christ is: “There is a spirit—the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ, the light of truth, the light of Christ—that defies description and is beyond mortal comprehension. It is in us and in all things; it is around us and around all things; it fills the earth and the heavens and the universe. It is everywhere, in all immensity, without exception; it is an indwelling, immanent, ever-present, never-absent spirit. It has neither shape nor form nor personality. It is not an entity nor a person nor a personage. It has no agency, does not act independently, and exists not to act but to be acted upon.” 2

    The scriptures tell us that the Light of Christ, which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space,” is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God.” 3 It is manifested in the light of the sun, moon, and stars and is the power by which they and the earth were made. It is also the light that quickens our understanding. 4

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the Light of Christ “is the agency of God’s power; it is the means and way whereby ‘he comprehendeth all things,’ so that ‘all things are before him, and all things are round about him.’ It is the way whereby ‘he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.’” 5

    The Holy Ghost makes use of the Light of Christ to perform his work. “The Spirit of Christ (or Light of Christ) is the agency through which the Holy Ghost operates,” Elder McConkie explained. 6 Moroni wrote that all spiritual gifts come through the Spirit of Christ, 7 meaning that when the Holy Ghost works with us, he transmits his gifts by the agency of the light of Christ.

    After we are baptized and confirmed and we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, we may enjoy the gifts of the Holy Ghost through the Holy Ghost’s ministration. Since the Holy Ghost uses the Spirit of Christ or Light of Christ to minister to the Saints of God, the term “Spirit of Christ” is sometimes used to refer to the Holy Ghost’s ministration through that Spirit. 8

    In a general conference address, President Marion G. Romney helped clarify the nature of the connection between the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. “There are three phases of the light of Christ that I want to mention,” said President Romney.

    “The first one is the light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world;

    “The second phase is the gift of the Holy Ghost;

    “And the third is the more sure word of prophecy.” 9

    The first phase of the Light of Christ is referred to in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

    “And the spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world.” 10 Mormon taught that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.” 11 In this respect, the Light of Christ is associated with what we often call conscience. Everyone who is born into mortality receives the Light of Christ.

    What is the effect of the Light of Christ on an individual? Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that “if a man who has never heard the gospel will hearken to the teachings and manifestations of the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Truth, which come to him, often spoken of as conscience … it will lead him eventually to the fulness of the gospel.” 12

    Similarly, President Harold B. Lee said, “Every one of you born into this world enjoys the blessing of this Light that shall never cease to strive with you until you are led to that further light from the gift of the Holy Ghost that may be received only upon condition of repentance and baptism into the Kingdom of God.” 13

    The second phase of the Light of Christ spoken of by President Romney is received after baptism. President John Taylor taught that the world has “a portion of the Spirit of God,” but that “we have something more than that portion of the Spirit of God which is given to every man, and it is called the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is received through obedience to the first principles of the Gospel of Christ, by the laying on of hands of the servants of God.” 14

    President Brigham Young spoke of the Holy Ghost’s influence as “the increased rays of that light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” 15 Elder Charles W. Penrose taught that a person who receives the gift of the Holy Ghost receives “a greater and higher endowment of the same spirit which enlightens every man that comes into the world.” 16 Through this greater endowment of the Light of Christ the Holy Ghost conveys to the Saints such gifts of the Spirit as testimony, revelation, healing, prophecy, and many others. 17 President Romney also explained that “one is born again by actually receiving and experiencing the light and power inherent in the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 18

    The third phase of the Light of Christ spoken of by President Romney is “‘the more sure word of prophecy’ (D&C 131:5), which is obtained by making one’s ‘calling and election sure’ (2 Pet. 1:10).” 19 The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “after a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, … then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John.” 20

    The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that a person who receives the more sure word of prophecy is “sealed in the heavens and [has] the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God.” 21 Such persons may then, “by making [their] calling and election sure, enjoy the full light of Christ.” 22

    The Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost are not the same. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit in the form of a man. He is separate and distinct from the Father and the Son, yet they all work together in perfect unity. The Father and the Son have resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, which the Holy Ghost does not have. 23

    The body of the Holy Ghost is like the spirit body of the Lord, which the Lord showed unto the brother of Jared before His mortal birth. Such a body resembles that of a man, but consists of spirit matter, a substance finer and purer than temporal matter. 24 The Holy Ghost has size and dimensions. He does not transform himself into any other form or manifest himself in any other image than that of a spirit man.

    Unlike the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Ghost does not fill the universe and cannot be personally present everywhere at the same time; however, his power and influence, through the Light of Christ, can be manifest at the same time throughout all the immensity of space. 25

    The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right or blessing extended to those who are baptized whereby they may enjoy the companionship and ministration of the Holy Ghost as long as they are faithful. Often in the scriptures, the term Holy Ghost is used to refer not to the personage of the Holy Ghost, but to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, or his power, influence, or ministrations. 26

    There is still much that we do not know about the nature and power of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ. However, we can have unshaken confidence that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father.” 27 The Doctrine and Covenants tells us, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” 28 It also says that “he that keepeth [the Lord’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” 29

    Greater understanding about the Light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, and other things of God will come to us as we obey the Lord and seek knowledge with pure intent. 30 While we are growing in such knowledge, our greatest concern and effort should be to listen to and follow the voice of the Spirit that we might do the will of our Father in Heaven, to accomplish what he would have us do.


  •   1.

    Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lay: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:49–50.

  •   2.

    A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985, p. 257; see also D&C 88:41.

  •   3.

    D&C 88:12–13.

  •   4.

    See D&C 88:6–11.

  •   5.

    McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 258; see D&C 88:41.

  •   6.

    Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 314.

  •   7.

    See Moro. 10:17.

  •   8.

    See Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11 for examples; see also Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–73, 3:286–87.

  •   9.

    Ensign, May 1977, p. 43.

  •   10.

    D&C 84:45–46.

  •   11.

    Moro. 7:16.

  •   12.

    Doctrines of Salvation, 1:51; see also D&C 84:45–48.

  •   13.

    Decisions for Successful Living, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, p. 144.

  •   14.

    Journal of Discourses, 23:320–21; see also 23:370–71.

  •   15.

    Journal of Discourses, 6:315.

  •   16.

    Journal of Discourses, 23:350.

  •   17.

    See 1 Cor. 12:4–11; Moro. 10:8–18; D&C 46:8–26.

  •   18.

    See Ensign, May 1977, p. 44.

  •   19.


  •   20.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 150.

  •   21.

    History of the Church, 5:388.

  •   22.

    Romney, Ensign, May 1977, p. 45.

  •   23.

    See D&C 130:22–23; see also McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 253–54.

  •   24.

    See D&C 131:7–8.

  •   25.

    See Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:38; McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:105.

  •   26.

    See John 20:22; Acts 7:55–56; Acts 8:14–19; Acts 10:44–48; Acts 19:1–6; see also McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 358–59; McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:78.

  •   27.

    James 1:17.

  •   28.

    D&C 50:24.

  •   29.

    D&C 93:28.

  •   30.

    See D&C 130:19.

  • My wife and I are considering a full-time mission, but tracting sounds exhausting. What would we be required to do on a mission? How can we qualify and prepare for one?

    Bruce T. Harper, manager of missionary prefield services, Church Missionary Department. With the current expansion of the Lord’s work throughout the world, additional needs and opportunities are opening up that didn’t exist even ten years ago. A marvelous opportunity awaits qualified missionary couples who can bring their maturity, experience, and talents to the missionary effort. At a recent general conference, Elder David B. Haight said, “The goal of every physically able couple in the Church, just as it is for every 19-year-old young man in the Church, should be to serve a mission.” (Ensign, May 1987, p. 61.)

    When we think of full-time missionary service, we often picture young missionaries tracting door to door, and that may seem rather intimidating to older couples. All missionaries—including couples—do have a basic responsibility for sharing the gospel, but couples are able to fulfill that opportunity and provide many other services in very diverse ways.

    Although couples are asked to live according to mission rules as much as possible, they can work with their mission president to adapt their work and their schedule to their needs and abilities. Most couples have productive ways of sharing the gospel other than tracting. Because of their experience and abilities, they can create sharing opportunities that are not available to younger missionaries.

    For example, one missionary couple—both former teachers—visited several public schools, explained why they were in the area, and volunteered to help at the schools (in any way they could). They made many friends for themselves and for the Church. At the end of the year, school leaders and students presented them with a plaque as a token of their appreciation. But even more rewarding were the opportunities they had found to share the gospel because of the friendships they had built through selfless service.

    In addition to their basic responsibility for sharing the gospel, couples are usually given an “additional assignment,” which makes use of their expertise and interests. These additional assignments fall into the following categories:

    • Most often, couples are called with an additional assignment in leadership and member work. They spend a part of their time working with members—for example, training leaders, strengthening wards and branches, fellowshipping new members, or activating less-active members.

    • If couples have clerical skills, they may be assigned to work in the mission office.

    • Some couples are called to work in public communications, dealing with the media or helping with community relations.

    • Couples may be called to serve in a temple.

    • A few couples serve in education assignments; they teach in or administer seminary, institute, or Church school programs.

    • There are also some couples who serve in welfare services functions, working with ecclesiastical or temporal officers to help Church members deal with temporal problems.

    When they submit their missionary recommendation, couples have the opportunity to express which of these assignments interest them most. These interests are considered in determining their assignments.

    Couples also have the opportunity to choose whether they will serve for eighteen or twelve months. Those assigned to missions outside their native lands serve for eighteen months.

    Couples generally are not assigned to missions where they must speak a foreign language unless they already have some ability in the language or have expressed an interest in such an assignment. And rarely are they assigned to developing areas of the world unless they have had experience in such areas.

    To ensure that couples’ assignments will allow their needs to be met, the Church asks that they fill out medical forms to provide information about their health. Like all missionaries, couples are carefully assigned and their health needs are carefully considered.

    In any case, couples should remember that a mission call comes from the Lord, through the President of the Church. They should be willing to serve where called.

    The requirements for a couple to serve a full-time mission are relatively few. They should have no dependent children living at home and should have sufficient resources (including those from family and from local Church units) to support themselves on their mission. They must be in good health and be able to meet the physical demands of missionary work. In addition, they should both be under the age of seventy.

    Couples can begin early to prepare for a mission. You might begin by asking yourselves what you can do to strengthen yourselves spiritually and to gain a greater understanding of the gospel. (See D&C 88:77–81.) You should be taking specific steps to preserve your health so that you will be able to serve wherever you might be needed. And you might start a missionary savings account.

    You also might begin to learn a second language. (In particular, the needs for Spanish- and French-speaking couples are urgent.) Studies suggest that many couples could be successful at learning a new language; attitude and love are much more important than age.

    The opportunity to serve a mission together can be one of the crowning experiences of a couple’s life together. Few rewards compare with the joy that comes from seeing lives change for the better. From these experiences we can, like Alma the Younger, proclaim:

    “I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

    “Yea, and now behold, … the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors.” (Alma 36:24–25.)