Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"The Holy Ghost Sanctifies and Refines our Souls as if by Fire"

Have you ever read something that made you do a double-take because it was something you had heard before, but never really noticed or understood? That happened to me this past week as I was studying for my Sunday school lesson. It isn’t that unusual for me to learn something new about the gospel, but this time it was something that seems so basic that I’m embarrassed to say that I never thought about it before or if I did, I don’t remember thinking about it. (Yet, here I am telling you all about it.)

This was the quote I read from an article by Elder Bednar:

The gate of baptism leads to the strait and narrow path and to the destination of putting off the natural man and becoming a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19). The purpose of our mortal journey is not merely to see the sights on earth or to expend our allotment of time on self-centered pursuits; rather, we are to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), to become sanctified by yielding our hearts unto God (see Helaman 3:35), and to obtain “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

We are commanded and instructed to so live that our fallen nature is changed through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. President Marion G. Romney taught that the baptism of fire by the Holy Ghost “converts [us] from carnality to spirituality. It cleanses, heals, and purifies the soul. … Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and water baptism are all preliminary and prerequisite to it, but [the baptism of fire] is the consummation. To receive [this baptism of fire] is to have one’s garments washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ” (Learning for the Eternities, comp. George J. Romney [1977], 133.

Hence, as we are born again and strive to always have His Spirit to be with us, the Holy Ghost sanctifies and refines our souls as if by fire (see
2 Nephi 31:13–14, 17). Ultimately, we are to stand spotless before God. David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 80–83

So you are wondering what new treasure I gleaned from that all seems straight-forward, right? I have been a member all my life and I knew that the Holy Ghost’s purpose was to teach us, testify, strengthen and guide us. When I thought of baptism of fire, I just thought it was another way to say that someone has received the Holy Ghost, but thought the Holy Ghost testified to us of Christ and helped us to know when Heavenly Father has forgiven us, thanks to the atonement of Christ. I never understood that an important purpose of the Holy Ghost is to SANCTIFY us. How have I missed that all these years??? You can all say a collective, “You didn’t know that?” now!

That made me curious to learn more so I spent a few hours looking online (Don’t you LOVE the internet?) at other scriptures and talks that talk about the Holy Ghost as a sanctifier. How important it is that we learn all we can about the Godhead. The most important thing I think I understand of it is that all three members of the Godhead are so inextricably linked to our individual conversion and repentance, when we are baptized and each time we participate in the Atonement by repenting and trying to be better. Of course, I did know that all three were involved and necessary (they are all three mentioned in the sacrament prayer and in the words used in the baptismal ordinance), but I was missing part of the picture. I still want to learn more, but will share a few other quotes that I found while reading.

More powerful than that which is available before baptism, it acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin. Thus it is often spoken of as “fire” (Matt. 3: 11; 2 Ne. 31: 17; D&C 19: 31). Bible Dictionary: Holy Ghost

Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit by which he who is justified is enabled to keep the Commandments of God and grow in holiness (see Hel. 3:35). Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975, p. 104.

Sanctification comes from heaven and only comes as the Holy Ghost begins to work within a person. In some instances, people seem to grow into these blessings. Sometimes the glimmer of the Spirit is enough to lead people to baptism, but they can falter if they do not cultivate the gift and fire of the Spirit that has been bestowed upon them. Loren C. Dunn, “Fire and the Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Jun 1995, 22–26

The special office of the Holy Ghost is to enlighten and ennoble the mind, to purify and sanctify the soul, to incite to good works, and to reveal the things of God. James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith, p. 167

The Lord told Alma that those who are born of God are “changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, … and thus they become new creatures.” (Mosiah 27:25–26.) This mighty change involves a cleansing and purging, “as if with fire” (Hel. 5:45), of the evil desires of the heart. Thereafter, one so changed begins to walk, as Paul described it to the Romans, “in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4.) There is a burning desire within the soul to be “zealous for keeping the commandments of God” (Alma 21:23) and to serve the Lord with all your body, mind, and spirit.

If we are thus born of the Spirit, “we are made alive in Christ. … We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ.” (2 Ne. 25:25–26.) We are willing to obey God’s commandments “in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days.” (Mosiah 5:5.) In short, our conduct is characterized by obedience, service, and sacrifice. David W. Hellem, “Putting Off the Natural Man: How to Be ‘Spiritually Born of God’,” Ensign, Jun 1992, 10–13

As symbols for baptism, both water (used for washing) and fire (used in the smelting of metals, hence a "refiner's fire," Mal. 3:2-3) represent agents that cleanse and purify, the former externally, the latter internally, leading to sanctification (Alma 13:12; Moro. 6:4). In addition, fire suggests warmth and light, realized in tangible sensations such as a burning in the bosom and an awareness of enlightenment accompanying the reception of the divine spirit (D&C 9:8; 88:49). William S. Bradshaw, Encyclopedia of Mormonism , Vol. 1, Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost

May we who know the sacred Name
From every sin depart.
Then will the Spirit’s constant flame
Preserve us pure in heart.
“Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings,” Hymns, 1985, no. 14


  1. Great post... I love reading your blog and feeling like I've just attended a Sunday School class. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  2. Wow, Lisa! You made it through that long post? I didn't realize it would be so long until I posted it. Thanks for the nice comments you make.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I see your friends with Sherami too, small world. I enjoyed your 'attempts at pondering' too!

  4. Lol - I'm agnostic, but every once in awhile I come across something that makes me wish I could believe in something more. I admire your faith both for the strength and sense of identity that it seems to give you as well as for how that faith must contribute to the person I'm sure you are. Thanks for your "ponderings" (:


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