When a person is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church), it is his or her privilege to then receive an ordinance called “confirmation,” which is the conferring of the “gift of the Holy Ghost” by the laying on of hands of someone who holds the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit, as long as the person maintains a pure and clean vessel for the Spirit to reside in. We are told in the Bible that our bodies are temples, and this is what these verses of scripture refer to. Temples are houses purified so that God can dwell there. It is the Holy Ghost, a personage of spirit, who can dwell in our hearts, if our bodies are pure.
Some people have a very profound experience when the Holy Ghost is conferred upon them, while others gradually increase in spirituality. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is sometimes called “the baptism by fire,” because the Holy Ghost sometimes manifests a warming in the bosom or down through one’s whole body. Often one’s heart seems to swell; often there is a feeling of love, calm and comfort.
Children born into Mormon families are normally baptized at age eight, which Mormons call “the age of accountability.” Children are born in innocence and can neither sin nor understand the process of repentance until this age. Since baptism is preceded by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance, children must be accountable before they are baptized. A child baptized at age 8 might then remain faithful all of his or her life, and therefore always have the Holy Ghost as a welcome companion all through life. Having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost makes a person accustomed to his companionship, and as with all blessings (both great and small), familiarity sometimes causes us to take things for granted.
Like many young people in the Church of Jesus Christ, I had grown accustomed to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I was in college, and faced many temptations and peer pressures. I suppose I was testing the limits of good behavior. Satan can be successful at tempting us when we are discouraged, and I finally crossed the line during a period of great discouragement. My environment and a series of setbacks conspired to make me feel alone, unsupported, and friendless. There was no port in the storm, and I lost my way.
At a certain point, the Holy Ghost deserted me. I had the feeling that he had stayed as long as possible, given me the benefit of the doubt, striven with me when times were bad, but there were certain behaviors that would disqualify anyone of being a pure vessel in which he could dwell.
The weeks that followed taught me a great deal. I began to struggle through the repentance process almost immediately, but without the Holy Ghost to prompt, inspire, and guide me, I found it very difficult. I was bereft of that help I had stopped recognizing. It certainly was obvious once it was gone. It became quickly apparent that everything in life is harder when you go it alone, without the help of the Holy Ghost. All around me the world was empty of that Spirit; at church, where the Spirit did reside, I felt unworthy. I truly pitied the millions of people who do not have this gift. I realized what a great blessing that gift was, and I was willing to do whatever God asked of me to get it back.
I had already confessed to my bishop (leader of my Mormon congregation) and had conferred with him. It would be a year before I could be considered worthy to enter a Mormon temple, but there would be no disciplinary action that would be obvious to others. I hoped I had set aside the behavior that had put me in this position and was striving to live according to Christ’s commandments. It seemed like a long road ahead, with no street signs or street lights. But there were helps. I put my body in “holy places,” in church, with faithful people, and in front of the scriptures.
One night I went out walking alone, and as I walked, I prayed. What was my standing before God? I knew I had offended Him. I knew I had ignored His gracious and tender mercies by rebelling and going my own way. I wanted to set things right. I wanted to know if I was headed in the proper direction, and if He would help me.
As I was pondering these things, a sphere of absolutely unconditional love, His love, blasted at me from heaven. Not from directly above me, but from upward in front of me, coming at me, face on. It nearly knocked me off my feet, it was so powerful, and I realized no earthly event could have created this experience. The Holy Ghost returned to me, my repentance process was accepted, and I had the help of the Holy Spirit to become “temple-worthy” during the following months. Exactly a year from the time the Holy Ghost deserted me, I was married in the Mormon temple in an eternally-binding covenant.
God has said that when we repent, He will remember our sins no more, but we remember them, the better to keep us from repeating our self-defeating behavior (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42). I will certainly always remember the difference in my life with the Holy Spirit and without it. Over the years, I have purified myself even more, read the scriptures, prayed and meditated, and tried to serve God’s children unselfishly. The Holy Ghost prompts me and enlightens me constantly now, and it is like an ongoing daily conversation with God. What a blessing this is! I wish that everyone could have it.