Friday, May 9, 2014

Baptism of Fire and The Holy Ghost: The Most Important Part We Forget to Teach

I was born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints, like so many people I know. I was baptized by my dad on the day I turned eight, and confirmed a member of the church. What I understood about this event then is not what I understand now.

I was missing a vital piece of understanding.

I know this is a long post, but it is VERY important, and I ask you to read it in its entirety.


Before I share my experience of receiving the Baptism of Fire and Holy Ghost, I want to go over some details.

According to the church handbook, this is how a confirmation is done:

Instructions for Performing a Confirmation

Under the direction of the bishopric, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate in a confirmation. They place their hands lightly on the person’s head. Then the person who performs the ordinance:
  1. 1. States the person’s full name.
  2. 2. States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  3. 3. Confirms the person a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  4. 4. Uses the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” (not “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”).
  5. 5. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.
  6. 6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.
Link to the LDS Handbook on

We are told to "receive the Holy Ghost," but this outward ordinance isn't always when we do receive the Holy Ghost. It can be received at this time, and sometimes it is.

But the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost, and the confirmation of the Spirit we receive in the church, are not one and the same.

Receiving one does not mean you have received the other.

Again, we are told to "receive the Holy Ghost." Until we continue on and do this, we don't receive our Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.

So what is the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost, then?

Time to dig into the scriptures!

This first example will show this happening at the time of baptism:

Joseph Smith History 1:73-74
"Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. we were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.

Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of..."

After their baptisms the gifts of the spirit were poured out upon them, and they both prophesied. They were filled with the Holy Ghost and in their salvation. The scriptures were opened to their understanding.

I felt really special on the day of my baptism, but I can't say any of this happened to me.

Something else that should get you thinking is that by this time, Joseph Smith had experienced incredible things. He'd seen Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and been ministered to by angels, but this moment...after all those experiences... is when he was baptized by fire. Just because we've also felt the Spirit and had spiritual experiences, does not mean we had already had the BFHG (Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost).

Another example is in Helaman 5:23-48 (I highly recommend you read this if not now then sometime today. It's too lengthy add to the body of this post)

A recap: The Lamanites in this scripture were entering the prison to kill Nephi and Lehi, who had entered the city to preach to them. Instead Nephi and Lehi are surrounded by a fire that doesn't burn them, while a cloud of darkness and fear holds the Lamanites bound. As they are captives to this darkness, three times a still small voice calls to them, and tells them to repent. They begin to pray until the darkness leaves, and when it does, they too are encircled about by a pillar of fire. They are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit entered into their hearts and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous things. After this they are ministered to by angels.

There was no baptism (as we think of it) involved in this example, and yet they still received the Holy Ghost.

Again the gifts of the Spirit were poured out with the receiving of the Holy Ghost. The Gifts of the Spirit come with the reception of the Holy Ghost. "...if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief."(Moroni 10:24) These things should be present. We should be experiencing them. (Gifts of the Spirit as outlined in Moroni 10: to teach the word of wisdom, to teach the word of knowledge, exceedingly great faith, healing, to work mighty miracles, prophesy, beholding of angels and ministering spirits, all kinds of tongues, interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues)

Also, repentance was not a process with steps involved for these Lamanites who were on their way to murder the prophets. Their forgiveness was immediate, and their lives and desires completely changed.

The hearts of King Benjamin's people were also changed by their experience after he preached the words of an angel to them.
Mosiah 5:2-3
"....because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things."

Their joy (in the first two examples) was in knowing they were redeemed from their sins.

More examples of BFHG (Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost): 3 Nephi 19:13-14Acts 1:5&Acts 2:1-18

What is required of us to receive the BFHG the way those in the scripture did?

2 Nephi 31:13
"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 your 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."

3 Nephi 11:37
"And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things."

3 Nephi 9:20
"And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not." (I've shared the scripture of the Lamanites receiving the BFHG above, and though they certainly knew they had experienced an amazing thing, they probably didn't realize that this was the BFHG. I can to relate to this with my experience as well...)

We are required to come unto Him with real intent, repenting with broken hearts and contrite spirits, becoming as a little child,  and having faith. And when we do these things, He will visit us with a baptism of fire. We outwardly witness of these things when we are baptized by water, but in case we weren't quite there at the time of our baptism, it's not too late. We are still told to "receive the Holy Ghost" and we still can if we haven't already.

In reading these accounts has an experience come to mind for you? Have you had an experience similar to these? If so, you've probably been Baptized by Fire and the Holy Ghost.

If you haven't, seek for it.

If you aren't sure...pray to know of this for yourself. This is what I had to do. If you discover that you have yet to receive it, then ponder on the requirements above, figure out how you can meet them, and pray to receive it.

I've talked about how we ought to go before the Lord in prayer a little bit here: Getting It Right. Don't go in already knowing the answer. Go in as a fool that needs to trust in the Lord for the truth. See if what I have laid out about the BFHG is true.

When it happens you may "hear" a voice calling on you to repent, maybe an impression that you need to, maybe you feel you need to dedicate your life to Him with a sincerity you have lacked before, maybe you will feel you absolutely NEED to repent, to save you from the anguish that the knowledge of your sins brings. As long as it comes from a sincere, broken, and contrite heart, God will hear your call and purge you clean with a fire that scours the heart and soul, and then you may receive the Holy Ghost, not just in symbol...

But in truth.

My Witness

Like I mentioned before, I was baptized and confirmed at the age of eight. I've been blessed with sporadic dreams of a sacred nature, impressions, spiritual highs, and spiritual experiences all my life. I felt Him confirm His love for me in an overwhelming experience when I was thirteen. I received wonderful answer from the Spirit during times when I sought it: whether the Book of Mormon was true, the college I should attend after high school (BYU-I), whether I should marry the man who is currently my husband, among other things. I had done what I had thought was repenting many times as well.

But none of these were a my BFHG.

If I had realized what the BFHG really is before I had received it, I would have assumed I must have received it because doesn't everyone in our church already have it? I would have assumed my experience must just be different than how they described in the scriptures because I wasn't as special as they, and I must have received it already with all the witness of the Spirit I had experienced in my life before. I would've been wrong, though. Sometimes it's hard to accept things we thought were a given, aren't actually so.

The truth is we can have experiences with the Spirit without having it as a constant companion (D&C 130:23 A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.)

My BFHG came at the age of 29. I'm 30 now! That's less than a year ago.

What made this experience different than all others before was that, although I'd always been a good person and made good decisions, it occurred to me for the first time that my heart was not right before God. I was reading something at the time, not scripture, not spiritual even, when it hit me (and it really hit me). I was brought to a knowledge of my awful situation, the realization that even though I was good by the world's standards, I had fallen far short of God's standards, and had been too blind and ignorant to realize it until this point. I was harrowed up, grieved, brought to the ground by this realization.

My heart was broken.

My spirit was contrite.

I desired to change. I desired to be free of the darkness that had laid claim to me. I desired to live according to God's standard, and I desired no more to do evil.

In this state, I prayed to be forgiven. I prayed that I would remember this so I would never repeat the mistake again. My broken heart burned inside of me, and somehow I fell asleep that night. I had my first vision then (a gift of the Spirit). It was startlingly different than a dream. It seemed that I was awake, just transported to another place. I was very aware of myself, of my surroundings. It felt more real than being awake does. I won't share all of this vision, just that it held a personal warning for me that I found very timely, and imprinted a specific scripture into my soul. When I woke it was still there, and when I read a verse from the scripture that mentioned sins being forgiven, my heart and soul burned within me and the Spirit testified to me that this was meant for me at this moment. My sins were forgiven. I felt like a different person after this. My heart continued to burn as though a fire lived inside me for a week after this. The world seemed different too. It was more beautiful, more full of the evidence of God all around us. My heart was changed. At the end of this week I experienced a second vision, one that showed me why the scriptures speak of individuals (even righteous ones) being afraid when an angel appears to them.

I do read the scriptures with a greater understanding now than I ever did before this experience as well, but this has taken more effort and did not come immediately. Read this to know more about that.

At this time, I knew I had experienced something wonderful, but I didn't realize it was the BFHG until the middle of April. After that week the burning faded, and I didn't understand why. I had yet to understand what the BFHG really was, and when I did, I doubted this experience was it because of how it had faded. I didn't realize the burning part of it is a temporary thing. In answer to many of my prayers inquiring about this thing, I finally recognized it for the experience it was.

I'm not saying I'm perfect. I have definitely come to understand the need for continual repentance. I am far from perfect. If you're looking to find fault with me, you'll find it. This is simply my witness of the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost. Of what it is. That it is indeed a real thing and that we need to take the scriptures at their word.

Those who know me, know I don't like to draw attention to myself. I'd prefer to keep these things to myself, but the Spirit has reminded me that it isn't prudent or wise to bury such things (parable of the talents). So I am investing this experience in the people who will read this.

Why this is so important:

2 Nephi 31:17-18
Wherefore, do the things which i have told you I have seen your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy  Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

Until we have received this we have NOT entered into the strait and narrow path.

This is only the beginning of the process, an event that marks the beginning of entering into the path. Another post will have to go into later parts of the process. I'll just add here that I have had other such outpourings since this experience. It does not end with BFHG, but marks the beginning of more.

I share this, that any that have not yet received it will understand its importance and seek it for themselves.

Modern accounts of BFHG:

I've been given permission to share an individual's BFHG experience. There are links to others below as well. I wasn't going to share anything from this one at first because it is so personal, but then this person mentioned that I am free to use it because he has been told by the Lord to share. As I have been told this as well, it only seemed right that his should be on here as well. (The "..."s mark my editing. I have not changed any of his words, only taken out some personal details.)

...for most of my adult life I was only semi-active in the church... I got an infection in my leg (same thing that Joseph Smith had when he was a boy). I had to have three surgeries to completely remove the infection and repair the damage to my bone. When I was on the way to the hospital before the second surgery, the thought came to me - if I were to die on the operating table, would I inherit the celestial kingdom? And the answer I got from the Spirit was an emphatic NO. And I had the most horrible feeling at that moment. I prayed silently and asked for peace, and got some measure of it.

After I got home from the hospital, I determined that I was going to make some changes in my life. It took me two years to really work through those changes. I read a lot of books and tried to obey the commandments the best I could. But my mind kept dwelling on my sins, and I knew that more was needed. I finally came to the point that I was willing to do ANYTHING to repent. I told the Lord in prayer that I would do whatever was required and suffer whatever embarrassment or hurt was required. 

...I finally resolved after two years that I was going to approach the Lord in prayer and do whatever He told me I needed to in order to obtain a remission of my sins. After approaching Him a few times, I knew that I needed to confess some things to my wife and bishop, and I was willing to endure whatever humiliation and hurt had to go with it. Surprisingly, the results of this were far less than what I had anticipated. I thought my wife would be angry, and I thought the bishop might impose some penalties. But neither happened, and I felt so much better and knew I had done the right thing. When I spoke with the bishop, he told me that when I prayed, I would feel closer to the Lord. And I did.

After this, I continued to pray every day, sometimes multiple times per day, asking the Lord to forgive me of all my sins, or tell me what else I needed to do in order to be forgiven. I was willing to do anything He asked. Early one morning, I began my prayer, asking Him to remit my sins through the blood of Christ. I had barely begun praying, when I had the most overwhelming sense of love and joy flow into me. It was electrifying. Words cannot even begin to describe it. I cried with joy, the likes of which I have never before nor since experienced. Truly I had been forgiven. I knew what the baptism of fire was, and I KNEW with all my heart and soul that I had been washed clean from all my sins. It was the most joyous thing. Again, the words I'm using to describe it don't even begin to do it justice. I can say this for sure, if someone has experienced the baptism of fire, they KNOW it. When the scriptures describe someone being baptized with fire and not knowing it, it has to be because they do not understand what has happened. But there is no way an experience like this can happen to someone and they do not notice it.

I have often wondered about whether the BFHG can occur over a long period of time. We are taught this in church quite regularly, but I'm not sure I can see this in the scriptures. My own experience was like Enos or Alma the Younger. It was clear and unmistakeable, just as the baptism of water is clear and unmistakeable.

If I were to give any advice, it would be this - you have to be willing to do whatever the Lord wants you to do to repent. If you have to suffer consequences for your sins, then do it. If people will be angry because of what you tell them, you still have to do it. If you receive church discipline, it is worth it. But offer it all up to the Lord and surrender your will to His. He may or may not require you to actually suffer consequences. But you have to be willing to suffer them. If you ever think about the sacrament prayer, we witness to God our willingness to keep his commandments and take upon ourselves the name of Christ. We don't necessarily have to actually do it. But we have to be willing to do it, and actually do it if occasion requires it. The Lord knows our hearts, and if we are not COMPLETELY willing to do what He asks, then we can't receive this blessing.

In my case, I had committed plenty of serious sins, and had led a life that was significantly less than virtuous. And yet the Lord was willing to forgive me. If your life has been largely free of serious sin, and you truly desire to know if you have been forgiven, then ask the Lord in humble prayer. Ask Him to show you what you need to repent of. It may be something small or something big. But you have to lay EVERYTHING on the line for Him in order to obtain it. Trust me, the gift He gives in return is worth far more than what He might require of you.

...Listen to the Spirit and do whatever is asked, and you can receive this gift. I have come to understand that the Lord often gives us far more than we think He will, and He often requires far less of us than we think He does. Just ask Him, He gives to all men liberally and upbraids not.

Links to other modern accounts of BFHG:
Lorenzo Snow's BFHG
A New Tongue BFHGDoubt Not But Be Believing(This blogger has some great comments on how the gifts of the spirit you receive after/during your BFHG might be hard to recognize and how this is an event in a process)
A New Day Dawns: Faith That Saves (A post detailing how it is Christ we have to rely on for this, our devoutness will not achieve what relying on Him will)
The Rock of My Redeemer (A great post, the end of which is his testimony of things I have spoken of)

I'd like to offer a special thanks for those that offered up their experiences for this post.

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