Sunday, February 04, 2007

Operations of the Spirit

Sometimes when watching a movie that has a very emotional scene, it might move us to tears. There is a glowing feeling, for instance, in a romantic movie when the guy finally tells the girl how much he loves her. For the most part men are less emotional in those instances. Yet, there are probably many times that the same kinds of feelings can be evoked even from them. There is something about human nature that brings out hope, goodwill, and what we might call spiritual stirrings.

This can beg the question of what is the difference between these partly artificial feelings and the workings of the Spirit. Many times both are described as similar. Perhaps it is simply the Spirit touching us with any instance of "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy." Some find this troubling because individually not everyone agrees what those should be. What moves one person, even among Mormons who believe so strongly in spiritual manifestations, draws a blank for others.

Perhaps this is because of a one dimensional understanding of the way the Spirit operates. There is a lot more to the Witness of the Holy Ghost then the "burning in the bosom" that is often made light of by believers and unbelievers alike.

We must understand that the Holy Ghost, through the Light of Christ, can touch anyone. As states in Moroni 7: 16-17 when talking about recognizing good things:

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

It is in this way that Missionaries can bring investigators to repentance. They recognize the first intimations of the Spirit and, if they act upon those feelings, can come to the truth of the Gospel.

We must be careful to not confuse the Witness of the Spirit with the Power of the Spirit. This is where many lose faith because they see signs of the Spirit everywhere and start questioning if the LDS Church is the only one with God's authority. Joseph Smith explained:

"There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptised, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptised. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him." (History of Church 4:555)

With a proper understanding of the operations of the Spirit, we can grow in faith and increase the productivity of our lives. The key to this is in the Gifts of the Spirit available to those who have been properly baptized and confirmed as members of the Church. It is not in the "feelings born of testimony" that the Power of the Holy Ghost is a greatest blessing. That is only the beginning of wisdom. The real focus of our Spiritual enlightenment should be in obtaining the Gifts of the Spirit. As listed in D&C 46: 13-28, among other places, there are many gifts available.

The Gifts are given to those who seek them. Everyone has different gifts, but they cannot get them without at least seeking out the Spiritual blessings. Those who have been given the Holy Ghost are not simply handed them. As Verses 7-10 states:

7 But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, cconsidering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.

8 Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

9 For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.

10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.

Living in the World can make it difficult to have the Holy Ghost in our lives. It will not always strive with us, especially when we give into the enticing of the flesh and sin. It is sadly far too common for a person to lose faith because they lose the Spirit. Often this is because the cares of the World and Sin enter into the heart and the Holy Ghost cannot dwell in unclean things.

The person loses the Holy Ghost, and recognizing something is missing they lose the faith. They seek to fill the void with something else, and find a replacement with negativity, more sin, or false spirituality. It is sad they more often think something becomes wrong with God or the Church then with themselves. Paul warned in Gal 5: 17-25 about the difference between living by the flesh and living by the Spirit:

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We must learn to recognize Spiritual operations vs. the Natural inclinations. The former is eternal and the latter is fleeting. That is the first and greatest key to coming to truth, gaining faith, and becoming more like Christ. King Benjamin in Mosiah 4: 9-10 summed it up when he said:

9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

Sitting around thinking, watching, reading, and generally observing does not get us anywhere. The Holy Ghost becomes a neutral in our lives and then "gets bored" and leaves. Faith is an action word and only living by the Word of God can the operations of the Spirit become fully capable of changing lives. Don't rest faith on emotionalism alone; but be an active participant in Church, Community, and family. Those who distance themselves from these things because they are not closer to the Holy Ghost then they should be are the most likely to lose faith altogether. Living the Gospel is how we find God and have the Holy Ghost with us.

1 comment:

Noelie said...

I am gonna come back and read this better sometime. The very start of this post was wonderful and intrguing. I hope your new year is a good one so far!