At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus; at Easter we celebrate His Resurrection. Is there a holiday that celebrates the Holy Ghost? Yes! It’s called Pentecost. Anciently, the day of Pentecost (also known as Shavuot) was one of the three major Jewish festivals. For Christians today, it marks the 50th day of the Easter season, coming seven weeks after Easter. At the time of Christ, Jews from neighboring nations would travel to Jerusalem for Shavuot to offer sacrifices at the temple. Today, many Christians recognize Pentecost as the birth of Christianity. Let’s find out why.
During the forty days after Easter, the risen Jesus interacted with His disciples multiple times. Before ascending into heaven, He told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Father sent the Holy Ghost to them and that they would be his witnesses throughout the world (see Acts 1:1–8). The disciples remained in Jerusalem as Jesus had instructed, and ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Father sent them the Holy Ghost.
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What Happened on the Day of Pentecost?
- The disciples gathered. There was a sound of rushing wind, and something that looked like fire rested on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues (see Acts 2:1–4).
- People who were visiting Jerusalem from 15 nations heard the commotion and came to see what was happening. They heard the disciples speaking and were amazed they could understand the disciples in their own diverse native tongues. Some wondered if the disciples were drunk (see Acts 2:5–13).
- Peter explained to the onlookers that God had poured out His Spirit, just as the prophet Joel had prophesied He would. He told them that Jesus Christ, who had been crucified, was resurrected and was now “both Lord and Christ” (see Acts 2:14–36).
- Those listening to Peter’s testimony were “pricked in their hearts” and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. About 3,000 people were baptized (see Acts 2:37–41).
- The Holy Ghost gives us power. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we need the Holy Spirit to do his work. After receiving the Holy Ghost on Pentecost, the Apostles demonstrated boldness in furthering the work. Shortly after this experience, Peter and John healed a man and then continued to preach despite persecution (see Acts 3).
- The Holy Ghost witnesses of Jesus Christ. When Peter preached on Pentecost that Jesus who was crucified had now been resurrected and was the Messiah, those listening felt the Spirit in their hearts.
- The Holy Ghost motivates us to action. When those gathered felt the Spirit during Peter’s preaching, they asked Peter and the other Apostles, “What shall we do?” As we feel the Spirit today, we can seek divine guidance on the actions we should take.
- The Holy Ghost is felt in both quiet and overpowering ways. The prophet Elijah felt the Lord in a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), but Alma wrote that the Spirit cried unto him “with a mighty voice” (Alma 5:51). The Holy Ghost was manifested in a powerful way on the day of Pentecost, similar to the dedication of the Kirtland temple, when Joseph Smith asked the Lord to cause the temple to “be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind” (D&C 109:37). This happened, and “many began to speak in tongues …; others saw glorious visions. … The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place.” (History of the Church, 2:428).
Ideas for Celebrating Pentecost
Here are some ways to incorporate various elements of the day of Pentecost into your observance of the day.
Many nations. Have an international food potluck with friends. Serving food from many different countries can represent the 15 nations represented at Pentecost. Or have a feast of your own as you read Acts 2, and discuss the miraculous events.
Harvest. Set out fresh greenery, barley stalks, or similar items as a reminder of the harvest festival. Or create flower crowns for hair decorations.
Fire. Using the color red in decorations can represent the fire that was seen on the day of Pentecost. Consider serving strawberry shortcake or similar food that resembles fire. Attach red, orange, and yellow streamers to a fan for flamelike décor, or light red candles as the centerpiece to represent the “cloven tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3).
Holy Ghost. Read Peter’s testimony in Acts 2:14–36, and ponder what the Holy Ghost has taught you about Jesus Christ. Sing “Let the Holy Spirit Guide” (Hymns, no. 143) or the primary song “The Holy Ghost,” and discuss the roles of the Holy Ghost. Share experiences when the Holy Ghost has witnessed to you that Jesus is the Christ, and invite others to share testimonies of Jesus Christ. For a visual aid, briefly turn on a fan at its highest speed and then at its lowest setting, and discuss how both demonstrate the Holy Ghost. Sometimes the Holy Ghost is felt or heard in still, small ways, and sometimes it’s felt in stronger ways, as was the case on Pentecost.
Recently, Elder Gary E. Stevenson taught “I observe a growing effort among Latter-day Saints toward a more Christ-centered Easter. This includes a greater and more thoughtful recognition of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as practiced by some of our Christian cousins. We might also adopt appropriate Christ-centered Easter traditions found in the cultures and practices of countries worldwide.” Perhaps celebrating Pentecost can be done in this same spirit.
As Lehi taught, “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things (2 Nephi 2:24).” The Holy Spirit could have come to the disciples in an intimate setting on the shores of Galilee, but God had something more impactful in mind. He chose the time when thousands of people from many nations would be in Jerusalem to witness these events and feel the power of Peter’s testimony. The 3,000 people who were baptized could then take the gospel back home to their own countries. Thus began the spreading of the good news of Jesus throughout the world. Let’s remember and celebrate these important events on Pentecost this year.
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