Editor’s Note: Tammy Uzelac Hall is the host of LDS Living’s Sunday on Monday, a new weekly podcast focused on Come, Follow Me that dives into the hidden treasures of the gospel. Here are questions readers might have in their studies of the Book of Mormon this week, accompanied by Hall's insights that add new meaning to the beloved verses.
Question: What do we know about the gift of the Holy Ghost spoken of in 2 Nephi 31?
Answer: The Holy Ghost was not fully operational among the Jews during Christ’s mortal ministry (see “Holy Ghost” in the Bible Dictionary), which is part of what made the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2) so significant, as those people felt the power or influence of the Holy Ghost for the first time.
Here are some more interesting truths about the Holy Ghost to keep in mind as you study these chapters:
The sign of the Holy Ghost is a dove (see 2 Nephi 31:8, John 1:32). Joseph Smith explained some of the significance of the sign when he said, “The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.”1
A symbol of the Holy Ghost is fire (see 2 Nephi 31:12–14,17, Matthew 3:11, D&C 19:31). The Holy Ghost acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin. Elder David A. Bednar taught the importance of having the Spirit’s refining influence with us in his address, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart:”
“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 , 133; see also 3 Nephi 27:19–20).
“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."
The Holy Ghost can help you discern the thoughts of others (see Alma 10:17, 12:3; Jacob 2:5). In A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants Vol. 2, David Ludlow explains, “Faithful Latter-day Saints are promised the spirit or gift of discernment, which can be received through revelation from the Holy Ghost (D&C 63:41). This gift can be used not only to discern good from evil (Moroni 7:12-18), the righteous from the wicked (D&C 101:95;Malachi 3:18;3 Ne. 24:18), and false spirits from spirits sent from God (D&C 46:23;1 Cor. 12:10), but its perfect operation can also make known even ‘the thoughts and the intents of the heart’ (D&C 33:1;Alma 12:1-3;Hebrews 4:12).”
Members of the Church are entitled to revelation and guidance from the Holy Ghost (see John 16:13). Elder Charles W. Penrose of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Now this gift of the Holy Ghost, is the greatest boon that can be conferred upon mortal men, because by it they can discern and comprehend the things of God, and without it they cannot. They may reflect upon them, ponder upon them, speculate about them; they may come to certain conclusions in their own minds by reason and logic, but they cannot obtain a knowledge of these things unless it is by the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the spirit of revelation.”2
The Holy Ghost brings life to our entire being (see Moroni 8:26). Elder Parley P. Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The gift of the Holy Ghost … quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.”3
What is the difference between being lifted up in pride of eyes vs. being lifted up in pride of heart?
The pride of eyes is the first steppingstone on the path to the ultimate form of pride: the pride of heart. Proverbs 16:5 reads, “Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”
Pride of eyes creates stumbling blocks that keep us from moving forward. Our eyes are the windows to our soul. Matthew 6:22–23 teaches us:
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Whatever we are focused on affects our light. Pride of eyes, if not checked will become pride of heart. Pride of eyes starts with the pride of having more.
Alma warns about this in Alma 4:8, “The people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon the riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another.”
This kind of pride is what led Cain to commit the first murder “for the sake of getting gain” (Moses 5:50). It is the spirit of the anti-Christ in which “every man prospered according to his genius, and … every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17).
Nephi singled this out as the spirit which led his generation to destruction: “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15, 2 Nephi 28:15).
In 1872, Elder George Q. Cannon told an audience in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, “When wealth multiplies, the people get lifted up in the pride of their hearts, and they look down in their poor brethren and despise them, because they are better educated, have better manners, and speak better language—in a word, because they have advantages which their poor brethren and sisters have not. There is sin in this, and God is angry with a people who take this course” (Journal of Discourses 15:156).
But there is hope to overcome this pride. Spencer W. Kimball offers us the antidote in his 1978 general conference talk “Becoming the Pure in Heart.” He has outlines three things we much do:
- Do not covet.
- We must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other.
- We must lay on the altar and sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord.
A broken heart and a contrite spirit are the antidote to both pride of eyes and pride of heart.
What does it mean to endure to the end?
2 Nephi 31–33 are Nephi’s final thoughts and teachings to his people. It is in 2 Nephi 31:20 that we hear the familiar phrase “endure to the end.” James taught us something similar: “Behold, we count them happy which endure” (James 5:11). But what exactly does it mean to “endure to the end,” and how can we do it? Here is what a few Church leaders have to say on the subject:
- Elder Neal A Maxwell: “To endure means not only to last but also to bear up under stress, to ‘hold fast,’ even ‘valiantly,’ while maintaining the correct course set by God (see D&C 121:8, 29).”4
- President Thomas S. Monson: “The difficulties which come to us present us with the real test of our ability to endure. A fundamental question remains to be answered by each of us: Shall I falter, or shall I finish? Some do falter as they find themselves unable to rise above their challenges. To finish involves enduring to the very end of life itself.”5
- Elder Robert D. Hales: “There is nothing that we are enduring that Jesus does not understand, and He waits for us to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. I testify that if we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and of the comfort of the Holy Ghost. It is my prayer that we can find the faith, courage, and strength to endure to the end so that we may feel the joy of faithfully returning to the arms of our Heavenly Father.”6
- Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin: “Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil, staying in the mainstream of the Church, humbly serving our fellow men, living Christlike lives, and keeping our covenants. Those who endure are balanced, consistent, humble, constantly improving, and without guile. Their testimony is not based on worldly reasons—it is based on truth, knowledge, experience, and the Spirit.”7
- Elder Richard J. Maynes: “Our ability to endure to the end in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion.”8
- President Monson “Comforting is the fact that there are many runners. Reassuring is the knowledge that our Eternal Scorekeeper is understanding. Challenging is the truth that each must run. But you and I do not run alone. That vast audience of family, friends, and leaders will cheer our courage, will applaud our determination as we rise from our stumblings and pursue our goal. . . . Let us shed any thought of failure. . . . Let us seek; let us obtain the prize prepared for all, even exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.”9
- Brigham Young: “When the Latter-day Saints make up their minds to endure, for the kingdom of God's sake, whatsoever shall come, whether poverty or riches, whether sickness or to be driven by mobs, they will say it is all right, and will honor the hand of the Lord in it, and in all things, and serve Him to the end of their lives, according to the best of their ability, God being their helper. If you have not made up your minds for this, the quicker you do so the better.”10
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10. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses 1:338