Why a Former BYU Dean of Religious Education Decided to Write a Book About the Holy Ghost


When author and former dean of religious studies at BYU Robert L. Millet needs an idea for his next book, he goes to a bookstore.

The inspiration often comes as he wanders from bookshelf to bookshelf, perusing the titles and pondering a few basic questions.

"People often ask me how do you decide what to write?" Millet says. "Whenever I'm in a Latter-day Saint bookstore, I often ask myself, 'What is no one talking about or writing about? What need is out there that no one is addressing? What book would I like to read now that nobody seems to be writing?'"

One of the first times Millet tried this approach, he and his wife were in the midst of some "terribly difficult times" with a couple of children who had gone astray "in a major way." Aware of other families facing similar challenges, he undertook to write When a Child Wanders. Some readers said the book "kept them alive emotionally," Millet says.

"We were in such grief; it occurred to me because I knew others who were going through the same thing," Millet says. "Maybe I'll write a book to try and help us."

The author and former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University felt there was a need for his latest volume as well, The Holy Spirit: His Identity, Mission, and Ministry.

"This one should be so obvious. . . . Can you believe that no one would have a book out just on the Holy Ghost? We have books on revelation. We have books about being sanctified. Put it all together into one volume," Millet says. "I came away absolutely awed by the fact that the Holy Ghost is involved in every facet of the Christian life. Try to find one where he's not involved. . . . Do you ever hear a meeting or a lesson that doesn't start with 'We pray for thy spirit to be with us?' We are a Spirit-seeking people. The Holy Spirit is through it all. You can't have everything we have in the Church if there's no Holy Ghost or none of it sticks."

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Doing his best to narrow this wide topic down to a reasonably-sized book, Millet's writings explore the identity of the Holy Ghost; the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the light of Christ; its roles as revelator, teacher, testifier, comforter, sanctifier; and many other aspects related to this third member of the Godhead.

In one chapter, Millet looks at the difference between the influence of the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. In another, he investigates what offends the Holy Ghost.

He also addresses one of the biggest misunderstandings Church members have about the Holy Ghost—that weeping indicates a deep spirituality.

"Obviously, true, deep, spiritual experiences may be and often are accompanied by emotional expression," Millet says. "But an emotional expression isn't always a spiritual experience."

You'll also like: Are We Confusing Emotional Experiences with Spiritual Experiences?

While Millet describes the experience of writing this book as a "major learning experience," it also comes at a relevant time.

"In the last 20 years, we've had some remarkable teachings from Church leaders on the Holy Spirit," Millet says. "It's one of President (Russell M.) Nelson's themes."

The Holy Spirit is the 79th book that Millet has authored, and the longtime educator has no plans to stop writing. He's already working on his next project, no. 80, which focuses on the doctrinal implications of Joseph Smith's First Vision. The book is on target to be released in timing with the special event's 200th anniversary in 2020.

Lead image courtesy of Deseret News. 
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