Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost

It is not correct to assume we receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost when hands are laid on our heads. Elder Bednar confirmed this here. It IS safe to assume, however, that if we have a desire to accept the Gospel and act upon its teachings, then we have some portion of the Spirit. Paul confirmed this here.

So how do we know if we have had this experience or not?

As I stated in an earlier post, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is felt. It is tangible. Just as you felt the water during your water baptism, you will likewise feel the fire during your fire baptism. This does not occur slowly over time. It is an event. You will know when it happens.

Below is Lorenzo Snows’ experience. Pay attention to the highlighted portions:

I was baptized by Elder John Boynton, then one of the Twelve Apostles, June, 1836, in Kirtland, Ohio. Previous to accepting the ordinance of baptism, in my investigations of the principles taught by the Latter-day Saints, which I proved, by comparison, to be the same as those mentioned in the New Testament taught by Christ and His Apostles, I was thoroughly convinced that obedience to those principles would impart miraculous powers, manifestations and revelations. With sanguine expectation of this result, I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority; and, having thus yielded obedience to these ordinances, I was in constant expectation of the fulfillment of the promise of the reception of the Holy Ghost.

The manifestation did not immediately follow my baptism, as I had expected, but, although the time was deferred, when I did receive it, its realization was more perfect, tangible and miraculous than even my strongest hopes had led me to anticipate.

Some two or three weeks after I was baptized, one day while engaged in my studies, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of the work—that I had not realized the fulfillment of the promise, “he that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine,” and I began to feel very uneasy. I laid aside my books, left the house, and wandered around through the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of the day, to retire for secret prayer, to a grove a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed and the heavens seemed like brass over my head. At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not forego my evening service, and, as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel.

I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge, as it was at that time imparted to my understanding. I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water; dispelling forever, so long as reason and memory last, all possibility of doubt or fear in relation to the fact handed down to us historically, that the “Babe of Bethlehem” is truly the Son of God; also the fact that He is now being revealed to the children of men, and communicating knowledge, the same as in the Apostolic times. I was perfectly satisfied, as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized, I think I may safely say in an infinite degree.

I cannot tell how long I remained in the full flow of the blissful enjoyment and divine enlightenment, but it was several minutes before the celestial element which filled and surrounded me began gradually to withdraw. On arising from my kneeling posture, with my heart swelling with gratitude to God, beyond the power of expression, I felt—I knew that He had conferred on me what only an omnipotent being can confer—that which is of greater value than all the wealth and honors worlds can bestow. That night, as I retired to rest, the same wonderful manifestations were repeated, and continued to be for several successive nights. The sweet remembrance of those glorious experiences, from that time to the present, bring them fresh before me, imparting an inspiring influence which pervades my whole being, and I trust will to the close of my earthly existence.” (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, p.8-9)

I testify this blessed event is true. Do not be overcome if you realize you have not experienced this. Let this consume your thoughts and prayers and seek it unceasingly. As the Lord has said:

“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” – 3 Nephi 12: 6

“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. . . ” – 3 Nephi 9: 20

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9 thoughts on “Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost”

  1. This description does not seem compatible with 3 Ne 9:20, in which Jesus says “the Lamanites […] at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

    1. That’s always a good verse to talk about Nathan, so thanks for bringing it up.

      Looking at Helaman 5, we read the following:

      “[…] they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.” (v. 43)

      “[…] and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.” (v. 44)

      “And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.” (v. 45)

      Similarly, we read in Mosiah 4: 3:

      “And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience […]”

      The baptism of fire has certain properties/effects/results.

      When it occurs, you receive “that joy which is unspeakable” because you were “filled as if with fire” and “received a remission of [your] sins, and […] peace of conscience.”

      Just like what Lorenzo Snow is describing.

      I would suggest that the Lamanites did know something happened, they just didn’t know what happened. They did not know the vocabulary, nor understand the process. But there was an experience, and the result was conversion and a new life thereafter. (Hel. 5: 46-50)

  2. What about the Lamanite conversions reported in Mosiah, in Alma, and later in Helaman (among Lamanites who had not been in the jail for the events of Helaman 5)? I can’t just neglect these events, which make up the great majority of Lamanite conversions and which conform to the plain sense of “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” To attend only to the one small event that was more spectacular does not sit well with me.

    To start from “they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire,” and try to make it the primary meaning of “baptized with fire … and they knew it not” by supposing that it might as well read “and they knew the word for it not,” or “and they knew the theology of it not,” sits even less well with me. It seems tortured in itself, and incongruous in the discourse of which it is a part: not an analysis of Helaman 5, but an explanation about humility, contrition, and childlike trust being the sacrifice of the new covenant.

    I’d also be neglectful to conceal that I have a personal stake in the matter. I’m sticking with Spencer W. (“Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication”) and Ezra Taft (“we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life”), because I have experienced changes of heart and shifts of perspective in both the dramatic-event mode and the subtle-accumulation mode. Having had both, I am certain that neither one was merely preparation for the other, was less noteworthy in its effects, or was less divinely wrought.

    1. I looked up the Webster’s 1828 dictionary (sometimes helpful in determining word meanings as Joseph Smith understood them)
      Know:
      1. To perceive with certainty; to understand clearly; to have a clear and certain perception of truth, fact, or any thing that actually exists.
      2. To be informed of; to be taught.

      I think this definition fits nicely. They received an amazing experience but they didn’t understand it clearly. They hadn’t been taught about it correctly – that would come later as the Holy Ghost taught them the truth of all things.

      We should DEFINITELY expect miracles in our journey towards God. We should expect to receive visions, visitations and the Baptism of Fire.

      Joseph Smith, June 27, 1839:
      “for God hath not revealed any thing to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve & even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.”

      Moroni 7:35-38
      35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?
      36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
      37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
      38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.

    2. Nathan,

      Now that I think I understand you better, let me qualify my response.

      I maintain the view that the baptism of fire is an event. However, I do not think everyone’s experience regarding that event is the same.

      A pillar of fire is not requisite in every instance. In my first response, I did not mention a pillar of fire is always associated with the “certain properties/effects/results” of the baptism of fire. I did state, however, that there is a “joy unspeakable”, you are “filled as if with fire”, you receive a “remission of sins”, and a “peace of conscience.” I believe those are noticed every single time, regardless of what all the experience entails.

      I agree with Benson that changes can (and do) come subtly. Hearing one’s testimony can change your heart (Acts 2: 37). Fasting can change your heart (Psalm 35: 15). Giving service can change your heart (Matt 25: 40). But none of these things are the baptism of fire, which is separate and distinct from all other heart changing experiences.

      I do not challenge the scriptures. Although the baptism of fire is not mentioned every time (much like the book of Acts), nor is the event the same experience for everyone, the path is always the same.

      It is real and it is an established event by the Word of God and from the foundations of the world (DC 130: 20-21). I have experienced it similarly to Lorenzo Snow, many others have too, and my hopes is that many more will experience it as well.

      God bless you.

  3. I was confirmed a member of the church in June 1982, but I did not receive the baptism of fire until July 23, 2010. This came after specific petitioning of the Lord to receive a remission of my sins. When the event occurred, it was dramatic and incredibly powerful. There was no mistaking that something had happened. I knew what it was because the Lord spoke it in my mind, and I was also immediately drawn to my prior readings of the Lamanites, Alma the Younger, and Paul/Saul.

    I am convinced that this experience is the gate that Nephi described in 2nd Nephi 31. Nephi even describes the baptism of fire as a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost. It is hard for me to imagine that God can forgive your sins and you wouldn’t even notice. Christ came to the earth specifically to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. It seems unimaginable that we could comply with his conditions for forgiveness and not even know for sure when the forgiveness had occurred. I find it much more likely that the Lamanites in the scriptures had a remarkable experience but lacked the understanding of what exactly had happened to them.

    This may not make anyone feel happy about their own circumstances or their own standing before God, but we ought to be humble enough to admit that perhaps we haven’t received from God what we think we have. We must be vigilant in pursuing actual knowledge from heaven that we have been forgiven. Otherwise we will fall short of the glory of God (D&C 76:74-77).

  4. I think there are times in our lives when God’s hand is moving and we don’t realize the significance of all that is happening. But if we strive to follow Christ with all our hearts then miracles will happen, angels will visit, and even receipt of the second comforter will occur.

    As Moroni says:
    27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

    28 For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens.

    29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

    30 For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.

    If miracles have ceased it is due to our own unbelief.

  5. Nathan:
    One might interpret 3 Nephi 9 to mean: 1) they didn’t know anything happened to them because the event was so subtle; 2) they knew something miraculous happened but didn’t know it was the baptism of fire and Holy Ghost . . . a remission of their sins; 3) they didn’t know that it was because of their faith in Christ that they were baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost.
    A reading from other scriptures supports number 3.
    A recipient of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost KNOWS from the experience that his personal sins are forgiven. The recipient also receives an amplified witness of the Father and the Son.
    But, scriptures cite cases where the recipients did not know how or why it was done – [because of their faith in Christ])
    After receiving this event, Enos asked “how is it done” (Enos 1:7) The Lord replies, “Because of thy faith in Christ”.
    After King Benjamin preaches faith in Christ, the multitude receive this event “because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 4:3).
    The Father’s voice comes to the Lamanites in prison, after this event is received, and declares “Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved” (Helaman 5:47)
    There is a pattern here. It seems that many recipients of this gift do not know that it is their faith in Jesus Christ that qualifies them for this gift.
    In the Dedicatory Prayer of the Kirtland House of the Lord, the Prophet Joseph prayed that the member might receive a “fulness of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 109:15). The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is that fulness.
    There is nothing subtle about it. Tasting this heavenly gift is a monumental event in one’s life.
    This is the reason Alma 39:6 states that it is not easy to obtain forgiveness if one turns from this event. Nephi states “it would have been better for you that ye had not known me” if one denies this gift (2 Nephi 31:14).
    If one does not know he has receive this gift, what’s the point of declaring the danger of denying something you don’t know you have?

    1. Steve (whoever you are),

      That is an awesome thought and something I had never considered before – at least in the way you broke it down. Thank you for teaching me! My experiences seem to resonate with what you described.

      God bless!

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