The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often erroneously called the “Mormon Church,” receives its doctrine by revelation from the scriptures and from God the Eternal Father through living prophets. Mormons baptize by immersion when a person has reached the “age of accountability” — age 8 or older. At that age, a person can normally understand right from wrong and also understand the process of repentance.
After baptism, a new convert is blessed to receive, by the laying on of hands of a man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” which is the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Since the Holy Ghost cannot dwell in an unclean place, the person must maintain spiritual and physical cleanliness.
As a convert to Mormonism, I have lived part of my life without the gift of the Holy Ghost and part of my life with it, and the difference is profound. The Holy Ghost conveys revelation from Christ on a more or less constant basis. The more one has an eye single to the glory of God, the more one is humble and faithful, the more one senses these promptings. The quicker one acts upon them, the more the Lord conveys them. Having a prayerful heart is another key to being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, a separate and distinct member of the Godhead. He is a witness or testifier of the power of God, the divinity of Christ, and the truth of the restored gospel. Many throughout history in all nations have sought diligently to commune with the heavens and gain the light of gospel truth. They have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost confirm the truth of the gospel.
The Prophet 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 baptized, 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 baptized. Had he not taken this … ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him” (History of the Church, 4:555).The gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, is obtained only upon condition of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands by authorized servants endowed with the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a most precious gift available only to worthy members of the Lord’s Church.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord calls the gift of the Holy Ghost “the unspeakable gift.” It is the source of testimony and spiritual gifts. It enlightens minds, fills our souls with joy, 7 teaches us all things, and brings forgotten knowledge to our remembrance. The Holy Ghost also “will show unto [us] all things what [we] should do.”
President James E. Faust added that the gift of the Holy Ghost “is the greatest guarantor of inward peace in our unstable world” (“The Gift of the Holy Ghost—A Sure Compass,” Ensign, May 1989, 32).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Saints could distinguish the gift of the Holy Ghost from all other spirits, for “it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 529).
The Holy Ghost helps me to discern what is true, what is important, and what is real. It prompts me when I need to make decisions, warns me when danger is near, comforts me and brings me a unique peace, helps me to understand the needs of others. It is difficult to imagine making decisions without it. Second only to the atonement of Jesus Christ, it is one of our greatest gifts from God.