Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27, 2011 - Elder Bezas's Farewell in Church

Here is Paul's talk he shared in Church the Sunday before he left.

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. It’s great to be with you all today. It’s been a while. Bishop has asked me to speak on the role the Holy Ghost plays in the conversion process.

Although on one level or another, a majority of us might be familiar as to what the Holy Ghost is, I feel it might be good to briefly review who He is. From Gospel Principles, we read that,
“The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead. He is a ‘personage of Spirit.’ He can be in only one place at a time, but His influence can be everywhere at the same time. Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are called the Godhead.
They are unified in purpose. Each has an important assignment in the plan of salvation. Our Heavenly Father is our Father and ruler. Jesus Christ is our Savior. The Holy Ghost is the revealer and testifier of all truth. The Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Father’s messenger and is a special gift to us” (32).
A mission statement is something that helps give one direction and purpose. From the previous quote, we may ascertain that the Holy Ghost’s mission is to “bear witness of the Father and the Son and of the truth.” In Moroni 10:5, we read that “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

It is through the Holy Ghost that we come to know that Jesus is the Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3). The Holy Ghost will always confirm to our hearts when truth is spoken.

Within our lives, there are times where we must part ways with loved ones. It might be for a short period, or until we are reunited with them after this life. For a moment, think back on those times in your own life. It is at these times of parting with those we hold dear where we speak of that which is of most worth to us and that which we value. We share our love with them and may exchange items in order to remember those who we will be absent from their presence.

With that in mind, we can relate in a sense to the Lord’s apostles, knowing the Lord would soon leave the earth. Christ shared the following with them, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:16-17). 

The Lord wants nothing more than for us to endure the trials that we face in this life and return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father in peace and joy. He also knows that we cannot make it alone through this life. This is in part why He has given us this second comforter of the Holy Ghost. What a tremendous blessing this is! I know that for me personally the Holy Ghost has been one of the greatest comforts in my life. Christ does not leave us comfortless!

Having the gift of the Holy Ghost is a privilege and we should view it as a sacred gift. For that is what it is. How does one qualify for the gift of the Holy Ghost? In order to know the answer, one must first know the difference between the light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

All of God’s children upon the earth have the light of Christ within them:  "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God (Moro. 7:16)." 

The Bible Dictionary shares that the light of Christ is “enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ…The light of Christ should not be confused with the personage of the Holy Ghost, for the light of Christ is not a personage at all. Its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost. The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who ‘hearkeneth to the voice’ to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost” (725).

One not familiar with the phrases commonly used within the Church might call the light of Christ one’s conscience. The light of Christ helps us to know between right and wrong and truth and falsehood.

President Boyd K. Packer said, “the Holy Ghost can work through the Light of Christ. A teacher of gospel truths is not planting something foreign or even new into an adult or a child. Rather, the…teacher is making contact with the Spirit of Christ already there. The gospel will have a familiar ‘ring’ to them.”

We gain the gift of the Holy Ghost as individuals after we have repented and been baptized by immersion by those with the proper authority, holding the priesthood—God’s authority to do His work here on the earth. We then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as it is conferred upon us through the laying on of hands by those holding the Melchizedek priesthood. We are given the right to have, whenever we are worthy, the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

So how is the Holy Ghost involved when one learns of the restored truth of the gospel and becomes converted? Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the power of the Spirit: “True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals…feel the Spirit working with them, or when they see the evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to feel the gospel is true” (Nov 00, 75).

As we strive to make changes in our lives in order to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost in our lives, we will come to know of the truthfulness of the gospel. In John 7:17, we read that “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” We will feel a measurable difference in our lives as we keep the commandments. Even in the small things. As we do this, faith to obey Christ will develop within us.

In a world where so much is at our fingertips instantaneously, recognizing the presence and promptings of the Holy Ghost might seem beyond comprehension in comparison. Many voices through numberless venues in the world compete for our attention. Ever present, the Spirit also seeks for our attention. If we are not listening, we will oft times miss out on the promptings and comfort the Holy Ghost offers.

Christ understands each of us better than we understand ourselves. He knows how to reach out in a way that will help us. Likewise, the Holy Ghost may speak to us in different ways, but the methods are the same. As we learn how the Holy Ghost communicates with us personally, we will be more capable to recognize when he is prompting us. 

The following are ways the Spirit may reach out to us. They are found throughout the scriptures, and I will share a few of them. If you’d like to refer to this list, it’s on page 96 of Preach My Gospel
  • The Spirit gives feelings of love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, gentleness, faith, comfort and hope. 
  • He offers ideas within our mind and feelings in our heart. 
  • He occupies the mind and presses on our feelings. 
  • He helps scriptures have strong effect. 
  • He gives good feelings when something is true. 
  • He enlightens the mind. 
  • He replaces darkness with light. 
  • He strengthens the desire to avoid evil and obey the commandments. 
  • He teaches truth and brings it to our remembrance. 
  • He guides us to truth and shows things to come. 
  • He reveals truth. 
  • He guides and protects us from deception. 
  • He glorifies and bears record of God the Father and Jesus Christ. 
  • He tells us what to do. 
  • He helps the righteous speak with power and authority. 
  • He testifies of truth. 
  • He sanctifies and brings remission of sins. 
  • He carries truth to the heart of the listener. 
  • He enhances our skills and abilities. 
  • He edifies both the teacher and the student. 
  • He will give us comfort.
[personal example- D&C 6:36]

When we hearken to the Spirit, it will always lead to our ultimate happiness. It is revealed to us in the scriptures that Men are that they might have joy.” God wants us to be happy. The promptings of the Spirit are there to help us endure to the end. Life may not be easy, but having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost that comes with being worthy of it definitely makes it easier. 

We are not perfect. I know I am definitely far from it! Being worthy simply means trying our best each day to be a little better than we were yesterday. Progress is the goal. We may stumble. We will make mistakes and sin. But the point is to repent. We cannot dwell in sin and expect the Holy Ghost to stick around. 
To clarify, we must understand what the true choice is that lies before us. We might think the choice is to repent or just not repent. But we are misled if we believe that. The Lord revealed unto Joseph Smith: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;...But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19).

So from this we learn our choice is to receive Christ, come unto Him...or to suffer—even as the Savior of the world suffered because He loves us. He doesn’t want us to suffer. He wants us back. He loves us.
We must stand after we fall and walk back to the Savior. He will cleanse us from our mistakes. As President Packer put it, “Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ” (New Era April 05, 6). 

Jesus Christ loves us beyond our comprehension. He just wants us back. The Holy Ghost can help us do that.