Mormonism teaches that the Holy Ghost, also known as the Holy Spirit or Spirit, is the third member of the Godhead. The Holy Ghost is a spirit, and does not have a body of flesh and bones like God the Father and Jesus Christ do. Although the Holy Ghost can only be in one location at a time, His influence can be felt everywhere. The purpose of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of Jesus Christ and of all things that are true.
The Holy Ghost also has the role of purifying our hearts and minds, helping us to become worthy to return to the presence of God. In Mormon theology there is a distinction between the specific gift of the Holy Ghost and the more general influence of the Holy Ghost. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost refers to a sacred ordinance, or ritual, which takes place after a person has been baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. This gift is the privilege of having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide, inspire, and teach the individual.
The influence of the Holy Ghost, on the other hand, may be felt occasionally without having received the gift of the Holy Ghost. For example, the Book of Mormon promises that the Holy Ghost will manifest truth to anyone who sincerely prays for it. This influence, however, is temporary. Although the Holy Ghost can, in certain moments, inspire or influence anyone, only the possession of the gift of the Holy Ghost enables individuals to enjoy this influence during every moment of their lives.
As stated earlier, the gift of the Holy Ghost comes after baptism into Christ’s Church, which is the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). When a person joins the Mormon Church, he or she is baptized in obedience to the commandment given by Jesus Christ. Following this baptism, the person receives the gift of the Holy Ghost through a blessing by the laying on of hands by those who have been given the authority to bestow this gift. Providing that this person lives a worthy life, the Holy Ghost will be a blessing in his or her life; Mormons understand the Holy Ghost will not remain with an unworthy person.
Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit, is an essential part of our experience on this earth. In John 3:5, Jesus Christ explains, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” [emphasis added]. Clearly this baptism of water and of Spirit is necessary in order to return to God’s presence. The baptism of a sincere person and the subsequent reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost are part of God’s plan for our sanctification. Through these steps and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, a person can be daily cleansed from sin and reminded of the things that are right. True sanctification is conditioned upon a sincere effort to obey the commandments of God and a desire to become like Christ. The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost can guide individuals in the path of this sanctification.
Mormons also teach that spiritual truths can only be genuinely understood when taught by the Holy Ghost. For this reason, members of the Mormon Church try to conduct themselves in a way that the Holy Ghost will always accompany them. By so doing, they can be better prepared both to be taught by the Spirit and to teach others by the Spirit.
In addition to being a teacher, the Holy Ghost has the responsibility of bringing comfort and peace. The Holy Ghost has the power to lift burdens, to give courage and consolation, to strengthen personal faith and hope, and to reveal whatever is needed to those who are blessed with His companionship.
The Holy Ghost is an uplifting source of power for faithful members of the Mormon Church. Because this gift is so important, Jesus taught that no sin is greater than the sin against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31-32). Mormons reverence this gift and try sincerely to be worthy of His companionship always.