I love to attend baptisms. I have yet to witness one where I didn’t feel the Spirit, and I can see the moist eyes of others experiencing the same thing. Recently I watched an eight-year-old girl in my ward enter into the waters of baptism, after her grandmother gave a beautiful talk about the Holy Ghost. The grandmother showed a quilt of her great-grandfather’s, truly a comforter, which is how the Holy Ghost is often identified.
Of course we all know he is a member of the Godhead, and does much more than comfort. He also testifies of truth, he enlightens our minds, he prompts and inspires us to take righteous and charitable actions, he helps us make decisions, he warns us of danger, on and on.
But we call him The Comforter. We don’t call him the Enlightener, or the Teacher, the Prompter, or the Warner. Even though he does these things, Holy Writ has chosen to focus upon his responsibilities as a comforter. A quick search on the internet for scriptural references to this name will yield dozens of such references.
And in pondering this wonderful aspect of the Holy Ghost, it seems the perfect title. Just as God chose to be called “Father” when he could have been called so many other superlative things, the Holy Ghost wants us to remember that he is there to comfort us.
And this, almost more than anything else, should help us remember that this life is designed to be hard. Very hard. There will be tests, struggles, setbacks, heartache, loss, sorrows of every description. God knew we would encounter times when we feel alone, weep, struggle, and even succumb to temptations and discouragement. We would trip and fall. We would feel shame and regret. We would be afraid. We would hurt the feelings of others. We would even become acquainted with hopelessness and despair. It’s part of the mortal experience.
And that is why every soul ever born needs comfort. Without help from the Holy Ghost, we find how dark and empty the world can really be. When we turn from our faith in anger or despondency, we are turning from the very warmth, light, and hope we need. We are trying to go it alone, one of the scariest experiences we can have in this life.
The Holy Ghost loves us, just as our Father in Heaven and our Savior love us. He wants to wrap us in comfort, whisper assurance to us, and restore our hope. He knows our potential, our value, our eternal destiny, if we will only listen. When we submit to the steps of the gospel—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, we become eligible for his constant comfort. And then, taking the fifth step—enduring to the end—we can strive to really make that happen. We can work on being humble enough and receptive enough to stop going it alone. We can actually involve the Holy Ghost in our daily lives, and feel his love for us.
Every generation announces that things are worse than ever. Social media trumpets this same claim and people shake their heads with worry. What is the world coming to? seems to be on everyone’s lips.
Yet our leaders are optimistic. You don’t see them hand-wringing or head shaking. They are anything but gloomy about the future. And they want us to embrace their same hope, their same reliance upon God, their same belief that this life is a grand blessing and Christ will ultimately win the fight. We need only to align ourselves with the purposes of Heaven and heed the Holy Ghost. Then, despite our difficulties, we will have a core of confidence, an assurance of God’s love, and a determination to make His goals our goals. We can hear him speak peace to our hearts. We can even know our ultimate future is secure.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “After we were baptized, hands were laid upon our heads and we were given the gift of the Holy Ghost. When we consciously and sincerely renew our baptismal covenants as we partake of the sacrament, we renew our qualification for the promise “that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77).
“We cannot overstate the importance of that promise. President Wilford Woodruff called the gift of the Holy Ghost the greatest gift we can receive in mortality (see The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham , 5). Unfortunately, the great value of that gift and the important conditions for its fulfillment are not well understood. Nephi prophesied that in the last days churches would be built up that would ‘teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance’ (2 Ne. 28:4). He also pronounced ‘wo’ upon ‘him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!’”(2 Ne. 28:26). (Always Have His Spirit, General Conference, October 1996)
Clearly this gift, meant to help us navigate successfully as we encounter the storms and ravages of mortality, is priceless. Do we honestly grasp its value? If people thought they could purchase it, I imagine they’d pay any amount of money for it that they could.
But God offers it freely to the obedient who will exercise faith and follow truth. As Jesus described in John 14:16-18, we have not been left “comfortless.” And of all the Holy Ghost’s attributes, this one speaks most of love.