Gift of the Holy Ghost.
Various and conflicting are the opinions of men in regard to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some people have been in the habit of calling every supernatural manifestation, the effects of the spirit of God, whilst there are others that think their is no manifestation connected with it at all; and that it is nothing but a mere impulse of the mind, or an inward feeling, impression, or secret testimony or evidence which men possess, and that there is no such thing as an outward manifestation. It is not to be wondered at that men should be ignorant, in a great measure, of the principles of salvation, and more especially of the nature, office, power, influence, gifts and blessings of the Gift of the Holy Ghost; when we consider that the human family have been enveloped in gross darkness and ignorance for many centuries past without revelation, or any just criterion to arrive at a knowledge of the things of God, which can only be known by the spirit of God. Hence it not unfrequently occurs, that when the elders of this church preach to the inhabitants of the world, that if they obey the gospel they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, that the people expect to see some wonderful manifestation; some great display of power, or some extraordinary miracle performed; and it is often the case that young members in this church, for want of better information, carry along with them their old notions of things and sometimes fall into eggregious errors. We have lately had some information concerning a few members that are in this dilema, and for their information make a few remarks upon the subject.
We believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost being enjoyed now, as much as it was in the apostles days;-we believe that it is necessary to make and to organize the priesthood; that no man can be called to fill any office in the ministry without it; we also believe in prophecy, in tongues, in visions, and in revelation, in gifts and in healings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost; we believe that holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and that holy men in these days speak by the same principle; we believe in its being a comforter and a witness bearer, "that it brings things past to our remembrance, leads us into all truth, and shews us of things to come:" we believe that "no man can know that Jesus is the Christ; but by the Holy Ghost." We believe in it in all its fullness, and power, and greatness, and glory: but whilst we do this we believe in it rationally, reasonably, consistently, and scripturally, and not according to the wild vagaries, foolish, notions and traditions of men. The human family are very apt to run to extremes, especially in religieus matters, and hence people in general, either want some miraculous display, or they will not believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost at all. If an elder lays his hands upon a person, it is thought by many that the person must immediately rise and speak in tongues, and prophesy; this idea is gathered from the circumstance of Paul laying his hands upon certain individuals who had been previously (as they stated) baptized unto John's baptism; which when he had done, they "spake with tongues and prophesied." Philip also, when he had preached the gospel to the inhabitants of the city of Samaria, sent for Peter and John, who when they came laid their hands upon them for the gift of the Holy Ghost, for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; and when Simon Magus saw that through the laying on of the apostles hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money that he might possess the same power. Acts viii. These passages are considered by many as affording sufficient evidence for some miraculous, visible, manifestation, whenever hands are laid on for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of tongues, and also the gift of prophecy, are gifts of the spirit, and are obtained through that medium; but then to say that men always prophesied and spoke in tongues when they had the imposition of hands, would be to state that which is untrue, contrary to the practice of the apostles, and at variance with holy writ; for Paul says, "to one is given the gift of tongues, to another the gift of prophecy, and to another the gift of healing"-and again, "do all prophecy? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" evidently shewing that all did not possess these several gifts; but that one received one gift and another received another gift-all did not prophecy; all did not speak in tongues; all did not work miracles; but all did receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; sometimes they spake in tongues and prophesied in the Apostles' days, and sometimes they did not.- The same in [sic] the case with us also in our administration,
[p.823]while more frequently there is no manifestation at all that is visible to the surrounding multitude; this will appear plain when we consult the writings of the apostles and notice their proceedings in relation to this matter. Paul, in 1 Cor. xii. says, "now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant;" it is evident from this that some of them were ignorant in relation to these matters, or they would not need instruction. Again, in the xiv. chapter, he says "Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophecy." It is very evident from these scriptures that many of them had not spiritual gifts, for if they had spiritual gifts where was the necessity of Paul telling them to follow after them! and it is as evident that they did not all receive those gifts by the imposition of hands, for they as a church had been baptized and confirmed by the laying on of hands-and yet to a church of this kind, under the immediate inspection and seperintendance [sic] of the apostles, it was necessary for Paul to say "follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophecy," evidently showing that those gifts were in the church but not enjoyed by all in their outward manifestations.
But supposing the gifts of the spirit were immediately, upon the imposition of hands, enjoyed by all, in all their fullness and power; the skeptic would still be as far from receiving any testimony except upon a mere casualty as before, for all the gifts of the spirit are not visible to the natural vision, or understanding of man; indeed very few of them are. We read that "Christ ascended into heaven and gave gifts unto men; and he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers;" Eph. iv. The church is a compact body composed of different members and is strictly analagous to the human system, and Paul after speaking of the different gifts says, "Now ye are the body of Christ and each one members in particular; and God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" It is evident that they do not; yet are they all members of the one body; all members of the natural body, are not the eye, the ear, the head or the hand-yet the eye cannot say to the ear, I have no need of thee, nor the head to the foot, I have no need of thee; they are all so many component parts in the perfect machine-the one body;-and if one member suffer, the whole of the members suffer with it; and if one member rejoice all the rest are honored with it. These then are all gifts; they come from God; they are of God; they are all the gifts of the Holy Chost [sic]; they are what Christ ascended into heaven to impart; and yet how few of them could be known by the generality of men. Peter and John were apostles, yet the Jewish court scourged them as impostors. Paul was both an Apostle and prophet, yet they stoned him and put him into prison. The people knew nothing about it, although he had in possession the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our Savior was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows," yet so far from the people knowing him, they said he was Beeizebub [sic], and crucified him as an imposter. Who could point out a pastor, a teacher or an evangelist, by their appearance; yet had they the gift of the Holy Ghost. But to come to the other members of the church and examine the gifts as spoken of by Paul, and we shall find that the world can in general know nothing about them, and that there is but one or two that could be immediately known, if they were all poured out immediately upon the imposition of hands. 1 Cor. xii Paul says, "There are diversities of gifts yet the same spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the spirit is given unto every man to profit withall. For to none is given, by the spirit, the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, by the same spirit; to another faith by the same spirit, to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the self same spirit, dividing to each man severally as he will." There are several gifts mentioned here, yet which of them all could be known, by an observer, at the imposition of hands? The word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge, are as much gifts as any other, yet if a person possessed both of these gifts, or received them by the imposition of hands, who would know it? Another might receive the gift of faith, and they would be as ignorant of it. Or suppose a man had the gift of healing, or power to work miracles, that would not then be known; it would require time and circumstances to call these gifts into operation. Suppose a man had the discerning of spirits, who would be the wiser for it? Or if he had the interpretation of tongues, unless some one spoke
[p.824]in an unknown tongue, he of course would have to be silent; there are only two gifts that could be made visible-the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. These are things that are the most talked about, and yet if a person spoke in an unknown tongue, according to Paul's testimony, he would be a "barbarian to those present." They would say that it was gibberish; and if he prophesied they would call it nonsense. The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole, and yet it is one that is the most sought after. So that according to the testimony of scripture and the manifestations of the spirit in ancient days, very little could be known about it by the surrounding multitude; except on some extraordinary occasion as on the day of Pentecost. The greatest, the best, and the most useful gifts would be known nothing about by an observer. It is true that a man might prophecy [sic], which is a great gift; and one that Paul told the people-the church-to seek after and to covet, rather than to speak in tongues; but what does the world know about prophesying? Paul says that it "serveth only to those that believe."-But does not the scriptures say that they spake in tongues and prophesied? Yes; but who is it that writes these scriptures? Not the men of the world or mere casual observers, but the Apostles-men who knew one gift from another, and of course were capable of writing about it; if we had the testimony of the scribes and pharisees concerning the out-pouring of the spirit on the day of Pentacost, they would have told us that it was no gift, but that the people "were drunken with new wine," and we shall finally have to come to the same conclusion that Paul did, that "no man knows the things of God but by the spirit of God," for with the great revelations of Paul, when he was caught up into the third heaven and saw things that were not lawful to utter, no man was apprised of it until he mentioned it himself fourteen years after; and when John had the curtains of heaven withdrawn, and by vision looked through the dark vista of future ages, and contemplated events that should transpire throughout every subsequent period of time until the final winding up scene-while he gazed upon the glories of the eternal world, saw an innumerable company of angels and heard the voice of God-it was in the spirit on the Lord's day; unnoticed and unobserved by the world.
The manifestations of the gift of the Holy Ghost; the ministering of angels; or the development of the power, majesty or glory of God were very seldom manifested publicly, and that generally to the people of God; as to the Israelites; but most generally when angels have come, or God has revealed himself, it has been to individuals in private-in their chamber-in the wilderness or fields; and that generally without noire or tumult. The angel delivered Peter out of prison in the dead of night-came to Paul unobserved by the rest of the crew-appeared to Mary and Elizabeth without the knowledge of others-spoke to John the Baptist whilst the people around were ignorant of it. When Elisha saw the chariots of Israel and the horseman thereof, it was unknown to others. When the Lord appeared to Abraham it was at his tent door, when the angels went to Lot no person knew them but himself, which was the case probably with Abraham and his wife; when the Lord appeared to Moses it was in the burning bush, in the tabernacle, or on the mountain top; when Elijah was taken in a chariot of fire, it was unobserved by the world; and when he was in the cleft of a rock, there was loud thunder, but the Lord was not in the thunder; there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and then there was a still small voice, which was the voice of the Lord, saying what dost thou here, Elijah?
The Lord cannot always be known by the thunder of his voice; by the display of his glory, or by the manifestation of his power; and those that are the most anxious to see these things, are the least prepared to meet them; and were the Lord to manifest his power as he did to the children of Israel, such characters would be the first to say "let not the Lord speak any more, lest we his people die."
We would say to the brethren seek to know God in your closets, call upon him in the fields; follow the directions of the Book of Mormon, and pray over, and for, your families, your cattle, your flocks, your herds, your corn, and all things that you possess; ask the blessing of God upon all; your labors, and everything that you engage in; be virtuous, and pure, be men of integrity and truth, keep the commandments of God, and then you will be able more perfectly to understand the difference between right and wrong, between the things of God, and the things of men; and your path will be like that of the just, "which shineth brighter, and brighter, unto the perfect day." Be not so curious about tongues, do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious to display their intelligence, let them speak to such in their own tongues. The gifts of God are all useful in their place, but when they are applied to that which God
[p.825]does not intend, they prove an injury, a snare, and a curse instead of a blessing. We may at some future time, enter more fully into this subject;2 but shall let this suffice for the present.-ED.
1. There are some mis- or uncharacteristic spellings here. Some have been noted by the somewhat intrusive [sic]. Times and Seasons editorials, following the change in editorship in February 1842, making Joseph Smith editor and John Taylor his associate (Wilford Woodruff became more hands-on in the business and operations area). It becomes apparent after a short time the Smith had less involvement with the publication. Editorials should not be assumed to come from the pen or voice of Smith. It is probably the case that in this particular case, Smith was at least part of the writing effort. The topic had been touched in various sermons of Smith. For example in the funeral sermon of Marian Lyon (20Mar42). Tractate sermons were very common among American Protestants. Joseph Smith's experience is orthogonal to that. Protestant preachers normally had little or no independent records of their sermons. What records we do have were those tracts and imprints, self-edited and self-published (often)which distance us from actual preaching events. In Joseph Smith's case, nearly the opposite is true. He rarely prepared a text and hardly ever edited a text post-event. Instead, what sermon-records we do have, are from third parties and most suffer from the inherent abbreviation and focus (or lack of same) such amateur reporting involves.
2. This less charismatic view of "tongues" foreshadows modern Mormon instruction and the eventual dislodging of the practice of "speaking in tongues" from LDS meetings and less formal gatherings. Joseph Smith hailed the influx of tongue speaking in early Mormon gatherings as a manifestation of the "gifts of the Spirit" which the New Testament dictum that Christians would enjoy them in their spiritual lives. The practice became more rare in succeeding decades with the 20th century witnessing its eventual demise (transformation) in normative Mormonism.