Alma 36:24-26, LeGrand Baker, “filled with the Holy Ghost”
24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
25 Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors;
26 For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God (Alma 36:23-26).
In this beautiful testimony Alma equates three magnificent phrases that seem to have a much greater meaning than the ideas with which we sometimes casually associate them. The phrases are:
(1) taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; (2) that they might also be born of God, (3) and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Then he invites us to seek to understand what those words mean:
26 For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God (Alma 36:26).
Of those ideas, the one I would like to focus on today is the one that Alma uses here, “filled with the Holy Ghost.”
That phrase is used very sparingly in the scriptures. The key to its meaning is in the Beatitudes as they are recorded in the Book of Mormon. In the Bible they a just some nice sayings that many scholars believe were not spoken by Jesus, but were put in Matthew there by an early editor. That mistake could not be made by reading the Book of Mormon. There, the Beatitudes they are not just a series, but a single sentence with each one beginning with a conjunction, usually “and.” They read this way:
In 3 Nephi 12:2 are the first principles, including being “visited by the Holy Ghost”; v. 3 is the endowment for the living; v. 4 is the endowment for the dead; v. 5 is about keeping eternal covenants. Verse 6 reads: “And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Verse 7 is how to function as a priestly king; 8 is Zion shall see God; 9, peacemakers are “called” children of God; 10-12 is persecution; 13 is missionary work; 14-16 is the charge to be a light (Menorah) to temple worshiping Saints. [If those are new ideas to you, you will find a full explanation in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, pages 925-97.]
The point is that for most of us there is a great deal of time, experience, and faithfulness between being “visited by the Holy Ghost” and being “filled with the Holy Ghost.” During that time and experience it is the Holy Ghost who teaches us how to make that transition.
There are instances of persons who did not require a great deal of time in this world because they were fully proven in the previous one. Though the phrase is not used here, an example is the 12 whom Jesus chose when he came to America. The first Nephi describes them this way: [Also see below: 3 Nephi 19:10-14.]
10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood (1 Nephi 12:10).
“Forever” is a very long time in both directions!
Another example is John the Baptist. The account of his premortal call is given in Isaiah 40:3-8, and is quoted in each of the four gospels. When the angel told Zacharias he would have a son, the angel said, “he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). That statement was later confirmed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph: “John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (D&C 84:27).
In the New Testament, that blessing was given to many on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-6). The result was a group of distinguished missionaries, armed with power, to return to their own countries and teach the gospel.
“Being filled with the Holy Ghost” is usually described as a blessing to just one or two persons.
For example, when Moses expelled Satan from his presence, “Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son (Moses 1:24) .
When the blind Saul (soon to be called Paul) was blessed by Ananias he promised the future apostle, “that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:17).
The prophets Alma and Amulek are two more:
30 And Alma went forth, and also Amulek, among the people, to declare the words of God unto them; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
31 And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them; nevertheless they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison. Now, this was done that the Lord might show forth his power in them (Alma 8:30-31).
When the Twelve (whom we mentioned earlier) where chosen by the Savior and were baptized:
11 And it came to pass that Nephi went down into the water and was baptized.
12 And he came up out of the water and began to baptize. And he baptized all those whom Jesus had chosen.
13 And it came to pass when they were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
14 And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them (3 Nephi 19:11-14).
Joseph and Oliver Cowdery had a similar experience when they were baptized:
73 …. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation (JS-History:73).
It seems to me that there are two important points tha t should be gleaned from these scriptures. The first point is this. Those are some of the very few places in the scriptures where one finds the phrase “filled with the Holy Ghost.” (The only other two are Acts 4:8 and Acts 13:9.) It seems to me that when the scriptures use words and phrases like that so very carefully and with such precision of meaning, we would do well to use them with that same care.
The second point is the one in the Beatitudes: for the great majority of us, being filled with the Holy Ghost is a process with an end goal that can be achieved. That promise is also given elsewhere in 3 Nephi: Mormon reports:
17 And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And many of them saw and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written (3 Nephi 26:17-18).
Mormon concludes Third Nephi with this promise:
1 Hearken, O ye Gentiles, and hear the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, which he hath commanded me that I should speak concerning you, for, behold he commandeth me that I should write, saying:
2…. come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 30:1-2).