Moroni 6:4 – cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost – LeGrand Baker

Moroni 6:4 
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ;

The words “cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost,” are unique to this passage of scripture. Nevertheless, they are very helpful in understanding how we are blessed by the Holy Ghost. There are four scriptures that teach we must be “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” The message of each of these scriptures is the same, but because the contexts are different, they combine to teach us a great deal.

The first is Paul’s statement about his own missionary purpose:

16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:16).

The second is Alma’s description of the faithful who lived in Zarahemla:

54 Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance (Alma 5:54).

The third is Alma’s description of the faithful who “were called after this holy order” of the priesthood:

11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest (Alma 13:11-13).

The fourth is part of the Savior’s injunction to the Twelve in 3 Nephi 27. He began that part of his instructions by saying:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

He then amplified the definition of the gospel by teaching about his Atonement. In connection with the gospel, he defined “the word” and then “the commandment,” then he concluded with: “this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do (v.21)” So, between the two definitions of “gospel” are two instructions about being clean and sanctified:

18-19 And this is the word …. no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day (3 Nephi 27:13, 18-20).

We usually understand “sanctify” to mean to make sacred or holy, and we have difficulty attaching a concrete meaning to the idea that the Holy Ghost will make us holy. However, Moroni’s statement that they were “cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost” gives us the key to know what it means to be sanctified. My Strong says the Hebrew word (# 6942) translated as “sanctify” means “to make clean” or “to purify.” The Greek word (# 37) translated as “sanctify” means “to purify,” or to “make holy.” The notion that the Holy Ghost makes us clean explains what the other scriptures mean by “sanctify.”

Parley P. Pratt penned what is probably the most beautiful and comprehensive description of what it means to be cleansed by the Holy Ghost:

The gift of the Holy Spirit adapts itself to all these organs or attributes, It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.

In the presence of such persons one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview, “O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance than a thousand written recommendations or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and such are its operations when received through the lawful channel, the divine, eternal Priesthood.{1}

I think I am safe in asserting that every person who has been baptized and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost has experienced to a greater or lesser degree the sense that he is clean from one or more sins that used to really bother him. After baptism we still have to work a long time to get to the state of “being made sacred,” because the cleansing is an ongoing process. Nevertheless, it is very real, and very comforting.

Baptism places our sins in remission, that is, it makes them inoperative in the way that cancer stops growing when it is “in remission.” Our sins remain in remission as we persist in making them a dormant and ineffectual part of our past. It is by the power of the Atonement and the workings of the Holy Ghost that those sins can cease altogether to be a part of our real Self. Then the sin no longer has claim upon our desires and we can live our lives as though it has no part in our eternal Self.

As in Alma 13 (which we read above in conjunction with the priesthood), the scriptures sometimes make no practical distinction between being cleansed by the Holy Ghost and by the Savior’s Atonement. The first part of that quote reads: they “were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb….[then] after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God ….” (Alma 13:11-13).

For us, the ultimate product of that cleansing is Peace — not a passive peace, but the power within us to transcend hurt, disappointment, and sorrow. In John 14, the name-titles that describes the sources of that kind of peace is translated “Comforter.” The key to the word’s meaning is in the Savior’s paraphrase of Isaiah’s prophecy about salvation for the dead.{2}

The word “comfort” in Isaiah 61:2 means the personal power to transcend sorrow. That power creates the ultimate “peace.” That verse in Isaiah 61 is paraphrased in the Beatitudes v. 4 as, “Blessed are all those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” The Greek word translated “comforted” in the New Testament Beatitudes (Strong # 3870) is a different form, but otherwise the same word as the word translated “Comforter” in John 14. (Strong 3875). So a reasonable way to understand “Comforter” would be “the ultimate source of the power to transcend sorrow” — the “Empowerer.” And “peace” is the fruit of that empowerment. {3}

As the Prophet Joseph explained, the Savior talked about two different Comforters in John 14. The Prophet said:

There are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence.
. …
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; {4}

The words of the Savior’s promise about that “other Comforter” in John are:

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 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 (John 14:15-27).

That “Other Comforter” is described more fully in Doctrine and Covenants 88:

3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son — (D&C 88:3-5).

As Joseph Smith said, John also describes the Holy Ghost as a Comforter:

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:15-27)

That last verse describes the “peace” which is both the purpose and power of each of the two Comforters. John also tells us about the time when the Savior bestowed the “peace” of that first Comforter upon the Apostles.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost (John 20:21-22).

There is a relationship between our being given the command to “receive the Holy Ghost,” being visited by the Holy Ghost, being filled with the Holy Ghost, being baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost as a Comforter. But I don’t know how to define each of those concepts in terms of each of the others.

Sometimes it is as important to know what we don’t know as it is to know what we do know. The reason is that when we are aware of the limits of our understanding, knowing those limits opens wonderful questions. We may not have the answers, but even being able to express the questions has value. So here are some of the things I don’t know.

As far as I can tell, being given the command to “receive the Holy Ghost,” and being “visited by the Holy Ghost” represent the same ideas. If that is so, it is probable that the other concepts (being filled by the Holy Ghost, being baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost as a Comforter) may represent a different set of ideas. Since I don’t know, I think I will just show you some key scriptures so you can decide what you think the relationships are.

Some of those phrases I mentioned are given context by the Savior’s Beatitudes in 3 Nephi.

1 … after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost….
2 … Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.
….
6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
….
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called [new name] the children of God (3 Nephi 12:1-9). {5}

The Doctrine and Covenants gives others a context by putting “baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost,” “the Comforter,” and “the peaceable things of the kingdom” all in a single sentence:

6 And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom (D&C 39:5). {6}

Peter said that when the Savior was baptized he was also anointed “with the Holy Ghost and with power.” His words are:

37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him (Acts 10:37-38).

I have wondered if the Savior’s being anointed by his Father “with the Holy Ghost and with power” may be something like the Savior’s promise to the Nephites: “after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 12:1).”

Some scriptures are especially helpful in understanding the meanings of those relationships. For example, Moroni’s last words are important, not only because they teach us how we can be cleansed and made holy by the Savior’s Atonement, but they also teach the relationship between ourselves, the Savior, and “the covenant of the Father.” However, in this passage he does not mention the Holy Ghost.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32-33).

And finally there are the instructions given by God to Adam. They tie many of these principles into a very nice package. He establishes the relationships between baptism, the Spirit, justified, cleansed, sanctified, the Comforter, and “the peaceable things of immortal glory.”

58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
62 And now, behold, I say unto you: This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time (Moses 6:58-62).

Even though I don’t understand HOW it works, I do know THAT it works. Through the power of the Atonement we can be made clean by the workings Holy Ghost. The ultimate promise is found at the end of verse 59: “that ye might … enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”

————————
FOOTNOTES

{1} Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology (Liverpool, F. D. Richards, 1855), 98-99.

{2} See Isaiah 61 under in the Scriptures section of this website.

{3} Also in Isaiah 61:2 and the Beatitudes 3 Nephi 12:4, and Matthew 5:4. For a discussion of the meaning of “comfort” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition pages 467-71; paperback edition (that one found in this website), pages 340-42.

{4} Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), 149-50.

{5} You can find a discussion of these Beatitudes in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord (check table of contents) and in the scripture section of this website (search by chapter and verse)

{6} Lecture 5 in the Lectures on Faith has some useful information about relationships.

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