John 14:15-26 — Two Comforters — LeGrand Baker

Jesus promised his apostles that he would not leave them alone after his death but would “come to them.” He also promised that the Holy Ghost would help them remember all the things he had taught them.

After Jesus explained Peter’s assignment, he taught the apostles about his relationship with Jehovah, his premortal Self, and about his eternal relationship with his Father. {1} Jesus concluded that explanation with this promise:

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:12-14).

He then taught them about power of that prayer by explaining the nature of their relationship with himself and his Father. He began by assuring them that he would be their Comforter, then promises that the Holy Ghost (which he also calls a Comforter) will enable them to remember all that he has taught them. That promise began with a command, but the command was not about unquestioning obedience. It was about a covenant/friendship love.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

The word “love” is used eight times in the brief report of this segment of their conversation. In each instance love is translated from the Greek word agapao, which means to love dearly in a social rather than in an intimate sense. During this conversation that agapao is projected from now into forever. The Savior said,

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 14:15-17). {2}

The Savior gave the same promise to Joseph Smith and those who were with him at Kirtland.

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 (D&C 88:1-4).

The Prophet Joseph explained,

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    ……………
The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.
[cites John 14:12-17].

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less [151] than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.{3}
———————-

When the King James Version was translated, “comfort” meant just exactly what the Latin said: “with strength,” to strengthen, or to empower. {4} “Comfort” still meant that in 1787 when the American Constitution was written. There, treason is defined as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” That did not mean it was treason to help the enemy feel better by giving him an aspirin and a warm blanket. In the Constitution treason to empower an enemy. That empowerment is called “comfort.” It also has the connotation of empowerment in the Bible.

The most extensive analysis of the biblical term is by Gary Anderson, who writes,

This verb “to comfort” (n-h-m) does not connote a simple act of emotional identification. Comfort can imply either the symbolic action of assuming the state of mourning alongside the mourner, or it can have the nuance of bringing about the cessation of mourning…. The latter usage, to bring about the cessation of mourning, is very common in prophetic oracles of deliverance. The famous exhortation of Isaiah 40:1, ‘Comfort, comfort, my people,’ comes to mind immediately. As Westermann noted, the term conveys ‘God’s intervention to help and restore.’ {5}

Anderson’s definition can account for the way the English translators used the word “comfort” to mean the bestowal of authority or power. It also adds substantial depth to the meaning of some passages, like the 23rd Psalm for example. In the words, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” a rod is a scepter, the symbol of kingship; the staff is a shepherd’s crook, the symbol of priesthood. So the words might be understood to say, “I am empowered by the symbols of priesthood and kingship.” {6}

A stronger example is where the Savior paraphrased Isaiah 61 in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).” Matthew was written in Greek while Isaiah was in Hebrew. The word “comfort” in both places suggests both the Hebrew and the Greek were understood to have the same meaning. The Isaiah passage reads:

2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:2-3)

Verse 3 is the coronation ceremony performed at the conclusion of the ancient Israelite temple drama. {7} The King James translation presents a difficulty in that “for” in English can either mean “in consequence of” or “instead of.” In this verse both the Tanakh and the Anchor Bible have translated it as “instead of.” Here “to comfort” means to empower by making one a sacral king and priest by the ritual coronation. {8}

To comfort [empower] all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, [make them a part of Zion]
to give unto them beauty [a crown] instead of ashes,
the oil of joy [anointing] instead of mourning,
the garment of praise [robes of righteousness] instead of the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called [a new name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:2-3).

Isaiah 40:1-2 is another example. These verses report an event at the Council in Heaven where God (Elohim) speaks to the Council (the word ye is plural). {9} If one reads “comfort” to mean empower through the coronation ceremony, the verses take on enormous power. They read:

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Isaiah 40:1-2).

To comfort is to give power that one may act in authority to enable one’s self or another to transcend sorrow. That meaning is personified in the Prophet Joseph by John Taylor’s report.

4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.” (D&C 135:4)

————————-
To return to the conversation between the Savior and his apostles:

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 14:15-17).

The Spirit of Truth is one of the Savior’s a name/titles. He identifies himself that way in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph.

7 And he [John] bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
……………….
22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.
23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things (D&C 93:9-11, 22-28).

In the next sentence John shows the tenderness in their relationship. That is also shown in the epistle written by the Savior’s brother, James the Just, who wrote,

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).

The word translated “fatherless” means orphaned, bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian. That word is translated as “comfortless” when the Savior spoke with his apostles,

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:18).

Read that as:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter …. I will not leave you orphaned, bereft of a father, teacher, or guide: I will come to you (John 14:16, 18). {10}

19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14:19-23).

The Prophet Joseph reiterated and clarified that statement in the Doctrine and Covenants.

1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
3 John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false (D&C 130:1-3).

This part of their conversation concluded when the Savior promised his apostles that the Holy Ghost would enable them to remember everything he had taught them.

24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
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 (John 14:24-26).
————————

The Holy Ghost is our comforter, our communicator, and our purifier. As Moroni wrote, “after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 6:4). The most important function of the Holy Ghost is to testify and teach about the Savior and his Father. The Savior explained,

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things (3 Nephi 11:32-37).

The nature of that purification was written in the classic, and probably the best known, LDS statement about the gift of the Holy Ghost by one of the Church’s foremost early poets, Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Elder Pratt wrote,

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. {11}

In a priesthood sense, to comforted to have the power to transcend sorrow. The words “peace” and “peacemaker” come very close to the same meaning. To be at peace with oneself, and to be able to help others be at peace also are among the greatest personal powers one can obtain in this world.

After having promised the apostles he would be with them forever, the Savior said,

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.

That conversation is best viewed like a beautiful painting: standing back far enough that the whole of it can be absorbed all at once. Here it is without interruption.

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.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
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 {12})

We conclude with the Savior’s invitation:

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 27:20).

——————–
FOOTNOTES

{1} This concept is much easier to understand from Abinadi’s explanation to Alma as explained in chapter “John 13:38 — ‘till thou hast denied me thrice’ – Peter’s Necessary Witness of the Atonement.”

{2}Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Meaning of Comfort” first edition, 467-71; second (paperback) edition, 340-42.

{3}Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Deseret News Press, 1951), 149-51.

{4}Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Meaning of Comfort” first edition, 467-71; second (paperback) edition, 340-42.

{5} Gary A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 84-85.

{6} For a discussion of the entire 23rd psalm see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend intot he Hill of the Lord, first edition, 525-43; second (paperback) edition 378-97.

{7} For an excellent discussion of the coronation ceremony, see Stephen D. Ricks and John J. Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple: Enthronement Ceremonies in History,” in Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1994), 236-71.

{8} For a more detailed explanation of these verses see Baker and Ricks, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Act 2, Scene 9: The Coronation Ceremony in Isaiah 61,” first edition, 461-517; second (paperback) edition, 336-73.

{9} We can tell this takes place in the Council because the next few verses are John the Baptist’s premortal assignment.

{10} Strong # 3737 “bereaved (‘orphan’), i.e. Paretless –– comfortless, fatherless
orphaned.”
Tyler’s Greek Lexicon: “bereft (of a father, of parents, Jas 1:27), fatherless of those bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian, Jn 14:18″

{11} Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology (Liverpool, F.D. Richards & London, L.D.S. Book Depot,1855), 98-99.

{12} The conversation is unchanged in the Inspired Version of the Bible.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

This entry was posted in John. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply