John 15:26-27, 16:1-17 — The Spirit of Truth and Jesus’s Forty Day Ministry — LeGrand Baker

It is likely that in these verses Jesus was promising his apostles that the Holy Ghost would come to them after he was not with them any more. This is what Jesus told his apostles at Jerusalem.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
……………..
5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 15:26, 16:5-7).

The Comforter in verse 7 may have been the Holy Ghost. However, there is another possibility that I would like to explore. It could be that he was speaking of himself in the second person. Referring to oneself that way was typical of writers in New Testament times. For example, the Savior referred to himself as “him” and “he” in John 17, and John never describes himself as “me.” Rather, he refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

This second interpretation of Jesus’s words being about himself is possible because there are several scriptures where the Savior identifies himself as the “Spirit of Truth.” It would be instructive if we knew whether or not he were doing the same thing here

It may be that Jesus was promising that he would return after his resurrection to teach them things they could not now understand. If that is correct, then his 40 day ministry would have been the fulfillment of that promise.

Here is what the Savior promised his apostles.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
8 And when he is come, he will reprove [convict Strong # 1651 ]the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
17 Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? (John 15:26-27, 16:1-17)

Here are some examples.

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 (John 14:15-18).

We can know that Jesus was referring to himself as both “another Comforter” and as “the Spirit of truth” because we have Jesus’s own commentary on those verses in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph.

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
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 88:1-5).

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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 (John 14:15-18).

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7 And he [John the Baptist] 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.
…………………….
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 93:7-11, 26-28).

If the Spirit of truth Jesus was talking about is the Holy Ghost rather than himself, then what I write below is not correct (It sure wouldn’t be the first time!).

It seems to me that Jesus may have been telling his apostles that he must leave them now, but when he is gone he will have a greater power to assist and teach them than he had when he was surrounded by persistent mortal enemies in this world.

The only example I know of that partly relates to that situation is when Joseph Smith explained to Benjamin F. Johnson that Joseph’s own death would give him greater power to assist the Saints when his enemies were not hindering him at every turn. It is difficult to know how Joseph Smith felt then. He knew and later said “that he had to die.” {1} He wished to stay with his friends, yet he longed for a rest. Benjamin F. Johnson reported a conversation that occurred not long before the Prophet died. While Joseph was visiting the Johnson home,

with a deep drawn breath, as a sigh of weariness, he sank down heavily in his chair, and said, “O! I do get tired and weary, that at times I almost yearn for my rest,” and then proceeded to briefly recount to us some of the most stirring events of his life’s labors, sufferings and sacrifices, and then he said, “I am getting tired and would like to go to my rest.” His words and tone thrilled and shocked me, and like an arrow pierced my hopes that he would long remain with us, and I said, as with a heart full of tears, “O! Joseph, what could we, as a people, do without you and what would become of the great Latter-day work, if you should leave us?” He saw and was touched by my emotions, and in reply he said, “Benjamin, I would not be far away from you, and if on the other side of the veil I would still be working with you, and with a power greatly increased, to roll on this kingdom.” {2}

Joseph’s most immediate task was to prepare the Church for his own death. The Saints could never be prepared for the emotional shock, but he did need to settle the questions of who would have the responsibility of directing the Church after its Prophet was dead? {3}

After Jesus’s resurrection, the author of the gospel of Luke wrote the book of Acts. In the first sentences of Acts, he tells that Jesus remained with the apostles for 40 days after his resurrection and that he taught them “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me (Acts 1:1-4).

There are a number of apocryphal writings that tell about Jesus’s 40 day ministry. One of the most fascinating to me is the Pistis Sophia. I suspect that if Joseph Smith had translated it into “Mormonese” it would be among our prized possessions. However, he did not. Hugh Nibley has given us the next best thing. Nibley wrote a shortened and readable rendition in Appendix IV of his The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri. {4}

The following are five excerpts from Nibley’s interpretation of the Pistis Sophia. The first is an explanation of what the Pistis Sophia is. The other four are examples of the kind of teaching the Savior may have given his apostles after his resurrection.

The Pistis Sophia is a third-century Christian work from Egypt, written in the Coptic dialect of Thebes, where our own Book of Breathings—a near contemporary—was found. The opening statement, that Jesus taught these things to his disciples “after he had risen from the dead” and that they extended to “the first degree (topos, phase, step) of the ordinances (mysteria),” namely, “what is within the veil,” puts the writing in the category of the “Forty Day Literature,” i.e., the higher teachings given by the Lord to the apostles in secret after his resurrection, many of which writings were hidden up by the ancient Christian communities and have come to light only in our own day. {page -273}
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For this purpose I (Jesus) have brought the key of the mysteries of the heavens, without which no flesh on earth could be saved, since without an ordinance (mysterion) no one, whether righteous or unrighteous, shall enter into the kingdom of the Light. Wherefore I have in this wise brought the keys of the mysteries to earth that I might deliver those sinners who shall believe on me and obey me; that I might deliver them from the bonds and seals of the Rulers (of this world) and bind them in the sealings and garments and degrees of Light. … Proclaim it to the entire world: … “Strive to receive the mysteries of the Light in this time of tribulation so that you might enter into the Kingdom of Light.” … For when the number of those who receive initiation (lit. the teleioi) is completed, I will shut the doors of Light and no one will enter from that time on. … All who receive the Mystery of the Kingdom of Light shall go individually to receive that inheritance which corresponds to the degree to which one has attained (received) in the world. He who accepts less will inherit the lesser mystery and he who receives the higher mystery will inherit a higher place (topos). And everyone will remain in his place … and have authority over those orders (taxis) that are below him, but not over the degrees which are above him. (States the same in different words) … they who receive ordinances of the minor mysteries will find themselves in a minor degree (of glory, taxis); in a word, each one will remain in that taxis of inheritance of Light which corresponds to (the share of) the mystery (ordinance) he has received. {page -274-}
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(The candidate always moves in a company of his kind; each arithmesis—set number—of souls has its time and place on earth, and when the number is fulfilled or the initiation completed of teleioi psychai, the group of souls moves on to) a higher inheritance in the Light…. Everyone must remain in the topos in which he is until he is ready to receive the mysteries of the next. (Only) one in 10,000 will ever attain to the Mystery of the First Mystery. (An important episode of the group initiation is the Prayer Circle, which we have treated elsewhere.) (There are mysteries far beyond any known on earth.) When I lead you to the topos of those who have received their inheritance … the Sun will look like nothing but a tiny speck of cornmeal, because of the enormous distance, and because the new world is so much greater. (These higher mysteries are not for the unqualified, who are terrified of them; they go far beyond mortal comprehension.) {page 278}
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When they of this earth become exalted by the mysteries, they will be with me in the topos of the Light, and each of them will be a king over his dominions (emanations, probolai) … according to his measure of glory. … everyone according to the measure of glory he has received will rule with me in the Inheritance of the Light. All who receive the ordinances will be fellow-kings with me in my Kingdom. {page 278}

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And when Jesus had finished saying these things to his Disciples, he added,…Behold, I have put on my garment, and have been given all authority (exousia) by virtue of (hitn) the First Mystery. Yet a little while and I will tell you all the Mysteries…. (The Key to the whole thing) is that mystery which lies beyond the world (etn.bol hm-p-kosmos), for the sake of which the universe itself exists, ever mounting up, ever expanding (srebol)…. Come to us, for we are your fellow-members, all of us identical with yourself; we are all one and you are one with us. {5}
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FOOTNOTES

{1} Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:601.

{2} Benjamin F. Johnson, “An Interesting Letter to Elder George S. Gibbs” (typed copy in BYU library).

{3} These paragraphs were taken from LeGrand L. Baker, Murder of the Mormon Prophet—The Political Prelude to the Death of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Eborn Books, 2011), 221-22.

{4} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975), 273-78.

{5} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975), 278.

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