Monday, July 6, 2015

The Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Mind of God

There is a passage of scripture in the New Testament that has received quite a bit of attention in recent years.  I confess I have a hard time understanding it.  I have read it again and again, and even read entire books on the subject, but still there is some ambiguity and confusion over it, however I'd like to take a moment to share a few tidbits of understanding that I gained today.

For the past two weeks, the Holy Ghost has been the topic of discussion in some way, in both Sunday School and Relief Society in our ward.  I want to consider the following verses, right off the bat.  

  • John 14:15-31
  • John 16
  • Galatians 5
  • Alma 32:28
Prior to Christ's death and resurrection, he warns his disciples of what is to come.  They don't quite understand.  Forgive me in this post as I take a little editorial leeway and capitalize one word repeatedly which is not normally capitalized.  

"But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?  But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.  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 16:5-7  
[*Side note:  the Greek translation renders each instance of the word "him" as gender neutral.  In essence, the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Holy Ghost is not necessarily a male figure.  Why is the Greek translation worth considering?  See here for a solid answer.  I'll asterisk the word "he" just for kicks in this post.

Additionally, the Greek word for Comforter is παρακλητος, or paraklhtoV (pronounced par-ak'-lay-tos), and is also represented as the words helper, counselor, advocate, among others.]

He is warning them.  Saying in essence, "I'm about to go away, but none of you are willing to ask where I'm going.  But you're sorrowing nonetheless.  But this is THE TRUTH regarding the Comforter.  Let me explain..."  

A few breaths before, he also explained,   
"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 tesitfy of me:" -John 15:26

And a few breaths before that,

"If ye love me, keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he* may abide with you for ever; 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

And back to where we started, with preparing to be killed,
"Howbeit when he*, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he* will guide you unto 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.  He* shall glorify me: for he* shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he*(I'm unclear if this refers to Spirit of Truth or the Father) shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." -John 15:13-14   

In the Lectures on Faith, which Joseph Smith dedicated significant time and effort on, we receive further light and knowledge on the nature of the Godhead.  He explains in a series of questions/answers, with attending verses as evidence.  These passages have given me greater clarity and understanding on the Spirit of Truth of which Christ speaks.  From Lecture Fifth:

"16: Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?  They do.  John 5:30: "I [Christ] can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."  John 6:38: "For I [Christ] came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."  John 1-:30: "I [Christ] and my Father are one."  
17.  What is this mind?  The Holy Spirit.  John 15:26:  "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 [Christ]."  Galatians 4:6: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts."  
18.  Do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the Godhead?  They do (Lecture 5:2).  [Let the student turn and commit this paragraph to memory.]  
19. Do the believers in Christ Jesus, through the gift of the Spirit, become one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one?  They do.  John 17:20-21: "Neither pray I for these [the apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."  
20.  Does the foregoing account of the Godhead lay a sure foundation for the exercise of faith in him unto life and salvation?  It does."

It was important for Joseph to instruct that the Holy Spirit is equivalent with the MIND of God.  And that the Holy Spirit is the same mind that the Father and Son possess.  As we receive the Holy Spirit, is it noteworthy to consider that should we believe this, that we indeed are taking upon us the MIND of GOD?  Do we become one in mind, therefore one in intent, purpose, understanding and knowledge?

In Sunday School and Relief Society, for two weeks in a row, I shared this quote:

"The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence." - Joseph Smith
Frequently as a missionary I would share Galations 5:22-23 as a way to help investigators understand the fruits of the Spirit.  This, I would say, is how we know when we are feeling THE Spirit.  But is it THE Spirit, necessarily, when we feel these things?  I never quite explained fully what Paul was teaching in these verses, so I'd like to highlight the backstory to the verses we use so much.

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in the time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." - Galatians 5:16-26   
Here the word "truth" is not mentioned in our English translations, however we are talking about the fruits, or the things that come FROM the Holy Spirit.  If we add in the words "of Truth" after the word "Spirit", we might find a new way of looking at what Paul was getting at.  When we are in a place with pure intelligence, with Truth, with the Mind of God, we are not of the law requiring us to be carnal creatures (or are we?).  In essence, I propose what he is saying is that we are above carnal, above the law, and in connection with the pure Mind of God, the Holy Spirit of Truth, and will manifest fruits which are highlighted above in yellow.  It sounds like something higher.  We inherit (in-here-it) the kingdom of God.  Here and now.

One more verse to tie it into the Book of Mormon.

Alma compares the word to a seed.

Now, we will compare the word (aka "truth" or "good") unto a seed.  Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions (fruit), ye will begin to say within yourselves–It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul (fruit); yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding (fruit), yea, it beginneth to be delicious (fruit) to me.  Now behold, would not this increase your faith?  I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge... And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow (fruit), ye must needs know that the seed is good.  And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect?  Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand."  -Alma 32:28-9, 33-4  
A friend, who inspired this post in my mind a few months ago, shared with me that she felt "the Spirit" at a local amusement park ride.  She questioned her understanding of the traditional explanation of what the Spirit is.  I hope this post helps friends like her, who are truly bewildered by the modern definitions we give in Sunday School regarding what the Holy Spirit is.  There is so much more clarity when we dig into the scriptures.  I don't understand everything, but I feel like I have learned a lot from her asking the question.  


  1. I've always thought the spirit is something we have to beg to come to us, but now, after understanding a little better, I realize there is a part of the Father that is always with us. No prayer is unheard or thought unknown. I think this is part of why we must have a correct understanding of the Godhead in order to have faith unto salvation as the Lectures describe. It's important, for me, to understand he is near, in our mouth, in us all, not something I have to beg first to even come down from heaven and dwell with me.

    "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." (Deut 30:11-14, IV)

    This is why answers can come before we're even finished asking the question. This is how we can know the interpretation of a dream before the dream is even finished being related. The problem is, especially with our western minds, we are constantly in denial, and on top of that we are constantly worried about what their privileges are. And we are likely trying to fit intelligence they receive into a faulty framework of belief, thereby casting what we receive away, esteeming it as of no worth.

    In church I've heard it often repeated that he only comes when we are worthy, but I think that is a mistake that brings confusion because it is the influence of contact with that spirit, that cleanses us from our unworthiness usually in a gradual process (sometimes quickly as in the baptism of fire), and often having to start over the cleansing process because of our failings. Though Cain committed a horrible act and was cast out, God was still willing to speak with and reason with him. God's works never cease, neither his words, and he will work with us through eternities, patiently and without compulsion to succor us, his child, back to him.

    I like the alternate definitions that you brought up, especially "a counselor", someone who speaks to you and offers a better way, or is just willing to hear your way without upbraiding.

    Like you said, I think it's important that we get the effects of "the Spirit" right because otherwise we can be deceived. Joseph said "nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed." (HC ch. 33, p. 573)

    The part I love most about this, is that one day, after we've heard that voice and can distinguish it from all other voices, the person speaking will step out from behind the veil and will no longer only converse through the veil.

    Great post Jen, thank you.

    1. I have just been speechless over this comment. It's like they say in SS, that sometimes the one "teaching" learns more than the "students". I'm addicted to the clarity that continues to be revealed. Thanks so much for sharing these additions, Micah.

  2. I cannot believe that after writing for over an hour my post has vanished.

    I love the references to the Spirit. Great job..
    I agree with what both articles are saying.
    As already pointed out, words can have different meanings. It seems like the word worthiness is in question. I would like to give my understanding of this word.
    As a child, I was taught in the Protestant churches that unclean spirits could not live in God's presence. That being said, I also found it difficult to understand how God being perfect could be with us when we were wicked and unwilling to be righteous servants.

    As an adult with a greater understanding, I look at the word "unworthiness" in a different light.
    How can a person be unworthy and still receive promptings of the Spirit? Easy. Being unworthy is a condition of the mortal mind and heart and not a restriction of the Spirit. So, why do they say you can have the Spirit based on your worthiness?
    There are some days where I talk and talk to my grand kids and I am told that they "tuned me out." ok.. What does that mean? They can hear me but my message is being turned off. The same applies to us.
    The Comforter and the Holy Spirit are ever present for us. I have come to view the term "un-worth-iness" in the words of "not worth my time."

    Whenever we speak of someone unworthy, we seem to associate that person as not living righteously. If you are not living righteously, then you are not listening to the Spirit. Is the Spirit speaking to you? Probably. So the value of the word does not pertain to the presence of the Spirit but rather to our own response. As was mentioned, the Spirit reflects light, truth, knowledge, and understanding. Our own Spirits resonate to that source.

    I remember being taught that when we do wicked we could get Prickings of the Spirit. Yes, you don't hear that term nowadays. Prickings were times when the Spirit was trying to wake you up to change your ways. No matter how wicked you can become, you can receive those "prickings."

    In my mind, we and we alone create that "unworthy" attitude. So the phrase the Spirit may be with us based on our worthiness is reflecting on our willingness to listen. The Spirit has no problem doing its job. We on the other hand, tune it out. Turn it off. The closer to live to the Spirit the better relationship we have to the Comforter and Spirit.

    We know the story of the brother of Jared. His faith was so strong that the veil could not block his view. The same is available to us.

    An unworthy state is a mind and heart action and not a spiritual consequence. It is always our choice that propels us forward. That is how I view this lesson.


Has this post affected you for good? Please share your thoughts.