Receiving the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost

There is little information in the bible regarding this second baptism. In Matthew Chapter 3, we have John the Baptist proclaiming just prior to the baptism of Christ:

"11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:"

Also in Acts, chapter one we find:

"4 And, being assembled together with them, (Jesus) 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.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."

This again confirms that Christ will administer this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. The only other cross reference in the Bible comes in the 11th chapter of Acts and the story of Cornelius. As you may recall, Cornelius had been fasting for four days and was visited by an angel. The angel presented the message that he was to send for Simon Peter. When Peter arrived and began to preach the Cornelius and his household, the Holy Ghost fell upon all who were listening. Later, in reciting the event to his fellow apostles and brethren, Peter said (Acts 11):

"15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?"

It is interesting to note that Cornelius apparently first received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, then Peter commanded that he be baptized by water to complete the requirement. Cornelius received the same baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that the apostles received on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter one)

Paul also can be considered a recipient of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, following his vision of Christ. Ananias came to him, and pronounced this blessing upon the head of Saul/Paul found in Acts chapter 9:

"17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."

As with Cornelius, Paul received his baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost before his baptism by water.

Given the scant information in the Bible, it would seem logical that the Book of Mormon would contain information regarding this critical central theme of the restored gospel. There are four events related to the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost in the Book of Mormon that are of note, the people of King Benjamin, Enos, Alma and, finally, the Lamanites of the Book of Helaman.

The people of King Benjamin

In the early chapters of the Book of Mosiah, King Benjamin sends out a proclamation calling all the believers together to hear the word of God. King Benjamin's sermon is a proclamation of the gospel as given him by a messenger from God. While there is much to cover in the several chapters containing the sermon, I would like to focus on the characteristics described relating to the remission of sins achieved through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

In Mosiah, chapter 3 verse 13, King Benjamin summarizes the gospel as such:

"13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them."

He also challenges his listeners to become sanctified in verse 19:

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

As you can see, the core of King Benjamin's sermon is a plea for the people to become sanctified by receiving a remission of their sins. When he had finished speaking, King Benjamin gazed upon the people. Here is what then transpired beginning in verse 1 of Mosiah chapter 4:

" ...he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them."

These people applied the gospel of Jesus Christ and were blessed with sanctification. Their hearts were purified and they were filled with joy. Upon seeing this, King Benjamin spoke again and included this admonition found in Verse 11 and 12:

"11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

It is important to note that the recurring theme of 'remission of sins' and the attending 'great joy' characterizes the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Again, as we found in 2nd Nephi, chapter 31:17, remission is sins is achieved through the baptism of fire. The last phrase of the verse just cited should be compared to the quote earlier for Doctrine and Covenants, Section 39 which states that 'the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.' This sermon also gives us a roadmap on how to 'retain a remission of sins.' While the baptism of fire as described here is a singlular event, the admonition is to maintain this blessing throughout our lives. This requires us to maintain humility, prayer, and faith in the core of our lives.

In the remainder of Mosiah chapter 4, King Benjamin rehearses the charge to those who wish to retain a remission of their sins. Here are some of the points expressed (please read verses 13 through 30)

This is summarized in chapter 4, verse 26:

"...that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants."

And what was the effect on the people who experienced this baptism of fire? This is found in Chapter 5:

"2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.

The people made this covenant with God and received the following:

"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters."

This mighty change that came upon the people was a result of their baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It brought a purifying fire to their hearts and brought great knowledge of the events of the future. This event changes people; it brings them indescribable joy and peace in their hearts. King Benjamin's sermon is a roadmap of what the gospel is meant to be in our lives. It represents the gate that we all must enter in order to be on the strait and narrow way to eternal life in and through the atonement of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer

Enos

Enos recounts his 'wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.' He went out into the forest pondering the words of eternal life that often came from his father. These concerns moved him to seek out the Lord as found in the 4th verse of Enos:

"4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away."

Enos also received his remission of sins in a singular event. His heart was purified as his sins were washed away. It was a result of a prayer that went well into the night. He wrestled with God to receive a remission of his sins. He heard a voice that pronounced him 'clean.'. What a beautiful story of one person's challenge to apply for the blessings described by his own father.

Alma the Younger

Alma was the son of the high priest, Alma. Despite his rich spiritual environment, he did not begin to follow the teachings of his father. In verse 8 of the 27th chapter of Mosiah, Alma was characterized as '...a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities." As described in the narrative, he went about, with the sons of King Mosiah, attempting to destroy the church of God.

Prompted by the prayers of his father and concerned friends, Alma and his cohorts were visited by an angel which puts him into an apparent coma-like state in which he could not communicate. This lasted for two days as his father and friends fasted and prayed for his return. Finally he regains his ability and states in verse 24 of Mosiah chapter 27:

"For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit."

Later in life, Alma recounts his experience of being born again, born of God to his son Helaman in the 36th chapter of Alma:

"17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy."

It is also important to note that Alma also made reference to implications of the second baptism found in the 27th chapter of Mosiah:

"25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;"

Alma's message from Christ also contained the reference to becoming the offspring of God. It is incumbent upon all of us to be born again; to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire which purifies our hearts.

As with the people of King Benjamin, Alma felt the incredible joy that came from receiving a remission of his sins. To achieve this, though, he went through a harrowing repentance experience that left him nearly without any hope. This is until he caught upon a memory of his father's preaching of the Jesus Christ who was to come. Here is a man who, by his own admonition, was seeking to destroy the church of God. As with Paul, it was necessary to shake the foundations of his belief and give him a chance to rebuild his true faith. Alma's experience turned him into a steadfast follower of Christ.

The Lamanites

The two sons of Helaman began a significant missionary effort about 30 years before the coming of Christ, first among the Nephites and then moving to the Lamanites in the land of Zarahemla where they met with great success. Moving on to the land of Nephi, they encountered a different reception spending many days in prison without food awaiting execution. When the Lamanite guards came for the two brothers, they found them 'encircled about as if by fire, even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest they should be burned (Helaman 5:23).' As fear set in on the Lamanites, so did a darkness that prevented them from exiting the scene. Three times a voice was heard and they 'beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul— (Helaman 5:30-33).' Among the Lamanites was a man by the name of Aminadab who saw that the faces of Nephi and Lehi were shining through the darkness. He beckoned the Lamanites to look at the brothers. The following dialogue is recorded in the 5th chapter of Helaman beginning in verse 38:

These frightened people did not know what was happening to them. As the 300 Lamanites prayed, the darkness dissipated and they found themselves also encircled with fire as described in Chapter 5:

" 44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.
46 And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying:
47 Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.

As with the other demonstrations, the Holy Ghost purified the hearts of these Lamanites and they partook of unspeakable joy. While it is not clear whether the 300 Lamanites were made up of those who were in prison or of the guards who came to slay Lehi and Nephi, we can say that there were no 'friends' in the group. These people did not understand what was happening to them but it was within God's purposes to experience this baptism of fire and carry the word throughout the country. Because of this event, most on the Lamanites were converted.

It is important to note the footnote associated with verse 45 of Helaman, Chapter 5. The cross-reference is to 3rd Nephi 9:20 which casts more light on the event. In 3rd Nephi, Christ is appearing to those who had gathered in the wake of destruction throughout the land. As He descends, his voice is heard:

"18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Some have taken this verse in isolation to indicate that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost can happen over a considerable amount of time. Given that none of the events regarding the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost recorded in the scriptures indicate a gradual and imperceptible event, it is likely that this type of thinking is not correct. The baptism of fire, the second baptism, the bestowal of the Holy Ghost is a point event and changes a person's life and outlook. It is something to be sought and cherished; an anchor in times of calamity and chaos. By accepting the idea that it can be a gradual change, you will miss out on a necessary and critical component of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the events described above one can find two 'mass' baptisms of fire, one for a group of believers and one of non-believers. You will find a person's testimony that once fought against God and one individual who prayed without ceasing until his desire was granted. This life changing event could come to anyone. Those of us, though, will likely have to take the route of Enos in acquiring this priceless gift, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It results in a 'new creature' as the natural man is thrown off. It burns out the dross from our hearts and sanctifies us. It carries with it the potential for great knowledge and insight and brings to us indescribable joy and peace. Anyone who has experienced this baptism is different. It is, as described above, the gateway to the strait and narrow way to eternal life. Each of of should seek to understand the gospel and apply the examples in our own lives. The Lord has said many times, 'Repent and come unto me.' This is done through the act of being born again - baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

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