4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
(Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:4)
Faith – Faith is a principle of power, when it is used as the impetus for action. The 11th Chapter of Hebrews is a classic example of faith motivating an individual to do something. In all of the examples cited in that chapter, not one shows a person casually stating that they believed in something. Rather, their faith caused them to do things, and through their faith, they accomplished things greater than what man, left to his own devices, could accomplish. In the 2nd Chapter of James, verse 18 we read, “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
Perhaps some good questions to ask each day are, “What good thing is my faith going to motivate me to do today? How can I help serve the Lord and His children today?” The 11th Chapter of Hebrews cites “big miracles” that were performed, but I haven’t been asked to build an ark.
Though Christ’s miracles were mighty, they seemed frequently to be on the micro level, as opposed to the macro level, i.e. many of his miracles blessed the life of an individual. He did feed thousands with a loaf of bread and a few fish, but he also restored sight to individuals, or healed the sick individually, or restored faith to people on an individual basis.
One of my favorite stories on faith can be found in the 8th Chapter of Matthew, see Matthew 8:5-10. Here a centurion beseeches the Lord to heal his servant. The Lord agrees to come with him, but the centurion, with his military background, states that he merely has to command people to go and do something and it gets done. Likewise, he knew that all the Lord had to do was speak the words, and his servant could be healed. That is the kind of faith that creates miracles.
A fantastic primer on faith, i.e. what it is, and how to activate it in your life can be found in the 32nd Chapter of Alma, verses 21 to 43. Click here to read this passage.
Repentance – After faith comes repentance. As our faith in Christ grows, we feel a greater desire to repent of our sins, so that we can draw nearer unto him. See D & C 88:63.
We will begin to exercise our faith unto repentance. See Alma 34:15-17
My absolute favorite example of someone that exercised their faith to repentance is Enos
See: Enos verses 1 through 8. Enos’ faith motivated him to repent. After struggling with the Lord in mighty prayer, all day and well into the night, he received the peace and comfort that comes to the truly penitent. In verse 8, he is told that it was his faith that brought about the forgiveness of sin.
Some of the most spiritual experiences in my life have come as I have sought forgiveness. There are times, after much effort, that the love of the Lord has surrounded me like a blanket, and I felt His peace, and love from head to toe.
Baptism – After we have planted the seed of faith in our heart, and repented of our sins, we wish to stay clean and pure, and to follow the commandments of God. See Moroni 8:25 and Mosiah 18:7-11
The necessity of being baptized was taught by Jesus in John 3:5 where he said, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
You and I get baptized to receive a remission for our sins, but Jesus was not tainted by sin. And yet, He went to John the Baptist to be baptized Himself. If it was important for Him to be baptized to set the example for me, then I need to follow suit and be baptized as well.
The gift of the Holy Ghost – One of the greatest blessings a person can receive is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is given by Melchizedek Priesthood holders as they lay their hands on the head of the person receiving it. In the October 1996 General Conference of the church, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said this regarding the gift of the Holy Ghost, “President Wilford Woodruff called the gift of the Holy Ghost the greatest gift we can receive in mortality (see The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham , 5). Unfortunately, the great value of that gift and the important conditions for its fulfillment are not well understood. Nephi prophesied that in the last days churches would be built up that would “teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Ne. 28:4). He also pronounced “wo” upon “him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!” (2 Ne. 28:26).
The Bible tells us that when the Savior gave his final instructions to his disciples, he promised that he would send them “the Comforter” (John 16:7). Earlier, he had taught them the mission of this comforter, which is otherwise referred to as the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, or simply the Spirit. That comforter dwells in us (see John 14:17). He teaches us all things and brings all things to our remembrance (see John 14:26). He guides us into truth and shows us things to come (see John 16:13). He testifies of the Son (see John 15:26; 1 Cor. 12:3). The Bible also teaches that the Savior and his servants will baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire (see Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Acts 1:5). I will speak of the meaning of that teaching later.
The Bible’s teachings about the Holy Ghost are reaffirmed and elaborated in the Book of Mormon and in modern revelations. The Holy Ghost is the means by which God inspires and reveals his will to his children (e.g., D&C 8:2–3). The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and of the Son (see 3 Ne. 28:11; D&C 20:27; D&C 42:17). He enlightens our minds and fills us with joy (see D&C 11:13). By the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things (see Moro. 10:5). By his power we may have the mysteries of God unfolded to us (see 1 Ne. 10:19), all things which are expedient (see D&C 18:18; D&C 39:6). The Holy Ghost shows us what we should do (see 2 Ne. 32:5). We teach the gospel as we are directed by the Holy Ghost, which carries our words into the hearts of those we teach (see 2 Ne. 33:1).
Latter-day scriptures also teach that the remission of sins, which is made possible by the Atonement, comes “by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost” (D&C 19:31; see also 2 Ne. 31:17). Thus, the Risen Lord pleaded with the Nephites to repent and come unto him and be baptized “that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Ne. 27:20).
The gift of the Holy Ghost is so important to our faith that a prophet gave it unique emphasis in a conversation with the president of the United States. Joseph Smith had journeyed to Washington to seek help in recovering compensation for injuries and losses the Saints had suffered in the Missouri persecutions. In his meeting with the president, Joseph was asked how this Church differed from the other religions of the day. The Prophet replied that “we differed in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands” (History of the Church, 4:42). He later explained that this answer was given because “all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 4:42).” His entire talk can be found here.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost in my life has been a constant source of comfort and guidance. The Holy Ghost has guided me away from sin, it has enlightened my mind with the things I needed to say, at just the moment that I needed to say something. It helps me find calm in an ever more turbulent world.