One of the most precious truths found in the Bible is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (ghost). As new Christians, we learn that the second we believed in Jesus Christ as the total payment for our sins, we had the marvelous gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit permanently in our lives. (Ephesians 1: 13-14) The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and His job is to be our comforter/counselor (John 16:7), but also to convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment when necessary (John 16:8-11). While talking with Latter-day Saints, most Christians think that they believe the same things regarding the Holy Spirit, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Firstly, Mormonism teaches that there is a difference between the Holy Ghost (HG) and the Holy Spirit (HS). The HG is “…the third member of the Godhead. He can be in only one place at one time, and he does not and cannot transform himself into any other form or image than that of the Man whom he is…”(Mormon Doctrine, p.359) Interestingly enough, the HG shares these limitations with the Father and the Son in Mormonism: “The Holy Ghost as a personage of Spirit can no more be omnipresent in person than can the Father or the Son,…”(Gospel Doctrine, p. 61) The HS “…is impersonal and fills the immensity of space, the Spirit which is the agency by means of which God governs and controls in all things.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 752) To further explain this concept, we read, “The Spirit of God which emanates from Deity may be likened to electricity,…which fills the earth and the air, and is everywhere present. It is the power of God, the influence that he exerts throughout all his works,…”(Mormon Doctrine, p. 753) While Mormons strongly affirm that the HG and the HS are not the same, the Bible knows nothing about this distinction. The same Greek word “pneuma” is translated into both terms. Mormonism has to take this erroneous view because of additional extra-Biblical theology.
Biblical Christianity has always taught that since the Holy Spirit is deity (Acts 5:3-4), He is omnipresent. This means that every born-again believer enjoys the companionship of the Holy Spirit at all times. He is not limited to a body, as Mormonism espouses, so He has no trouble working in the lives of all true believers simultaneously. Not so in the Latter-day Saint’s theology! Although at baptism, all members have the gift of the Holy Ghost conferred upon them by someone holding the priesthood, this does not entitle them to his constant companionship. Obviously not, since he is limited to a body. He is not capable of being with every member of the church at the same time, no matter how chaste a life they are living. This is affirmed when talking with members and ex-members of the LDS church. They will explain that from childhood they understood that if they were doing something against what the church taught, the HG would leave them. He would only be with them if they were doing things in line with Mormonism and what it’s leaders teach.
President Joseph F. Smith in his classic Mormon work, “Gospel Doctrine” on p. 60-61 explains it very clearly:
“Therefore, the presentation or ‘gift’ of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment…..it does not follow that a man who has received the presentation or gift of the Holy Ghost shall always receive the recognition and witness and presence of the Holy Ghost himself, or he may receive all these, and yet the Holy Ghost not tarry with him, but visit him from time to time…The Holy Ghost in person may visit men and will visit those who are worthy and bear witness to their spirit of god and Christ, but may not tarry with them.”
From the above quote, two words are mentioned repeatedly, the words “visit” and “worthy.” The LDS must be worthy to receive the presence of the HG. This is a major theme in Mormonism that bears explaining. The very purpose of living, to the LDS, is to prove one’s worthiness to God the Father, so they can return to live with him and become a god themselves. In order to enter the sacred Mormon temple, they must first become worthy enough to enter. This is done through following faithfully what the church teaches and then satisfactorily completing an interview with their Bishop and Stake President. Once passing the interview, they are given a card called a “temple recommend” that is good for two years. This card grants them access to their temples and shows that they are worthy Mormons. This card must be renewed every year. Also, the quote mentions that the HG will not tarry with them, but only visit. (D&C 130:23). In essence, the Mormon receives brief periods of time with the HG, but then he leaves them. This is very similar to how the HG functioned in Old Testament times. The HG is mentioned in the Old Testament, but not as one who abides with anyone permanently. It was not until after the resurrection of Christ that Jesus sent the HG to live with us constantly. Mormon doctrine, in this instance is reverting back to the way things were before Christ.
Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie states it very clearly when he says, “…the gift of the HG, however, is the right, based on faithfulness, to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead…the actual enjoyment of the gift, the actual receipt of the companionship of the Spirit, is based on personal righteousness; it does not come unless and until the person is worthy to receive it.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 312-313) How sad for our Mormon friends! The times that we are in our sin are the very times that we need the conviction of the HG, but these are the very times when his presence is denied them, because they are not living worthy of his presence!
To close this article, one very important reminder needs to be pointed out to our Christian readers. When witnessing to a LDS, part of what makes it so difficult for them to even begin to doubt the veracity of their church and their prophets is another doctrine that regards the HG. “We cannot oppose the Lord’s prophets without bringing upon ourselves the Lord’s displeasure. Rejecting the prophets causes the Lord to withdraw his Spirit. When that takes place, the spirit of the adversary has greater influence over us, …” (LDS Church Manual, Teachings of the Living Prophets, p. 55) Statements like these show the cultic nature of the LDS church. This is a fear tactic that will close LDS minds to even considering that what a Christian is saying to them could be true.