Growing up, I thought the Holy Ghost essentially had two purposes:
- To give me a testimony of the gospel.
- To be my spidey-sense in dangerous situations.
But as it turns out, the role of the Holy Ghost goes juuust a bit deeper than that.
The Holy Ghost as one who sanctifies and binds
One of the purposes of the Holy Ghost is to bind or seal things together. For example, what we call the Holy Spirit of Promise is a name-title “used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost, that is, the power given him to ratify and approve the righteous acts of men so that those acts will be binding on earth and in heaven” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie).
When a man and woman are married in the temple, the Holy Ghost binds or bonds them together, and charges them to “become one” in much more than a physical sense. “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hathtogether, let not man
The married couple now attempts to create a Zion-like relationship with each other. A place where they are “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18), “having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:22). As the couple spends more time together, that bond grows stronger and stronger. Little by little they both become more and more on the same page with one another.
But the charge to become one with your spouse is just a type or shadow of another binding process the Holy Ghost facilitates: “The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord” (Elder Ronald A. Rasband). But what exactly does that mean?
Mind and heart
Just as newlyweds endeavor to become “of one heart and one mind” with each other, the Holy Ghost affects you in like fashion in order to bind you to God:
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. Therefore this is thy gift; apply unto it…
(Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-4)
In other words, revelation is one of the processes by which the Holy Ghost binds you and the Lord together. In what sense are you bound together? Well, as you receive revelation, you are getting a glimpse into the mind and heart of God. You understand His will. And as you adjust your will to overlap with His, bit by bit over a lifetime, you are becoming of one mind and one heart with God.
The Lord’s prayer
In John 17 we read Christ’s great intercessory prayer. In verse 17 he starts praying for the sanctification of the saints (he prays that they may be made holy).
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth … And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
And then a few verses later we see what that sanctification looks like. We see what being made holy looks like:
Neither art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.I for these alone, but for them also which shall on me through their word; That they all may be ; as thou, ,
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be, even as we are : I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast them, as thou hast loved me.
OK, so Christ wants His disciples to be sanctified. A result of being sanctified is becoming one, even as Christ and the Father are one (see also Alma 36:26). And in what sense are the Father and Christ one? And in what sense are we to become one with Christ and the Father? Christ tells us in the next couple of verses:
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thous hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Again we see MIND and HEART show up. The bold type represents mind, and the italicized type represents heart.
Power to become like God
God is God because of who He is, not because of what He does. What He does is simply the result of who He is. His power source is His righteous character. Therefore, when we talk about “becoming like God,” we’re talking about developing God-like character attributes. How does God help us to develop His attributes? Well, according to the Doctrine and Covenants,
…in the ordinances thereof, the power [or character] of godliness is manifest.
Each ordinance we receive comes with power to develop specific attributes that enable us to “become one” with God. In the context of this article we’ll look at baptism and confirmation.
Baptism makes us spiritually clean and sinless, just as God is.
Confirmation is the ordinance in which we receive the Holy Ghost. What do we gain from the Holy Ghost? Inside access into the mind and heart of God. The Holy Ghost helps us to (in small measure) literally think the same thoughts as God and feel the same feelings as God.
When you’re reading the scriptures and your mind is opened up to knowledge you didn’t have before—that’s the Holy Ghost teaching you truth. All truth is gospel. All gospel comes from God. The Holy Ghost has given you insight into the mind of God.
When you’re able to look past someone’s flaws and see them as the Lord sees them—with compassion, love, and hope—those feelings come from the heart of the Almighty.
A note on the Godhead
We often emphasize the one-ness of the God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. But we also emphasize the reality of their physical independence. They are three separate beings working together as one unified team. Oftentimes our rejection of traditional Trinitarian beliefs is met with accusations of polytheism. “You believe in three gods!”
The common response, “they are three in body but one in purpose,” is often labeled as a cop-out. But if we understand the true binding power of the Holy Ghost, is it really?
Because of the Holy Ghost, there is nothing in the Father’s mind or heart that the Son doesn’t share. Christ earnestly prayed that we might get a glimpse of that one-ness, that we also might share in the mind and heart of God. And through the Holy Ghost, we can. In that sense, in every way that truly matters, we can become one.
…and if ye are not one ye are not mine.