The manual objective for Gospel Doctrine lesson #24 is “To encourage class members to be receptive to the influence of the Holy Ghost and to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
To explore the connection between the Holy Ghost and Christ’s prayer for unity.
Lesson #24 continues Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples in John 16, followed by what the manual calls the great intercessory prayer of John 17. This is also called the Farewell Prayer or High Priestly Prayer.
In Chapter 16, Jesus explains the need for his imminent departure. Think–did he really have to leave? Why not stay on earth as a resurrected being, settling disputes and ensuring centuries of peaceful history? But in 16:7 Christ strongly states, “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.” Jesus knew that his disciples would be experiencing a kind of second fall in their separation from his divine companionship and protection. In preparation for this, Christ describes the gift of the Comforter not just as a second-best helper, but as a prized gift, even worth the hardship of Christ’s absence. It is only in this often uncomfortable state of existence, separated from Christ and God the Father, but accompanied by the Holy Ghost, that the disciples would be able to experience a fullness of the gospel.
When I read about Christ preparing his disciples for their separation, I am reminded of the words of Eve in the Pearl of Great Price. After the fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the Holy Ghost bears record to Adam and Eve of the redemption of Christ in Moses 5:9. In the subsequent verses, Adam and Eve both bear testimony of what they have learned as mortals. Verse 11 records, “Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”
Eve knows that mortality doesn’t prevent eternal life but instead makes it possible. As one who had experienced both worlds, the garden paradise and the dangers and fears of mortality, Eve has the kind of understanding that Jesus wants to convey to his disciples.
For Eve, knowledge was key to accessing the gift of eternal life–not factual knowledge but personal knowledge through mortal experience. In John 17:3, Jesus also addresses the need for a particular kind of knowledge, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
But how do we know God or Jesus Christ? Unlike the disciples of Christ’s time, we don’t hear his discourses directly or receive his healing blessings in person. But the gift of eternal life comes not just despite this fact but, in part, because of this fact. Without direct fellowship with deity, we access the atonement through the unifying and enlightening power of the Holy Ghost. And so the separation of mortals from God makes possible an even deeper kind of unity than was previously possible. Jesus prays for this unity in verse 23, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” How do we know God? through the Holy Ghost? Yes. But our understanding of God, our unity with God, comes only as we follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost to love God’s family.
In the October 1991 General Women’s Meeting, Cheiko Okazaki gave a wonderful talk inaugurating the sesquicentennial celebration of the Relief Society: She described a crucial purpose of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Along with its role as revelator of truth, comforter, and teacher, the Spirit prompts us toward unity:
Remember, our real calling to be a compassionate Christian came when we stepped out of the waters of baptism. The gift of the Holy Ghost is ours by right of confirmation. We don’t need to check it out of the meetinghouse library. We don’t need a bishop’s assignment to be kind. We don’t need to sign up to be thoughtful. We don’t need to be sustained by our wards to be sensitive. Rejoice in the power you have within you from Christ to be a nucleus of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
It is this Spirit, combined with our own actions, that creates the unity that Christ describes in his Farewell Prayer. Okazaki continues, describing the unity she feels with the world-wide Relief Society despite the inevitable separateness we feel as distinct individuals:
As a Relief Society General Presidency, we are different. Elaine, Aileen, Carol, and I are married and single, homemakers and professionals, far travelers and homebodies, converts and fifth-generation members, high school graduates and graduate-degree holders. We have given service to our community and to the Church. But we know each other, we help each other, and we love each other. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We rejoice in our diversity and enjoy a unified sisterhood. Do the same in your own wards and stakes.
Eternal life, the Holy Ghost, being One in the Father and in Christ — these are inevitably linked and can’t be separated from our experiences with our fellow mortals. In order to know the Godhead, we are required to love each other.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Patience and Joy, Patience Omorodion
The first Sunday I went to the Church, I was so excited because of the way I was received by the Relief Society sisters. I was wondering why! I said, “Why are they so happy to see me?” The joy that I felt that first Sunday made me to come the other Sundays.
So the joy of the sisterhood in Relief Society touched my heart and I decided to have the missionary discussions about the Church, and after, I got baptized into the Church. I’m so excited that I have the testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. That’s helped me to know how much Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ love me. I know that Heavenly Father lives and is our grand Father and Jesus is our Savior, and the Holy Ghost is the best friend that we get in our heart in this life. That testimony has blessed my life a lot.
An American Education, Raquel Perez Johnston
The day I was baptized, something extraordinary happened to me. I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and found that I was given the strength to stand alone not only that day but for many years following. In time, my family and I reconciled and our relationship gradually improved. Acting on what I knew to be right was a very difficult thing for me to do, but decisions are like that. I have learned from this experience that sometimes years and years pass before you can see all the blessings you would have missed if you hadn’t said yes when given the opportunity. I could have said no! But because of it, my life has been very rich and abundantly blessed — I have never regretted my decision.
To Smile and Talk Again, Agnes Twagiramariya
My life has changed completely since I joined the Church. For example, I sincerely feel the joy of the Holy Ghost who changed my life of sorrow and unhappiness into peace and joy. And I have started to smile and talk again. Because of His love, I found that all my sorrow my Savior took away and He has left me peace.
I started to feel that I could forgive the people who killed my family in Genocide. It was very difficult for me to forgive them. And after forgiving them, I gained the total peace of my heart. For me, I choose to follow my Savior and I will never choose another way for my life.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Making Faith a Reality, Janette Hales Beckham
Years ago a friend was feeling challenged as she saw the world shouting at her family. She said, “I wish we could lock our children in the temple until they turn 21.” That solution might have kept them innocent, but that is not the plan. Just as Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden, spiritual maturity requires that we have experience in this world. It is experience that helps us know good from evil. It is experience that helps us recognize the promptings of the Spirit.
A Comforter, A Guide, A Testifier, Margaret D. Nadauld
You too are loved by the Lord, just as were the disciples of old. You are loved more than you will ever know. He wants you to be successful in your life’s mission! You don’t have to face the experiences of this life alone, nor have you been sent here to fail.
For this reason a holy gift was given to you at the time of your baptism and confirmation, when hands were placed on your head and you were told, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” It is almost as if your Father in Heaven gave you a gift to celebrate your official entrance into His kingdom on earth. The Holy Spirit can be with you always and guide you back to Him, but in order to enjoy the benefits of this holy gift, you must truly receive it, and then you must use it in your life.
Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit, Vicki F. Matsumori
There are places where it is easier to feel the Spirit. Testimony meetings and general conference are some of those places. Certainly temples are another. The challenge for each of us is in providing an environment where the Spirit can be felt daily in our homes and weekly at church.
One reason we are encouraged to pray and read the scriptures every single day is that both of these activities invite the Spirit into our homes and into the lives of our family members.
Because the Spirit is often described as a still, small voice, 11 it is also important to have a time of quiet in our lives as well. The Lord has counseled us to “be still, and know that I am God.”