Chapter 4 – Strengthened by the Power of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost is always an interesting question when we consider Mormonism and Christianity. There are many areas of disagreement such as the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the interactions in the godhead between Father, Son and Spirit but you can all rest easy, we are not going to look at these incredibly deep issues when it comes to Chapter 4 of President Snow’s teaching manual. The title ‘Strengthened by the Power of the Holy Ghost’ gives us our clue into what we shall be investigating as we will be looking into the gifts of the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit does through us and in us.
The Holy Spirit, first and foremost in Snow’s theology, is the agent that resolves and strengthens faith. Snow quotes 1 Corinthians 12: 7, 9 (“The spirit is given to everyman to profit withal. To one is given faith”) to argue that once the Ghost has entered us, there is an extraordinary faith that stirs within us and strengthens us when faced with persecution. Snow then moves onto something that is important to discuss. He argues hat the gift of the Holy Ghost is something that is entirely different from any sectarian idea as it is a principle based in combined intelligence and revelation. As part of this revelatory principle,
“The gifts of the Holy Spirit were to be received by obedience to the requirements of the gospel and as proclaimed in those days and as proclaimed by the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
This is quote is very important to consider when we consider the quotation from 1 Corinthians 12. It doesn’t say in this particular passage of scripture that these gifts come from obedience rather than they come from faith in the Spirit. We are all gifted to help each other as it says in verse 7 but in verse 6, Paul talks about that despite the different ways the Spirit manifests itself, it is the same God who does all the work in us. The gifts aren’t received by obedience but as an outpouring of grace that comes from faith in Christ. Snow and the Bible are clearly out of line here.
This then moves us onto our next point, what the gifts of the Holy Spirit actually for? The answer from this passage seems to be that the gifts are for endurance. Endurance, especially endurance to the end within the Mormon faith, is a popular theme within Mormon scriptures. Some examples from the LDS scriptures include 3 Nephi 15:9, D&C 18:22, D&C 50:5 and Articles of Faith 1:13 and that is being rather selective. A key verse however when we consider the Holy Spirit, his gifts and endurance is 1 Nephi 13:37.
And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
The work of Zion, a work of God, needs the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Not only does the pouring out of the gifts of the Holy Spirit rely on obedience and diligence to a work, but the primary objective for the Holy Spirit’s power is to be used to help us endure to celestial glory. This theme is ever present in this chapter for Snow as seen in quotations such as ‘be marked out to them by the Holy Ghost, that course by which they could elevate themselves to knowledge and power and thus prepare themselves to receive the glory that God proposed to confer upon them’. The Holy Ghost is an absolute necessity for exaltation, celestial life and glory. The actual gifts, by which I mean tongues, prophecy etc., do seem to be rather lost in the shuffle. The gifts themselves are briefly mentioned by Snow as something that are of use for the church but their aim is still to help humanity on their way to celestial glory.
This does not seem to be the biblical motive for this gifts or what God desires for us with these gifts. When we look at Pentecost in Acts 2, we see that after the outpouring of the Spirit onto the disciples, the apostles go out and teach and evangelize, spreading the Gospel and bringing people to faith in Jesus. When Jesus himself promises the Holy Spirit in John 14-15, it is promised to guide and to teach the faithful. The Spirit is God with us to spread the good news and power of Christ. In other words, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whilst of great benefit to those whom they course through, are within us primarily to aid us in being Christ and spreading Christ to others. They are a part of God’s mission to others. This is in direct contrast with the LDS position. Without even touching onto the always controversial subject in these discussions of the divinity of the Holy Spirit, we can see that the LDS have minimized the power of the Holy Ghost from a gift to the whole world to an aid to help us in our endurance towards salvation.
So what can we say as a summary of Chapter 4? I think we can say that Snow’s overwhelming emphasis is on endurance as the consequence of being strengthened by the Holy Spirit. This heavy emphasis seems to go against the attitude in the Bible, which is all about being strengthened to give out the Holy Spirit to others and to see God’s wonders being used through us. Snow’s emphasis is on the self in enduring to the end. That isn’t in line with what God desires for us as laid out in the New Testament in terms of why we have been given the Holy Spirit and how we should be used by Him. You could argue that perhaps that this is just some attempt at a distorted reading here of President Snow. I will leave you with the final paragraph of chapter 4 and I will let you decide.
‘We should endeavor, as far as possible, to forget all worldly matters which grieve and vex us, and fix our minds upon the Lord, having a sufficiency of His Holy Spirit that we may be enabled to receive such knowledge and suggestions as will help us in our onward path.’