Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—believe in the Holy Ghost. They reject the trinity, which isn’t found in the Bible, and instead accept the Biblically named Godhead, which is made up of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost, also known as the Holy Spirit, as the third member of the Godhead, is completely unified with God and Jesus Christ and works in total harmony with Their teachings and practices. However, He does not have a physical body, as do the others. His role is to testify of truth and of Jesus Christ and to protect and comfort.
Mormons believe everyone is entitled to the Light of Christ at birth, which helps us to recognize right and wrong, to feel the spirit, and to know truth when we hear it. We can receive periodic assistance from the Holy Ghost as well. Once we are baptized, however, we can be confirmed members of the Church, at which time we also receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This happens at age eight or older. This allows us to have His constant presence, as long as we are living in a way that makes us worthy to have the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead. Since the Holy Ghost can’t remain in a place of wickedness, if we find ourselves in such a place or in an inappropriate situation, we must leave when commanded to do so. If we refuse, we lose the assistance of the Holy Ghost. Of course, if we are in danger through no fault of our own, the Holy Ghost can remain with us to help us through the situation.
Mormons believe we all lived with God before we were born, in the form of a spirit. (There is more on this in the article about the Plan of Salvation.) During that time, we learned God’s plan for us and built a relationship with God. When we came to earth, our memory of that time was taken from us, but from time to time, the Holy Ghosts sends small prompts or reminders. This causes some people who are first learning about Mormonism to say, in surprise, that certain seemingly unique doctrines sound familiar to them, as if they’d always known it.
When we are given the truth, those who have open hearts and minds will receive promptings to alert them to the truth. When we are in danger, the Holy Ghost will warn us and tell us what we need to do to be safe. When we pray, it is the Holy Ghost who transmits God’s answers to us.
Mormons are taught to pray for guidance when they are not sure what to do. James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God and receive an answer. Mormons have great faith in that verse, which set in motion the beginnings of Mormonism. When Mormons pray for advice, they follow a simple pattern.
Perhaps a Mormon teenager has been to Sunday School and is taught that she should listen only to music that is appropriate—music she would be proud to listen to in Jesus’ presence. She wonders if it’s really all that important—she doesn’t think the words to her music have that much impact on her. She decides to pray and find out if God really cares about her music.
She has started by identifying what it is she wants to know: Should I listen only to music that is morally clean? Next, she is taught to study out the issue to learn more about it. God gave us our intelligence and He expects us to use it. Good parents don’t hand children completed packages—they make them work at least a little for what they want. God is a perfect parent. Our Mormon teenager decides to go to LDS.org, the official website for Mormons, and read more about the subject of music. She wants to know what makes music appropriate, what the risks are of listening to inappropriate music, and what the blessings are if she decides to actually keep this commandment.
After studying, she decides to put it to a test. She goes through all her music and chooses the music she feel best meets the standards she has learned during her research. She read, during her search, that one way to know if a commandment is from God is to live it and see what impact it has on your life. (Mormons are taught to test the commandment, not the sin. Intentionally putting herself in danger would be foolish and deprive her of the Holy Ghost.) She tells God that for one week, she will listen only to appropriate music and will write each day in her journal how she feels about it all.
Over the course of the week, she notices she feels more comfortable with the music she is listening to. Before, she sometimes found herself thinking thoughts she’d rather not have while listening to music. The swear words in some of her music sometimes stuck in her head, leaving her worried she might say them one day without thinking. When she listens to the good music, she feels more peaceful and she recognizes she has the Holy Ghost with her more often now.
At the end of the week, she reads over her journal and decides she likes the impact her experiment had on her life. She decides her Sunday School teacher was telling her the truth and that the church leaders really were telling her what God wanted her to know. Making a decision is part of the process of receiving personal revelation, and now that she has done that, she is ready to pray for confirmation.
She kneels down and explains to God all she has done to research the issue and what she has decided. She asks Him to confirm her conclusion. The answer doesn’t come right away, so after she prays, she stays on her knees for a while, quietly. She knows that if she asks for advice, she needs to demonstrate she trusts God to answer her by giving Him time to answer. It takes her several days to receive an answer, during which she decides to throw away all her inappropriate music, demonstrating a true commitment to her decision. Once she has done this, the Holy Ghost confirms her answer. She feels a peacefulness in her heart and recognizes that it is the Holy Ghost “speaking” to her. It is the same feeling she gets when she is helping another person, talking about the Savior, or reading her Bible. She knows there is one more step in the process—actually keeping the commandment now that God has assured her it is the right thing to do. She knows if she asks, she needs to be prepared to accept and act on the answer, even if she didn’t get the answer she wanted.
This warmth and peace is the most common way the Holy Ghost answers prayers. On occasion a person will have thoughts come into his or her mind, accompanied by the physical confirmation that it is from the Holy Ghost. Very rarely, a voice speaks. This usually happens only in immediate danger when there is no time to work out what the answer is.
The Holy Ghost is a valuable member of the Godhead. Without Him, we would never know the truth, would face increased danger, and would lose the comfort the Holy Ghost often brings when we are sad or frightened.