I would like to follow up with my last post, “To Know God” with this subject, as I have felt so to do; which knowledge has further enlightened me in the way of coming to know God and Jesus Christ, in faith of procuring that last and greatest gift of eternal life (Doctrine & Covenants 14:7).
Again, I begin with a passage of scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.
Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
(Doctrine & Covenants 46:7-9)
As we heed this commandment to “pray always” (Doctrine & Covenants 10:5) we have the promise of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, who will “tell you all things what ye should do,” (2 Nephi 32:3). Furthermore, to avoid deception we are commanded to seek earnestly “the best gifts” from God with thanksgiving and “always remembering for what they are given.”
We also learn that the benefactors of these gifts are only those who truly seek and ask of God, in contrast to those who are merely and unbelievingly “seeking a sign” or those who would selfishly consume such gifts on their lusts or to further deceive others.
Thus, the means of these gifts, and the discernment thereof is in spirit, or by way of the Spirit:
And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit;
He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.
And again, I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit;
(Doctrine & Covenants 46:28, 30-31)
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Corinthians 2:11, 14)
Here it might be appropriate for each of us to consider these things; to consider our personal efforts to be truly in tune with the Holy Ghost. Do we sincerely ask God, in the name of Christ for the Holy Ghost to be with us and to guide us? Do we sincerely seek to do His will? Do we sincerely ask for His blessings? Do we conduct ourselves in such a way that we are worthy to receive them? Where is our heart? Do we truly seek God and His kingdom?
In conjunction with these gifts of the Spirit, the power of God given to men on the earth, or priesthoods, along with the ordinances that pertain unto them have been restored in these, the latter days. We might again ask what the purpose of these ordinances are, or what it is that we are to obtain from them.
About these ordinances and the priesthood the Lord revealed this through Joseph Smith:
And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
(Doctrine & Covenants 84:19-21)
By this we learn that in the ordinances “the power of godliness is manifest.” As one receives these in that order in which they have been revealed, he or she not only becomes eligible for the blessings pertaining to that ordinance, but also progressively learns more about their Creator, about their true eternal identity as offspring of Deity, and their destiny to become as such.
From a fireside address given at Brigham Young University on 27 October 2000, Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander eloquently explains this further in this way:
Our participation in sacred ordinances teaches much about the order of God’s kingdom and about Him. For example, it seems strange to think that one could enter a temple to perform some of the most sacred ordinances before submitting to baptism, which is one of the initial ordinances of the gospel. There is order in the kingdom of God, and there is order in the way we learn about it. To Nephi, the Lord said, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
Elsewhere the Lord has stated, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
We do not receive everything at one time, but we receive knowledge of holy things progressively and incrementally as we are worthy of and obedient to such knowledge. From the first ordinance of the kingdom—baptism—we progress through other ordinances such as confirmation and ordination to the priesthood, all of which lead to the most holy of ordinances, which are performed in the temple. Our participation in the sacred ordinances of the gospel orders our knowledge of the kingdom and thereby reveals the nature of God to us.
Sacred ordinances and knowledge of God are closely related. Therefore, what are some of the things we learn about God by participating in His appointed ordinances? Let us take baptism as an example. Baptism by immersion is for the remission of sins. One who has fully repented of his or her sins and with full purpose of heart receives baptism, knows that God not only has the power to forgive and to take away the burden of guilt associated with sin, but that He does so. This person knows, through personal experience, something about God and His magnificent power and kindness. The only way to truly know these things is by participating worthily in the ordinance of baptism itself.
Baptism opens the door to the kingdom of God, through which one now not only passes cleanly but with a sure knowledge that God forgives. The same can be said of all other sacred ordinances of the gospel. Over time and with obedience, we progress into the ordinances of the temple, where our convictions are strengthened that our most precious relationships are not affected by death. This knowledge we receive by participating in the ordinances that are meant to teach us such things. Otherwise, they will not and cannot be known. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the following relating to knowing essential holy truth through our participation in sacred ordinances: “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose.”
As sacred ordinances reveal the order of the kingdom of God in a progressive manner, our participation in them reveals to us a knowledge of the personality and character of God that can be gained in no other way.
What profound insight and testimony Elder Neuenschwander offers us!
I can only further add my own testimony, as it has been my opportunity and experience to partake of and participate in these ordinances performed under the authority of God’s holy priesthood, that what has been expressed here is true. If you are one who is seeking to know of these things with surety, be faithful. Pray always and be watchful. Walk in meekness and in soberness. Repent, and be penitent in your repentance. By doing this you open the way for the Holy Ghost to manifest the things of God to you personally, and then you are prepared. Then, when you take part in the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Spirit will bear witness to you, and you will know of their truthfulness.