Gift of the Holy Ghost
The fourth Article of Faith states that Mormons “believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Following baptism by immersion, individuals are confirmed. This means that a priesthood holder, with the proper authority, places his hands on the individual’s head and confirms him or her as a member of the Church. At the same time, the individual is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that this gift and its companion blessing entitles the recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian, so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift.
Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, is obtained only after baptism. “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man,” he said, “if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 314).
A person is expected to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of scripture, and of the words of the living prophets before baptism. The full outpouring of the Spirit does not come, however, until the person has complied with the command to be baptized. Only after baptism can the gift be conferred by one in authority, and even then the Holy Ghost cannot be received by someone who is not worthy of it, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in the heart of an unrighteous person. Thus, the actual companionship of the Holy Ghost may be received immediately after baptism or at a subsequent time, when the one receiving the promise becomes a fit companion for that holy being. Should the individual cease thereafter to be clean and obedient, the Holy Ghost will withdraw (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The old sectarian notion which was proven false by Joseph Smith’s first vision is that God is a spirit who became incarnate to dwell as Christ on the earth, and that God is so immense that He can fill the universe, but so small, He can dwell in your heart. Mormons testify that it is the Holy Ghost that can dwell in one’s heart, because he is a personage of spirit. He conveys any message God might have for the believer. He inspires, teaches, testifies, ratifies truth, comforts, warns, and enlightens.