Baptized with fire and they knew it not?

For some, the Book of Mormon contains a wealth of information on the topic of being ‘born again.’ I am one of them. The narratives regarding Nephi, King Benjamin, Enos, Alma, and the 300 Lamanites give soul-satisfying detail into the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Contained within the exposition on the doctrine of Christ found in second Nephi, chapter 31, a clear picture can be developed of the necessity of this second birth and the incumbent sanctification it offers through the remission of sins. 

In speaking to the Lamanites of this day, Mormon tells them of the necessity of baptism (Mormon 7:10):

“…if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior…”

The baptism required of the Lord has two components, water and spirit. When Nicodemus came to Christ, he was told that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I find it interesting that the original Greek meaning of the word ‘see’ connotes ‘to consider’ or ‘have knowledge of.’ The first baptism of water, as suggested here, is necessary to consider the kingdom of God. As Christ told Nicodemus, the second or baptism of the Spirit is required to enter his kingdom (John 3:5):

“…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God…”

This suggests that we become aware of the kingdom of God through the baptism of water and gain entrance to the kingdom of God through the baptism of the Spirit. This idea is consistent with the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 3:17-18 and Moroni 6:1-4).

Joseph Smith amplified on this idea in the following (TPJS, p. 314)

“”You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, 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”

Given the critical nature of this sanctifying ordinance, it would seem that we should understand how this second baptism is applied to the seeker. Through church literature and the scriptures, two perspectives can be drawn on the ‘baptism of fire’ and its application in our lives.

For some time, beginning perhaps with President Ezra Taft Benson, this baptism has been viewed as an imperceptible change over a long period of time.  In the October,1989 Ensign, President Benson stated:

For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20)”

This idea has been amplified in recent conference talks by Elders Packer, Bednar and Christofferson giving us a view that we can achieve this second baptism through long life of following Christ as characterized in this segment from “True to the Faith” on conversion:

“Because conversion is a quiet, constant process, you may be converted now and not realize it. You could be like the Lamanites who, “because of their faith in [Christ] at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20). Your continuing efforts to exercise faith and follow the Savior will lead to greater conversion.”

Before we pack up and go home, let’s look a little more closely at the scripture used as the cornerstone of the idea that the second baptism is a gradual process.

Even before Christ had descended to stand among the Nephites at the time of His appearance on the American continent, His voice was heard detailing the destruction exacted on the land and cities. He then offered this promise to those who survived (3 Nephi 9:20):

“…whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

Without any collaborating scripture, this seems to say that the Lamanites were baptized by fire and were unaware of this process.  When reading this scripture, I was somewhat troubled by the reference to their conversion. Usually, when I hear the phrase ‘at the time of‘ an event, I don’t think that it if referring to a long time covering months or years. This begs the question:


What Lamanites are being discussed here and what happened to them?

In the current version of the scriptures published in 1981, there is no footnote associated with the conversion phrase in verse 20. However, this has not always been the case. In the previous version of the footnotes before the correlated footnotes and going back at least as far as the 1920 edition of the Book of Mormon, there was a footnote ascribed to the conversion found in this verse. Here is a scan of the referenced verse:

3rd Nephi 9:20






While it may not cleanly appear in the scan, the ‘z’ footnote occurs in association with ‘their conversion.’ And what does the “z” footnote contain?

Footnote from 3rd Nephi 9:20








There are two references associated with the phrase “their conversion” in this verse, the first is to Helaman 5:45. The event described associated with this scripture reference is the freeing of Lehi and Nephi from the Lamanite prison. At that time, Lehi and Nephi were miraculously freed from prison and, while under the influence of the Holy Ghost, were surrounded, as it were, by fire. Aminadab took the opportunity to educate that 300 Lamanites as to what was happening and encouraged them to pray. They, also, were surrounded by fire and were blessed, as we learn from Ether 12:14, to be baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. It is also interesting to note that, while the backward reference from 3 Nephi was removed in the footnotes of the current edition, there is still a reference in Helaman 5:45 pointing forward to the comment in 3 Nephi.

‘And they knew it not?’ Given the scripture reading, this statement could either be construed to mean that they didn’t know that it was happening to them, or they didn’t understand what was happening. I strongly suggest that it was the latter. The Lamanites definitely knew something incredible was taking place but didn’t understand what was transpiring, once they were educated and began to exercise faith and pray to God, they were enveloped in the ‘fire’ and were baptized by the Holy Ghost. It, of course, did not happen over many years. It was a point event that carried significance with them through out their subsequent ministry among their people.

The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is a marvelous and life-changing experience. It is, as Nephi states, the gate to the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.” It leaves one without any fear. It cleanses the soul and purges sin. In my opinion, it is, by far, the most sacred experience one can enjoy.

My fear is that most people will not understand that it is available and will, therefore, not seek after it. Enos prayed well into the night to receive his remission of sins. What are we willing to do to receive this gating item for entry into the kingdom of God?

What think ye?



  1. Spek

    Observation #1:

    If your hypothesis is correct that being born of the Spirit and being born into the kingdom is an immediate identifiable process instead of a slow imperceptible process (which I agree with). Then it would be a very serious thing for the shepherds of the flock to teach that the process is a slow, imperceptible one.

    It is interesting to note that the scriptures refer to the fact that Satan will “cast” or “thrust” the souls of people into hell when the ultimate time comes, however, there are a few scriptures that seem to indicate or imply that prior to the point when Satan casts a persons soul into hell, he implements a strategy that gives people confidence in a slow imperceptible process wherein he slowly “flatters” them and slowly “leads” them patiently on the wrong path where they “wander” away from the true gate. The terms flatter, lead and wander all seem to imply a slow, subtle process when read in context.

    Below are a few scriptures that come to mind.

    A) “And thus he flattereth them, and leadeth them along until he draggeth their souls down to hell; and thus he causeth them to catch themselves in their own snare.”

    B) “And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.”

    C) “that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.”

    Observation #2

    You quoted the following scripture in the above post:

    “…if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior…”

    Yet, in your research contained in your website you present two documented instances wherein believers actually were baptized by the spirit BEFORE being baptized by water. Here is the excerpt from your website:

    “This again confirms that Christ will administer this baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. The only other cross reference in the Bible comes in the 11th chapter of Acts and the story of Cornelius. As you may recall, Cornelius had been fasting for four days and was visited by an angel. The angel presented the message that he was to send for Simon Peter. When Peter arrived and began to preach the Cornelius and his household, the Holy Ghost fell upon all who were listening. Later, in reciting the event to his fellow apostles and brethren, Peter said (Acts 11):
    “15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
    16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
    17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”
    It is interesting to note that Cornelius apparently first received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, then Peter commanded that he be baptized by water to complete the requirement. Cornelius received the same baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that the apostles received on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter one)
    Paul also can be considered a recipient of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, following his vision of Christ. Ananias came to him, and pronounced this blessing upon the head of Saul/Paul found in Acts chapter 9:
    “17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
    18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
    As with Cornelius, Paul received his baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost before his baptism by water. “

    How do you account for the fact that these people did not appear to get baptized by water FIRST following after the example of Christ, as commanded in the book of Mormon?

    Observation #3

    Also, on a possibly related note: There are multiple places in scripture that make reference to the baptism of water, fire and spirit. Are you open to the possibility that these scriptures are referring to THREE DISTINCT ASPECTS of baptism rather than just two? Is the baptism of fire and the spirit one event, or are they two distinct events that can take place at the same time or separately?

    The following scripture sounds to me as if the baptism of fire and the baptism of the spirit are two separate baptisms:

    “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, AND with fire:”

    We are told that the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle and we are all unclean until we are cleansed… is it possible that we need to be cleansed by FIRE before we can have the Holy Ghost dwell in us.. or at least the constant companionship?

    This issue obviously is not all that important since the humble repentant follower of Christ will receive the baptism of the fire and the Holy Ghost through the grace of God without knowing exactly how the process work… but it is a question that interests me.

    Great Post

  2. Spek, your previous post inspired me to get off my duff and start writing about sanctification (something I have wanted to do since the inception of this blog), but as I began writing, I had trouble with the html of the wordpress editor and only today have been able to make it work, but, unfortunately, now I can’t find the rest of my notes. I hope to add my two cents concerning this topic is separate posts soon.

    You stated,

    “The baptism required of the Lord has two components, water and spirit. When Nicodemus came to Christ, he was told that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I find it interesting that the original Greek meaning of the word ‘see’ connotes ‘to consider’ or ‘have knowledge of.’ The first baptism of water, as suggested here, is necessary to consider the kingdom of God.”

    I would re-word this sentence as follows: “Except a man be born again, he cannot recognize the kingdom of God.” According to my experience, “recognize” is what the Lord meant in this saying. Also, I’ve never understood that the baptism of water was the baptism “necessary to consider the kingdom of God.” My understanding is that the consideration, or knowledge, of the kingdom of God occurs prior to water baptism. So, when the Lord in this saying is referring to baptism, He is referring to a spiritual baptism that occurs in which the eyes of the individual are opened so that he or she can finally see the kingdom of God.


    re: Observation #1: My experience is that the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is a point event, not a long-term event, and that it occurs upon reception of the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, I am open enough to allow that as the Spirit is given in portions, that it is possible to give very small portions which increase gradually over time, according to the faith of the individual (or lack thereof) and the circumstances in which he finds himself. (See D&C 46: 15.)

    re: Observation #2: My understanding is that in addition to the water baptism and the spiritual second baptism that is supposed to follow it, there can be spiritual baptisms that precede the water baptism. Ideally, this should occur.

    re: Observation #3: There is also reference to a “baptism” of blood. (See Moses 6: 59.) If you consider each reference to baptism as separate, then there are (at least) four baptisms.

    (In case anyone brings it up, although the scriptures refer to “washing our garments in the blood of the Lamb,” this can be considered a baptism as our chief “garment” is our body.)

  3. LDSA

    I can see from your response that my wording in Observation #1 was written poorly and was confusing. When I said “which I agree with” I was referring to the primary point that Spec was making in his post.

    He has actually made this point before and I have agreed with him on it before. I even made reference to this issue on my blog a few weeks ago.

    I agree that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is not a slow imperceptible event. I am not aware of anywhere in the scriptures where it is described that way..

    In fact, after I did my previous response, I pondered it further and was led to several scriptures in 2 Ne 28 and Mormon 8 that I think are addressing the very issue even better than the ones I provided before.

    2 Nephi speaks of how the devil will “Pacify” and “lull” them away. I have noticed in reading history of the church that there was a great anxiety in people to obtain the spiritual gifts so that they would know when they were born of God. That anxiety was a good anxiety because it motivated people to seek God in ernest faith and prayer to be born again.

    I believe that those who consul people and tell them that they are the “rule” instead of the “exception” of how to be born of God when they fail to experince the magnificent burning, cleansing manifestations of the Holy Ghost are really “pacifying” people and justifying them in their carnal lives… allowing them to be “lulled” away thinking all is well.. and thus the devil cheateth their souls..

    Mormon 8 refers to our time as a time when “the power of God shall be denied”

    Is that not what is happening when a church leader tells someone they don’t need to experience the burning sensations of the baptism of fire in their lives? Are they not denying the power of God?

  4. Spek-

    Great post. I agree with you that the Lamanites were converted and had the Baptism of Fire immediately and not over months or years. These people were not living the life President Benson is talking about, working hard to be closer to God, there is no way this conversion could be attributed to a lengthy process.

    I guess I need to read “True to the Faith” a little closer. This one sentence you quoted: Because conversion is a quiet, constant process, you may be converted now and not realize it. is amazing, I guess I don’t understand conversion if you can be converted and not even know it. Either that or they don’t understand it, the very definition of ‘conversion’ makes the entire theological premise of this sentence a fallacy. The implications of this type of doctrine could be very far reaching and catastrophic.


    I agree with your last point that people tend to accept complacency. While on my mission, I had a really hard time with that because I always wanted people to “experience” the Lord and not just “feel good” about what we were talking about. A well meaning stake president told me not to focus on that and pulled out a quote from Mark E Peterson: Not everyone is born with a heater. He then explained that different people feel the Spirit in different ways and not to focus on the burning…

    I thought a lot about that conversation and though it never sounded quite right, I regret to admit that it did have an influence on the rest of my mission. I have thought quite a lot about it since and the more life experience I gain, the less I believe it. Simply because if I am not actively engaged in the gospel (read: gospel, not: church), I don’t experience any burnings, the harder I try the more likely I am to experience them.

  5. OWIW, yeah, I understood that you were agreeing with Spek. My own experience also shows that it is an event, not a process. However, I’m willing to concede to the Lord that as the Spirit is given in portions, that not all of His children receive the same portion nor the same manifestation and that He gives to them according to their conditions. (That’s why I cited D&C 46: 15.) So, in the current state of the church, the norm is a process, while the rarity is an event. Obviously, this is not the scriptural ideal, but then the Lord works with His children however He can.

    PallasAthena, on my mission I got to a new area and as my companion and I were walking down the street, we met two girls who had received the discussions and as I talked with them they kept saying, “We think the church is true.” I found the phrase strange and invited them to obtain a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. (Back then I was still conditioned to the thought that knowledge was better than faith or belief.) They said they had tried to obtain a burning in their bosom but had failed. I explained to them that the burning of the bosom was directed specifically to Oliver Cowdery concerning translation and had nothing to do with the various ways of receiving a testimony or revelation. They asked how a testimony would come. I told them, “In any way the Lord wants it to come.” I then explained some of the various ways that I had received revelation from the Lord, which opened their eyes to other possibilities. They said they would try again and be open to more than just a burning of the bosom.

    Later that week, we visited their family and they said they had news for us. They were ready to be baptized as they had received the Spirit. My companion asked what happened. One girl said that she would pray and a coldness would come upon her each time she prayed, chilling her to the bone, but afterward she felt fantastic and happy. After praying in this manner several times, she knew it was her answer from the Lord to be baptized. The other girl said that she prayed and then fainted mid-prayer. When she came to, she also knew the Lord wanted her to be baptized. My companion was astounded. He had never heard of such manifestations. Truth be told, neither had I, but we accepted their testimony as valid and moved on. They got baptized shortly thereafter.

    The moral to this story is that the Lord administers in more ways than one. Everyone is different and is under different conditions, so, for me, I am not willing to cookie-cutter anyone into a specific experience. That said, the second spiritual manifestation of the Spirit I ever experienced was, in fact, a baptism of fire, in which I thought I would die, but it was my own, personal experience and I have not come across anyone else who had such an experience. Everyone else’s experiences (who have told me theirs) have been less fire than that, and also since that one experience, all of the other manifestations I’ve received have been much less fire, so, as the Spirit is given in portions, I think it is entirely possible to be given small or smaller portions over a period of time, what is currently termed “conversion over time.” But still, this is not the ideal. I would say that how I started out was ideal, with a big baptism of fire.

    I agree, though, with all of you that we should teach the ideal and strive personally for the ideal, and not conform ourselves with lower manifestations. Nevertheless, if a person receives a lesser portion, or in other words, if he is conditioned to receive a lesser portion and is not ready to receive a greater portion, it is unwise to tell him to cast off the lesser portion and wait until he receives the greater portion. (Or, instead of calling them “lesser portions,” we could just call them “different portions.”) He should cling to what they receive from the Spirit, recognizing it as coming from the Spirit and moving forward according to his strength. As he gains more strength, he will receive more, or higher, manifestations. So, I’d have to agree with the mission prez of PallasAthena.

  6. It is interesting to note that Peter had received a “spiritual witness” that Jesus was the Christ, before he had received the “Baptism of Fire”, illustrating the fact that there is a distinct difference between the spiritual gnosis we call “testimony” vs the spiritual change that we call “conversion” which comes from the baptism of fire.

    In the gospel of Matthew we read about the spiritual testimony that Peter had:

    “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

    Yet, it was some time after Peter got his spiritual testimony that Christ acknowledges that Peter had not yet been converted (or changed).

    “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”

    It is easy to think we have “arrived” once we gain the spiritual testimony through personal revelation that Jesus is the Christ when in fact that is really just the starting point. That is when Satan begins to work on us in a serious way.

    Having a spiritual testimony of Christ does not imply that we have been converted nor have we been admitted into the gate and are on the narrow path.

    I am open to the possibility that the process of gaining a spiritual testimony could be a less perceptible process than receiving the baptism of fire… and that is perhaps what some of the “shepherds” are really referring to.. is the process of testimony, rather than the act of becoming a new creature of the Holy Ghost through the Baptism of Fire.

  7. I was trying to keep my last post somewhat short and left out some details, let me clarify a little. The conversation I was having with the stake president had to do with manifestations of the Spirit, we talked about Doctrine and Covenants 9:8 and that it was a specific reference and not to be expected with all people, but he took the stance that some people will never feel a burning of any magnitude, then used the Mark Petersen quote to back it up. He concluded that even if people don’t have a manifestation of the Spirit they should join the church anyways because the Lord may speak to them over time with out an actual “manifestation” (very similar thought process to what Spek was talking about).

    I completely agree that the Lord will speak to everyone in a way that He chooses and that we should not try to shove everyone in the same hole and expect them all to feel the same things. I also believe that everyone will feel something they can classify as fire. It may be different for you, it may be different for me, but both of us would probably refer to it as ‘fire’ or ‘burning’. The Spirit purifies as if by fire, there is a Baptism of Fire, with all this talk about “fire” I have a hard time believing that there are people out there that will never receive a manifestation that they would refer to as some degree of burning. It may be more frequent for some, and others may have other things (fainting for example) that are more frequent. At some time, doesn’t there have to be fire? Am I wrong on this?

  8. Great post Spek!
    I am not open to the process taking a long time. I feel the older Prophets keep looking wiser with time. 🙂

  9. Sorry for the delayed response, I have been on the road for a couple days.

    You bring up some very good points. Let me try to add some comments

    Observation #1
    I do believe that it is a very serious thing to misrepresent the intent of the gospel and the attendant baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. I have a second part to this idea that I will post in the next round. I like your idea of the two different approaches. The first one seems to fit well with the idea that ‘all is well in Zion.’ The second, where one has ‘joy for a season’ after which they are ‘hewn down and cast into the fire.’ For many years, I pondered the meaning of the following verse from Matthew, chapter 7:

    “21 ¶ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

    How is it that someone who prophesied in Christ’s name and cast out devils could not be fit to enter His kingdom? I would suggest that ‘being known by Christ’ is more than we may attribute to it. According to 3 Nephi 12:1, it is Jesus Christ that will baptize us with fire and the Holy Ghost. Could it be that this is the way that Christ comes to know us?

    Observation #2
    From Watcher:
    “How do you account for the fact that these people did not appear to get baptized by water FIRST following after the example of Christ, as commanded in the book of Mormon?”

    You pose a very good question; one that I have tried to reconcile in my own mind. The story of Cornelius and Peter has always intrigued me. Cornelius is to play a pivotal role in the introduction of the gospel to the Gentiles. First, he acts on his vision and sends his servants to find Peter. While his servants are on route, Peter has a vision telling him that he cannot call ‘unclean’ that which was cleansed by God. The scriptures indicate that he understands this but I sense some hesitancy on his part to embrace the idea of bringing the Gentiles in. The Lord makes it clear to him by blessing Cornelius and his household with the baptism of fire. The message is now clear to Peter that he is to welcome the Gentiles into the fold and he proceeds to complete the ‘conversion’ of Cornelius with baptism of water.

    Paul is another case where the ‘order of things’ hare reversed. I have pondered this situation. Did Peter not fulfill the commandment he received to reach out to the Gentiles and so Paul was called to do so? This is somewhat of a side question.

    My best answer is that the Lord used the baptism of fire with both Cornelius and Paul to accomplish a pivotal change in the ‘distribution’ of the gospel. He has the right to do so. I would add that we do not know if the 300 Lamanites were baptized before they received the baptism of fire. In my mind, all three of these situations were used to change the direction of the dissemination of the gospel in the particular circumstance.

    One more example, I would submit that the first vision of Joseph Smith represents a baptism of fire experience. In D&C 20:4-5, we read of Joseph receiving a remission of sins prior to his encounter with Moroni. That experience, I presume, was his first encounter with God. If this is correct, Joseph Smith was also blessed with the baptism of fire before he entered the waters of baptism.

    I would suppose that either order is acceptable to the Lord.

    Observation #3
    In the D&C 33:11-12 and 39:6, the gospel is defined relative to the baptism of fire AND the Holy Ghost. In Section 33, it relates this event to the ‘remission of sins’ while in Section 39, the focus is on the Comforter ‘which showeth all things and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.’ Could it be, as you suggest, that the baptism of fire is related to the cleansing process while the baptism of the Holy Ghost brings with it the font of wisdom and knowledge?

    Thanks for your thoughts and ideas. They contain much to ponder.


  10. LDSA,
    I do like your interpretation better. ‘Recognize’ does seem to fit very well. I would be interested in your thoughts on sanctification. I see that as the core of anyone’s spiritual endeavor. My reading this week included the following from 3 Nephi 8:1:

    “…there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity.”

    How important is it to seek a remission of sins through the baptism of fire? I think it holds not only the key to miracles as identified above but is also a prerequisite to Zion. What else is the pure in heart?


  11. Pallas,
    I believe that there needs to be a ‘fire’ experience but it could be perceived differently. I think the true measure is how the person feels after. Did they experience the unbounded joy? Did they feel relieved of the burden of sin? I am sure there are other ‘tells’ associated with the experience.

    Thanks for your comments. As to older prophets versus newer, I can only say that there are those that spoke to my heart and there are those that didn’t.


  12. Spektator,

    My daughter yesterday found my notes for the draft post I’m writing concerning topics that deal with the baptism of fire. I hope to get it written in the editor and published soon. I think this is a topic very worthy of discussion and I’m glad you are continuing to bring it up. My own thoughts concerning it are really too lengthy for a comment, so I’ll just say briefly here that “a remission of sins,” in my understanding, is justification, while “the pure in heart” refers to purification. Although related, they are still different powers which is why they are referred to with different names.

    Like yourself, I no longer have a lot of time at the computer, so I apologize if I’m not able to contribute more to the blog or in comments. But I will at the very least get this new draft up and it may give some small insight into how I view the baptism of fire, until I can finally sit down in peace and give a more complete exposition.

  13. I came across a story of baptism that I thought would go along with this thread. This is from a book called “when faith writes a story” by Margie Calhoun Jensen. I would certainly be interested in talking to the person known as “Elder C” who contributed the story regarding a baptism. Here is a portion of the story from page 18 of the book:

    “…That next Sunday, my companion had the privilege of baptizing this fine lady into the Church and, afterwards, I laid my hands upon her head to confirm her a member of the Church, and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost upon her. While my hands were upon her, and as I told her to receive the Holy Ghost, I felt almost an electrical shock or jolt go through her body. I was startled for a few moments, and then I regained my composure and finished the prayer. And, as is the custom in the Church, I then reached down to congratulate her and found that she was almost in a state of shock or a trance. Her eyes were closed, and tears were streaming down her face. She was in this condition for about five minutes when all of a sudden, she just shook her head, got up, and went and sat down in her seat.

    I was naturally very curious about her unusual reaction while being confirmed, so I later inquired about this. She told me that the most beautiful, clean, sweet feeling came through her body– a beautiful, refreshing, cleansing Spirit that she had never experience before in her entire life…

    The cleansing power of the Holy Ghost at baptism is very real…”

    What a marvelous experience; one that we should all strive for.

  14. 3 Ne. 9: 20
    … because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

    Mormon (without benefit of word processor) is trying to convey the Lord’s message that broken hearts and contrite spirits lead to faith which, in its turn, leads to miracles not based on prior knowledge.

    In other words, we should think of this verse in the light of Alma 32,”… faith is not a perfect knowledge …”

    The clincher is found in Ether 12, the passage on which President Kimball based his “Faith Precedes the Miracle” talk. In verse 14 we have the following explanation by Moroni of the same event the Lord was referring to:

    “Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”

    The emphasis is on the importance of faith in the conversion process, which does go well with Elder Packer’s application, even if he didn’t quite get the exact intent of the verse.

    The Spanish translation of the last part of verse 20 in 3 Nephi 9 is easier to understand correctly:

    … así como los lamanitas fueron bautizados con fuego y con el Espíritu Santo al tiempo de su conversión, por motivo de su fe en mí, y no lo supieron.

    An even clearer translation of the last part would have been …

    “… al tiempo de su conversión, no por ningún conocimiento especial, sino por su fe en mí.”

    But the translator probably didn’t feel authorized to go that far.

    Citing a scripture (as did Elder Packer) for a purpose only tangentially related to its original intent is not unusual. Here’s an example from Alma chapter 30:

    7 Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
    8 For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
    9 Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.

    In this case the cited scripture was

    Josh. 24: 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    As we can see, Joshua wasn’t so much initent on establishing religious freedom as he was on getting the children of Israel to put both feet in Sion intead of one foot in and one foot out. His intent is identical with Elijah’s as expressed in this verse from chapter eighteen of First Kings:

    21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

    Why would the Nephites quote Joshua rather than Elijah for support of their liberality? Perhaps it was easier to stretch the intent of Joshua’s words. I find it interesting that they thought they had to justify freedom of conscience by some scriptural precedent. It reminds me of when they thought they had to justify spying on enemy troops during war.

    Alma 43: 30 And he also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem; therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take.

    We take all kinds of sneaky behavior for granted. They actually worried about being dishonest.

    Here’s another rather amusing example, this time from chapter 50 of Alma:

    37 And it came to pass that in the same year that the people of Nephi had peace restored unto them, that Nephihah, the second chief judge, died, having filled the judgment-seat with perfect uprightness before God.
    38 Nevertheless, he had refused Alma to take possession of those records and those things which were esteemed by Alma and his fathers to be most sacred; therefore Alma had conferred them upon his son, Helaman.

    Among other things this passage informs us that (years before) when Alma had given up to Nephihah the chief judgeship he had also intended to give him charge of the national treasure which consisted of the brass plates, the sword of Laban, the plates of Nephi, the Liahona, etc. but that Nephihah had declined, considering the chief high priest, Alma, to be more suited for the keeping of the sacred records.

    The funny thing is that Nibley apparently took this verse to mean that Nephihah at some point refused to give Alma possession of the plates, as though Alma had sought to go beyond his authority.

    In the transcription of Nibley’s Book of Mormon honors course you can read his speculation about why Nephihah would be justified in withholding the plates from Alma.

    If Nibley can make this kind of faux pas, then we can forgive the Brethren if they err harmlessly in a few interpretations.

    To me it’s quite humorous that in a class of fifty or more honor students not even one interrupts the great man to question his interpretation. I sometimes wonder if Nibley was just kidding to see if anybody was paying attention.

    He was a great kidder. Years ago on a break from the Language Training Mission, I spotted Nibley in the BYU Bookstore. Having been a student at BYU before my mission, I thought it was my duty to introduce my companion to him. “Brother Nibley this is my companion, Elder Warnick, and I’m Elder Simmons.”

    Without missing a beat he replied, “I think I’ve heard about you guys somewhere. Aren’t you the guys that just started that new splinter group in Southern Utah?”

  15. Having heard some LDS who deny that what happened in prison with the Lamanites was a baptism of the Holy Ghost, here’s another tidbit for them:
    Lectures on Faith state:
    “…Nephi and Lehi, with the Lamanites, are immersed with the Spirit.”

    My Strong’s greek indicates that in Mathew’s “he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, AND with fire”, the AND (kai in greek) has “a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force” which I understand to mean “with the Holy Ghost, even with fire”

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