This statement from the Savior comes from one of my favorite chapters of the New Testament – John 14-16.
First of all, these chapters/verses demonstrate the very tender nature of Christ’s personality:
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
I take a moment to share those verses first, because there is a peace and love that emanates from them. These feelings serve also to enhance our “spiritual eyes,” and thereby increase our chances for understanding of spiritual concepts, such as the Holy Ghost.
I want to share some thoughts found in my New Testament study guide.
“Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will, and at the end of his mortal ministry he taught those principles contained in the above chapters. In these verses the Lord taught his disciples the way to ultimate peace in a world that knows it not. He expounded to them the mission of the Holy Ghost.”
“The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bones, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.
“In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit.” (Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, p. 101.)
Please note that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we differentiate the “gift of the Holy Ghost” – as a constant companion, and given by way of priesthood ordinance to those who are baptized by one holding that priesthood authority – from the “influence” of the Holy Ghost, which is available to all God’s children as an expression of His love for them.
“The Holy Ghost is a Personage of Spirit, in the likeness of God the Father, in other words a likeness of the Father and the Son. His mission is to instruct and enlighten the minds of those who, through their faithfulness have obeyed the commandments of the Father and the Son. He bears witness of the truth, quickens the minds of those who have made covenant and reveals to them the mysteries of the kingdom of God. He is a special messenger from the Father and the Son and carries out their will…” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:134.)
John 16:33 –
“There is a great difference between the kind of peace that Jesus spoke of and the world around us. We live in a wicked world, a world gone crazy with wanton indulgence and crime. Each day the news bears tragic record of wars, natural disasters, terror and the frustrated efforts of mankind to avert or respond intelligently to the disasters. In spite of all this, Jesus has promised his followers that they may have peace in this world. (see also Philippians 4:7)
And Jesus’ promise is real, for those who obey his commandments do feel his influence and comfort in their hearts, and they are not afraid. In the face of every threatening peril, they can pray to God and he will answer them by the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit, and speak peace to their souls.”
STORY: This is a story that in my youth and young adult ages I could relate to and accurately demonstrates the message above.
“Gordon was struggling. He had listened many times to his father’s testimony about the sweet and gentle influence of the Holy Ghost. But Gordon himself felt that he had never even approached having the companionship of that Spirit. He wondered about many things, and the wondering depressed him. Was there something wrong, something different about him that meant he could never have the same calm and assurance, the same peace that his father possessed? He was trying to live a good life, but was there something still that he lacked, something he had overlooked that was keeping him from abstaining what his father had?
And the most distressing question of all was this: Was his father misleading him? But this last thought aways melted away, because Gordon knew that his father knew. It was that simple. He had lived in his father’s home, had heard him pray, had observed his father’s life and example.
One evening Gordon overheard his father reassure someone over the telephone by saying, “Well, I know this will work out, so let’s not worry about it any more.” As soon as his father put down the receiver, Gordon demanded, “Dad, how do you know? This is a shifting, unstable world! How can you pretend to know anything for sure?”
Surprised by Gordon’s outburst, his father hesitated, and then replied quietly, “Gordon, I just know.” Then, as though perceiving Gordon’s inward struggle, his father added, “And, Gordon, you can know just as I know, if you want to.”
“But, Dad,” Gordon interrupted, louder than was necessary, “I have lived good, and I pray, and I try, but I haven’t received any answer to prayers, and I haven’t had visions or special feelings of comfort, I don’t feel sure of anything! Is there something wrong with me?”
“No, Gordon, there’s nothing wrong with you. And I repeat, you can have that peace and reassurance that you speak about, but only if you pay the price. You must be patient, for the companionship and peace of the Spirit does not come easily. You must live the commandments and keep the covenants that you have made as a holder of the priesthood. Beyond these things, you must pray earnestly and study diligently about Jesus and his church, for the Holy Ghost will not come simply to amuse you or to appease curiosity; but he will help you develop a relationship with your Redeemer if your efforts are tireless and your desires are sincere.” (Read Matthew 13:45,46).
“Now, Gordon, don’t be discouraged. Seek, knock, study, pray, be obedient, and you will receive the peace and calm assurance that you desire.”
Months passed after Gordon began his search. He studied and prayed with all his heart. He read in the New Testament (many times far into the night) the account of Jesus’ life, and he prayed and sincerely tried to live and act as Jesus had done.
And then gradually and very gently, there came into his heart the longed-for-peace and quiet assurance of the reality of Jesus. His father really did know, and now Gordon knew as well.”
I can personally testify (as I’ve written in my prior blog posts regarding the gift of repentance and others) of the truth of the final 4 paragraphs of that story.
Not only the forgiveness I sought, but the peace, the nearness, the comfort – these were no small favors that I was asking God to grant to me. Foolish would be the notion for any person, let alone one who has strayed as far as I had, that God would grant such gifts merely because I thought to ask (Doctrine & Covenants 9:7: 7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.)
Common sense says that “nothing is free” and that God would desire something from me in exchange for such blessings and answers to my prayers. Doctrinally we know from Doctrine & Covenants 130: 20-21 –
In this case what was required of me, just as of Gordon, the price to be paid, was obedience, diligence and sincerity…all wrapped around real effort. It behooves every person who would attempt to gain such peace from their Heavenly Father to recognize that such is obtained through a process – not an event.
The Savior’s invitation to “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt 7:7) is NOT a statement of “event,” but rather a description of a process as more clearly stated in Doctrine & Covenants 88:63: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
To “draw” near unto him requires OUR effort – not His. I also believe that such is a statement of a “relationship” and not merely a proximity of “objects.” John 10:14, 27 –
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Relationships are built (even forged) over time and experience. They may ignite with a “flash,” but abiding, long lasting, unconditionally loving relationships must be built – by BOTH parties. The Savior has PROVEN His unconditional love for us. He has built His side of the relationship – the only remaining question is, will we do our part? Will we build an equal and matching side of the unconditional relationship with Him? Are we willing to pay that price? Do we actually love Him enough to do so?
He has offered us His peace. He has offered us the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead. He has offered us His mercy. He has offered us His forgiveness. He has offered us everything that He has – even “all that the Father hath.” Above all, He has offered His life for you, for us.
I testify that He stands with open arms to welcome us. Not merely to welcome our arrival at the end of the race, but He is walking this path WITH us, and stands ready to acknowledge, smile upon, welcome and bless our EVERY EFFORT. Mosiah 2:23-24:
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
I have taken the time, paid the price, invested the effort, studied Him and His Gospel, prayed fervently, fasted with purpose, served where possible and been obedient with all my capacities – the result of which is, as Gordon experienced in the story above – now I know. I don’t mean that I only know of Him, but now I have begun to truly KNOW HIM. I feel His nearness daily. I feel His peace and assurances. I see the tender mercies of His hand in my life daily.