My mind was wandering recently and caught on the phrase “and they knew it not.” As this phrase reverberated around inside my skull, I started thinking about the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, which the Lamanites received “and they knew it not.” I started thinking “why didn’t they know? how could they not have known?”
From what I understand, we mis-portray what the baptism of fire actually is. I think we mis-portray it because we’re afraid to admit to ourselves that almost no one receives it anymore, and when they do, they just chalk it up as a “great spiritual experience”.
In lessons at Church, we often hear how the wording of the confirmation ordinance is a commandment to “receive the Holy Ghost”. We nod our heads sagaciously and say “oh yes, because we all still have our agency and God will not force the Holy Ghost upon us.” But do we stop and ask ourselves if we have truly received the Holy Ghost? Have we had the pentecostal experience of literally feeling like we are being baptized by fire? Why else would it be called the “baptism of fire”, if that’s not what it actually feels like? Have we ever experienced what it’s like to have “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually“?
Parley P. Pratt, in his book Key to the Science of Theology, wrote that the Holy Ghost
… 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 bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.
Have you experienced that?
All of this raced through my mind as I thought about the phrase “and they knew it not”, because I realized I don’t remember if I’ve experienced this. I’ve had some powerful experiences, but have I been baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost? Have I truly received it? I know it not.
Maybe this is what Christ meant when He said that the Lamanites had been baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. Maybe they had forgotten.
Or maybe they remembered the experience, but didn’t know what it was. I can look back and point to concrete instances in my past to which I can point and say “There. There I experienced something that came from beyond myself.” But if you were to ask me if that was my baptism by fire, well, I know it not.
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?