Alma 23:28 describes a linked process between reception of the Holy Spirit and the attributes of godliness. Alma exhorts to, first, humble ourselves before God, then pray to Him, and be alert to temptation and our own weakness or preparation. This brings the influence of the Holy Spirit to us, makes us aware of that influence, and allows it to continue with us, because we are resisting temptation (since His influence can reside only in such an environment). In this way, we will become ‘humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering’ and ‘having faith on the Lord’, as we are ‘led by the Holy Spirit’ to become so.
This is a kind of reverse of the idea that you must first try to be good and then you will gain the help of Heaven to be better. It’s not a wrong idea, but this verse, among others, shares the true process, which starts with us becoming humble enough to recognise our need, going to God with it, and receiving from Him the help of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost then brings the attributes of godliness from God to us, as we work to always have His influence with us.
That order of the process is part of why a person must be baptised into the kingdom of God to be ‘saved’. Aside from the more obvious commitment and linking to heaven and God’s ways, and taking upon oneself the name of Christ, baptism involves the Gift of the Holy Ghost (without which it is incomplete). Without this Gift, which comes only as part of such a baptism into God’s kingdom, we cannot be made pure, our hearts changed, able to become the celestial beings we must be to live in God’s presence and achieve all the ends possible for us (complete salvation).
It is the Holy Spirit who changes our hearts so that we want what is good, consistently, and are able to do it. He gives us the courage, humility and confidence necessary. Just trying to be good each day by sheer will doesn’t work – at least in my experience (as I’ve shared before). We have to be raised up from our situation by a force beyond it – we can’t lift ourselves out because we’re in it. We can reach out our hand and push our limbs up, accept the help and make use of it, but we need the hand and the lifting because we’re not strong enough to do it ourselves (alone).
I know what’s correct, but have many desires conflicting within me when making choices, or trying to avoid them and going with what’s easiest. I want to do good; but I also want to be comfortable, avoid pain, enjoy myself, rest, say what I want to say, make a person pay for their mistake against me, show my knowledge, be liked/appreciated/included, and skip the hard bits. (How about you?) So my knowledge of what’s right and what I actually choose in each moment often differ. When I’ve remembered to humble myself, though, and feel for that influence of the Holy Spirit, He elevates my good desires to a point where I’m strong enough to overcome the temptation against them. It still takes effort, but I want to do it more. It’s a little bit beautiful, easy, and fulfilling to do it. So I become, little by little (at least this is the aim), a better person; more refined, with holier desires, through the power of God.
It’s not enough to feel that every so often – we need it to be accessible to us constantly, so that at any moment we have the strength to rise above the also-constant influence of our weakneses. That is why a person needs the Gift of the Holy Ghost, as bestowed by the proper authority (given of God), and why a profession of belief, or a desire to follow Christ isn’t alone enough. Or even the commitment to be a good person in this world, without ascribing to any religion. And why, once you have that Gift, you must use it constantly, and remember that you must.
How do you find this working in your life?