One of the exciting comforts of living in this chaotic world, is the promise that God will not leave you alone. Truly. He will bless you with the first comforter, the Holy Ghost, which is real. It is an event, likened to the event when you were born.
Here are several good sources on the “baptism of fire” also known as being “born again” and experiencing “the mighty change” — An event that comes through the process of repenting and overcoming trials. Although some few may receive the baptism of fire at the time of the ordinance of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, most of us will receive the baptism of fire later in life. After the process of trials and learning and repenting, and proving faithful to Christ, then God will baptize you with fire and cleanse you of your sins, and then the Holy Ghost will be your constant companion. It will be a singular event. You will not miss it, the process is not the same as the event. It is like birth itself — you have the process: conception, pregnancy, labor — and then the event: an actual birth. Don’t presume that you have had the baptism of fire because you have endured and repented and feel at peace — that’s the process. Ask God for this first comforter — to be born again.
I was baptized at age 8, received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but this was not the time when I received the baptism of fire. This was not when I was born again and experienced the mighty change of heart.
After all, we teach that children under the age of 8 are not held accountable for sins, and in fact they will be saved in the celestial kingdom if they die before that age. So, really, your baptism at age 8 does not wash you clean, as you have no sins.
Yet, your baptism is necessary and a visual sign of your desire and commitment to follow Christ and take His name upon you. “The laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” encourages you to seek greater light, endure hardships, and become worthy for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Until that time when you receive the baptism of fire, you have a portion of the spirit and the Holy Ghost will guide you. You are confirmed a member of the church and have opportunities to serve others.
However, the baptism of fire is a real event wherein God forgives you of your sins and you are clean to receive the first comforter, the Holy Ghost, as your constant companion. That’s the blessed event. It’s too bad we often get this confused with the symbolic ordinances of baptism and laying on of hands. It is not taught that clearly in the church. We think the symbolic ordinance is the event. But then maybe that’s why some people are losing faith — they have not really experienced the baptism of fire, they have not really received the Holy Ghost for a constant companion. This is the Doctrine of Christ. (2 Nephi 31-32)
Some people talk about wanting to see Christ. But we need to receive the first comforter of the Holy Ghost before seeking the second comforter (Christ and receiving your calling and election made sure.) These are two separate experiences and blessings with many trials in between them.
I believe we can remain faithful through trials and endure hardships — not just to the end of our lives, not knowing where we stand with God, but — to the next comforter. This step gives us something to look forward to — something that will confirm our faith and “catapult us into that blessed state of constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.”
Sources on the baptism of fire:
- Experiencing the Mighty Change (pdf)
- 2 Nephi 31-32
- Baptism of Fire, Gift of the Holy Ghost & Tongues (Val Brinkerhoff, sign up for free pdf copy)
- Developing a Personal Relationship with the Savior (George W. Pace)
- Lorenzo Snow’s baptism of fire