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Did Cornelius receive the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized?


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#1 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 01:58 PM

The LDS Church teaches that in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, you must first be baptized; then you must have hands laid on you by someone authorized to do so; and then, and only then, you may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. One serious problem with this claim is that the Bible reports that a whole household of people—the household of Cornelius—received the gift of the Holy Ghost (i.e., the Holy Spirit) before they were baptized. How does the LDS Church handle this difficulty? It simply denies what is right there in the text.

For example, Gospel Principles claims:

“We read in Acts 10 that the Roman soldier Cornelius received inspiration from the Holy Ghost so that he knew the gospel of Jesus Christ was true. But Cornelius did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized” (Gospel Principles, 2009 ed., 122, emphasis added).


Acts 10, however, says the opposite: that Cornelius received the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized:

"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:44-48, emphasis added).

Luke says that “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” before Peter had even finished speaking, and explicitly explains that this meant that “the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out” on the Gentile family of Cornelius (v. 45). Luke also quotes Peter as calling for them to be baptized because they had “received the Holy Spirit” (v. 47). (By the way, notice that here receiving “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is synonymous with receiving the Holy Spirit himself; there is no difference.) The order here is undeniable: first, the receiving of the gift (vv. 44-46); second, baptism (v. 48). Furthermore, since Cornelius and his family had not yet been baptized when they received the gift, clearly no one had laid hands on them to impart the gift. We must conclude, then, that these people received the gift of the Holy Spirit before they had been either baptized or had hands laid on them.

Although honest people can disagree about many things, in this instance there really is no room for doubt that the statement made by Gospel Principles—that “Cornelius did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized”—is flat wrong. Furthermore, it is difficult to see this claim as anything but a deliberate distortion of the facts. This false statement, in clear, explicit contradiction of Acts 10:44-48, has appeared in Gospel Principles from the very first edition over thirty years ago (see Gospel Principles, 1978 ed., 101). More than that, the LDS Church has been contradicting Acts 10 on this point since Joseph Smith himself. In 1842, Joseph made the following comments:

“There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized” (History of the Church, 1949 ed., 4:555; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976 ed.], 199; The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, 108).


LDS leaders have quoted these statements from Joseph Smith, including in general conference, to support their doctrine that one can only receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by someone holding the LDS priesthood. For example, in 2003 Joseph B. Wirthin quoted the above statements from Smith and commented:

“The gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, is obtained only upon condition of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands by authorized servants endowed with the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a most precious gift available only to worthy members of the Lord’s Church” (“The Unspeakable Gift,” Ensign [conference report], May 2003, 26).

The LDS Church has been perpetuating this falsehood ever since Joseph Smith and continues to do so today in a doctrinal manual that all Mormons are currently studying. Again, honest and sincere people can disagree about many things, but I cannot see any plausible way of denying that in this instance Joseph Smith and the LDS Church is simply wrong.
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#2 Ahab

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:03 PM

The Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost are not the same thing.

Start with that precept.

And btw, receiving revelation from the Holy Ghost isn't the same thing as receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, either, and there is more than one gift of the Holy Ghost, too.
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#3 jadams_4242

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:10 PM

The LDS Church teaches that in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, you must first be baptized; then you must have hands laid on you by someone authorized to do so; and then, and only then, you may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. One serious problem with this claim is that the Bible reports that a whole household of people—the household of Cornelius—received the gift of the Holy Ghost (i.e., the Holy Spirit) before they were baptized. How does the LDS Church handle this difficulty? It simply denies what is right there in the text.

For example, Gospel Principles claims:



Acts 10, however, says the opposite: that Cornelius received the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized:

"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:44-48, emphasis added).

Luke says that “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” before Peter had even finished speaking, and explicitly explains that this meant that “the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out” on the Gentile family of Cornelius (v. 45). Luke also quotes Peter as calling for them to be baptized because they had “received the Holy Spirit” (v. 47). (By the way, notice that here receiving “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is synonymous with receiving the Holy Spirit himself; there is no difference.) The order here is undeniable: first, the receiving of the gift (vv. 44-46); second, baptism (v. 48). Furthermore, since Cornelius and his family had not yet been baptized when they received the gift, clearly no one had laid hands on them to impart the gift. We must conclude, then, that these people received the gift of the Holy Spirit before they had been either baptized or had hands laid on them.

Although honest people can disagree about many things, in this instance there really is no room for doubt that the statement made by Gospel Principles—that “Cornelius did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized”—is flat wrong. Furthermore, it is difficult to see this claim as anything but a deliberate distortion of the facts. This false statement, in clear, explicit contradiction of Acts 10:44-48, has appeared in Gospel Principles from the very first edition over thirty years ago (see Gospel Principles, 1978 ed., 101). More than that, the LDS Church has been contradicting Acts 10 on this point since Joseph Smith himself. In 1842, Joseph made the following comments:



LDS leaders have quoted these statements from Joseph Smith, including in general conference, to support their doctrine that one can only receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by someone holding the LDS priesthood. For example, in 2003 Joseph B. Wirthin quoted the above statements from Smith and commented:

“The gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, is obtained only upon condition of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands by authorized servants endowed with the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a most precious gift available only to worthy members of the Lord’s Church” (“The Unspeakable Gift,” Ensign [conference report], May 2003, 26).

The LDS Church has been perpetuating this falsehood ever since Joseph Smith and continues to do so today in a doctrinal manual that all Mormons are currently studying. Again, honest and sincere people can disagree about many things, but I cannot see any plausible way of denying that in this instance Joseph Smith and the LDS Church is simply wrong.

actually let there be not debate; because i have lived it over and over many times.. the "gift" of the Holy
Ghost is not the same as being touched by the Holy Ghost. there aint nuttin as powerfull as confirmation! :P
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#4 Mola Ram Suda Ram

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:19 PM

I stand by the statements of the GA's and JS.

If only Peter were here to tell us what he meant.

The wording is a little wierd in Acts.

I cerntaly don't blame you for holding the idea that people can recieve the gift of the HG before s/he is baptised.

The main problem with the text is that we believe that the Gift of the HG can only happen with the laying on of hands. That never happens before baptisim. It did not happen with Cornelius. So the gift that was recievd at Pentacost was a gift of the HG but it was not The Gift of the HG.

Cerntaily people can feel the HG before baptism.

Edited by Mola Ram Suda Ram, 10 November 2010 - 02:20 PM.

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#5 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:32 PM

Friends, these responses are not taking the text of Acts 10 seriously. Luke explicitly says that "the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles" (Acts 10:45). It says that after this happened, Peter had those Gentiles baptized (v. 48). Now let's look at your replies.

(1) The Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost are not the same thing. Answer: I disagree, but even if we allow that distinction, Luke says explicitly that the Gentiles of Cornelius's household received "the gift of the Holy Spirit," not just the Holy Spirit.

(2) Receiving revelation from the Holy Ghost isn't the same thing as receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Answer: I agree, but Luke says explicitly that the Gentiles of Cornelius's household received "the gift of the Holy Spirit," not just revelation from the Holy Spirit.

(3) There is more than one gift of the Holy Ghost. Answer: This comment confuses the gifts of the Holy Spirit (which include various manifestations or ways that the Holy Spirit enables believers) with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Luke says explicitly that the Gentiles of Cornelius's household received "the gift of the Holy Spirit," not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

(4) The gift of the Holy Ghost is not the same as being touched by the Holy Ghost. Answer: I agree, but again, Luke says explicitly that the Gentiles of Cornelius's household received "the gift of the Holy Spirit," not just a touch by the Holy Spirit.

(5) People can feel the Holy Ghost before baptism. Answer: I agree, but again, Luke says explicitly that the Gentiles of Cornelius's household received "the gift of the Holy Spirit," not just that they felt the Holy Spirit.
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#6 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:36 PM

Mola,

You wrote:

The wording is a little wierd in Acts.


Only if you assume the LDS position is true.

You wrote:

I cerntaly don't blame you for holding the idea that people can recieve the gift of the HG before s/he is baptised.


I'm glad even for this concession.

You wrote:

The main problem with the text is that we believe that the Gift of the HG can only happen with the laying on of hands.


The main problem is either with the text, or it is with what you believe. Both cannot be true.
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#7 Mola Ram Suda Ram

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 02:43 PM

Mola,


The main problem is either with the text, or it is with what you believe. Both cannot be true.

You are entirely correct here. I remeber being confronted with this a lot on my mission. My response generally stated that the LDS church beleives and teaches that the Gift of the HG can only happen with the laying on of hands.

As I said your position is entirely reasonable.

Edited by Mola Ram Suda Ram, 10 November 2010 - 02:44 PM.

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#8 Ahab

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:05 PM

Friends, these responses are not taking the text of Acts 10 seriously. Luke explicitly says that "the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles" (Acts 10:45). It says that after this happened, Peter had those Gentiles baptized (v. 48).


Let's start in Acts 10 verse 44, where Luke tells us Peter had been talking to Cornelius and his household:

44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Luke is telling us the Holy Ghost (not the gift of the Holy Ghost) fell on them who had heard the word of God.

45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.

The gift of the Holy Ghost Luke was talking about was the gift of speaking in tongues, just as that gift had been given to Peter and those with him on the day of Pentecost.

Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Luke is telling us Peter said they received the Holy Ghost (rather than what is referred to as "the gift of the Holy Ghost" which is given to someone after baptism).

48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Even though they had received the Holy Ghost while hearing from Peter, they still needed to be baptized and they also still needed to receive what is known as "the gift of the Holy Ghost" by the laying on of hands by those with authority to give it.

Edited by Ahab, 10 November 2010 - 03:09 PM.

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#9 Mola Ram Suda Ram

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:09 PM

I only have one question.

What do these verses mean to you Rob?

Acts 8: 15-19

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
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#10 Ahab

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:15 PM

I only have one question.

What do these verses mean to you Rob?

Acts 8: 15-19

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

Interesting tidbit, here.

Notice that this text doesn't say the "gift of the Holy Ghost" was what they gave through the laying on of their hands.

It says they gave "the Holy Ghost", not "the gift of the Holy Ghost".

To understand this issue, a person simply needs to understand what we (LDS) mean when we talk about the "gift of the Holy Ghost" while also considering everything else we know about the Holy Ghost and the various gifts of the Holy Ghost... which, as another interesting tidbit, can only be correctly understood through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Edited by Ahab, 10 November 2010 - 03:15 PM.

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#11 Vance

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:16 PM

I can understand why an inerrantist such as yourself would come to this conclusion.

However, your conclusion seems to contradict what is recorded in Acts:8:17-19 & Acts 19:1-6.

What to do? What to do? :P
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#12 Thunderfire

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:19 PM

When we read the entire chapter more information is given which must be considered regarding the apparent inconsistancy with receiving the "gift of the Holy Spirit".

First we learn that Cornelius and all his family were devout and God fearing even before there encounter with Peter. We are even told that he had a vision from God where he was visited by an angel. The angel told him how his prayers and gifts to the poor have been accepted by God. Then the angel told him to call for Peter to come.

Something interesting to note here, we think this biblical account is about Cornelius and how he received the gift of the Holy Spirit prior to baptism. But it is actually about Peters spiritual growth. He is the one with the greatest revelation received in this account (his vision of the large sheet, the "unclean food", and more). Then look at what Peter says, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him" (verse 28). Then Peter begins to preach, but begins speaking of HIS revelation saying, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right..." (verse 34)

1) It is true that Cornelius and his family received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter himself says, "They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." (verse 47) He does not offer any differences in degree of receiving the Holy Spirit, only saying they got the same thing he got.

2) We may also have the "key" as to why this happened (prior to their baptism). Cornelius was God fearing, he prayed, and he took care of the poor. This is revelation for us to consider. Some believe that you must be baptized for this to happen. Yet even then, those who are baptized sometimes never move into the realm of godly living like Cornelius. Yet Cornelius shows us that when we live the life of a disciple, the spirit can still come to the individual. He may not have been baptized, yet he was still living his life as one who had made that committment.

3) Again, I think the main message in this account is what happened to Peter. This should serve as reminder that God does not show favoritism simply due too someones denominational affiliation, but rather what is in the heart of the individual.

Edited by Thunderfire, 10 November 2010 - 03:21 PM.

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#13 cinepro

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:30 PM

The LDS Church teaches that in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, you must first be baptized; then you must have hands laid on you by someone authorized to do so; and then, and only then, you may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.


It's possible that order is just a reflection of current policy, and not divine edict. Maybe there really isn't any supernatural reason that someone needs to be baptized before having someone lay their hands on them and give them the gift of the Holy Ghost. But it sure makes sense to do it at the same time they get confirmed following their baptism.

After all, the current policy is that you have to be baptized before you can receive the priesthood, yet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery both received the priesthood before being baptized.
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#14 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:31 PM

Ahab,

I see that you are making a good effort here to address the text, which I greatly appreciate.

Acts 10:44-48 uses three expresses to describe what happened to the Gentiles in Cornelius's household:

"the Holy Spirit fell on them" (v. 44; also 11:17)
"the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles" (v. 45)
They had "received the Holy Spirit" (v. 47)

In context, these are simply three different ways of speaking about the same thing. Acts 10:45-46 does not say or mean that speaking in tongues was "the gift of the Holy Spirit," but that it was the outward sign or evidence or manifestation of the gift of the Holy Spirit ("for [gar] they heard them speaking in tongues and glorifying God"). Take a look at Acts 8:14-17, a passage that Mormons often cite because it does have the "correct" order of baptism - laying on of hands - Holy Spirit:

"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17).

Nowhere does this passage use the expression "the gift of the Holy Spirit," yet Mormons routinely interpret this passage as referring to that blessing because in LDS doctrine it is associated with laying on of hands following baptism, which just happens to be the order in which things happened on this one occasion. But Luke's language is the same as in Acts 10:44, 47, which you say is not referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit: the Samaritans "received the Holy Spirit" and had the Holy Spirit "fall on them" once the apostles had come and prayed for them.

Acts 10:45 is one of only two texts in the entire Bible that uses the precise expression "the gift of the Holy Spirit." Yet you suggest that this text does not refer to what LDS doctrine calls "the gift of the Holy Spirit." What biblical text, then, uses this expression in a way that you could recognize as referring to what you call the gift of the Holy Spirit? The only other text that uses the expression is Acts 2:38, where nothing is said about laying on of hands. Why not argue that Acts 2:38 also does not refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit, even though it uses that precise expression?

Semantically, there is no discernible difference between giving someone the Holy Spirit and giving someone the gift of the Holy Spirit. Using the term "gift" adds nothing except emphasis or variation of expression. To say, then, that someone received the Holy Spirit means the same thing -- conveys the same idea -- as to say that someone received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Adding the word "gift" in such a context merely emphasizes or underscores the fact that it is something given freely to them. It is entirely artificial to distinguish receiving the Holy Spirit from receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the comparison with Acts 8:14-17 confirms that such a distinction simply won't work.
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#15 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:33 PM

Mola,

They mean what they say. Peter and John went to Samaria to lay hands on the Samaritan believers and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. What do these verses mean to you?

I only have one question.

What do these verses mean to you Rob?

Acts 8: 15-19

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.


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#16 stemelbow

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:33 PM

Rob,

The main problem is either with the text, or it is with what you believe. Both cannot be true.


I would say its possible that both can be true. let me explain. Perhaps the terminology of "The Gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" was not used by the church in ancient days as it is used by us. That is certainly a possibility, afterall there are at least a few passages that I can think of that speak of many different gifts of the Spirit. Thus, gift of the Spirit as used by someone anciently might very well refer to a particular witness from the Spirit, or any of the other gifts mentioned, as coming from the Spirit.

love,
stem
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#17 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:34 PM

Vance,

I see no contradiction between Acts 10 and either Acts 8 or Acts 19. I do see contradictions between Acts and LDS dogma. What to do about that is the question.

I can understand why an inerrantist such as yourself would come to this conclusion.

However, your conclusion seems to contradict what is recorded in Acts:8:17-19 & Acts 19:1-6.

What to do? What to do? :P


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#18 Ahab

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:41 PM

Semantically, there is no discernible difference between giving someone the Holy Spirit and giving someone the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Come on now, Rob. Semantics is all about words, and there is a difference between both of those statements.

Using the term "gift" adds nothing except emphasis or variation of expression.

Let's go with "variation", which means pretty much the same thing as "difference".

To say, then, that someone received the Holy Spirit means the same thing -- conveys the same idea -- as to say that someone received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Nope. Somebody can receive "the Holy Ghost" and not receive "the gift of the Holy Ghost" that we (LDS) are referrring to when we use that expression, and the fact that someone receives a gift of the Holy Ghost doesn't mean they are receiving the gift we (LDS) refer to as "the gift of the Holy Ghost", either.

To know what we mean, you have to understand what we mean, and still you won't necessarily receive the Holy Ghost who will tell you that what we are saying is true.

Edited by Ahab, 10 November 2010 - 03:42 PM.

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#19 Mola Ram Suda Ram

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:43 PM

It's possible that order is just a reflection of current policy, and not divine edict. Maybe there really isn't any supernatural reason that someone needs to be baptized before having someone lay their hands on them and give them the gift of the Holy Ghost. But it sure makes sense to do it at the same time they get confirmed following their baptism.

After all, the current policy is that you have to be baptized before you can receive the priesthood, yet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery both received the priesthood before being baptized.

This is interesting. I am also reminded of Alma in teh BoM were some speculated that he was baptised twice.
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#20 Rob Bowman

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:44 PM

stem,

I certainly agree that the expression "the gift of the Holy Spirit" was not used by the ancient (NT) church in the same way as it is used in the LDS Church. That's part of my point.

Reading the NT only in English may be obscuring something for you, which is that when the NT talks about spiritual gifts of the Spirit, it does not use the word dorea ("gift," Acts 2:38; 10:45) but either pneumatikos ("spiritual thing," 1 Cor. 12:1) or charisma ("gift of grace," 1 Cor. 12:4, etc.). In any case, as I have tried to explain, the expression "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in both Acts 2:38 and 10:45 in context refers to receiving the Holy Spirit, having him fall on the person, and not to receiving some particular manifestation or spiritual gift.

I would say its possible that both can be true. let me explain. Perhaps the terminology of "The Gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" was not used by the church in ancient days as it is used by us. That is certainly a possibility, afterall there are at least a few passages that I can think of that speak of many different gifts of the Spirit. Thus, gift of the Spirit as used by someone anciently might very well refer to a particular witness from the Spirit, or any of the other gifts mentioned, as coming from the Spirit.


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