The Book of Mormon records many successes and setbacks of a family that embarked upon a momentous journey from Jerusalem to the New World some 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. It recounts the triumphs won through righteousness and trials wrought by wickedness.
Almost at the center of the account recorded in First Nephi are four sons of Lehi, the prophet the Lord instructed to flee with his family from Jerusalem before its destruction, and his wife, Sariah. Two older sons, Laman and Lemuel, murmur against their father and the Lord, resist parental counsel, rebel against righteousness and embrace wickedness. Even angelic visitations fail to turn them from their rebellious ways. By contrast, two other sons — Nephi and his immediate elder brother, Sam — are obedient to Lehi and their Heavenly Father. They "go and do" what they are commanded. Even though they don't understand why some directives are given, they have faith that the Lord will provide a way for them to accomplish all they have been commanded (see 1 Nephi 3:7).
Nephi rebuked Laman and Lemuel, saying, "Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice … and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words" (1 Nephi 17:45).
What did Nephi and Sam have that Laman and Lemuel did not possess? They grew up in the same environment, so why did the older brothers turn deaf ears to the teachings of Lehi and blind eyes to angelic manifestations?
Quite simply, Nephi, Sam and, later, their younger brothers, Jacob and Joseph, heeded the promptings of the Holy Ghost while Laman and Lemuel, who had hardened their hearts, did not.
Nephi said, in deep humility, "I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers" (1 Nephi 2:16).
Nephi was able to "feel" the Lord's words — or hear the still small voice — through the power of the Holy Ghost.
The influence of the Holy Ghost has been available to all — but not accepted by everyone — from the time of Adam and Eve. One need not be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ in order to have the Holy Ghost as a guide; after all, it is through the power of the Holy Ghost that people are led to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of gaining a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, Moroni said, "… ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 10:4-5).
The scriptures give several names for the Holy Ghost, including "the Spirit," "the Spirit of the Lord," "the Spirit of God," "the Comforter" and "the Spirit of Truth."
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: "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. Had he not taken this … ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him" (History of the Church 4:555).
President John Taylor (1808-1887) taught that while the world has "a portion of the Spirit of God," Latter-day Saints "have something more than that portion of the Spirit of God which is given to every man, and it is called the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is received through obedience to the first principles of the Gospel of Christ, by the laying on of hands of the servants of God" (Journal of Discourses: 23:320–21; see also 23:370–71).
President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988), speaking as a member of the First Presidency, said, "As a member of the Godhead, and being one with the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost is, as are the Father and the Son, omniscient. He comprehends all truth having a 'knowledge of [all] things' (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). ... The gift of the Holy Ghost is an endowment which gives one the right to enjoy the enlightenment, companionship, and guidance of the Spirit and the influence of the Holy Spirit as long as he complies with the commandments of God" (April 1974 general conference; Ensign, May 1974).
Speaking in 2003 to new mission presidents, their wives and missionaries at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, President Boyd K. Packer, then acting President of that Quorum, said:
"You can never make a serious mistake either while you are on your mission or thereafter without being warned. You will never take the wrong road, you will never go around the wrong bend, or make the wrong decision without your having been warned. That pattern is the pattern of the Latter-day Saint. You were confirmed a member of the Church, and you had conferred upon you the gift of the Holy Ghost to be a guide and a companion to you, to be a comfort to you. The Holy Ghost is a comforter."
If we live righteously and remain worthy we will be blessed to have the gift of the Holy Ghost with us always, having had it conferred upon us after baptism. Living so that the Holy Ghost abides with us means that we never need to look back with regret, for He will guide us in all our actions and help us make important choices and decisions.
As with Nephi and his righteous brothers, may we ever be influenced by the Holy Ghost and, having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, may we live so that we will always have Him with us.