There are two masterful treatises in the scriptures on how to preach the gospel by the Spirit.
The first was given by the Lord Himself in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831."Let us reason together," said the Lord to the elders of His Church. "I the Lord ask you this question – unto what were ye ordained?" His answer: "to preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth."
Again the Lord asked: " . . . he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?"
And the answer: "If it be by some other way, it is not of God."
The listener also has obligation to receive by the Spirit, for the Lord reasoned further: " . . . he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?"
Answer: "If it be some other way it is not of God.'
"Wherefore," the Lord concluded in His reasoning with the Church, "he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified [to instruct and improve in religious knowledge and power] and rejoice together." (See D&C 50:13-22.)
The second treatise in scripture on the matter of preaching by the Spirit was given to the saints at Corinth by the Apostle Paul. It is well to remember that Corinth was the largest cosmopolitan city in Greece at that time. The major points of Paul's letters to the elders of Corinth were:
- "When I came to you, [I] came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, . . . for I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
- "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
- "What man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but [by] the Spirit of God."
- "We speak [the things of God], not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth . . . [for] the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (See 1 Cor. 2:1-14.)
From these two treatises, it is evident that there is only one way approved by Deity as to how His gospel is to be preached and taught: It must be done by the Spirit, and in no other way.
If it is done by another way, it is not of God; or in other words, if one does not have the Spirit, he or she should not teach. (See D&C 42:14.)
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul placed speakers into two classifications: first, those who speak "with enticing words of man's wisdom"; and second, those who speak "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." (1 Cor. 2:4.)
Only by the power of the Holy Ghost will a message be carried into "unto the hearts of the children of men." (2 Ne. 33:1.) The power of such preaching was evidenced in the experience of Alma. "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God." (Alma 31:5.)
When speakers preach "as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost," it shall be like "scripture," and "shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation." (D&C 68:4.) This is in harmony with the instructions repeated above (see D&C 50:13-22), but how does someone know when a speaker is "moved upon by the Holy Ghost?"
" . . . We can tell when the speakers are
moved upon by the Holy Ghost' only when we, ourselves, aremoved upon by the Holy Ghost.'
" . . . this completely shifts the responsibility from . . . [the speaker] to . . . [the listener] to determine when they so speak." (J. Reuben Clark Jr., "When Are Church Leaders' Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?" Church News, July 31, 1954, page 9.)
What do these things mean to those who are asked by their priesthood leaders to speak in Church?
First of all, priesthood leaders have the right and responsibility to assign topics and/or speakers.
" . . . it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit." (D&C 46:2; See also Mor. 6:9; D&C 20:45.)
What should be preached? Members should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon." (D&C 42:12.)
The gospel of Christ is, by definition, His atoning sacrifice and the principles and ordinances of His gospel. (See 3 Ne. 27:13-21; 3 Ne. 11:30-40; D&C 39:6.)
Latter-day Saints should preach by "saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written," and that "which is taught by the Comforter." (See D&C 52:9.) They should therefore be familiar with the general conference messages given by the General Authorities of the Church, and use their preaching as a standard guide for our own.
Only those sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, however, have a special endowment for interpreting scripture in their teaching the people of the Church. "Others of the General Authorities are not given this special . . . authority covering their teaching. . . ." (J. Reuben Clark Jr., Church News, July 31, 1954, page 9.)
All preachers are subject to the overall power and authority of the president of the Church, as President Clark taught:
"When any one except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim a revelation from God for the guidance of the Church, we may know he is not `moved upon by the Holy Ghost.'
"When any one except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim that any scripture of the Church has been modified, changed, or abrogated, we may know that he is not `moved upon by the Holy Ghost,' unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.
"When any man, except the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not `moved upon by the Holy Ghost,' unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President." (J. Reuben Clark Jr., Church News, July 31, 1954, page 11.)
How does a person prepare to preach the gospel by the Spirit?
Sound understanding of gospel principles comes from, first, diligently searching the scriptures; second, fasting and prayer; and finally, earnestly striving to live the gospel and keep the commandments. (See Alma 17:2-4.)
The saints are to seek learning "by study and by faith." (D&C 88:118.) They are to first "obtain my word" before attempting to declare it to others. (D&C 11:21.) Church members should treasure in their minds continually the words of eternal life. (D&C 84:85.) And all should strive to follow the challenge of the Savior: "If any man will do his [God's] will, he shall know of the doctrine. . . ." (John 7:17.)
And after this, how does one obtain the Spirit to accompany one's message and testimony?"
The Lord provided a simple answer: "The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith." (D&C 42:14.)
It is the Spirit that edifies another; it is the Spirit that converts. Therefore, the law of the Lord as it pertains to preaching His gospel is straightforward: Preach the gospel by the Spirit!
Suggestions for speaking by the Spirit
- Search scriptures diligently, fast and pray. (Alma 17:2-4.)
- Seek to obtain the word; seek learning by study and faith. (See D&C 11:21, 88:115.)
- Treasure in your mind continually the words of eternal life. (D&C 84:85.)
- Teach the principles of the gospel which are in the Bible and Book of Mormon. (D&C 42:12.)
- Preach the gospel of Christ. (3 Ne. 27:13-22; D&C 39:6.)
- Teach what the apostles and prophets have written – scriptures and conference addresses. (Se D&C 52:9.)
- Seek the Spirit by the prayer of faith. (D&C 42:14.)
- Avoid teaching without the Spirit, because unless one preaches by the Spirit, it is not of God. (D&C 50:17-18.)