Just as We Have, They Received the Holy Gift
8 April 2019 (updated 6 November 2019)
Imagine our surprise.
Peter has finished preaching. We love him. We follow him despite the risks. After all, he teaches fulfillment of the Law in Messiah. He reveres the Law. He lives it. He still epitomizes all that was most grounding, meaningful, and purposeful in our lives before Messiah. And he has helped us understand how all of it culminates in Messiah.
But we didn’t expect what just happened.
In hindsight, that’s not because of any lack of divine warning. During our journey, Peter explained to us an unusual dream. He believed it was from God. And he believed it was revelation for the Church. But he wasn’t sure how best to understand it.
In the dream, Peter explained, he was very hungry. Heaven opened. And something like a large sheet was let down to Earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of things that the Law forbids us to eat. And a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Eat.”
“Surely not, God!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything that the Law forbids.”
The voice spoke to him again a second time, “Do not call anything ‘forbidden’ that God has accepted.”
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
After Peter shared the dream with us, we thought about it. Some of us thought we understood it. And maybe we did, in part. So we nodded naively, a few minutes ago, as Peter taught, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts everyone who reveres him and does what is right.”
But that was a few minutes ago. We’re in a room full of non-members. They’ve never been one of us, religiously, culturally, or otherwise. We couldn’t be more different. They didn’t know us before Messiah. And, of course, they’ve never been baptized.
As Peter taught them about Messiah, they changed. Right here, before our eyes, they changed. It was subtle at first. But it intensified, and none of us can deny it. It’s the Holy Ghost, that sublime esthetic that we aspired to receive in our own baptisms, as we each took on the name of Messiah. And it has every appearance of abiding with them. This is no fleeting experience. They have received the Gift, the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
In our confusion, we had looked to Peter. He had noticed it too. And he too looked confused, but only for a moment. Then his face relaxed into calm conviction. And he spoke the words that are still reverberating through our minds: “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Ghost just as we have.”
Just as we have?!? But how can they have the Gift of the Holy Ghost without baptism? How can they receive the Gift without the authorized ritual? How can that sublime esthetic abide with them? How can Peter, the head of our Church, say that? What about the Law? We know the words. They are in our minds and written in our hearts:
“All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of Messiah, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of Messiah, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and there is never but one on the Earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when humans are dead.”
We thought we had understood. We nodded when Peter taught that God does not show favoritism. After all, we invite all to baptism. And we deny none, black or white, male or female – not even those who knew nothing of us before Messiah.
But the Law says that “there is never but one on the Earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.” There is never but one! And that, we supposed, was Peter. After all, he received the keys from Jesus himself.
But Peter said that they have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost just as we have. And our minds reeled in fear. Is the Law false? Is it a lie? Is Peter just like everyone else? Is the Church just like any other religion?
But now, peace – still amazement, but peace. We remember what Jesus said to Peter: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believe in Messiah, who are we to think that we can stand in God’s way.
Peace. Salvation does not come by the Law. But the Law serves to strengthen our trust in Messiah. So keep hoping, through this trust, for eternal salvation. Keep relying on the prophecies of heaven.
Peace. There is one who transcends the Earth at all times in whom this power and the keys of this priesthood abide – one that ascends on high, descends below all, comprehends all, and is in and through all, enlightening our eyes and quickening our understandings.