During the organization of the Church the Prophet recorded, “The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree—some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord, and rejoiced exceedingly.”1
Unfortunately, counterfeits of these gifts also appeared almost from the start. For example, Hiram Page’s professed revelations threatened to split the Church a few months after its organization. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The branch of the Church in this part of the Lord’s vineyard . . . were striving to do the will of God, so far as they knew it, though some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among them. With little caution and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and sisters to overcome them.”2
The Prophet Joseph Smith also observed, “Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities returned, the spirit made manifest, those members that were exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that would not repent and forsake it were cut off.”3
MANIFESTATIONS OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “If you will obey the gospel with honest hearts, I promise you in the name of the Lord, that the gifts promised by our Savior will follow you. And by this you may prove me to be a true servant of God.”4
The First Miracle—Power over Evil Spirits & the Gift of Healing
In late April 1830 Joseph traveled about 120 miles from Fayette to Colesville to visit the home of Joseph Knight and his family. Joseph Smith had worked on the Knight’s farm three years earlier while he was courting Emma. The 142–acre farm was located on the east side of the Susquehanna River in a beautiful section of country, full of rich farmlands and occasional groves of trees. Father Knight had been a great help to Joseph and Emma during the Book of Mormon translation, bringing them needed food and supplies. The Knight family was deeply interested in the Church that Joseph had just restored, and wanted to learn more.
Several meetings were held in the neighborhood and in one of them Newel Knight, Joseph Knight’s son, accepted an assignment to pray. But at the last moment he weakened and refused to pray, even though Joseph Smith offered to help him. The next morning Newel went into the woods to attempt to pray but he could not do it. He felt an influence come over him that was very depressing and he hastened back to the house where he asked his wife to send for Joseph Smith.
What Joseph saw when he arrived was frightening. Newel was being subjected to a force which distorted his limbs and thrashed him about on the floor. He was even picked up off the floor and thrown about. Because of the commotion, several neighbors had run to the house and watched the scene in amazement. It was with difficulty that Joseph managed to grab his hand. Immediately Newel spoke to him and pleaded with him to cast the devil from him. Joseph “rebuked the devil and commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to depart from him.” Newel was immediately released from the influence and said he was able to see the personage which had overpowered him as it departed.
A serenity now came to Newel as the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him. His mind was opened to a vision of eternity and his body was lifted by this new spirit—this time, gently, until his head and shoulder lightly touched the beams of the roof. Many of those who saw this remarkable experience were not only converted, but it sustained them in later years when the Adversary was lashing out at the whole Church.
A few days after this remarkable experience Joseph returned to Fayette. In the last week of May 1830 Newel traveled to Fayette and he was baptized by David Whitmer.5
Pentecostal Manifestations at the Church’s First Conference
The first conference of the Church was held on Tuesday, June 1, 1830 at Fayette in the Whitmer home. This was exactly eight weeks after the Church had been organized. The Church membership at this time numbered 27.
During the meeting many members had the heavens opened to view and prophesied of what they saw. One of these was Newel Knight, who was shown the future development of the Church. He was also shown the same vision seen by the ancient Stephen who was martyred. This whole experience left him so weak that he had to be placed upon a bed.
Newel Knight said, “Such scenes as these were calculated to inspire our hearts with joy unspeakable, and fill us with awe and reverence for that Almighty Being, by whose grace we had been called to be instrumental in bringing about, for the children of men, the enjoyment of such glorious blessings as were now at this time poured out upon us. To find ourselves engaged in the very same order of things as observed by the holy apostles of old; to realize the importance and solemnity of such proceedings; and to witness and feel with our own natural senses, the like glorious manifestations of the powers of the priesthood, the gifts and blessings of the Holy Ghost, and the goodness and condescension of a merciful God unto such as obey the everlasting gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, combined to create within us sensations of rapturous gratitude, and inspire us with fresh zeal and energy in the cause of truth.”6
THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Gifts
● How to conduct meetings and who may attend (D&C 46:1–6).
● The purpose and function of the gifts of the Spirit(D&C 46:7–10).
— We are invited to “seek . . . earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given”
— Spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of those who love and obey the Lord.
— They are not given for a sign to satisfy our curiosity, but to lead us and others to the Savior.
— “Every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God (D&C 46:11–12).. that all may be profited thereby.”
Some of the Most Important Gifts of the Spirit
Testimony (D&C 46:13–14; Moroni 10:4–7). Verse 14 suggests that believing on the words of those who know Jesus is the Christ is also a gift of the Spirit. However, the Lord has promised that everyone can know for himself—by the power of the Holy Ghost—of the divinity of the Savior and the truthfulness of the gospel. David O. McKay said, “Inspiration, revelation to the individual soul, is the rock upon which a testimony should be built, and there is no person living who cannot get it if he will conform to those laws and live a clean life which will permit the Holy Spirit to place that testimony in him.”7
Differences of Administration (D&C 46:15). “This is another special gift. The term, as used by Paul (1 Cor. 12:5) means the different divisions or courses of the priests and Levites engaged in the temple service, and in this Revelation it may refer to the different duties and responsibilities of the Priesthood in its two divisions, the Melchizedek and Aaronic. To know this is a gift of the Spirit.”8
Diversities of Operations (D&C 46:16). “This refers to various spiritual influences at work, for instance such as are manifested in Spiritism, anarchism, and the numerous other ‘isms.’ To know whether an influence with a professedly moral, or reformatory, aim is from the Holy Spirit, or from another source, is a special gift.”9
Word of Wisdom and Knowledge (D&C 46:17–18; Moroni 10:9–10). There is a difference between wisdom, knowledge, and the ability to instruct. Wisdom, in gospel terms, means to follow correct principles and to use knowledge properly. Knowledge is an understanding of the principles—a carefully-stored-up supply of facts, generally slowly acquired. The ability to instruct is the gift to impart of this supply to others. Each is a gift of God.
Healing (D&C 46:19–20). The faith to be healed as well as the power to heal are both gifts of the Spirit. They offer an example of the working together of spiritual gifts and the priesthood, both being manifestations of God’s power.
Miracles (D&C 46:21; 35:8; 63:9–10). Miracles do not violate natural law, but rather they show the operation of higher laws that we may not yet understand.10
Prophecy (D&C 46:22). Prophecy refers to the right to speak for God—in other words, to be his mouthpiece. It may or may not involve foretelling the future. John says “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
Tongues (D&C 46:24–25). The gift of tongues may take two forms: (1) one may be able to speak a foreign tongue [language] or (2) one may be able to understand or interpret a foreign tongue [language]. The Prophet counseled the Saints to speak in tongues only when an interpreter was present.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “There are only two gifts that could be made visible—the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. These are things that are the most talked about, and yet if a person spoke in an unknown tongue, according to Paul’s testimony, he would be a barbarian to those present. They would say that it was gibberish; and if he prophesied they would call it nonsense. The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole, and yet it is one that is the most sought after. . . . The greatest, the best, and the most useful gifts would be known nothing about by an observer. . . . Be not so curious about tongues, do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious to display their intelligence, let them speak to such in their own tongues.”11
Discernment of Spirits (D&C 46:23, 27–29; D&C 50). The gift of discernment is one of the most important spiritual gifts, and is the main subject of D&C 50. Note that the Bishop discerns what is of God (v. 27).
1. History of the Church, 1:78.
2. History of the Church, 1:146.
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 213–214.
4. As recalled by Edward Stevenson in his Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon, 4.
5. History of the Church, 1:81–82.
6. History of the Church, 1:84–86.
7. “Individual Testimony,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1963, 733.
8. Smith and Sjodahl, D&C Commentary, 274.
9. D&C Commentary, 274.
10. James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 220–223.
11. History of the Church, 5:30–31.