I’ve been studying the Doctrine and Covenants lately, and I’ve been struck by how often it speaks about being taught and teaching by the Comforter. In Doctrine and Covenants 42, the Elders and Priests of the church are being instructed on how to teach. They are told that they need to seek the Spirit.
“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” – Doctrine and Covenants 42:14
Without the Spirit, they cannot effectively teach the gospel. This seems pretty obvious. I mean, if we are at all acquainted with the scriptures, we know that it is the Holy Ghost who testifies and teaches us of Christ. In order to be effective gospel teachers – whether it is at home or at church, we need to teach with the Spirit. We also need to have the Spirit in order to learn.
But I’ve noticed that often, in the scriptures it says that we are taught by the Comforter. There are several instances of this in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And as ye shall lift up your voices by the Comforter, ye shall speak and prophesy as seemeth me good;
For, behold, the Comforter knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son.” – Doctrine and Covenants 42:16-17
” Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?
14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.” – Doctrine and Covenants 50:14
“Calling on the name of the Lord for the Comforter, which shall teach them all things that are expedient for them—” – Doctrine and Covenants 75:10
Even the Savior uses the title of Comforter when teaching his apostles about receiving testimony and teaching with the Spirit:
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26
This usage of the title Comforter has stood out to me. I mean, why are we taught by the Comforter, and not the Holy Ghost, or Spirit, or some other title? Why is it the Comforter?
I have always thought of the comforter as comforting me. (Duh…I know). But what I mean is: I always consider it as saying, “There, there…” When I’m worried. I think of the lesson we teach to children, that the Comforter, like a blanket or “comforter” on our bed, will wrap us up and help us feel safe and warm.
There are times when I’ve felt the power of the Comforter comforting me – when I have felt worried or overwhelmed. These were situations where I needed direct comfort, not simple situations where I was learning concepts of the gospel. I’ve always considered gospel instruction received by the Holy Ghost as learning by the Spirit, not necessarily the comforter. (I understand that the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and the Comforter are all the same being…)
So, I find this concept intriguing.
But, I think that I understand why we need to understand the usage of this title: that the Comforter is teaching us. What is more peaceful, more comforting, than the Good News of Christ’s atonement and the plan of Salvation?
In Doctrine and Covenants 19, Christ testifies of His power. He teaches that we all must repent, or suffer. Then, he relates the agony that was the atonement – that it caused Him to tremble, bleed, and pray that the cup might be taken away. Of course, He finished His work, and overcame. The atonement, the Work that Christ performed, enables us to repent, therefore fulfilling both mercy and justice – we receive His mercy, and justice is fulfilled because He paid the price of our sins. There are parts of this chapter that are kind of sad – the account of His suffering. This chapter also seems a little “scary” – The Lord doesn’t sugar-coat the consequence that comes when we don’t repent. Throughout the rest of the chapter, the Lord instructs Joseph Smith that he needed to preach the gospel of repentance. The Lord encourages Joseph Smith to pray always, that the Spirit will be poured upon him…obedience and prayer will bring forth many blessings. This chapter is concluded with a series of questions including:
“Behold, canst thou read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:39
The Lord taught Joseph Smith and the Comforter was what brought these words to Joseph Smith’s heart. These truths, even though they are painful and scary at times, are ultimately comforting – because Christ has overcome pain and “scary things”. We have access to the power of the atonement. This is what the Comforter teaches us. What a comforting truth to know!
Just as we are taught by the Comforter, we need to teach others in a way that the Comforter will bring the message of the gospel to the hearts of those whom we are teaching.
The Lord taught Oliver Cowdery:
“Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.” – Doctrine and Covenants 28:1
When it comes to teaching others – especially our children or our youth, it may be tempting to be less than comforting. I have been taught by people who are teaching true principles, but in a way that seems to be full of shock and awe. This can be effective, but only on a surface level. For example, if we teach our children to obey, and we use threats, compulsion, or other fiery language, they may obey for a time, but only out of fear. Most likely they will rebel at some point because they have not been converted by the Comforter.
The Lord taught Joseph Smith:
“And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.” – Doctrine and Covenants 38:41
Even though Joseph Smith was to raise a warning voice, it was not to be done in a “stormy” or dramatic way. He was told to preach – even with a warning voice – in meekness and mildness. Joseph Smith needed to preach the gospel in a way that would allow the comforter to prick the hearts and teach the listeners.
The gospel is Comforting. When we receive instruction of the Comforter, even when it is correction, we feel empowered, able, and comforted. Fear is dispelled and faith is strengthened. When we teach with the Comforter, we are able to help others also experience the enabling power of the atonement. That empowerment feels good. It is comforting; it converts us and inspires us to commit (or recommit) with our God.
How do you feel the Comforter teach you when you are instructed in the gospel? What are some ways that you can enlist the Comforter when you are teaching the gospel? How does understanding that it is the Comforter that teaches us help as we seek more wisdom and instruction from the Lord?