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Baptism of Fire

What is the Baptism of Fire?

Here are some Latter-day Saint sources that describe the Baptism of Fire.
1. Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost Baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost refers to the experience of an individual who receives the ordinance of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
2. Fire and the Holy Ghost by Loren C. Dunn – June 1995 Ensign (emphasis added)
The use of the word fire suggests that those who receive this gift with the right heart can expect something more than mere acceptance of certain principles or even baptism by immersion. . . .

While one definition of this expression refers to a cleansing by the Holy Spirit as if by fire, still the scriptures and the writings of the prophets indicate there is something more. The new convert who has accepted the gift of the Holy Ghost with the right spirit will experience not only a cleansing but a feeling that will give him a new heart and make of him a new person. Sometimes this is immediate, and sometimes it happens over a period of time. But always there is a change for the better. . . .

The scriptures, and even our church history, record miraculous instances when visible flames encircled the humble followers of Christ—literal manifestations of fire and the Holy Ghost—but more often this fire works quietly and unseen in the hearts of those who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . .

“Thus has it been in all ages, and thus is it in our day,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “After baptism in water, legal administrators lay their hands upon a repentant person and say: ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’ This gives him the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead based on faithfulness. Either then or later, depending upon the individual’s personal worthiness, the Holy Ghost comes. The baptized person becomes a new creature. He is baptized with fire, sin and evil are burned out of his soul, and he is born again.” . . .

The witness, the change, the cleansing that comes gradually is no less powerful to the person with the right heart, and he or she is impelled to action whether the experience was a sudden, miraculous manifestation or the quiet workings of the Spirit. . . .

In describing the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that when he was a young boy growing up in Tooele, Utah, his Sunday School teacher taught of John the Baptist’s assurance that the Savior would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire (see Luke 3:16). “I couldn’t imagine what that fire meant when I was a boy but I have lived long enough to know. I have been lifted beyond my own natural abilities under the influence and power of the Spirit of the Lord as I have borne witness of the truth of this gospel upon many occasions until it is a part of my very being.”

The progress from testimony to the fire of conversion is outlined in these words by Mormon:
“And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God” (Moro. 8:25–26).
A definition of sanctification also helps point out that there is something more when a person can qualify for the fire of the Holy Spirit and endure to the end. “Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit by which he who is justified is enabled to keep the Commandments of God and grow in holiness (see Hel. 3:35).”

Sanctification comes from heaven and only comes as the Holy Ghost begins to work within a person. In some instances, people seem to grow into these blessings. Sometimes the glimmer of the Spirit is enough to lead people to baptism, but they can falter if they do not cultivate the gift and fire of the Spirit that has been bestowed upon them. . . .

President Kimball: “The gift of the Holy Ghost grows with worthiness. If you are baptized when you are eight years old, of course you are a child, and there is much you would not be expected to know. But the Holy Ghost comes to you as you grow and learn and make yourselves worthy. It comes a little at a time as you merit it. And as your life is in harmony, you gradually receive the Holy Ghost in a great measure.” . . .

Although Elder Dunn did mention a few marvelous experiences by Charles W. Penrose and Luman Adros, the message of the article and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism seemed to be that the Baptism of Fire was a normal outcome of your confirmation and that it may take time to fully understand how to communicate with the Spirit and achieve what is possible. In other words it is most likely a gradual process.

In 2nd Nephi 31 we are told about the importance of the Baptism of Fire, that it represents the beginning of the strait and narrow path.
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
If this represents the beginning of the path, it doesn't make much sense that it would be a slow process. How would you even know that you are on the path, if there was never a defining event that marked the beginning?

So I am left with my original question. Should I accept the idea that the Baptism of Fire may not even be recognized, is a slow development over time, or should I instead expect a singular event?

As we review a couple dozen examples of people that have had the Baptism of Fire experience, it become readily apparent that this is not an unknown or gradual event, but instead it is a dramatic life-changing experience that has a powerful effect on the individuals.
  1. Thankful Halsey Pratt (1797-1837) – wife of Parley P. Pratt She was overwhelmed or immersed in a pillar of fire, which seemed to fill the whole room, as if it would consume it and all things therein; and the Spirit whispered to her mind, saying: “Thou art baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost.”
  2. Heber C. Kimball (1801-1868) I received the Holy Ghost, as the disciples did in ancient days, which was like a consuming fire. I felt as though I sat at the feet of Jesus, and was clothed in my right mind, although the people called me crazy. I continued in this way for many months, and it seemed as though my body would consume away; at the same time the scriptures were unfolded to my mind in such a wonderful manner that it appeared to me, at times, as if I had formerly been familiar with them."
  3. Luman Shurtliff (1807-1884) And while I was praying, something came on my head … and passed gradually down through my whole system, removing all pain and made me a sound man from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. As soon as this was past, I heard a … voice above me say, ‘Joseph Smith, Jun. is a Prophet of the Most High God, raised up for the restoration of Israel in these last days, and the Book of Mormon which you hold under your arm is true and brought forth for the restitution of the scattered remnants of Jacob.’ … I was in the road a sound man praising God.
  4. Eliza R. Snow (1804-1887) I had retired to bed, and I was reflecting on the wonderful events transpiring around me, I felt an indescribable, tangible sensation, if I may so call it, commencing at my head and enveloping my person and passing off at my feet, producing inexpressible happiness.
  5. Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901) I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes; and immediately the spirit of God descended upon me; completely enveloping my whole person, filling me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and 0h the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge, that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the Holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism - a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water; dispelling forever, so long as reason and memory last, all possibility of doubt or fear in relation to the fact handed down to us historically that the "babe of Bethlehem'' is truly the son of God; also the fact that He is now being revealed to the children of men, and communicating knowledge, the same as in Apostolic times. I was perfectly satisfied, as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized; I think I may safely say, in an infinite degree.
  6. Charles W. Penrose (1832-1925) when the elders laid their hands upon his head, he received the Holy Ghost—“the spirit of revelation, the spirit of prophecy, the same that makes manifest the things of the Father and of the Son.” He said he knew that he received the Spirit; and it was with him from the time of his baptism, “a light to my feet and a lamp to my path; a joy to my soul;
  7. Robert H. – 1962 Suddenly an indescribable feeling came over me, a cleansing sensation, as if my spirit were being washed, purged, and purified. The sensation was so powerful that I opened my eyes and looked up, almost expecting to see heavenly personages. But my eyes blurred, and tears flowed down my cheeks. . . . That experience changed me. It softened me, causing me to seek and be receptive to manifestations of the Spirit. I felt any disposition to do evil wash away. In a very real sense, I was born again.
  8. Denver S. – Sept. 10, 1973 Kneeling on the beach, as I was given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, I felt a presence from head to toe unlike anything before. I was electrified by this presence and felt a joy unlike anything before. It was palpable. Cold from the water of the North Atlantic, wet and kneeling in the cool Atlantic sand, I felt warmth which transformed me. Life began anew that day on the beach in the south of Maine as I was ‘born again.’
  9. John D. – Nov. 14, 1979 My room was still light, when I fell asleep; the Holy Ghost spent the night with me, it was beyond anything I have ever experienced, it’s impossible to put into words… I know God lives and loves “me”. I know that He will testify to us that Christ lives and did indeed atone for the sins of the world, and do it in a way that will leave little doubt in your mind”
  10. John P. – 1988 I felt I was being consumed in flame, followed by several minutes of total clarity where pure intelligence filled my entire being and truths were revealed without any emotion whatsoever.
  11. Gary G. – May 26, 1989 Just as I laid down to go to sleep on the evening of the day I was baptized on May 26th, 1989, the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord, Holy Ghost came upon me. I could feel the Lord's personality. I felt the most serene feeling I could ever imagine. I was told that I was clean. I felt squeaky clean. The initial experience did not last long, but I literally floated for a month.
  12. Lynne M. – 1991 All of a sudden the nucleus of every cell in my body lit up! It was a nearly overwhelming wave of warmth and joy and love and peace and acceptance - no adequate words to even describe the event. I was acutely aware of every electron in my body! Each cell individually leapt for joy and shouted hallelujah at His presence. That is the “burning” of the Baptism of Fire
  13. Rock Waterman – 2007 I finally received the baptism of fire in February of 2007. It did indeed transform me into a person who desires to “do good continually.” . . . had been taught that it is a gradual experience of the spirit, something that comes upon us like the “still, small voice.” It is nothing of the kind. When you receive the baptism of the spirit, you know it.
  14. Thomas M. - 2008 I experienced a Baptism of Fire in 2008 but I didn't know what to call it at that time. I won’t go into a lot of details but the experience left me without strength for some time. The initial experience felt like it might consume me. A spirit abruptly entered my body and communed with me whose power and glory was so great that I felt I could be burned to a crisp. It was like a bolt of lightning hitting me on the inside. I could feel when it left like a release. it was inside me for around a minute but the effects lingered for weeks. The feeling of peace and acceptance. The feeling that the Lord was right there with me. I also felt clean. A remission of sins. I also received information-revelation.
  15. Joe J. – Before 2009 As I pled with Him for help, I had what has come to be the most important event of my life. As I knelt in fervent prayer, I heard a voice as clearly and distinctly as if the person were sitting next to me. It was only one sentence but it gave me a direction that I was to go. As I heard the voice, an incredible energy coursed through my entire body. My entire burden had been lifted and I felt as though my soul had been freed of all my past weight. I felt an overwhelming joy and peace that is beyond description. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in my soul; and the light chased away every bit of darkness and despair. I carried this ‘lighter than air’ feeling for days after the event. I truly felt as if I were a new creature and set in place what I would need to do to follow the admonition I had received.
  16. John C. – August 8, 2009 I can tell you that I have been born again. It was August 8th 2009. I became a new creature. I have asked myself if that is the same thing as being baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost. I believe it is. The only thing I question is that I never felt the burning that many feel. I can tell you that the change was so dramatic that it carries me to this day. Praise God.
  17. Jake M. – July 23, 2010 while I knelt in prayer, begging the Lord for a remission of my sins, He answered me in a most miraculous way. The Holy Ghost came upon me with a power and glory that defy all description. I KNEW with all my soul that the Lord had heard my prayer and had forgiven me of all my sins. The love I felt was indescribably glorious and powerful. I never wanted the experience to end. And the Lord spoke to me and told me that I had been baptized with fire.
  18. Debbie H. – March 2012 This all-consuming love took over the room. Love so thick and deep it was physically tangible. Love so warm and other worldly it literally dropped me to my knees in submission. I wept for what seemed like 20-30 minutes in obeisance on the floor till the presence withdrew just enough for me to lift my head. It's hard to express the experience or the details.
  19. James – reported on June 22, 2012 I knelt down and was praying to the Lord with all my heart that I might receive evidence that what I was doing was right. I could feel the spirit in my chest and my face was tingling. While feeling this I pleaded that I might have greater evidence. All of a sudden I felt power come into my body. As Nephi said it consumed my flesh. So much so that I felt that my hands were out stretched and my chest was pulled up and power surged through me like I have never felt in all my life. It was so powerful that I could hardly control myself. I felt like I was being shocked with energy. I knew it was the energy of God. I felt His power!
  20. JR – reported on June 24, 2012 My experience of receiving the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost occurred some 4 yrs after I was baptized, at 22 yrs old. I was praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true when I experienced a gentle hand placed upon my back and felt fire spreading from that point throughout my entire body. I was literally electrocuted with joy, love, and profound happiness. The experience lasted for approx. 5 minutes and gradually subsided leaving an enormous energy in me that caused me to walk briskly to and fro, back and forth in the room where I was for the next 5-10 minutes as I marveled at what had happened. An assurance was burned into me that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was/is a true prophet, that he did receive the gold plates exactly as he testified, that Jesus Christ lives, and that Heavenly Father lives. It was an incredibly powerful experience, nothing like it ever before or since, altho I have had other powerful spiritual experiences since. Indeed, it changed my life! While I still do sin, I have no desire to sin but only do so out of weakness and folly. My heart’s desire is to live completely pure and to be worthy to be with my Savior and experience that love and joy again.
  21. QB – reported on July 17, 2012 I got back on my knees and started again (about an hour had passed), I started praying using big words again (in vain) when another voice came to me and said “thy words are vain, speak the words of your heart!” When I looked what was in my heart I saw only the words “Father , I’m sorry” at that moment there was an explosion of Joy which filled my entire body flowing from the top of my head down until I was almost overwhelmed with joy (which is a bit odd when you think about it), a vision opened up and I could see right up into the heavens and saw angles and heard a heavenly chorus, I can still feel and see everything as I write this. At that moment I knew everything was true, every painful thing my parents had tried to instill in their stubborn son was true and that my sins had been completely washed away. This was the gift of the Holy Ghost and the continual companionship of the Holy Ghost was that as I continued to sin, (not wanting too but did anyway), I could repent
  22. McKay Platt – July 25, 2014 During the Las Vegas lecture, I had an experience where, listening to the words of Denver, I had a feeling come over me accompanied by certainty that the message I was hearing was true and of God. It was not an unfamiliar experience but this time I noticed something different it seemed to begin at the top of my head and proceed from there throughout my body. I then had this communication, "this is the baptism by fire and of the Holy Ghost and you have had it many times before".
  23. Meile T. – Years before 2015 For me, the Lord began to impress me that I had received the baptism of fire. I wondered when and he brought this experience to mind: I had been tormented for three days by anger and hatred toward my husband because of a very hurtful thing he had done to me. I did not want the negative feelings and was patiently waiting for the Lord to remove them. I knew only he could do it. On the third day they were especially bad and I cried to the Lord for relief. In a moment, the anger and hate were washed away and I was filled with peace. I felt as though something was placed upon me, such as a robe or something of that nature. It seemed as if the entire room was filled with brilliant light.
  24. Nelson W. – June 13, 2015 I looked at the sunrise on the mountains and I saw the division of light and darkness breaking forth. At that moment Christ spoke to my soul with a power I have never experienced, saying: I am the light and the life of the world, whosoever shall come unto me shall be saved!” This was very similar to 3 Ne 11:11 and it hit me like a ton of breaks. Warmth filled my whole soul and I asked, is this my baptism of fire, Lord? He didn’t answer so I was left to wonder for a bit. Barbara sang a song “down to the river to pray” or something like that, and we prayed a bit more and left. . . . And I knew it was true. Wondering again whether I had the baptism of fire, I reflected that I had been baptized by water, that I had fasted 32 hours to prepare, that I had seen angels and encircling fire, that I had felt the presence of and heard the voice of Christ in a powerful way, that I had felt a burning that caused me question whether I had baptism of fire, the spirit hit me hard. I broke down crying as it was revealed to me 3 times in a row that I had the baptism of fire. I teared up several times while sitting at this booth in IHOP. I had experienced the baptism of fire, and had it confirmed.
  25. Jerry W. – 2015 My first baptism of fire event: I don't have an exact date. I remember an experience that was so similar to the story of Lamoni that to read his story is to read mine. I would include also that God's love is overpowering and can knock you to the ground physically. I remember being kind of giddy and laughing out loud at how powerful it was and crying at the same time because His love was just so overwhelming. It was like being on the verge of unconsciousness and consciousness to a degree.

I will add a few additional comments. If you ask those who have received the Baptism of Fire, they will tell you that it involves more than just an idle interest. You need to seek for the blessing. You need to make the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit. When you have opened your heart and expressed your willingness to abide by the will of the Father, then you are close to receiving that event in your life. But it comes on the Lord's timetable.