Many of us are impacted in marvelous ways by great and powerful words. Sometimes these words are spoken and heard, other times they are written and read. Sometimes these words are eloquent and fancy, and sometimes they are very plain – even “as plain as word can be”. 1
Many of us relate to and are inspired by those who have the gift of delivering these words, some verbally, some written. We see and experience the sensation they have caused to take place within our hearts and wish that we could share this great power and to be able to affect others in the same way that we have been affected. Many of us wish that we could also write with this great power and have it impact readers with truly great power, and not only that – but that our words could fill the earth and be read on the mountaintops in order to affect as many people as possible. I (like Alma) have this wish (see Alma 29:1). Not only do I have this wish, I have a terrorizing fear of not being granted this wish.
I see and recognize many who have this gift – and I look up to them and want to be like them. Some of these ancient scripture heroes include Nephi, Abinidi, Alma, Enoch, Nephi and Lehi (sons of Helaman), Nephi (grandson of Helaman), and many more modern heroes including Bruce R. McConkie, Spencer W. Kimball, Gordon B. Hinckley, Neal A. Maxwell, all of the current apostles, and so many of the current authors of amazing books that are available (this list is long). Some of these people have been instrumental in my understanding important and fundamental things – such as my mission president. He truly spoke with ‘great power and authority’ and to this day his words, and even the sound of his voice have that affect on my heart. These leaders all share a common gift in the sense that they can speak ‘with great power and authority’2, which raises the question: How? There must be a method or pattern that allows for that power to be gained and infused into their words.
Nephi explained that after we have received the Holy Ghost, we can “speak with the tongue of angels” but directly after that statement asked his readers “how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost”? 2 He continues: “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, wherefore they speak the words of Christ”. 3 This means they speak the actual words of Christ. What this means for any and all who have perfected this method, and any and all of us who are trying to develop this talent, is that we don’t get to decide which words have power. We don’t get to decide or prepare or determine the best phrase, manner, or method of delivering the message. If we are to be effective teachers, talkers, or writers, our most important and effective tool is to listen to, understand, and submit to the power of the Holy Ghost as it directs us to the choice of correct words, sentences, phrases, and topics. In other words – in order to speak with power, we need to listen with power. We need to seek, learn, and understand His word. We need to feast upon the existing words of Christ (See 2 Ne. 32:3).
The process (many great and powerful speakers not using their own words, but those directed by the spirit) may seem counter-intuitive, or a bit of a disappointment, but as Nephi explains ‘if ye cannot understand…it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore ye are not brought into the light’.4 We must be brought into the light during the preparation stage if we ever hope to share that light, or to reach our audience during the delivery stage. How could it be any other way? We need to learn and understand this language when spoken to us if we ever hope to speak it to others. This helps that disappointment dissolve, because then we realize these great speakers/writers have exercised great faith and diligence in “seeking and obtaining the word, prior to their declaring of the word” (See D&C 11:21) unto us.
Once we’ve understood the necessity of this concept we are ready to understand the next phase of this process, which is that “when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men”.5 This relationship is the key to understanding why some words affect us so powerfully – because they were spoken (or written) “by the power of the Holy Ghost”, and they were then carried “by the power of the Holy Ghost” directly unto our hearts. We can then further that teaching power when we understand that as listeners or readers, the only way to truly understand these words, is by that same power – receiving those words by the power of the Holy Ghost.5.5
That is the only way to speak with “a voice of thunder” or with “great power and authority”. When these processes are working together (a teacher submitting and speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost, and then the Holy Ghost carrying these words unto the hearts of their listeners), that is when the words become “the words of Christ”.6 The actual, literal, exact, specific “words of Christ” that He would have said if He were present himself. This is why some words have such power. This is why some words are mighty. This is why some words “cutteth to the very center”. This is why some words can “make the earth to tremble”. This is why people can speak as if it were “with a voice of thunder”. This is why the preaching of the word has “a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” and this is why “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. 7
I can speak, write, or express my own words, my own opinions, and my own thoughts all day long – but until I speak “by the power of the Holy Ghost” and it’s carried “by the power of the Holy Ghost” unto your heart – it will not affect you in the way that I want it to. It cannot be done. All effective teaching (the kind that is truly powerful) is given, carried, and received “by the power of the Holy Ghost”.
On the other side of the coin – especially since Nephi includes us in his guidance – let us examine ourselves as listeners, readers, pupils, or other recipients of those who are speaking the “words of Christ” to us. If we want to be affected in the way that our leaders, teachers, and writers would have us be affected – let us believe. Let us open our ears to hear and our hearts to understand. After all – the Holy Ghost carries the message unto our hearts, not unto our ears or unto our minds. Let us listen, and if we do, “Christ will show unto us, with power and great glory, that they are his words”8 and we can know of a surety that Christ himself – by His very word – has spoken to us individually.
When this is understood, the scriptures can take on new and increased meaning, conference can take on a new meaning, receiving and giving priesthood blessings can take on a new meaning, the Ensign can take on new meaning, and each Sunday at church (and especially during the sacrament) should take on a new, much more powerful meaning. When we truly understand that what was prepared and what is being spoken by the spirit are the actual “words of Christ” let us remember that He Himself has also said “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same”. 9
The heroes that I admire so much mentioned above were (or are) able to receive, understand, and relay the actual words of Christ – in order to deliver them in a manner with “great power and authority”. Their words – and the words of many others have been “carried unto my heart” by that same power and authority, and I love them.
With that preface, and my love for words (spoken and written) – and my sincere desire to use them effectively, let us make a connection that I had previously missed – the connection between words, s-words, and finally, flaming s-words.
Let’s identify the classic battle armor as described in Ephesians 6 (verses 11-17) and D&C 27 (verses 15-18).
- Girdle of Truth
- Breastplate of Righteousness
- Shoes (feed shod) with the preparation of the gospel of peace
- Shield of Faith
- Helmet of Salvation
- Sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God
When we think of swords, we think of protection, strength, and battle, which are all correct symbols of the sword. But, “the sword also symbolizes discernment, and that which separates”.10 Think of Ammon separating an arm from a body, think of Nephi or David separating a head from a body, think of a sharp “two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow”. 11 Think of the only offensive weapon* listed above, and you will know that which separates. The first 5 items on the list are to protect us from “the wiles of the devil” and “the fiery darts of the wicked”, but when it comes time to divide asunder, we need a sword. Not just any sword, but a sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. These s-words, are the very words that we speak, hear, feel, obey, receive, and covenant by the power of the Holy Ghost. It cannot be otherwise. These are s-words that have power to separate. These are s-words that offend some and bring tears of joy to others; these are s-words that make some men furious and some men faint with a desire to repent. These are s-words that divide asunder. These are s-words that separate in a very real sense.
We all know that swords are just plain awesome, but what if we were to take our sword – the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God – and actually light it on fire? It becomes a flaming sword. Not flaming with mortal fire or temporal fire, but with celestial fire. Yes! The already awesome sword was just magnified by an exponential factor of 1,000. “Flames are a manifestation of the godly or celestial nature of a thing. They represent holiness, illumination, inspiration, enlightenment, and purification”. 12 They can also serve as a symbol of God’s presence. God’s presence on my sword? Yes indeed.
“The symbolism of the sword as the word of God is enshrined in the word Sword, i.e. se-word or is-word [meaning] the Fire or Light of the Word. The Anglo-Saxon for a sword was seax [which meant] “the Fire of the great Fire.” Similarly the Italian spada resolves into sepada [which translates] the Fire of the Shining Father, and the German sabel into Fire of Bel. “Thus it appears that in [the s-words, and] the flaming s-words we have a symbol of the celestial and divinely revealed words, commands, or covenants used to discern, protect, and separate the righteous from the disobedient”. 13 Words, covenants, teachings, and revelations (literal and figurative flaming swords made effective by the power of the Holy Ghost) that “cutteth to the very center”, even to the “dividing asunder of both joints and marrow”. These flaming s-words, as they separate the wicked from the righteous, could also be the same sword referenced in Helaman and Alma as the “sword of justice”14 – “and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end”.15
I don’t know about you, but when I take a sword into battle – especially if it’s the lone offensive* tool I have at my disposal – I want a sword, a sharp sword, AND I want one that is literally on fire – with unquenchable flames that ascend up unto God that hath no end. Those are the words, s-words, and flaming s-words that I am striving to utilize.
Let us be humble, let us strive to “obtain the word, so that we can declare the word” as directed by the one force that can actually give power to our words –by the power of the Holy Ghost. Let us live and strive to be worthy of the Holy Ghost and His “constant companionship”16 so that our s-words can be as sharp and flaming as possible.
1 2 Ne. 32:7 – And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.
2 2 Ne. 32:2 – Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?
3 2 Ne. 32:3 – Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 2 Ne. 32:4 – Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
5 2 Ne. 33:1 – And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
5.5 2 Ne. 26:13 – …he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.
6 2 Ne. 32:3 – Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
7 John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
8 2 Ne. 33:11 – And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.
9 D&C 1:38 – What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
10 See ‘Gospel Symbolism’ by Joseph Fielding McConkie – pg. 272
11: See D&C 6:2 – ‘Behold, I am God; give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my words’. Note the added emphasis to give heed to the words when they are indeed ‘his words’.
See also Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
12 See ‘Gospel Symbolism’ by Joseph Fielding McConkie – pg. 272
13 See ‘The Lost Language of Symbolism’ by Alonzo Gaskill – pgs. 299-300
14 See Helaman 13:5 – …the sword of justice hangeth over this people,..
See also Alma 26:19 – …why did he not let the sword of justice fall upon us…
See also Alma 60:29 – …the sword of justice doth hang over you, and it shall fall upon you and visit you even to your utter destruction.
15 1 Ne. 15:30 – And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God (corresponds to the previously cited scriptures in note 14) did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.
16 D&C 121:46 – The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and they scepter and unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth…
See also D&C 20:77 (or Moroni 4:3) – O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
See also D&C 20:79 (or Moroni 5:2)- O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen
* Please click here for a post that may be helpful as it relates to offense vs. defense.