Question: Some say members of the church are no longer experiencing the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost that should accompany the ordinance of baptism by one having authority. Because of that, they throw into doubt whether priesthood authority still exists in the church.
Answer: Fulfilling Jesus’ prediction about false prophets arising before his second coming who will deceive many (Matthew 24:11), there exist among us those who purport to have experienced the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost but who have left the church. They have coopted the doctrine of Christ to draw members after them on the premise that they, like them, may experience a true baptism of fire if they join their group. Unaware that Satan can imitate aspects of real spiritual experiences, members not firmly grounded in the gospel are led away by them into strange paths.
Instances of encirclement by fire—as when Jesus was with the Nephites, and angels appeared to the people (3 Nephi 19:13–14)—were never anticipated as needing to repeat themselves in all instances of baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. Following this, for example, no extraordinary manifestations were present at baptisms: “And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 26:17).
Properly understood, the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is to receive a remission of one’s sins, whether or not extraordinary manifestations are present: “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” (2 Nephi 31:17). To be “visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost,” in other words, is to “receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12:2). Only then are persons in the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life,” and “ye have entered in by the gate” (2 Nephi 31:18).