In John 7:39 and John 16:7 it talks about the spirit not actually being with the people. Does this mean that when Christ is on the earth, the people don’t feel the Holy Ghost and only the light of Christ?
In John 7:39, we read “(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” and in John 16:7 we get additional information: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
The Bible Dictionary entry for the Holy Ghost and a couple of quotes I found make it clear that these verses aren’t referring to the influence of the Holy Ghost, but rather the gift of the Holy Ghost which is received after baptism:
For some reason not fully explained in the scriptures, the Holy Ghost did not operate in the fulness among the Jews during the years of Jesus’ mortal sojourn (John 7:39; 16:7). Statements to the effect that the Holy Ghost did not come until after Jesus was resurrected must of necessity refer to that particular dispensation only, for it is abundantly clear that the Holy Ghost was operative in earlier dispensations. Furthermore, it has reference only to the gift of the Holy Ghost not being present, since the power of the Holy Ghost was operative during the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus; otherwise no one would have received a testimony of the truths that these men taught (Matt. 16:16–17; see also 1 Cor. 12:3). When a person speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost that same power carries a conviction of the truth unto the heart of the hearer (2 Ne. 33:1). The Holy Ghost knows all things (D&C 35:19) and can lead one to know of future events (2 Pet. 1:21). (Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost”)
From Joseph Fielding Smith, we learn that the apostles during Christ’s life “had special manifestations of the power of the Holy Ghost, but did not enjoy the gift itself” until after the resurrection. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, vol. 1, p. 46.)
Also speaking of the original Apostles, Joseph F. Smith said:
…They had not yet obtained the gift of the Holy Ghost. And the presumption is, they never would have received this important and essential endowment had Christ’s mission been completed at the time of his death. It may seem strange to some who may not have reflected on this matter fully, that the disciples of Christ were without the gift of the Holy Ghost until after his resurrection. But so it is written, notwithstanding the Savior on one occasion declared, “blessed art thou Simon, etc., for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” While Jesus was with them he was their light and their inspiration. They followed him by sight, and felt the majestic power of his presence… (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, pg. 173-175, Joseph F. Smith, June 18, 1882)
While this doesn’t explain why the gift of the Holy Ghost wasn’t operative during Christ’s ministry, it does confirm that the Holy Ghost has always been available to testify of truth and influence people to believe in Christ. Fortunately, in our day, we can enjoy the blessings of this gift, and trust that the Holy Ghost will bear testimony of the truth to any who are willing to receive that testimony.