By derllA madA
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
One of the greatest blessings of living in an age where the Spirit of God operates in full force is the development and sharing of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are those attributes, talents and abilities given to men and women to build up the kingdom of God on earth. We are promised that these gifts of the Spirit “will never be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men” (Moroni 10:19).
Paul noted, “Now there are diversities of gifts… But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:4, 11). Of the diversities of gifts imparted from God to his children, several are specifically identified in scripture. These gifts include such heavenly investitures as the gift of discernment, the gift of wisdom and knowledge, the gift of miracles, the gift of faith, the gift of prophecy, and the gift of tongues. The gift of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the gift of believing on the testimonies of others are similarly regarded in canon (1 Corinthians 12, D&C 46).
The list of gifts found in the scriptures is by no means comprehensive. Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented, “Spiritual gifts are endless in number and infinite in variety. Those listed in the revealed word are simply illustrations” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 371).
As Latter-day saints, we believe that God makes these powerful gifts available for the benefit of his children today as in times of old. We all have gifts. Additionally, there may be gifts that the Lord has in store for us in the future according to His purposes and our adherence to His guidance. It is our job to identify those gifts we have developed as well as those we must seek after so that we can use them to bless our lives and the lives of others.
Identifying and Developing Our Unique Gifts
Two related questions one might ask pertaining to gifts of the Spirit are: How can we know what our unique gifts are? And how can we receive additional gifts?
How do we know when we have been the recipient of a gift? Should we necessarily expect a gift to manifest itself with a magnificent outpouring of the Spirit, such as that witnessed on the Day of Pentecost when the gift of tongues was revealed?
Elder Robert D. Hales related the following:
“Too often people feel that answers to their prayers and their pleading for guidance and direction will be given in dramatic manifestations or through a direct voice giving specific directions from a heavenly host. My personal experience and my observation of the brethren as they guide and direct the Church and solve problems has taught me that the answers come oftentimes over an extended period of time with almost a natural solution whereby people take actions on the feelings of their hearts—which bring them peace and comfort—rather than through dramatic revelation” (“Gifts of the Spirit,” Ensign, Feb 2002, 12)
For example, one of the ways that the gift of tongues is manifest today is in the thousands of missionaries who travel abroad speaking languages to which they have had relatively brief exposure. Thus, the reception of a gift need not always be accompanied by a spectacular revelation.
The fact that the gift of tongues, or any gift for that matter, may be acquired through natural processes and over an extended period of time does not make its bestowal any less miraculous, although it may make it more difficult for us to acknowledge. If we were to recognize only those gifts that arrived with Pentecostal pomp and circumstance, we would be missing out on many important gifts characterized by the still, small subtlety of the Spirit.
Discovering and developing such quietly-surfacing and time-intensive gifts may require effort on our part. While we may receive clues from our Patriarchal or other blessings, much of the awareness and knowledge of our unique gifts will come from a heartfelt commitment to personal prayer and fasting, as well as through personal experience.
Elder Hales further taught, “Some think it would be nice to have ‘spiritual fortune cookies’ we could open to find the answers to life’s challenges. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a labeled jar we could reach into for our answers? But that is not the way it is meant to be.”
If we have patience in Heavenly Father as he tutors us as well as patience in ourselves as we learn and grow, we will be able to identify and develop those gifts which will enrich our lives and the lives of those in our church and in our community.
“One of the greatest tragedies”
While recognizing and developing your unique gifts may require some degree of diligence, identifying the gifts you don’t have is quite easy. There are but three simple steps you must follow:
- Think of someone who has a gift you admire.
- Compare your gifts to those of the other person. To make a proper comparison, make sure that you pit your weaknesses against the other person’s strengths.
- Conclude that you have been short changed.
What then happens? You do not share your gifts because you are convinced that you have nothing to offer. You must not let the adversary convince you that this is the case, lest you become like the man described in a parable who “went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money,” from whom it was taken, even that which he had (Matthew 25:18). With the recognition of your spiritual gifts comes the confidence that you can use them to make valuable contributions to the Lord’s work. Your Heavenly Father encourages you to “Cast not away therefore thy confidence, which hath great recompense of reward” (Hebrews 10:35).
Elder Marvin J. Ashton commented:
“One of the greatest tragedies of life, it seems to me is when a person classifies himself as someone who has no talents or gifts. When, in disgust or discouragement, we allow ourselves to reach depressive levels of despair because of our demeaning self-appraisal, it is a sad day for us and a sad day in the eyes of God. For us to conclude that we have no gifts when we judge ourselves by stature, intelligence, grade-point average, wealth, power, position, or external appearance is not only unfair but unreasonable” (“There Are Many Gifts,” Ensign, Nov 1987, 20).
Fishers and Hunters
I remember feeling often like I didn’t have much to offer while I was sharing the gospel in Houston, Texas. I fell into the habit of constantly comparing myself to the others who saw successes much more often than I did. I was simply not one of those rock star missionaries that was constantly baptizing. I became very discouraged because of this.
I remember reading a scripture in Jeremiah that talks about the latter-day missionary work. It reads:
“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks” (Jeremiah 16:16).
I learned that the Lord needed both fishers and hunters: fishers to cast their nets wide to bring in lots of fish, and hunters to search for and bring in animals one by one. Both servants are equally valued by the God who gave them their respective gifts.
As I have come to know many gay/SSA members of the church, I am impressed by the many talents and abilities with which they have been blessed. These talents may be both “secular” and spiritual in nature. Regardless, gay/SSA members of the church have a tremendous capacity to bless the lives of those in their wards and stakes with their unique gifts and abilities.
Some of these gifts may simply be an inherent part of a person’s nature, magnified upon reception of the Holy Ghost. Others may have been developed through experiences unique to same-sex attraction or other life experiences. However they are acquired, the church and its members have great need of receiving these gifts vicariously through us, especially if they are gifts that are underrepresented among the general membership. Elder Ashton terms these the “less-conspicuous gifts.” We must never let Satan convince us that because our gifts may be different, that they are worth less than those of others.
“But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary… That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Corinthians 12:20-25).
Recognizing the Source
Some gifts are given with the purpose of fulfilling a specific calling or task. I recall another relevant realization I had while serving as a missionary in Texas. It was my privilege to serve among the Latino population there. I remember being impressed by just how giving the people I met were. Indeed, generosity is a highly valued aspect of Latino culture. As missionaries, we were frequently made the object of this generosity, which often came in the form of food.
Occasionally, we would be served a traditional Mexican dish called menudo. For the uninitiated, menudo is a soup that basically consists of cow entrails floating in a spicy broth. Yummy. As evidence of the Lord’s mercy, I was blessed with a great gift during my stay in Texas. The gift of which I speak is the ‘gift of not upchucking strange foods.’ The bestowal of this gift allowed me to partake of the generosity of these sweet people without offending them. Unfortunately, that particular gift has since been taken away because now I cannot look upon tripe with the least degree of allowance.
In a discussion I was having with my roommate concerning the fleeting nature of some gifts, my roommate posed what I thought was an interesting question. The question he asked was, “Why would the Lord take away a gift, assuming the recipient hadn’t been a negligent steward when it was needed?”
While I do not purport to have a conclusive answer to that question, I can think of a few reasons why the Lord might see fit to take away a gift bestowed previously for a specific purpose. One possibility is that it serves as a reminder of to whom the gift belongs. Indeed, it takes humility to attribute our talents and gifts to their true Source. Perhaps it was a similar realization that caused Job to exclaim, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Seeking Gifts through Prayer
While some gifts may be more readily available to us because of our unique natures and experiences, others require a sincere petition to the Lord for their conferral upon us. President Henry B. Eyring recommended the following with respect to the procurement of spiritual gifts:
“If you want to receive the gifts of the Spirit, you have to want them for the right reasons. Your purposes must be the Lord’s purposes. To the degree your motives are selfish, you will find it difficult to receive those gifts of the Spirit that have been promised to you…
“When we pray for the gifts of the Spirit—and we should—one for which I pray is that I might have pure motives, to want what He wants for our Father’s children and for me to feel, as well as to say, that what I want is His will to be done” (“Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times,” CES Fireside, Sep 2006).
Some gifts are received contingent upon us asking for them, approaching the Lord with sufficient sincerity. Charity is one such gift that we all must seek after. It is “the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:47).
We are invited to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that we may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that we may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48).
In some cases, repentance may be in order so that we can prepare ourselves to be privy to a particular gift. David Whitmer told the following story about Joseph Smith whose prophetic gifts included the gift of translation:
“One morning when Joseph Smith was getting ready to continue translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; he was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up the stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful” (Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness, 174, 186).
“That all may be profited thereby”
Finally, some gifts may arrive in the form of a person willing to share his or her gifts with you. Gifts are not meant to bless only those to whom they are entrusted. Indeed, the phrase “that all may be profited thereby” appears in some form in no fewer than five times in the Doctrine and Covenants section that pertains to gifts of the Spirit (see D&C 46).
We read in the Old Testament that Moses often relied on his brother Aaron who compensated for Moses’ lack of talent with words. Similarly, in the Book of Mormon we read of devoted brothers like Sam and Jared who relied on and were blessed by the gifts of their brothers Nephi and the Brother of Jared, respectively.
No one is so disproportionately endowed with Spiritual gifts that he or she need not rely on the gifts of those around him or her. It is so by divine design. This is why every bishop has two counselors. This is why every brother belongs to a quorum and every sister to a society.
Spiritual progress cannot by made inside a vacuum; rather it requires a law-of-consecration-like dependence upon the wealth of gifts personified in others. Thus, it would behoove us to not only become acquainted with our own unique talents and abilities, but also the talents and abilities of those around us. Perhaps you can think of a time when you have relied on the gift or gifts of another.
I have a dear friend who has the gift of withholding judgment. This friend responds lovingly and with concern to the dilemmas I sometimes find myself in. He does see fit to give me counsel when I need it, but he does it in a way that is completely devoid of criticism and patronization. His willingness to share his gift is a tremendous support to my spiritual progress. As we pray and seek for opportunities to develop and share our unique gifts, we can emulate, perhaps in only a small way, our Heavenly Father who unselfishly shares with us the gift of his Son.