I have often wondered about the role of spiritual gifts in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. When I think of spiritual gifts I immediately think of speaking in tongues, or receiving glorious revelations. These certainly qualify as gifts of the spirit but there are many other gifts which are less obvious.
So what is the role of spiritual gifts in the church?
We are taught in the 7th Article of Faith- “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues and so forth…”
The article of faith names some spiritual gifts, but not all.
What are the “so forth…” gifts as referred to in the 7th article of faith? In a 1987 Conference Talk entitled “There are Many Gifts” Elder Ashton spoke about some of the less conspicuous gifts, such as the gift of asking, listening, hearing, being able to weep, avoiding contention, being agreeable, looking to God for guidance, ability to ponder, and bearing mighty testimony. Even though we may not immediately think of these as spiritual gifts, these inconspicuous gifts are also valuable and should be sought after.
D&C 46:8 tells us to be not deceived and “seek earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what [purpose] they are given”.
Why are we given spiritual gifts? What is their purpose?
D&C 46:9 gives us the answer
“For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts”
Elder Melvin Arnold of the Seventy also teaches “There are many spiritual gifts… Their purpose, among other things, is to give us strength, lead us to do good, help us resist temptation, encourage and edify us, increase our own wisdom, help us judge righteously, and help us qualify for eternal life”.
In short, spiritual gifts are tools the Father gives to us to help us become what he wants us to become, that we might receive eternal life.
Challenge to Become: Elder Oaks spoke of the Challenge to Become, and shared a parable about a wealthy father who wanted to bestow all that he had upon his child, but the child had not yet developed the necessary wisdom and stature, to make use of the inheritance without wasting it. The father said to the child…
“All that I have I desire to give you-not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.”
Our father desires that we become like Him. He desires to give us all that He has. To accomplish these desires He has given us spiritual gifts that we may be led to do good, resist temptation, be strengthened and edified, increase in wisdom, and ultimately help us qualify for eternal life. He wants us to give over our whole “natural self”. He wants us to become something new. He wants us to become like Christ.
CS Lewis wrote “If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.” Put another way, he says “It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.”
Becoming like our father is more than putting on a layer of paint with good works, but it is letting Christ soak into us, that we become someone new.
Quick to Observe: One inconspicuous spiritual gift which will aid us in becoming what our Father would have us become, is the gift of being “Quick To Observe”.
Mormon 1:2 “About the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me and said ‘I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe”
Because Mormon was “quick to observe” he was entrusted with the great work of keeping and compiling ancient records of the Book of Mormon, which has, and is, blessing the lives of many people throughout the world.
Elder Bednar has stated “Your future success and happiness will in large measure be determined by this spiritual capacity” of being Quick to Observe.
We know what it means to be Quick. It means we do not hesitate, procrastinate or delay.
What does it mean to Observe? There are two applicable meanings of this word.
1- to witness or notice, to look or see
2- Obey or keep, as it is used in D&C 54:6
D&C 54:6 “But blessed are they who have kept the covenant and observed the
commandment, for they shall obtain mercy”
Being Quick to Observe means we must observe what the Lord would have us do. He can tell us through promptings of the spirit or by the mouth of His anointed servants. Once we have observed we must be quick in acting, we must not delay.
Observe: To observe we must be paying attention and we must seek the will of the Lord. Hiding or shielding ourselves from the words of the Lord does not absolve us of the responsibility of following Him. We cannot refuse to read the scriptures and then claim not to have been told what He expects from us. We must be Quick to Observe.
Earring Story: A young man chose not to pursue a relationship with a young woman because she did not heed the direction of the prophet in wearing only 1 pair of ear rings. This may seem like a trivial thing & I do not mean to single out individuals who have more than 1 set of earrings.
The issue is NOT the earring. It is the willingness to be Quick to Observe the words of the prophet. All the words of prophet. When it is from the mouth of the Lord, or His anointed, obedience is never trivial.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will all find areas in our lives we can improve upon. Areas in which we need to repent and be Quick to Observe.
When He commanded us to “Be Perfect”, He meant it.
Home Teaching: For example, as priesthood holders we have the duty and assignment to home teach. How many lessons have been taught, challenges given, requests made, assignments issued concerning home teaching? How successful are we as home teachers? Are we being Quick to Observe the duties we have been taught and assigned by our Prophet, Stake President, Bishop and Priesthood leaders?
Being Quick to Observe, like other spiritual gifts can, and MUST, be developed.
When we are quick to observe our Home Teaching duties by going into a families home, teach a lesson and get to know the family through conversation and service we will grow in our ability to discern, or observe additional needs of the family by the Spirit.
President Boyd K Packer has said “If all you know is what you see with your natural eyes and hear with your natural ears, then you will not know very much”. We need to learn to discern more than what we observe naturally.
If we are to become the men and women our Father desires us to become, we must grow in our ability to observe his words and be obedient to them.
Elder Bednar says “Being Quick to Observe is an antecedent to, and is linked with the spiritual gift of discernment. And for you and me, discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark”.
President Stephen Richards taught “the highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them”.
President George Q Cannon taught “discernment helps us detect hidden error
and evil in others-but it is also about discerning things as they really are within us.”
Remember the reason our father gives us spiritual gifts. It is to build and uplift, to edify, and help us qualify for eternal life. It is to help us Become Christlike.
CS Lewis wrote in "Mere Christianity", “it may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad”.
This is the purpose of all spiritual gifts, whether it be a conspicuous gift like healing, prophecy, revelation, tongues or interpretation of tongues, or an inconspicuous gift such as discernment or being Quick to Observe.
Obtaining any of the many spiritual gifts can be a great strength to us and those around us. But remember- by their fruits ye shall know them.
A word of warning from Elder Dallin H Oaks. “Our strengths can be our Downfall…Humility is the catalyst for all learning, especially spiritual things”.
D&C 46:7-10 tells us to “beware, lest ye are deceived”.
D&C 112:10 “Be thou humble and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answers to thy prayers”.
We must remain humble in our strengths- even in obtaining and utilizing our spiritual gifts for the benefit of others. Any gift can be corrupted by Pride.
Elder Packer warns “Satan can attack us where we think we are strong- In the very areas where we are proud of our strengths”.
2 Examples of how spiritual gifts can be corrupted: & how “Our strengths can become our Downfall” (Dallin H. Oaks, May 1995 Ensign)
1- The healer- A m an from Utah had the gift of healing. People sought him out for blessings, coming from outside of his ward and Stake. He came to travel to various communities soliciting the giving of blessings. He became a professional healer, and forgot “a spiritual gift is given to benefit the children of God, not to magnify the prominence or to gratify the ego of the person who receives it”. This man lost his gift
2- Popular Teacher- A charismatic, skilled, learned Institute teacher became very popular. He gathered a following “for the sake of riches and honor”. 2 Nephi 26:29 “Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but seek not the welfare of Zion.”
These are both examples of spiritual gifts being corrupted by pride. These individuals were impressed with themselves, simply because they were stewards of a gift, so they lost the gift. They sought the glory themselves, instead of glorifying the Father with their gift.
We should not be afraid of spiritual gifts and the strength that comes from them. We must seek these gifts earnestly but we must be humble and recognize the source of their power. We must understand their role in the Fathers plan.
We must embrace the entire gospel of Jesus Christ and keep our eyes set on Eternal Life, recognizing that it is only through the Grace of Christ that we can be saved. We must be Quick to Observe all the words of the prophets and not select doctrines or commandments we choose to follow. We must avoid being totally focused in just one area of the gospel or enamored with just one Spiritual Gift, while ignoring the fullness of the Gospel.
Incessant Tapping: Boyd K Packer has likened the gospel to a piano keyboard. He has warned that a person can be “attracted by a single key” such as a doctrine or a spiritual gift. This person will want to hear it “played over and over again… they can dull their own spiritual sensitivities and lose track that there is a fullness of the gospel, in preference to a favorite note.”
We seek for all good gifts. As we seek these gifts and are Quick to Observe, and are humble in our strengths, these great spiritual gifts will be granted to us and we will become what the Father wants us to become. These gifts will be to our personal benefit, the benefit of others, and the benefit of the Church as a whole in accomplishing our Father’s mission. We will increase in wisdom, and we will be aided in qualifying for Eternal Life.