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Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Spiritual Call to Arms, Part 2 (Why Don't We See Spiritual Gifts Very Often)

In my last post, we examined several quotes - from the New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, various statements by Joseph Smith and other apostles - conclusively explaining that those who have received the Holy Ghost can and do manifest spiritual gifts. 

Today, many (millions of) people fervently believe that they have received the Holy Ghost. 

If that's true, then shouldn't they be experiencing and/or manifesting at least some spiritual gifts?

[Hmmmm, let's pause and ponder that question for a minute.]

Maybe we should be asking, "Are spiritual gifts are being manifest today?"
  • Where are the people who are seeing heaven?
  • Where are the people who are being healed - for example, opening the eyes of the blind, or unstopping the ears of the deaf?
  • Where are the prophecies?
  • Where are the old men dreaming dreams, and the young men seeing visions, just as Pres. Hinckley promised?
  • Where are the angels?
  • Where is the power over evil spirits?
  • Why do many believe that only missionaries can be recipients of the gift of tongues/interpretation of tongues?
  • Why do we not hear about spiritual gifts very much anymore?

When Spiritual Gifts Are Absent


Why do we see a noticeable absence of spiritual gifts in our lives?

Could it be an indication, a symptom, that we have not fully received the Holy Ghost?

Definitely. 
"Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made. A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. Faith has been wanting, not only among the heathen, but in professed Christendom also, so that tongues, healings, prophecy, and prophets and apostles, and all the gifts and blessings have been wanting." (Joseph Smith, Jr., TPJS p. 270; emphasis mine)
"No one who has been born of the Spirit, and who remains sufficiently faithful, is left destitute of a Spiritual Gift. A person who is without a Spiritual Gift, has not the Spirit of God dwelling in him, in a sufficient degree, to save him; he cannot be called a Saint, or a child of God; for all Saints who constitute the Church of Christ, are baptized into the same Spirit; and each one, without any exception, is made a partaker of some Spiritual Gift." (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses, p. 539-41; emphasis mine)
Those are some pretty tough, direct words. Not a lot of ambiguity there. The scriptures, the statements by Joseph Smith and other apostles and even logic are harmonious: 
  • If you have truly received the Holy Ghost, then spiritual gifts will be manifest in your life. 
  • Conversely, if you are not experiencing gifts of the spirit, then quite likely, you are not receiving the Holy Ghost as you should.
Don't take my word for it. Here's Elder George Q Cannon:
"Yet we find, even among those who have embraced the Gospel, hearts of unbelief. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this?" 
"There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have. Instead of the sick being healed, why, it is as much as you can do to get faith to believe that the administration of an elder will be attended with effect. There is not that seeking for the gift of healing and for the gift to be healed that there ought to be among the Saints. And so with other gifts and graces that God has placed in His Church for His people.
I feel to bear testimony to you, my brethren and sisters, just as these prophets have done, that God is the same today as He was yesterday; that God is willing to bestow these gifts upon His children. I know that God is willing to heal the sick, that He is willing to bestow the gift of discerning of spirits, the gift of wisdom, of knowledge and of prophecy, and other gifts that may be needed." (Elder George Q Cannon, Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, pp. 260-61)
I'm going to be uncharacteristically blunt here for a few minutes:

The conditions Elder Cannon described in 1894 are not only alive and well 122 years later, they're considerably worse...today. 

Why Don't We See Spiritual Gifts Very Often?


As Elder Cannon noted above, it has something to do with diligence:

Apathy: Even though we're told to seek after and covet the best gifts, other things tend to rise on our priority lists:
  • Violence and Sex: Which has the higher priority in your life -- various forms of entertainment, or God?
  • Organized Sports: Which do you spend more time doing -- watching sports or personally developing an intimate relationship with God?
  • Babylon: Which has the higher priority in your life: the manufacture, promotion, sale or purchasing of the works of men's hands which constitute idolatry, or God?
  • Mammon: Which has the higher priority in your life: the pursuit, lure or promise of riches (as opposed to seeking self sufficiency; there is a difference), or God?
Here are two more which seem kind of ironic to me:
  • Author Elevation: Prioritizing the opinions and insights of a mortal author, while neglecting the writings of God in the Standard Works. For example, I'm astounded by how many people I know who have read LDS-related books regarding the last days, yet have neglected to deeply immerse themselves in Isaiah and Jeremiah.
  • Online Interaction: Interacting with (or "helping" or "spiritually growing with", etc) other saints in online chat rooms, forums, blogs, groups and messaging apps for hours a day, while time with spouses, children and even God is de-emphasized and de-prioritized.
Just where are your priorities these days? When God soon unleashes His judgments upon mankind prior to Christ's second coming, do you really think your focus on making money or online interactions -- instead of spending time with your family, drinking from the word of God or studying such things as spiritual gifts -- will be of greater, long-term benefit? Do you really think your casual apathy of today will somehow be magically forgotten when you're needing God's protection the most in the near future?

Ignorance: God has given us latter-day saints truly phenomenal amounts of knowledge. Unfortunately, for the most part, we tend to not know very much about spiritual gifts. 

If we do, we probably know the 7th Article of Faith. Even better: we know three different portions of scripture -- 1 Corinthians 12:3-11, Moroni 10:7-16 and D&C 46:6-25 -- and that's about it. 

Our ignorance often surfaces when it comes to knowing the details about even the greatest gifts. For example: 
  • What is probably the greatest exposition ever written (outside today's Standard Works) on faith?
  • How can someone proactively exercise the gift of charity?
  • How can someone be sure their gift of discernment is actively working? 
  • Can only men exercise the gift of healing?
  • Which gift is so great, that no man can have it, except he should possess the power of God? Can only the President of the Church possess this gift? 
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because 
thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou
shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law
of thy God, I will also forget thy children." (Hosea 4:6)

Denial: I have personally witnessed the following beliefs from active, temple-going members of the church:
  • Spiritual gifts don't exist at all (as opposed to fervently believing in spiritual gifts, but just wondering where their manifestations are).
  • One must be extremely righteous to seek after and exercise spiritual gifts.
  • Only church leaders can exercise spiritual gifts.
  • Only men can exercise spiritual gifts.
  • It's alright to shun or chastise those who dare to speak about spiritual gifts. 
  • Anyone who has exercised spiritual gifts is suffering from delusion, schizophrenia or another mental disorder. 
  • Seeking after spiritual gifts will attract too much evil opposition, and thus, it's better (and safer) to leave well enough alone.
  • Any spiritual gift that's exercised must be evil.
"And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them." (Mormon 9:7-8)

Do You Lack What You Think You Have?


I think the biggest reason why we don't see very many spiritual gifts being exercised today is because we lack the influence, perhaps even the companionship, of the Holy Ghost in our daily lives.

You may be tempted to say right now, "Well, Mr. LDS Perfect Day, I'll have you know that I've been baptized and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I've been endowed and sealed in the temple.  So I seriously doubt I'm lacking the Spirit's influence or companionship in my life."

I sincerely hope you're right. But let's examine this for a minute.

Just because you've been confirmed a member of the church doesn't mean the Holy Ghost is operative in your life: 
"The simplicity of this ordinance [confirmation] may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—'Receive the Holy Ghost'—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed 'receive the Holy Ghost' and its attendant spiritual gifts. 'For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift' (D&C 88:33)." (Elder David A. Bednar, "Receive the Holy Ghost", October 2010 General Conference, emphasis mine)
Elder Boyd K. Packer mirrored Elder Bednar's comments six months earlier when he said that there's a difference between having authority and having power in the priesthood:
"We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be." ("Priesthood", April 2010 General Conference, emphasis mine).
Indeed, even the Lord said that professing discipleship, doing good works or even performing miracles isn't enough:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I say, Ye never knew me: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (JST Matthew 7:21-23; emphasis mine).

So, Here's The Bottom Line

If you're not seeing the gifts of the spirit being
manifest in your life, or if anything mentioned
above even remotely resonated with you, repent.
While you still can. 

I'm not necessarily advising you go talk to your bishop or make some kind of public declaration. Don't complicate this! Just kneel down; acknowledge your weaknesses before God; ask, from the depths of your heart, for His mercy in forgiving your omissions; then ask for His strength in turning your weakness into a strength. It really is that simple. 

Here's how Elder George Q. Cannon approached this topic (of our lackadaisical attitude towards seeking after the best gifts):
"I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness." (Elder George Q Cannon, Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, pp. 260-61)
Now I don't think the Lord expects us to kiss goodbye sports, movies, TV and online interactions entirely. But I do think he expects us to use what little time we have here on earth wisely, and to better prioritize both He and the Spirit in our lives. In other words, to "diligently seek him"…
"And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God-and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come-I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men." (1 Nephi 10:17; emphasis mine)
Note that the Lord asks us to seek Him, not power. Even if you're seeking power to serve God, we mortals have an abysmal track record when it comes to constantly keeping our motives in check (D&C 121:37). All too often, we ask, and receive not, because we ask amiss, so we can consume it upon our lusts (James 4:3). The Lord Himself walked us through the proper steps:
"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men." (D&C 11:21; emphasis mine)
Ahhh, desire. The only proof of our true desire is the diligence with which we persist until we receive. This can start by sincerely praying, diligently seeking and carefully heeding God regarding your most needed gifts:
"If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Am I an envious man? It is my duty to seek for charity, which envieth not." (Elder George Q Cannon, Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, p. 260-61) 
…and obeying anything the Lord says to you, no matter if it's in the scriptures or prayer:
"As in the early Christian era, Mormonism challenged the world to believe, and declared that the signs Christ promised would follow those who complied with the formula of faith. Missionaries like Orson Pratt preached continually on the need of the gifts of the Spirit, as manifestations of saving faith. While on a short mission in Michigan Territory, Joseph Smith declared, 'If you will obey the Gospel with honest hearts, I promise you, in the name of the Lord, that the gifts as promised by our Saviour will follow you, and by this you may prove me to be a true servant of God.'" (Quoted by Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon (1893), p. 4) 
On this note, I'm going to leave you to ponder what I've said and to talk with God about it.

If you'd like some insights on which gifts might be good ones to start pursuing, stay tuned for Part 3.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post. You always inspire me to do more and be more. I have fallen in love with Isaiah but I admittedly forget about Jeremiah.
    I would suggest that many of us with some of these gifts have learned to be rather quiet about them. My own family doesn't know how to react to the experiences I've had. I have enjoyed discernment of spirits and angels. Also the gift of casting out. I've recently discovered I have a gift of powerful prayers and I've been terribly underutilizing that gift. Yet I am filled with desire for even greater gifts, although admittedly I am still learning how to use them for the benefit of my brothers and sisters.
    I will look forward to part 3.

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  2. I loved this article,I too have worked hard these past 2 years to develop many spiritual gifts, it has been a miraculous journey! Most people would not believe even my own family so I too hold them dear. My journey started with the enabling power and a desire to have charity and humble. Cant wait for part 3

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  3. Anonymous and Darby,

    I can relate (re: families not knowing the extent to which their gifts have been developed).

    When I approach the usage of gifts, I imagine my finger on the gift's "on/off" button, with the Lord's finger on top of mine. Because I feel so unworthy to even have my finger on that switch, I rely on/wait for Him to let me know when it's time to flip the switch. In the same respect, I figure His fingers are also on families. When it's time for them to know more, He'll make it happen. I have total trust in Him.

    Part 3 is set to publish this Sunday morning. It lays the foundation for the post after it, which puts it all into perspective -- one which I never had until I wrote it last week.

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  4. I had to think about it but yes I have the amazing gift of dreams, and I feel that Heavenly Father points things out to me that I should be aware ofm

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  5. Thank you for this wonderful reminder and wake-up call regarding Spiritual gifts! I needed this to help motivate me to stretch even further out of my comfort zone and in my level of consecration and diligence. I have been studying Isaiah more regularly and in depth, but have not delved much into Jeremiah in the same way. Thanks again for your testimony and always pointing to the Giver of all Good Gifts!

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  6. I loved your thoughts about having your finger on the "on/off" button and waiting for the Lord to direct you in when and how to use it. Over the past few years, I have had some very significant spiritual dreams and insights at times, but in my excitement and zeal to share with family and loved ones (who are also in the gospel, but at varied degrees), I was met with some unexpected rejection by a few of them. The Spirit has taught me to be more guarded and selective in how and with whom I share such things. I am glad that at least my wife is with my on this journey and she has always been supportive and sustaining in my efforts! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights about the seeking and use of the Master's gifts!

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