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Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Spiritual Call to Arms, Part 3 (The Invitation)

Spiritual Gifts 101


Very few people (if any, including and especially myself) have at best a basic, fundamental level of understanding regarding spiritual gifts. Brother Joseph seemed to agree:

"All the gifts of the Spirit are not visible to the natural vision, or understanding of man; indeed very few of them are," (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 244).

Ignorance permeates our knowledge of spiritual gifts. For example, some believe that spiritual gifts are only bestowed on church leaders. This is false doctrine:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said,
“Revelations are not reserved for a limited few or for those called to positions of importance in the Church. It is not position in the Church that confers spiritual gifts. . . . Rather it is personal righteousness; it is keeping the commandments; it is seeking the Lord while he may be found. God is no respecter of persons. He will give revelation to me and to you on the same terms and conditions” (Improvement Era, December 1969, p. 85).
Another error: spiritual gifts are only for faithful priesthood holders. Again, this is a false doctrine. Spiritual gifts know no gender. Like men, women have exercised spiritual gifts throughout history, including this dispensation:
"The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons." - (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Magnifying Our Callings in the Priesthood,” Improvement Era, June 1970, p. 66; emphasis mine).
"Many of us already have spiritual gifts, but we sometimes fail to recognize them. We may think they are reserved for people with special needs or callings. For the same reason, we may neglect to earnestly seek spiritual gifts, even though they have been promised to us." (Relief Society General Presidency, “Seeking the Best Gifts,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, p. 55) 
Elder McConkie also declared in Nauvoo at the dedication of the Monument to Women:
“Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61; emphasis mine)
Another falsehood: No one has all spiritual gifts. While it's true that "all have not every gift given unto them," everybody has at least one spiritual gift (D&C 46:11) while "unto some it may be given to have all those gifts" (D&C 46:29).

Seek After The Best Gifts


No matter how many gifts you have, God invites you to seek after (D&C 46:8) and covet (1 Corinthians 12:31) "the best gifts" and "lay hold upon every good gift" (Moroni 10:7-8, 17-18, 24-25, 30). You're enthusiastically invited to receive more; they're yours for the asking.

Before proceeding too far, it's helpful to know that the Lord has established some conditions in the usage of these gifts:

1. They are to bear record of the Father and of the Son (D&C 20:27).
2. They are to be used “in the name of Christ” (D&C 46:31).
3. We should ask “in the Spirit” (D&C 46:30).
4. They are to be used in the service of others, not to gratify our pride or achieve our ambitions (see D&C 46:12, 26).
5. They are not to be sought as signs (D&C 46:9).
6. We must thank God “for whatsoever blessing [we] are blessed with” (D&C 46:32).
7. We “must practice virtue and holiness before [the Lord] continually” (D&C 46:33).

You can read some pretty long lists of spiritual gifts in D&C 46:13-25, 1 Corinthians 12:3-10 and Moroni 10:7-16. Additionally, here is a pretty comprehensive list of 37 spiritual gifts.

But these lists of gifts are not intended to be all-inclusive. Elder McConkie noted that,
"spiritual gifts are endless in number and infinite in variety. Those listed in the revealed word are simply illustrations of the boundless outpouring of divine grace that a gracious God gives those who love and serve him" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], p. 371).

So Many Gifts...Where Do You Begin?


The admonition to seek the "best gifts" implies a difference in the quality or usefulness of these gifts to an individual. It would be difficult to say that one gift is "better" than another in an absolute sense.

But surely, particular gifts can be of greater use to an individual at a certain time, in connection with his or her responsibilities and life's work.

For example:

The Gift of Faith: How can you move forward in exercising spiritual gifts unless you have read or heard, and believe in, the promises God has set forth regarding spiritual gifts?

The Greek word for faith, pistis, implies certainty, confidence, trust and assurance. Those with this gift have a degree of confidence in God that empowers them by living boldly and manifesting their faith in mighty ways. All of us have the opportunity to receive the Gift of Faith:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The Gift of Discernment: Just because you have confidence (via faith) and proper motives (via charity) doesn't mean you can't be deceived. Quite the contrary, anyone with those two gifts poses a definite threat to Satan. No wonder Elder George Q. Cannon called the gift of discernment "a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint. … No Latter-day Saint should be without this gift, because there is such a variety of spirits in the world which seek to deceive and lead astray" ("Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon", Jerreld L. Newquist, 1987, p. 156–57).
"… Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. … We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin." (President Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, Apr. 1950, 162–63)
"Oh, that we all had such power of discernment. That is a gift of the Spirit, to which we are entitled and we will have it as we live for it. With that gift we shall be free, to a great extent, from the deception that otherwise might lead us astray.
As the Lord gives revelations, so does Satan, each in his way. As the Lord has revelators upon the earth, so has Satan, and he is operating upon those men by his power, and they are receiving revelations, manifestations, that are just as truly of the devil as was his manifestation to Moses, to which I have referred.
We need the power of discernment. We need the inspiration of the Lord, that we may know the spirits with whom we have to deal, and recognize those who are speaking and acting under the influence of heaven, and those who are the emissaries of hell." (Elder James E. Talmage, Conference Report, April 1931, p.28)
The Gift of Charity: Armed with your belief in God's promises, you can seek out and receive another foundational gift: Charity. With that Christlike love, your motives will be aligned and squared with God. You'll also be better prepared to receive intimations from the Spirit in helping others know the Savior and follow Him. Without that charity, which is founded upon God's promises, you are nothing:
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1–3).
All three of these are gifts available to all of us. With them, you can move forward with faith, exercise proper motives and effectively discriminate between good and evil.

I believe these three gifts serve as a "three-legged stool", a bedrock foundation, which must be in place before any other gifts can be sought after and exercised.

For example:
  • What good is a gift if you don't have faith in God's promises?
  • What good is a gift if you haven't received the gift of charity? What if your desires are based on your own personal agenda, and not the true needs of another?
  • What could happen if you're praying for interactions with heavenly beings, or desiring dreams or visions, without having received the gift of discernment?

An Invitation...for You


The Lord is extremely anxious to share with you as many gifts as you seek.

Several years ago, I asked Father for a gift. Soon, I was prompted to "sacrifice" something of mine to Him. I put quotes around sacrifice because looking back on it, it wasn't a sacrifice at all. It was an invitation to do something that would enhance my reception of the gift.

I immersed myself in a study of that gift. My personal gospel study revolved around that gift. My prayers included pleadings to Father that I be granted the opportunity to better understand, by experience, the things I was learning. Those opportunities came. I did well with some of the opportunities and utterly failed with others. Despite the failures, God was dedicated to ensuring I clearly understood every opportunity and passed every test. Within a year, it was very clear that the gift had been bestowed upon me.

But that wasn't the end. No, not at all. The Lord treated that gift as a "starting point". I was given more opportunities to learn, to be tested, to pass or fail and try again. More came. And still more came.

Our puny mortal minds tend to see things like a snapshot or moment in time, whereas God looks at them as a frame in a motion picture.

We ask for one, and He offers us a hundred.

We ask for a gift. He offers us the entire sleigh.
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
I invite you to join me. Let's learn together what it takes to seek after and receive these gifts. Let's put God to the test! Let's see if He really will "do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" with respect to the things He wishes to give us the most -- His gifts!

And you know what?

It all starts with one thing.

We'll start examining that in my next post.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. It speaks to me in so many ways <3

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  2. Oh, great job!

    One thing that I have learned, over and over, and am still figuring out how to apply, is that all gifts come through relationship with God. As we get to know Him better, and are filled more consistently with His spirit, whatever we need in that moment will flow. The gifts that we carry will be released and can be developed. And the "best gifts", the ones most useful in the moment for furthering the work and glory of God, can be given us right when we need them.

    I'm loving where you're going with the blog. Thanks for obeying the voice of Holy Spirit in all of this. :o)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks!!!!

      I totally agree.

      My guts tell me this:
      * People need to strive to nail down the 3 basics (faith, charity and discernment). Being mortals, we'll never be perfect in all three of them. But we can elevate our spirituality to a point where we have enough of those 3 gifts in operation that our utility to God increases.
      * At that point, we need to educate ourselves on just what gifts are out there. For example, seership and translation are two biggies, with the latter likely being essential in the coming years.
      * The more familiar we are with the diversities of gifts, the more clearly the Lord can work on us, entice us, prompt us in a certain direction (a certain gift).
      * At some point, we are conversant enough in any and all gifts that the Lord can tell us to switch on Gift A, and we do it. Then Gift B, and we do it.

      Thanks​ again​​!

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