Section 46 in the Doctrine and Covenants is one of several places in the scriptures that teaches us about the nature of gifts of the Spirit. Some of the gifts enumerated here are different than those we see in 1 Corinthians 12, or in Moroni 10, or in the seventh article of faith, but there is overlap.

The themes that are common include the source and the purpose of these gifts… true gifts come from the Spirit of God, and they are to be used…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.

Another key component that is common among teachings on spiritual gifts is that different people are supposed to have different gifts. This type of diversity is designed to promote cooperation and unity among disciples of Christ.

Of course, human beings are notoriously bad at using things the way they are designed… This is why microwave ovens sometimes appear with labels saying, “Do not use for drying pets!” or tags on children’s clothing can remind, “Remove child before washing!”

A parable of Jesus is frequently used to discuss how individuals use the gifts they have been given from God: the parable of the talents.

The basic premise is that the Lord has three servants. To one he gives five talents, to the second he gives two talents, and to the third one talent. He then travels for some time, and then returns to receive a report from his servants. The first has used those talents effectively, and doubled his collection to ten. The second, similarly, has doubled his holdings, and is also praised for his efforts. The third, out of fear, buried his talent in the ground, and when the Lord returned, he delivered it unchanged. Even though the third servant lost nothing, he was condemned for failing to improve on what he was given.

Of course, the most important lessons are the ones given by Jesus Christ himself… but, just for a moment, let’s imagine some alternate versions of this situation:

  1. The first servant compares the five talents he has received with the two and one talent that his fellow servants have received. He says to his fellow servants, “obviously I am better than you… the Lord gave me more than the rest of you combined! You should try to be more like me.” When the Lord returns, the first servant proudly presents his original five talents and declares, “here you are… still more than anyone else produced!” He is surprised when his results are not favored by the Lord, and instead cast into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  2. The second servant begins shouting “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!… I’m tired of being in Marcia’s shadow all the time!” The second servant storms away, and complains to everyone about how unfair it is that they only received two talents, and how the first servant didn’t deserve them. When the Lord takes the one talent away from the third servant and gives it to the first servant, the second servant screams with envy and has a nervous breakdown…. before being cast into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  3. The third servant receives one talent and looks at it very carefully. “You know… I think I could make something a lot like this, and no one would realize it…” says the third servant. He begins making counterfeit talents, proudly displaying them to everyone so that they will admire him. When the Lord returns, the third servant returns twenty talents. The Lord says, “Who do you think I am? This is one talent and nineteen stones wrapped in aluminum foil. You can’t fake these.” Before being cast into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth, the third servant also had to serve a sentence in a federal penitentiary.

The number and manifestation of spiritual gifts is not an assessment of worth. Different people are supposed to receive different gifts, and they are assessed in how they use what they are given on an individual basis. Having more gifts is no reason to be proud. Having fewer or less visible gifts is no reason to be envious. The Lord wants you to use what you’ve been given for good.

Additionally, there are gifts that do not actually come from the Spirit of the Lord – counterfeits. If you are not given the ability to speak in tongues… pretending that you are is not helpful. The same is true of healing, prophecy, revelation, visions, or ark-steadying.

While we are encouraged to seek other gifts… to expand what we have been given… deception is not a spiritual gift.

Instead of comparing ourselves with others, or being concerned with how others perceive us, let us seek to use what God has given us to help one another walk the covenant path… the one way that not only leads to unimaginable happiness, but spares us weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Supplemental Reading:

Brett Jensen manages The Ward Preacher. You can follow him on Twitter @wardpreacher.

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