Sixteen Stones and a Bucket of Talents
Sometimes the Lord has already given us the means to do the job. So do it.
After the Brother of Jared had to lead his people to the Pacific en route to the promised land, the final leg of transportation posed a major problem. Boats were the obvious answer, but he faced two major engineering obstacles, namely providing light and air for the passengers on the journey.
Like a good and faithful man, he brought his problem before the Lord. (Ether 2:22). He likely trusted in the same principle that brought Joseph Smith to ask wisdom of God (although the Brother of Jared lived many centuries before Saint James.) After all, the Lord had told the Brother of Jared how to build the ships to be watertight. (Ether 2:20). Rather than give the answer outright, the Lord turned the question back on the Brother of Jared:
“…what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)
The Lord is known for His many virtuous attributes, so we can trust that He was not simply playing a cruel game with the Brother of Jared. There was a divine purpose for this question. The result of the challenge was that the Brother of Jared had to humble himself, examine himself, and try to figure out the solution on his own, to the extent that he was able. What he came up with is very instructive for us in our day:
- He crafted sixteen stones that were clear, probably like glass, using temporal talents that the Lord had blessed him with;
- He asked the Lord to touch the stones with His bare hands, trusting that the immense power He held would charge the stones with light so that the ship’s passengers wouldn’t be trapped in the dark in what were essentially submarines.
Each of us has spiritual and temporal gifts the Lord has blessed us with. How many times have modern prophets exhorted us to figure out what our talents are and develop them for the service of others? You may be an artist, or a musician, or a handyman. Maybe you’re good at doing rudimentary automotive repair. Maybe you know how to buckle up, put your head down, and power through a difficult bit of manual labor until it’s done. These days, the ability to just work is a talent.
Even better, you could be an excellent listener. My wife has this particular gift, and I have learned more from her silent and attentive example than I could from any lectures on the subject. The point is that God has given each of us a gift, at least one gift, that we can use for the well-being of others. In the Brother of Jared’s case, he was apparently some combination of mason, metallurgist, and glazier. He made clear stones.
However, that wasn’t his only talent. He combined his handiwork with a talent for faith. In the scriptures, faith is described as a spiritual gift. Like any muscle in his body, he exercised his faith continually until it got stronger, to the point where he had such faith in the Lord that He could illuminate the stones.
I suspect the Lord knew this and was testing the Brother of Jared so that he would realize it for himself. Ether 3 opens up with the Brother of Jared humbling himself and expressing that faith. He was rewarded with a face-to-face meeting with Jehovah Himself.
Now, we need not covet this highest level of reward for our own faith; the Brother of Jared had a specific mission and a purpose for his people, and later, for us, as his record would end up in the Book of Mormon. We don’t need to see God face-to-face in order for our faith to be sufficient. We do need to follow the Brother of Jared’s example of doing everything we can on our own, giving credit to God for what he’s given us, and having faith that He will do what we cannot.
Principles of this lesson are demonstrated in Christ’s parable of the talents, found in the New Testament. (Matthew 25, Luke 19.) While the talents He spoke of were literally monetary units, the underlying lesson is that we can be profitable servants if we build on what God has given us. That includes our testimonies, our faith, our knowledge, and yes, even our unique skills. We only do wrong if we ignore God’s gifts to us.
While we know that the experience and knowledge we gain in this life will carry over into the next, there is more to this journey than just getting smarter or better at things. Much like the Brother of Jared, we may not know when we will be called on to use our skills to bless other people.
Keep building your talents brothers and sisters–above all, build your talent for faith. Let us humble ourselves, like the Brother of Jared. We must truly seek God’s will, set aside our own desires, and ensure first our wants align with what He wants.
There is light down that path.
“Developing Our Talent for Spirituality,” Carol B. Thomas, April 2001
Graham Bradley is a truck driver and a novelist. He served a mission in Barcelona, Spain, from 2003-2005. You can follow him @GrahamBeRad