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For years, I have observed in our ward a ninety-year-old widow quietly go about doing good. Cookies are her specialty. She makes the rounds to those who are in need, delivering delicious cookies that Mrs. Fields would envy. My family has been the recipient of her kindness and talent. I’ve often thought that facing a hardship would be worth the trouble if I could just receive some more of those cookies.
I wonder if my friend considers that she is more than a good cook? I wonder if she has connected the dots to realize that the Lord has given her the spiritual gift of charity? Let’s face it, cookies might fill the tummy, but cookies delivered with love heal the soul. Sometimes you just need someone to care, and this good sister cares. Not everyone has the spiritual gift of charity, but she does. She seems to come by it as naturally as Janice Kapp Perry comes by the gift of music.
President Kimball delivered a nice sentiment about giving away our gifts: “Only when you lift a burden, God will lift your burden. Divine paradox this! The man who staggers and falls because his burden is too great can lighten that burden by taking on the weight of another’s burden. You get by giving, but your part of giving must be given first.”[i]
Spiritual gifts are stewardships that are meant to make us more Godlike and bless the lives of others. The stewardships that the Lord places in our trust take myriad forms and are broadly defined by our time, talents, abilities, and everything else that we are or possess. Some of these stewardships are listed in Doctrine and Covenants 46 and are called “spiritual gifts.” Not meant to be restrictive, the list of gifts includes:
- The gift of knowing-“that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.”
- The gift of believing-“on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”
- The gift of administration-“the differences of administration.”
- The gift of “the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.”
- The gift of “the word of wisdom.”
- The gift of “the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.”
- The gift to have “faith to be healed.”
- The gift to have “faith to heal.”
- The gift of “the working of miracles.”
- The gift of the ability “to prophesy.”
- The gift of “discerning of spirits.”
- The gift of speaking “with tongues.”
- The gift of “the interpretation of tongues.”[ii]
Why does the Lord give us these gifts as stewardships? The answer echoes the language in the priesthood covenant. We receive gifts from the Lord “for [our] sakes, and not for [our] sakes only, but for the sake of the world.”[iii] The Lord said, “All these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”[iv]
When we consider the Lord’s answer, we recall other scriptural injunctions to consecrate our resources for the purpose of blessing other people: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required.”[v] “Freely ye have received, freely give.”[vi] We cannot achieve celestial glory without blessing others. And when we do, blessings multiple before us!
President Marion G. Romney said of welfare work, You cannot give yourself poor in this work.’ And then he quoted his mission president, Melvin J. Ballard, this way: A person cannot give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return.’ I have found that to be true in my life. When I am generous to Heavenly Father’s children in need, He is generous to me.[vii]
Significantly, Doctrine and Covenants 46 mirrors many of the principles stated in the parable of the talents,[viii] signaling to us the parable’s latter-day relevance. Talents are gifts and therefore stewardships, and thus they are to be used to bless the Lord’s children. Because every person receives a gift or gifts from God, we are treated equally-a characteristic of Zion.
Thus, the Lord says, “And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just-and all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church-every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”[ix]
These gifts, or talents, prepare us for the Lord’s return; they “are suited to the gifts and needs of the individual to give him or her the maximum opportunity for growth in the Kingdom of God.”[x] How we manage our talents determines our eventual inheritance in the celestial kingdom. Joseph Smith taught: “Many of our brethren are wise in . . . their labors, and have rid their garments of the blood of this generation and are approved before the Lord.”[xi]
I am fascinated by the oft-stated truth that the Lord has salted every priesthood quorum and ward with enough spiritual gifts, talents and resources to take care of its members. What an amazing Zion concept! President Boyd K. Packer made this observation:
Brigham Young said a number of times, We live far below our privileges.’ If you brethren knew and understood who you are and the calling you have, you would know that all of the powers of heaven are available to you. When you struggle with the problems with the ward or stake or with the family or with quorums, you know that the power is there.
The scripture has this phrase, For the power is in them’ (D&C 58:28), and it is in you. You can be worried and sad and disappointed, and all the rest of it, but you are not privileged to be afraid. There is no fear in the work that we do. Fear is the opposite of faith, and if you have faith, you do not have fear. Those two things do not–cannot–exist simultaneously. So when you have a worry or fear, you erase it with faith.
That is why the Alma the Younger was saved, because of the prayers of thy father’ (Mosiah 27:14).
The members of your stakes, the priesthood quorums, should know that they are not confined to themselves if they have a child in Florida or somewhere else that is in trouble. They can send messages, not just messages, but power to sustain them. We are not confined to what we can see around us. That power we exert [is] always in the name of Jesus Christ.[xii]
Imagine if the full power of the ward’s priesthood quorums and all the members’ spiritual gifts were unleashed! Would that group of people approach Zion’s ideal, “no poor among them“? Would there be any spiritually, emotionally or temporally impoverished in that ward? Is Zion that close at hand? I believe my ninety-year-old friend thinks so. If cookies made with charity can advance the cause of Zion, she is the standard bearer.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, “”Someone has wisely stated that hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is.”[xiii] Perhaps it is time to reconsider the gifts that the Lord has given us and freely dispense them to fulfill our stewardship and draw Zion a little closer.