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An Endowment of Talents, Gifts, Skills, and Attributes
Your patriarchal blessing may mention talents, gifts, skills, and attributes that the Lord has given to you. Mine does, and I have noticed such things in many of the blessings I have read and given: statements of abilities and divine attributes designed to help you, and to help you help others, with the challenges of mortality.
Even if they are not identified in your blessings with these terms, they are probably there. Doctrine and Covenants 46 speaks of them and tells us four times that every member has them and that at least one of their purposes is
“That all may be benefitted” (46:9)
“That all may be profited thereby” (46:12)
“To every man to profit withal” (4616)
“That every member may be profited thereby” (46:29)
The Lord’s Storehouse
Church Handbook #2, p. 35, tells us of the ways in which our talents and gifts– our attributes and abilities—help others, in a paragraph called “the Lord’s storehouse”
“In some locations the Church has established buildings called bishops’ storehouses. When members receive permission from their bishop, they may go to the bishops’ storehouse to obtain food and clothing. But the Lord’s storehouse is not limited to a building used to distribute food and clothing to the poor. It also includes Church members’ offerings of time, talents, compassion, materials, and financial means that are made available to the bishop to help care for the poor and needy. The Lord’s storehouse, then, exists in each ward. These offerings are ‘to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, … every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God’” (D&C 82:18–19).
The new designation of home and visiting teaching as ministering is a powerful message on the importance of using our abilities to bless each other.
In his most recent conference talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of this: he explained it this way: “we must offer the God and Father of us all a helping hand in the staggering task of answering prayers, providing comfort, drying tears, and strengthening feeble knees” (D&C 81:5; Ensign, May 2018,, p. 103)
With the program of ministering, church headquarters and the Lord just want to know that we love each other and are taking care of each other.
I had an uncle who understood this better than almost anyone I have ever known. I wrote about him in an article for Meridian Magazine in July of 2013. He came to America early in the 1900’s. His name was Hans Flammer. He was a carpenter and a builder. He had not been here long when two young men knocked on his door and brought the gospel into his life.
Three months later Hans was in St. Johns, Arizona, a new member of the Church, headed for the heart of Mormon country. However, his enthusiasm to get to Utah was tempered by his love for Arizona. Not the sagebrush, cedar, and cactus, of course. The object of his affection was Arizona Gibbons, and she reciprocated. They married and moved to Linden, Arizona, where neighbors taught Hans an unforgettable lesson about ministering.
An unexpected, devastating fire destroyed every possession the family owned. Hans was burned so severely in the fire that he and his family remained in the neighboring city of Snowflake for a month while a doctor cared for him.
When Hans and Arizona finally returned to their property near Show Low, they discovered that in their absence and without their knowledge, neighbors had built them a new frame home.
Hans finally left the state of Arizona and traveled to Utah, and to Cache Valley. His wife was my father’s sister, so Hans was always Uncle Hans to me. He moved his family practically into our back yard. He was always smiling, always laughing. He was happy to be alive and refused to keep it a secret from his face.
The lessons of the new frame house in Linden were never lost to him. He cast his collection of skills and talents into the Lord’s storehouse. No job was too insignificant if it was for someone else. Broken fences and doors seemed to mend themselves in our neighborhood. The nine widows who lived on his two-block section of Center Street (my mother was one of them) knew they had a benefactor watching over them, practicing pure religion and ministering with a hammer and a wheelbarrow.
In fact, Hans owned the world’s first wheelbarrow to go one hundred thousand miles without a major tune-up. He hauled enough dirt, cement, and gravel around our neighborhood to build Hoover Dam. As often as not, those he served never knew he had come or gone. But he did not do his good deeds on the sly. He did not try not to get caught. He simply did not care if anyone knew. He was a priesthood man, doing the work of the priesthood. He did not believe in labels or limits. He believed in helping people with their problems. He believed in ministering.
The Church built a stake center in the vacant lot next to his home. Hans was so pleased. He had retired from his carpentry work at the university and his days were free. Helping build that building became his new dedication. The disciples of the Lord had once built him a new home; now he would help build a new home for the Lord and some of his disciples. Hans spent his days there, all day, every day, doing what had to be done, giving and serving without pay and without remorse. He was on the Lord’s business.
Then one day, as he worked in the cultural hall lining up the roof joists, the scaffolding shifted. He fell headfirst to the concrete floor below. Fellow workers rushed to him and found him bleeding, conscious, coherent. He said two things. With his steady good humor peeking out through eyes glazed with pain he whispered, “It will feel better when it quits hurting.” And then, as a wave of dizziness and agony washed over him, he spoke his last mortal words, “Don’t call the doctor. I have to set up chairs for the ward party tonight.”
This is part of our baptismal covenant: Alma taught his people at the Waters of Mormon that to be called his people, they must be willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light and they must be willing to mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (see Mosiah 18:8-9).
I believe that is what the abilities we receive from God, and those we develop by our own seeking are for. So you might say to the bishop, I can’t repair an automatic transmission, but I can help move a piano or make a meal for a sister who is undergoing chemotherapy.
My wife has a talent for preparing tax returns, and for 12 years she has volunteered in an IRS program to assist people in the preparation of their taxes. She worked with dozens of people this past tax season. She also spends time every week delivering Meals on Wheels. These are some of the abilities she has cast into the Lord’s storehouse.
Help from the Lord’s Storehouse
I remember an example from my youth of a member who received a great deal of help from the Lord’s Storehouse.
About 1960, a young father in my ward died in an airplane accident in Utah, leaving behind a widow and three small children. She received a minimal amount of insurance, hardly enough to meet the family’s needs for half a year.
The future was dark and frightening indeed. She had no income, no home but a rented apartment for which there would soon be no rent, and three young children who had no father. But the Lord opened his storehouse and her brothers and sisters came to her rescue. Ward members provided day care so that she could go back to school. A brother donated a lot. One man owned a construction company. He dug the hole, poured the footings, and offered advice. Appliances were provided by the members of her husband’s quorum. One family provided milk on a daily basis for the widow and her children. Others gave lumber, nails, windows, shingles. All who could brought their hammers and paint brushes and offered their time.
They built her a house—adequate, lovely, practical, paid for—for her and her family. Little could be done about the pain of the loss of a father and husband, but many things could be done about the loss of security. Her ward provided a gathering of ministers. No avoidable problems would be allowed to penetrate the defenses erected by her brothers and sisters in the family of God.
My second son contracted diabetes when he was seven. My brothers and sisters immediately joined together in a fast for him because we are family.
And the word “family” is a key in ministering. In reality every soul who suffers, every man or woman who mourns, every person who feels pain, is family. And there are no distant relatives. If we look back just one spiritual generation, we find ourselves in a family, with a Father, a Mother, and brothers and sisters. We are all offspring of the same celestial parentage. This is part of the reason why we address each other as “brother” and “sister.”
My Brother Lives There
Let me share the experience of one brother who lived in a lovely home on a hill in southern California, surrounded by thousands of acres of grassy, undeveloped land. After a particularly dry summer of scorching heat, when the grass and brush had died and dried standing up, a brush fire somehow became ignited and began a mad dash toward his home.
The distance to his house was great enough for police to cut off all traffic except for people living in the area and close relatives. But the outcome was a foregone conclusion. His house would be lost. The rushing wall of fire was too powerful a force to halt.
With deep and terrifying futility, this brother and his family, with some official help, fought the fire. Suddenly a station wagon full of men from the ward arrived. How had they gotten by the roadblock?
“That was easy,” one replied when asked. “I just told them that my brother lives there.”
More and more men arrived, passing the roadblock in the same manner. Finally, a young policeman came walking down the driveway. “I came to see the man,” he said, “who has so many brothers.”
This home-owner then counted the men from his ward that he could see. There were thirty-nine of them. He later wrote, “Great feelings of peace filled my soul. I knew as surely as I have ever known anything that no fire could get through that line of fire fighters. And of course it did not.” (This is an edited account from the article called “My Brother Lives There” from the New Era, June 1884, pp. 13-15 by Lea Mahoney)
That is the kind of thing we must do as we minister: we must form a line of brothers and sisters who stand firm, prepared to fight against the raging flames of Satan’s efforts to make men miserable. The Lord talked about this kind of ministering near the end of his ministry as he sat with his disciples on the Mount of Olives.
He said that when the He comes in his glory He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left, and will bless the sheep for having ministered to others. And he will say to the sheep, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (see Matthew 25:31-40).
I urge you, Brothers and Sisters to read your patriarchal blessings and examine your lives, and as you discover your gifts, talents, attributes and abilities, to cast them into the Lord’s storehouse, “that every member may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:29).
Our attitude in such ministering ought to be something like this: “I may not be able to solve every problem, every unhappiness, every sorrow I ever encounter, but what I can do I will do! I will cast my offerings of time, talents, compassion, materials, and financial means into the Lord’s storehouse. I will fight in this place and at this time against the misery I have found in any and every way that I can.”
As you drive up and down the streets of your ward and neighborhood, and notice the homes and people who surround you, you might occasionally say to yourself, “I wonder who lives there?” We know the answer to that question: in every situation, at every home, in every circumstance we must say to ourselves, what the elder said to that young policeman: “My brother lives there.” We may not be able to do everything that needs to be done for our family members, but we can do something, and we ought to say to ourselves, I can help, and I will. My brother lives there.”