Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, spoke on a number of topics to nearly 10,000 women and priesthood leaders in southeastern Idaho in February 2011. The following is some of what she taught about developing talents.
“You have had every opportunity poured into you so that your gifts and talents and abilities will be built and strengthened. And why do you think the Lord gave you that opportunity? …
“All the talents and abilities that have been poured into the sisters of the Church up to this time are going to be required to help build the kingdom, not to go pursue personal goals for ourselves.
“I’m not saying not to develop your talents and not to do things that are precious to you. But I hope sometime you will walk along the top level of this wonderful hall and you will look at and admire the work of Sister Minerva Teichert, who was one of the foremost artists of this Church—and was a stay-at-home mom.”
“Last week I went to the funeral of Sister Ruth Funk, who was the Young Women general president when I was a young woman. Sister Funk was an amazing, talented woman.
“When she was a young woman, Leopold Stokowski, the famous pianist, traveled to Salt Lake. He happened to be staying in the home next to her family’s home. Sister Funk was a talented pianist and her father had told her if she could master a certain Chopin piece, he would buy her a grand piano. At age 14, she had just earned that piano.
“So now she’s listening to this world-famous artist play the piano in the home next to hers, and he’s playing the same piece she just learned to earn her piano. So she went and sat on the porch and listened to him.
“When he came out, he said, ‘What are you doing here?’
“She said, ‘I’m just listening to you practice. It’s interesting, but I struggle on the same passage as you do.’
“He said, ‘You don’t play that piece. I’m the only person I know who can play that piece.’
“She said, ‘Oh, I’ll play it for you if you like.’
“She did, and he invited her to go to New York City and be his personal student at no charge.
“This was something that became a matter of prayer in the Hardy family with her father and mother and her. They fasted and they prayed. She received a priesthood blessing. In that blessing, she was told, ‘If you go to New York and pursue this career, you will leave the Church, and you will give up the promise and the blessings Heavenly Father has for you. …’ And she didn’t go.
“She graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City, she graduated from the University of Utah, she went to Chicago with her husband as a young woman. There the director of the symphony in Chicago asked her if she would come and travel with the symphony and solo with them. She said it was the greatest trial of her life to have this gift and not do the things she dreamed of doing.
“I think of how the Lord used her to help build up His kingdom. She not only served as the Young Women general president, but she served for over a decade on the Church Correlation Committee and knew prophets and apostles by name. President Monson spoke at her funeral and commended the work and the faithfulness of her life. Her grandchildren said the crazy thing was that she probably spent as much time doing Church work as she would have if she had been a concert pianist. She was away from home a lot, serving the Lord.
“She recognized that the Lord owned her gift, and He could call upon it to do whatever He desired to do.”