I Have a Question

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    Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

    How does one acquire specific spiritual gifts? The scriptures suggest that it is more a matter of prayer and expediency than a matter of actually developing talents and abilities.

    Arthur R. Bassett, professor of humanities, Brigham Young University. Perhaps this question resolves itself when we remember that spiritual gifts are indeed gifts. Ultimately, they are bestowed on individuals by an act of grace of Jesus Christ, the giver of all good gifts, through the medium of the Holy Ghost (see Moro. 10:8, 17–18).

    A gift is generally not something one earns. Rather, it is a free-will offering, given gratuitously, though not entirely undeserved in every case. Scripture suggests that the same is true for spiritual gifts. In urging us to “seek … earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8), the Lord emphasizes our need to desire and pray for them (see D&C 46:9, 28, 30; compare 1 Cor. 12:31; 1 Cor. 14:1). Nowhere in scripture does he state or imply that receiving spiritual endowments is necessarily and solely the automatic result of any studied, systematic development of spiritual qualities on our part. The Lord’s will is preeminent; he decides what is expedient. Spiritual gifts are bestowed on individuals “according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).

    The Lord encourages us to know what gifts are available (see D&C 46:10) and their different purposes beyond the collective purpose of benefiting all the Saints (see D&C 46:12). The Apostle Paul provides a helpful distinction between (1) gifts given to help with a specific calling, but sometimes more permanently—for example, gifts of wisdom, healing, miracles, prophecy, and discerning of spirits (see 1 Cor. 12:8–10) and (2) a more vital category of gifts—faith, hope, charity—that we all must acquire if we are to inherit eternal life (see 1 Cor. 13; Ether 12:34; Moro. 7:38–48; Moro. 10:21).

    Although we might feel doubly blessed if we receive any of the gifts in the first category, we should not be troubled if that is not yet the case. In fact, spiritual gifts are often transitory, bestowed upon us for however long or short a time the Lord deems expedient. For example, we may have noted that we were blessed with a certain spiritual gift only for the duration of a particular Church calling.

    To a degree, spiritual gifts can profitably be compared to the talents in one of the Lord’s parables (see Matt. 25:14–30). They are dispensed by the Lord with the expectation that the recipients will magnify them, using them for the good of others.

    Indeed, a great benefit of a church organization is that individually we need not possess a specific gift in order to reap its blessings. Our fellowship with the Saints gives us access to most, if not all, spiritual gifts. Thus, other Church members are vital to our spiritual well-being, just as we are vital to theirs, through the gifts with which we have been collectively blessed. The Apostle Paul underscores this point in comparing spiritual gifts to parts of the human body: “There should be no schism in the body; but … the members should have the same care one for another.

    “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25–26).

    Thus, although we cannot develop (in the fullest sense of the word) any spiritual gift entirely through our own efforts, we are encouraged to prayerfully pursue the best gifts. We also need to be aware of those gifts with which we have been blessed and be worthy and prepared to use them for the blessing of those around us.

    Such awareness may naturally follow from noting the multiplicity of spiritual gifts given to the Church membership generally and watching for evidence of any of them in our lives. (That three of our four standard works include a registry of such gifts seems to more than suggest our need to become familiar with them.)

    Priesthood ministrations such as an ordination, patriarchal blessing, or setting apart may reveal to us our specific gifts or talents. Magnifying our gifts and talents enables us to function more integrally within the body of the Church and avoid being like the slothful and unwise servant in the parable of the talents.

    If our lives are devoid of the vital gifts of faith, hope, and charity, we should earnestly examine ourselves and our relationship with our Father in Heaven. We should pray for those essential gifts earnestly, because acquiring them is crucial to our eternal salvation. Indeed, to have charity is to have acquired a quality vital to salvation, the Apostle Paul implies, while to lack it is to have nothing of eternal significance (See 1 Cor. 13:1–8).

    Although our acquiring other spiritual gifts is certainly less urgent than obtaining the cardinal gifts of faith, hope, and charity, we do well to prayerfully and patiently seek any gifts that stand to help us magnify our callings and serve the Lord more effectively.

    What can I do to help my child entering the Primary nursery have a positive experience?

    Shirley Call, Primary General Board, and member, Layton Second Ward, Layton Utah South Stake. When questions arise regarding Primary, the Primary General Presidency advises leaders to base their decisions on the question What is best for the children? As a parent preparing your child to enter the Primary nursery class, you can be guided by asking the same question.

    The nursery class is for children ages eighteen months through three years. In January following their third birthday, they enter the Sunbeam class.

    Nursery-age children have been to some Church meetings with their parents. Though the meetinghouse may be familiar to your child, the nursery itself may be entirely new.

    Since children can develop long-lasting attitudes and feelings about church while in the nursery class, it is important that parents ensure that the child’s first experience there is positive. The following ideas can help you prepare your child to come to the nursery class with happy anticipation.

    Before taking your child to the nursery, you may wish to visit the class without your child. Get acquainted with the teacher, the room, and the children’s activities. Then when you introduce your child to the class, the adjustment for your child will be easier because you will be able to give him or her your undivided attention. (The Nursery Manual, 1986, p. 25, has a parents’ checklist to be used in an orientation meeting with the nursery leader.)

    It is a good idea to explain to your child what he or she will be doing in the nursery. Be enthusiastic. Make the class sound fun and inviting. Tell your child the names of the teacher and some of the children. Though your child may be too young to understand all of what you say, he or she will likely understand enough to look forward to the class, especially if you begin talking about the nursery a few weeks before your child enters the class. If possible, take your child to the nursery room when it is vacant. This will help alleviate the fear of being in a new place.

    Children enjoy make-believe activities, and playing nursery at home is a good way to acquaint your child in advance with nursery procedures and activities.

    As the time draws near for your child to attend nursery class, you can increase his or her awareness of the approaching occasion each day by saying good things about the class. On the day before class, remind your child that nursery class is the next day. If you sense apprehension in your child, you will still have time to calm fears and create a feeling of excitement about the new experience.

    Avoid giving your child the impression that he or she will be left with a baby-sitter. The nursery class is nothing less than a child’s first structured gospel experience in church. Children who expect to learn about Heavenly Father and their world will respond differently than those who expect to be baby-sat. In the nursery class, teachers teach the gospel in ways the children can understand. Stories, music, and varied activities set the stage for meaningful interactions and friendships.

    Children feel more secure in the nursery if they know where to find their parents or another family member. It is also helpful to pick them up right after class, so they will not feel neglected or afraid when the other children leave and they are left behind with the teacher.

    If possible, plan your Sunday schedule to allow plenty of time for your child to nap if necessary, eat, dress, and make bathroom visits before going to the nursery. Resist letting your child take toys to class. It is usually difficult and frustrating for a child of nursery age to be asked to share a favorite toy with the other children.

    If your child does not want to stay in the nursery, it may be necessary to remain with him or her for a few minutes after class begins. However, when parents are not present, it is often easier for the nursery leader to help the child to adjust to the class.

    Keep in touch with the nursery leader so that you both will understand each other’s expectations regarding your child.

    It is helpful if young children talk with family members about their gospel learning experience. Each Sunday, set aside some time after church when your child can share with you what took place in the nursery that day. Did your child bring artwork home? Did he or she enjoy the activities and make new friends? What did your child learn about the gospel? Commend your child’s accomplishments, and continue to speak highly of the nursery experience.

    Whatever you do to help make nursery time a welcome, valuable experience will provide abundant rewards for your child.

    By what authority did Lehi, a non-Levite priest, offer sacrifices?

    Paul Y. Hoskisson, associate professor of ancient scripture, Brigham Young University. From the beginning of the world, God has sought to bless his children by bestowing on his worthy sons the Melchizedek Priesthood, “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God” (D&C 107:3; see also Alma 13:7). Scripture affirms that Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, and others held this priesthood (see D&C 84:14–16, 25; D&C 107:53; Moses 6:67).

    The Melchizedek Priesthood was to have continued among the descendants of Israel in order to bless the inhabitants of the earth. Through Moses, for example, God expressed to the children of Israel the desire to make of them a royal generation of priesthood holders (See Ex. 19:5–6). But because the children of Israel were disobedient in the days of Moses, the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood were withdrawn from them (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 3:83–85; see also Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979–81, 1:60).

    Thus, from the days of Moses until the coming of Christ in the meridian of time, the inhabitants of Israel were not generally given the Melchizedek Priesthood, and only the Levites held the Aaronic Priesthood and administered the obligations and duties of the law of Moses.

    The Lord, however, did not leave his people, the Israelites, without the guidance of Melchizedek Priesthood leadership. All the prophets held the higher priesthood, having been ordained by the hand of God (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 180–81). It was by right of this higher priesthood that the Old Testament prophets performed their labors in the name of the God of Israel and could officiate in the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, just as today bishops in the Church officiate in an Aaronic Priesthood office by right of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    About 600 B.C., Lehi was called as one of these prophets to preach repentance to the inhabitants of Israel, a people who generally did not hold the priesthood. When he left Jerusalem at God’s command, Lehi was aware that he and his family were forming a separate branch of the house of Israel (see 1 Ne. 15:12). Though the Book of Mormon does not explicitly state so, Lehi, like all other prophets in Old Testament times, held the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    For this reason, the Nephites, without having Levites among them, could rightfully officiate in the ordinances of the law of Moses. Thus, in Book of Mormon lands, the Nephites administered the ordinances and blessings of the law of Moses before the coming of Christ and the law of the gospel after the coming of Christ by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    Also, Nephi’s consecration of Jacob and Joseph to be priests and teachers was, as Joseph Fielding Smith explained, “a general assignment to teach, direct, and admonish the people,” not an ordination to specific offices in the Aaronic Priesthood (see Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957, 1:124–25).

    It seems clear, then, that before Jesus Christ visited the Nephites and organized the Church in its fulness, Lehi and later Nephite prophets and Church leaders presided in various religious capacities by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the Book of Mormon, this divine authority is referred to as “the holy order of God” (Alma 5:44; Alma 13:1; Alma 43:1–2; see also 2 Ne. 6:2).

    Although the Book of Mormon does not at first glance seem to place emphasis on Melchizedek Priesthood lines as we do today, yet it is from beginning to end the record kept by the holders and administrators of that priesthood among the Nephites. Moreover, the Book of Mormon is its own best illustration of the roles and responsibilities of Melchizedek Priesthood holders among the inhabitants of this earth. In it we find examples of righteous men and women who allowed the Melchizedek Priesthood to bless their lives. In the words of Alma, one of the great prophets and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders in the Book of Mormon, those who were ordained to the higher priesthood were to “teach [Christ’s] commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest” (Alma 13:6). Those who study the Book of Mormon and apply its teachings in their lives have a greater appreciation for the blessings and ordinances that can be received through the Melchizedek Priesthood.