Not long ago at a stake conference I was assigned to attend, I asked the stake president what challenges the members were experiencing. He responded that many members were focused on diversions such as extravagant homes, expensive clothing, cars, boats, vacation cabins, and countless activities. He explained that many of these activities were held on Monday nights, taking family members out of the home.
To maintain this lifestyle, oftentimes both the husband and the wife had to work—in some cases two jobs. This made it difficult for these members to hold regular family home evenings, family prayer, and scripture study, and in some cases even to attend Sunday meetings. There was little time, if any, to seek those things which “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt” (Matt. 6:20).
The Apostle Paul teaches the importance of seeking the best gifts:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts … I would not have you ignorant.
“Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. …
“But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:1–2, 31).
I have reflected on the stake president’s comments and share his concerns for the increasing number of Church members who focus their attention on “that which is of no worth [and] cannot satisfy” (2 Ne. 9:51). Satan is very astute, and he has cunning ways to divert our attention from that which is of greatest worth. The Lord warns, “Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you” (D&C 50:3).
The prophet David O. McKay (1873–1970) quoted Charles Jefferson, who wrote: “The only thing which places a man above the beasts of the field is his possession of the spiritual gifts. … Man’s earthly existence is but a test as to whether he will concentrate his efforts, his mind, and his soul upon the things which contribute to the comfort and gratification of his physical instincts and passions, or whether he will make as his life’s end and purpose the acquisition of spiritual qualities.”1
As members of the Church, we are commanded to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10)—or, said another way, to “seek … earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8). Let us consider these important questions: What are the “best gifts,” and why should we seek them? How can we obtain them? And how do we discern between true and false spiritual gifts?
The scriptures and modern-day prophets teach that there are many spiritual gifts (see Moro. 10:8; D&C 46:13–26). Their purpose, among other things, is to give us strength, lead us to do good, help us resist temptation, encourage and edify us, increase our wisdom, help us judge righteously, and help us qualify for eternal life.
Think about the impact on this world if everyone would seek the sacred gift “given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world” (D&C 46:13). Or what if everyone sought the gift of forgiving?
Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1915–94) pointed out some less conspicuous but very important gifts: “the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; the gift of avoiding vain repetition; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.”2
The Savior commanded us to become perfect (see 3 Ne. 12:48). Although none of us will obtain perfection in this life, Heavenly Father will inspire us, as we ponder and pray, to seek those gifts that will best help us perfect ourselves. President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901) stated: “If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. … No man ought to say, ‘Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.’ He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them.”3
We are taught that in order to receive any spiritual gift, we must be worthy of it. The Lord has said that spiritual gifts “are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me” (D&C 46:9).
When we seek to obtain a spiritual gift, we can study the examples and teachings of the Savior that pertain to that particular gift and then try to incorporate those teachings into our life. For example, let’s suppose we are seeking the gift of charity. We could study Moroni 7:45, where we would find that there are 13 separate qualities we will need to seek as part of the process of obtaining charity. Kindness is one of the first that is mentioned.
What can we learn from the Savior’s teachings about kindness? In Matthew 25 He states:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. …
“… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:35–36, 40).
As we continually strive to be kind, kindness will begin to become a part of our lives, and the Lord can then choose to grant that which we are worthy of and prepared to receive.
To receive a gift we must “practise virtue and holiness before” the Lord continually (D&C 38:24), and we “must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth” (D&C 50:40). We must “ask of God, who giveth liberally; … in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly … , doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving” (D&C 46:7). When we ask for a gift, our will must be aligned with God’s will (see D&C 46:30).
Prophets of old, as well as modern-day prophets, have warned us of false gifts, spirits, and the deceptions of Satan that abound in the world. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught: “There are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. … Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you. … Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness” (D&C 50:2–3, 9).
The Savior taught that in the last days there would be many unholy and unrighteous people who would seek to deceive, using false gifts. He warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (3 Ne. 14:15; see also Matt. 7:15). He taught us how to know which gifts are of God and which are of the adversary: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (3 Ne. 14:16; see also Matt. 7:16). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22–23).
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God. That which tears us down, which leads us into forbidden paths—that is of the adversary. … How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit? You put it to that test. If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … If you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.”4 How comforting it is to have a living prophet.
The bounds of the adversary are set. If we are striving to keep the commandments and to abide by the covenants we have made with the Lord, the adversary will not frustrate our progress.5 As the Doctrine and Covenants tells us, “Hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass” (D&C 122:9).
May we seek the best gifts so that we are not deceived. And may we always be worthy to receive the many gifts Heavenly Father has in store for us.
Write the name of each spiritual gift mentioned in this article on a small, separate slip of paper. Invite family members to choose a paper and tell how they have noticed that gift in family members or others. Discuss how your family could obtain more of these gifts (see section 3 of the article).
Use the questions at the top of the sections of the article to lead a discussion on spiritual gifts. As a family, choose a gift that you could work to obtain more fully. Set a future date to review your family’s progress.