Lesson 15: “Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts”

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 81–86


Purpose

To help class members identify gifts of the Spirit, seek to obtain them, and use them to serve others.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

  3. 3.

    Ask class members to prepare to read the following accounts from Our Heritage:

    1. a.

      Newel Knight administering to Philo Dibble (pages 42–43).

    2. b.

      Amanda Smith receiving revelation on how to treat her injured son (pages 47–48).

    3. c.

      The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesying of Dan Jones’s missionary service (page 63).

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Ask class members to imagine that they are planting a garden.

  • What seeds would you plant in your garden?

Give class members a moment to think, and then invite a few of them to describe what they would like to have in a garden. Call attention to differences in class members’ choices. Point out that while the gardens would be different, all of them could be beautiful and useful.

  • After planting seeds, what would you need to do to have a successful garden?

After class members have responded, explain that this lesson is about gifts of the Spirit. Remind class members that people may have different plants in their gardens yet still have equally beautiful and useful gardens. Similarly, members of the Church may receive different gifts of the Spirit, but all of these gifts are useful for building up the kingdom of God. And like seeds and plants, gifts of the Spirit must be cultivated and nourished to become fully developed and useful.

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson materials that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. All faithful members of the Church can receive gifts of the Spirit.

Explain that gifts of the Spirit are spiritual blessings or abilities that are given through the Holy Ghost. These gifts were taken from the earth during the Great Apostasy, but God restored them in the early days of this dispensation. The exercise of these gifts can bless, edify, and unify us.

Ask the assigned class members to read the accounts from Our Heritage (see “Preparation,” item 3). After each account is read, discuss which gifts of the Spirit are illustrated in the story: Newel Knight had the faith to heal (D&C 46:20); Philo Dibble and Alma Smith had the faith to be healed (D&C 46:19); Amanda Smith received revelation (Articles of Faith 1:7); the Prophet Joseph Smith had the gift of prophecy (D&C 46:22); and Dan Jones received the gift to teach (Moroni 10:9–10).

  • What gifts of the Spirit does the Lord identify in D&C 46? (Have class members read the following scriptures and identify the spiritual gift that is mentioned in each passage. Summarize these gifts on the chalkboard.)

    1. a.

      D&C 46:13. (Knowledge “given by the Holy Ghost … that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.”)

    2. b.

      D&C 46:14. (Belief in others’ testimonies of the Savior.)

    3. c.

      D&C 46:15. (Knowledge of “the differences of administration.”) Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve said that this gift is “used in administering and regulating the church” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 278).

    4. d.

      D&C 46:16. (Discernment “to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God.” This gift helps us discern whether a teaching or influence comes from God or from some other source.)

    5. e.

      D&C 46:17–18. (Wisdom and knowledge.)

    6. f.

      D&C 46:19. (Faith to be healed.)

    7. g.

      D&C 46:20. (Faith to heal.)

    8. h.

      D&C 46:21. (The working of miracles.)

    9. i.

      D&C 46:22. (Prophecy.)

    10. j.

      D&C 46:23. (Discerning of spirits.)

    11. k.

      D&C 46:24. (Speaking in tongues.)

    12. l.

      D&C 46:25. (Interpretation of tongues.)

    You may want to point out that gifts of the Spirit are also identified in 1 Corinthians 12:4–12; 1 Corinthians 13:1–13; and Moroni 10:8–18.

  • Who can receive gifts of the Spirit? (See D&C 46:8, 11. Point out that God gives at least one of these gifts to every faithful member of the Church who has received the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you are teaching youth, emphasize that they have spiritual gifts. You may also want to point out that people who have not received the gift of the Holy Ghost may still be blessed with unique abilities to lift and strengthen others.)

2. God gives gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of His children.

  • What are some purposes of the gifts of the Spirit, as revealed in D&C 46? (Use the following information to discuss or add to class members’ responses. Write the headings on the chalkboard as you discuss them.)

To strengthen and bless us individually

  • Read D&C 46:9 with class members. In what ways can the gifts of the Spirit help us individually? What gifts have been of special value to you? (You may want to invite class members to share experiences in which their spiritual gifts have strengthened and blessed them.)

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that gifts of the Spirit “can lead us to God. They can shield us from the power of the adversary. They can compensate for our inadequacies and repair our imperfections” (“Spiritual Gifts,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 72).

To help us serve others

Read D&C 46:11–12, 26 with class members. Then share the following statement:

Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “Spiritual gifts are distributed among the members of the Church, according to their faithfulness, circumstances, natural abilities, duties, and callings; that the whole may be properly instructed, confirmed, perfected, and saved” (Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. N. B. Lundwall [1953], 571).

  • How has a particular spiritual gift helped you serve others? How have you been blessed through the spiritual gifts of others?

    As part of this discussion, you may want to share the following story:

    “As we were busily preparing for a Christmas dinner, my teenaged sister excitedly reached into the cupboard for the silver-rimmed china. The lovely … set had been Grandmother’s wedding present to Mom and Dad and was used only on special occasions. But as my sister removed some of the precious plates from the cupboard, she bumped her arm and the china slipped from her hands. Her desperate attempts to recover the plates were in vain, and the crash of china shattering on the floor was as heartbreaking as the look of helpless horror on her face.

    “Mother’s meal-preparing hands stopped in midair, and the festive chatter of a bustling household ceased as we all stood frozen in awful silence. Without turning around to see the damage, Mother quietly slipped out of the room. Then … the rest of us tried to resume the tempo of our holiday duties.

    “Except my sister. She stood motionless, a big tear trickling down her cheek. As another tear fell, she mechanically found the broom and dustpan and began sweeping up the scattered chips. Then on her knees, she slowly picked up the larger pieces and carefully placed them in the dustpan.

    “Within a few minutes Mother returned to the kitchen and wrapped her arms around her grieving daughter. My sister began to sob out loud. … Quietly [Mother] soothed, ‘That’s all right, honey; people are more important than things.’

    “Mother later told me that she had gone into the other room to pray and was blessed with a peaceful feeling and the inspiration of how to comfort my sister. The gift of spiritual perspective given to my mother that Christmas day became the most priceless gift our family received” (Laura Russell Bunker, “The Art of Perspective,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 54–55).

You may want to discuss which gifts of the Spirit would be helpful in the following situations. Have class members again refer to D&C 46:13–25.

  1. a.

    A home teacher is called to the home of one of his families to give a priesthood blessing.

  2. b.

    A missionary presides over a small branch of Church members.

  3. c.

    A young woman is assigned to teach a lesson to her class.

  4. d.

    An Aaronic Priesthood adviser is responsible for a group of deacons on an overnight camping trip that encounters difficulty.

  5. e.

    A Relief Society president assigns visiting teachers to the sisters in her ward or branch.

To help us avoid being deceived

  • Read D&C 46:8 with class members. How can gifts of the Spirit help us avoid evil influences or deception?

3. We should seek and cultivate gifts of the Spirit.

The Lord has told us, “Seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given” (D&C 46:8).

  • What can we do to discover the spiritual gifts that God has given us? (Answers could include that we can ponder, pray, fast, read our patriarchal blessings, obey the commandments, and serve others. See also the following quotation.) What can we do to cultivate and develop the spiritual gifts we have been given?

    The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that many gifts of the Spirit, such as wisdom or the gift to heal, are not evident until they are needed. He said that “it would require time and circumstances to call these gifts into operation” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 246).

  • What can we do to seek gifts of the Spirit? (Have class members read the following scriptures and identify what they teach about seeking gifts of the Spirit. Summarize the information on the chalkboard.)

    1. a.

      D&C 46:7, 30. (Ask of God and follow the Spirit’s guidance; see also the following statement by President George Q. Cannon.)

    2. b.

      D&C 46:9. (Seek gifts for the benefit of others, not for selfish reasons.)

    3. c.

      D&C 46:31. (Do all things in the name of Christ.)

    4. d.

      D&C 46:32. (Thank God for the gifts He has given us.)

    5. e.

      D&C 46:33. (Practice virtue and holiness continually.)

    President George Q. Cannon taught: “If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Am I an envious man? It is my duty to seek for charity, which envieth not. So with all the gifts of the Gospel. They are intended for this purpose. 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” (Millennial Star, 23 Apr. 1894, 260).

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained how his mother applied the principle of seeking gifts of the Spirit: “Having lost her husband, my widowed mother was incomplete. How she prayed for what she needed to fulfill her responsibility to raise her three small children! She was seeking, she was worthy, and she was blessed! Her prayers were answered in many ways, including the receipt of spiritual gifts. She had many, but the ones that stand out in my memory are the gifts of faith, testimony, and wisdom. She was a mighty woman in Zion” (Ensign, Sept. 1986, 72).

Conclusion

Encourage class members to seek gifts of the Spirit and to use the gifts they have been given to serve others. As prompted by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.

Additional Teaching Ideas

You may want to use one or more of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.

1. Using spiritual gifts to serve others

If the following pictures are available, bring some or all of them to class: Young Girl Speaking at Church (Gospel Art Picture Kit 607); The Bishop (Gospel Art Picture Kit 611); Missionaries Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Gospel Art Picture Kit 612); Administering to the Sick (Gospel Art Picture Kit 613); Home Teaching (Gospel Art Picture Kit 614); and Serving One Another (Gospel Art Picture Kit 615). Display the pictures one at a time, and ask class members to explain how the situation in each picture shows the need for gifts of the Spirit.

Invite class members to think about their responsibilities. For example, they might consider their responsibilities as parents, brothers and sisters, priesthood or auxiliary leaders, or home teachers and visiting teachers. Then ask them to silently ponder the following question: Which gifts of the Spirit might you seek to enable you to better serve others?

2. Additional spiritual gifts

  • Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Spiritual gifts are endless in number and infinite in variety. Those listed in the revealed word are simply illustrations” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 371). What might be some spiritual gifts in addition to those that are listed in D&C 46?

    Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve said some “less-conspicuous gifts” include “the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; … the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; … 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 23; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 20).

3. Discerning true gifts of the Spirit

Explain that Satan can try to deceive people with counterfeit spiritual gifts. Concerned about some false manifestations of these gifts among Church members, the Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord and received a revelation that is now recorded as D&C 50.

To help class members discern between true and false spiritual gifts, you may want to review D&C 50:17–24. Emphasize that if a gift is of God, it will be edifying and cause us to rejoice. It will lead us to do good, to love and serve God, and to believe in Christ. If a spiritual manifestation does not edify, or if it leads us to sin, it is not of God. The subject of avoiding deception and evil influences will be discussed in greater detail in lesson 24.

4. Teaching by the Spirit

  • Explain that gospel teaching is a gift of the Spirit (Moroni 10:9–10). Then read D&C 42:13–14 and D&C 50:17–18 with class members. What does it mean to teach by the Spirit? Why is it important to teach by the Spirit? (See 2 Nephi 33:1; D&C 50:21–22; and the following quotation.)

    The Church Handbook of Instructions states: “A person may teach profound truths, and class members may engage in stimulating discussions, but unless the Spirit is present, these things will not be powerfully impressed upon the soul” (Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 300).

  • What can teachers do to invite the Spirit when they teach? (See page viii in this manual.) What can those who are being taught do to invite the Spirit?

  • Read D&C 43:8 and D&C 88:122 with class members. How can these verses apply to our Sunday School class? (Emphasize the importance of instructing and edifying each other.) How have you seen that teaching and learning by the Spirit help us edify each other and rejoice together?

5. “A Man without Eloquence” video presentation

If the videocassette Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History (53933) is available, consider showing “A Man without Eloquence,” a six-minute segment. If you decide to show it, do so during the second or third section of the lesson.

Explain that the presentation is a portrayal of how a humble teacher helped Brigham Young become converted to the restored gospel. It begins with an excerpt from a conference address that President Young gave, in which he asked, “What is it that convinces man?” (in Journal of Discourses, 1:90). Encourage class members to look for the answer to that question as they watch the presentation. Afterward, ask the following questions:

  • What convinces people of the truthfulness of the gospel?

  • What can we do to follow Eleazer Miller’s example as we teach the gospel?