The purpose of this lesson is to motivate us to improve our talents and to inspire our family members to do likewise.
Heavenly Father has given each of us talents, and He wants us to use them. In a parable recorded in Matthew, the Lord told of a man who was about to leave on a long trip. Before leaving he called his servants together and entrusted his goods to them. To one servant he gave five talents (in this parable, talents means money); to another, two; and to another, one. To each man he gave talents according to his ability.
While the master was away, the servant with five talents put them to use and made five more talents. The servant with two talents put them to use and made two more. But the servant with one talent hid it in the ground.
Later the master returned and asked his servants to account for their talents. To the servants who had doubled their talents he said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). But the master called the servant who hid his talent “wicked and slothful.” He said that he would take the talent from him and give it to the servant with 10 talents. (See Matthew 25:14–30.)
The Lord told this parable to teach the importance of using our abilities, or talents, wisely. More was expected from the man given many talents than from the man with fewer talents, yet all were expected to increase the talents they were given. Even the man with one talent was expected to use it wisely.
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 100).
Each of us is blessed with talents from God. The talents we have been given may be personal, artistic, or creative. We should use these gifts to serve others and to bring joy to our lives.
Display a poster of the following list, or refer to the information on the chalkboard. Invite class members to identify and ponder their own talents (the talents do not have to be listed here).
Artistic and Creative Talents
Working with ceramics
Having a sense of humor
Being a good listener
Inspiring confidence in others
Having a strong testimony
Being active in the Church
Supporting Church leaders
Playing a musical instrument
Seeing good in others
The Lord told Joseph Smith:
“For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
“To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:11–12).
This scripture refers to spiritual gifts the Lord has given us. It says that we all have been given talents to help others and to improve ourselves. One Church member explained:
“Our greatest possibility for expansion and development comes in the area of our talents, our virtues, and our abilities. …
“If you desire a strong back, all you need to do is carry a great load. By this same procedure, we may expand the abundance of our own abilities to almost any dimension” (Sterling W. Sill, “A Hundred-Hundred Marriage,” Ensign, Mar. 1971, 34–35).
The Apostle Paul told his young friend Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Timothy 4:14). We should also follow Paul’s advice, but if we are to develop our gifts, we must first discover what they are.
To discover our talents, we should first pray to Heavenly Father, asking for His guidance in recognizing them.
Second, we should receive a patriarchal blessing (see Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 10, “Patriarchs and Patriarchal Blessings”). Special gifts are often revealed in these blessings. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “It is our great hope that every person … will be given the opportunity of having a patriarchal blessing” (Church News, 8 Oct. 1977, 3). Although patriarchs function only in organized stakes, a worthy member in a developing area of the Church may receive a patriarchal blessing from the patriarch in the nearest stake.
Third, other people can help us recognize our talents. The following story, told by Elder Franklin D. Richards, shows how President Spencer W. Kimball helped a man recognize one of his talents:
“A few years ago President Kimball and I were in Cusco, Peru, on a Sunday and attended the branch Sunday School. A young missionary from North America was playing the piano. After the service President Kimball asked if any of the local members could play the piano. The branch president told him that one of his counselors could play two hymns. President Kimball then asked that the man play the two hymns for sacrament meeting and he did so. Afterwards President Kimball suggested that he continue to develop his musical talent and play the piano for all Church services” (in Conference Report, São Paulo Area Conference 1975, 24).
The man in this story probably had never recognized his talent. It took someone to point out his talent to him before he started to develop it.
A fourth way we can recognize our talents is through Church service. As we seek the Lord’s help in our callings, He will help us discover the talents we need to fulfill our responsibilities. Elder Franklin D. Richards said: “Frequently persons asked to accept a position in the Church are prone to say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I haven’t as much experience or education as someone else that may have been serving.’ But with faith, study, work, and prayer, the Lord will make it possible for us to accomplish things that seem impossible” (in Conference Report, São Paulo Area Conference 1975, 23).
What else might help us discover our talents?
Once we have discovered our talents, it is our duty to develop and use them. Doing this may require much work and practice. Sometimes we look at others’ talents and think they came to them with very little effort. We do not realize that often people have put much effort into developing their talents.
One man who worked hard at developing his talents was President Heber J. Grant. Explaining how he developed them, he said:
“I could not throw the ball from one base to another; … I lacked strength to run or bat well. When I picked up a ball, the boys would generally shout, ‘Throw it here, sissy!’ So much fun was engendered on my account … that I solemnly vowed that I would play base ball [on the team] that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah. …
“I saved a dollar, which I invested in a base ball. I spent hours and hours throwing the ball at [Bishop Edwin D. Woolley’s] barn. … Often my arm would ache so that I could scarcely go to sleep at night. But I kept on practicing, and finally succeeded in getting into the second [team] of our club. Subsequently, I joined a better club, and eventually played [on the first team] that won the championship of the Territory. Having thus made good my promise to myself, I retired from the base ball arena” (“Work, and Keep Your Promises,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1900, 196–97).
President Grant also worked at his talent in penmanship. He “resolved that some day he would be a bookkeeper in the Wells Fargo and Company’s bank.” A good bookkeeper had to write well, so he started working to become a penman. One author wrote: “At the beginning his penmanship was so poor that when two of his [friends] were looking at it one said to the other, ‘That writing looks like hen tracks.’ ‘No,’ said the other, ‘it looks as if lightning had struck an ink bottle.’ This touched Heber’s pride and, bringing his fist down on his desk, he said, ‘I’ll some day be able to give you fellows lessons in penmanship’; and he was” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader , 39–40).
President Grant himself was fond of saying, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1901, 63).
Developing our talents may also require us to overcome the fear of using them. The Lord said: “With some I am not well pleased, for … they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. … And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have” (D&C 60:2–3).
Overcoming our fear is never easy to do, but the Lord has given us some counsel that can help: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). If we are prepared, we usually feel confident that we can do what we have prepared ourselves to do. Such confidence overcomes fear.
Preparation results from study and practice. We are counseled to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). If our desire is strong, weak talents can be strengthened by study, practice, and training.
If we fail to develop the talents the Lord has given us, they will be taken from us. One Church member explained: “The Lord grants us our [talents and abilities] on a kind of lend-lease basis where he takes back everything that is not used. These are terms similar to those under which he gave manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness. Each day an abundance of manna covered the ground and the people gathered as much as they desired, but that which was not used spoiled. So it is with our abilities. Most of us never get strong backs or have great minds because the burdens we have given them to bear have never been heavy enough. All of our potential that is not used is lost” (Sterling W. Sill, Ensign, Mar. 1971, 35).
Ask the assigned class member to tell how he recognized and developed one of his talents.
Show visual 19-a, “Parents should nourish their children’s talents.”
We should help our family members recognize and develop their talents and teach them to use their talents to serve the Lord.
Following are ways we can help family members develop their talents:
Display a poster of the following list, or refer to the information on the chalkboard:
Show visual 2-c, “Priesthood blessings are available to all family members,” or 12-a, “Father’s blessings can strengthen family members.”
Fathers can give family members blessings to help them gain the desire and ability to develop their talents. If an individual cannot receive a father’s blessing, he or she may receive a priesthood blessing for the same purpose from a home teacher or other priesthood leader.
We must teach and show by our example that it is good to develop talents. We should also praise our family members when they achieve and comfort them when they fail. We should never criticize them.
Outline with family members an active program of talent development, and then schedule time for them to practice and demonstrate these talents. A good time for them to demonstrate their talents is during family home evenings.
If in our family prayers we ask the Lord to help family members develop and use their talents, they will be inspired to pray for these blessings also.
God has granted talents to each of us. In appreciation and by commandment, we must discover and develop them, remembering this counsel as we do so: “Seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do” (D&C 46:8–9).
Establish a good family attitude about developing and using talents. Outline a plan to develop one of your talents. If you are a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, give each family member a blessing to help him or her discover personal talents. Then help family members select one or two talents they would like to develop. Encourage them to pray for strength, courage, and inspiration in developing their talents.
Before presenting this lesson:
Read Gospel Principles chapter 34, “Developing Our Talents.”
Ask a class member to be prepared to share how he recognized and developed one of his talents.
Prepare the posters suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.