Chapter 34: Strengthening the Saints through the Gifts of the Spirit

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 251–59


As a young man, Brigham Young earnestly sought a religion in which all the gifts of the gospel were manifest as recorded in the New Testament. Before his baptism he received a powerful testimony of the Church when the Holy Ghost illuminated his understanding (see DNW, 9 Feb. 1854, 4). During his first meeting with Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Brigham Young was blessed with the gift of tongues (see MHBY-1, 4–5). Although that was a rare occasion in his life, he always rejoiced in the diversity of spiritual gifts poured out on him and the Latter-day Saints. “If we have the religion of the Savior we are entitled to the blessings precisely as they were anciently. Not that all had visions, not that all had dreams, not that all had the gift of tongues or the interpretation of tongues, but every man received according to his capacity and the blessing of the Giver” (DNW, 27 Feb. 1856, 3).

Teachings of Brigham Young

The Lord gives gifts of the Spirit to strengthen and bless us, our families, and the Church.

The gifts of the Gospel are given to strengthen the faith of the believer (DBY, 161).

We are asked if signs follow the believer in our day as in days of old. We answer they do. The blind see, the lame leap, the deaf hear, the gift of prophecy is manifest, also the gift of healing, the gift of revelation, the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Jesus said that these signs should follow them that believe [see Mark 16:17]. His Church and Kingdom always have these signs which follow the believer in all ages when the true Church is in existence (DNSW, 19 May 1868, 1).

I have already said that Christ set in his Church Apostles and Prophets; he also set in his Church evangelists, pastors and teachers; also the gifts of the Spirit, such as diverse tongues, healing the sick, discernment of spirits, and various other gifts. Now, I would ask the whole world, who has received revelation that the Lord has discontinued these offices and gifts in his Church? I have not. I have had revelation that they should be in the Church, and that there is no [true] Church without them (DBY, 136).

Suppose you obey the ordinances of the Gospel, and do not speak in tongues today, never mind that. Suppose you do not have the spirit of prophecy, no matter. Suppose you do not receive any particular gift attended by the rushing of a mighty wind, as on the day of Pentecost, there is not particular necessity that you should. On the day of Pentecost there was special need for it, it was a peculiarly trying time. Some special and powerful manifestation of the power of the Almighty was necessary to open the eyes of the people and let them know that Jesus has paid the debt, and they had actually crucified him who, by his death, had become the Savior of the world. It required this at that time to convince the people (DBY, 161–62).

Faith. When you believe the principles of the Gospel and attain unto faith, which is a gift of God, he adds more faith, adding faith to faith. He bestows faith upon his creatures as a gift; but his creatures inherently possess the privilege of believing the gospel to be true or false (DBY, 154).

The Gift of Healing. I am here to testify to hundreds of instances of men, women, and children being healed by the power of God, through the laying on of hands, and many I have seen raised from the gates of death, and brought back from the verge of eternity; and some whose spirits had actually left their bodies, returned again. I testify that I have seen the sick healed by the laying on of hands, according to the promise of the Savior (DBY, 162).

When I lay hands on the sick, I expect the healing power and influence of God to pass through me to the patient, and the disease to give way. I do not say that I heal everybody I lay hands on; but many have been healed under my administration (DBY, 162).

When we are prepared, when we are holy vessels before the Lord, a stream of power from the Almighty can pass through the tabernacle of the administrator to the system of the patient, and the sick are made whole; the headache, fever or other disease has to give way (DBY, 162).

I am sent for continually, though I only go occasionally, because it is a privilege of every father, who is an Elder in Israel, to have faith to heal his family, just as much so as it is my privilege to have faith to heal my family; and if he does not do it he is not living up to his privilege. It is just as reasonable for him to ask me to cut his wood and maintain his family, for if he had faith himself he would save me the trouble of leaving other duties to attend to his request (DBY, 163).

If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and to ask my Father in Heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, to sanctify that application to the healing of my body (DBY, 163).

But suppose we were traveling in the mountains, … and one or two were taken sick, without anything in the world in the shape of healing medicine within our reach, what should we do? According to my faith, ask the Lord Almighty to … heal the sick. This is our privilege, when so situated that we cannot get anything to help ourselves. Then the Lord and his servants can do all. But it is my duty to do, when I have it in my power (DBY, 163).

We lay hands on the sick and wish them to be healed, and pray the Lord to heal them, but we cannot always say that he will (DBY, 162).

Prophecy, Revelation, and Knowledge. Every man and woman may be a revelator, and have the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy, and foresee the mind and will of God concerning them, eschew evil, and choose that which is good (DBY, 131).

My knowledge is, if you will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, every man and woman will be put in possession of the Holy Ghost. … They will know things that are, that will be, and that have been. They will understand things in heaven, things on the earth, and things under the earth, things of time, and things of eternity, according to their several callings and capacities [see D&C 88:78–79] (DBY, 161).

Seek diligently to know the will of God. How can you know it? In matters pertaining to yourselves as individuals, you can obtain it directly from the Lord; but in matters pertaining to public affairs [of the Church], his will is ascertained through the proper channel, and may be known by the general counsel that is given you from the proper source (DBY, 136).

If the Lord Almighty should reveal to a High Priest, or to any other than the head, things that are true, or that have been and will be, and show to him the destiny of this people twenty-five years from now, or a new doctrine that will in five, ten, or twenty years hence become the doctrine of this Church and Kingdom, but which has not yet been revealed to this people, and reveal it to him by the same Spirit, the same messenger, the same voice, the same power that gave revelations to Joseph when he was living, it would be a blessing to that High Priest, or individual; but he must rarely divulge it to a second person on the face of the earth, until God reveals it through the proper source to become the property of the people at large. Therefore when you hear Elders say that God does not reveal through the President of the Church that which they know, and tell wonderful things, you may generally set it down as a God’s truth that the revelation they have had is from the Devil, and not from God. If they had received from the proper source, the same power that revealed to them would have shown them that they must keep the things revealed in their own bosoms, and they seldom would have a desire to disclose them to the second person (DBY, 338).

Other Gifts. The gift of seeing with the natural eyes is just as much a gift as the gift of tongues. The Lord gave that gift and we can do as we please with regard to seeing; we can use the sight of the eye to the glory of God, or to our own destruction.

The gift of communicating one with another is the gift of God, just as much so as the gift of prophecy, of discerning spirits, of tongues, of healing, or any other gift, though sight, taste, and speech, are so generally bestowed that they are not considered in the same miraculous light as are those gifts mentioned in the Gospel.

We can use these gifts, and every other gift God has given us, to the praise and glory of God, to serve Him, or we can use them to dishonor Him and His cause. … These principles are correct in regard to the gifts which we receive for the express purpose of using them, in order that we may endure and be exalted, and that the organization we have received shall not come to an end, but endure to all eternity.

By a close application of the gifts bestowed upon us, we can secure to ourselves the resurrection of these bodies that we now possess, that our spirits inhabit, and when they are resurrected they will be made pure and holy; then they will endure to all eternity (DNW, 27 Aug. 1956, 2).

pioneers collecting quail

Camps of poor people were established across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo in 1847, as shown in this painting. The poor were saved when the Lord caused quail to fall from the sky to feed them.

Miracles strengthen and confirm the faith of those who love and serve God.

Miracles, or these extraordinary manifestations of the power of God, are not for the unbeliever; they are to console the Saints, and to strengthen and confirm the faith of those who love, fear, and serve God, and not for outsiders (DBY, 341).

You have gathered the idea from me that it is not the miracles that are performed before a person’s eyes that convince him that one is of God, or of the Devil; yet, if the Lord designs that a person should heal the sick, the individual can do so; but is that to convince the wicked that the operator is sent of God? No, it is a blessing on the Saints, and the wicked have nothing to do with it, they have no business to hear of it; that is for the Saints, it is especially for their benefit, and theirs alone (DBY, 340).

The Gospel plan is so devised, that a miracle to make people believe would only be a condemnation to them. When you hear people tell what they have seen—that they have seen great and powerful miracles wrought, and they could not help believing, remember that “devils believe and tremble,” because they cannot help it [see James 2:19]. When the voice of the Good Shepherd is heard, the honest in heart believe and receive it. It is good to taste with the inward taste, to see with the inward eyes, and to enjoy with the sensations of the ever-living spirit. No person, unless he is an adulterer [see Matthew 12:39], a fornicator, covetous, or an idolator, will ever require [demand] a miracle; in other words, no good, honest person ever will (DBY, 340).

Men who have professedly seen the most, known and understood the most, in this Church, and who have testified in the presence of large congregations, in the name of Israel’s God, that they have seen Jesus, etc, have been the very men who have left this Kingdom, before others who had to live by faith [see Alma 32:21] (DBY, 342).

The providences of God are all a miracle to the human family until they understand them. There are no miracles, only to those who are ignorant. A miracle is supposed to be a result without a cause, but there is no such thing. There is a cause for every result we see; and if we see a result without understanding the cause we call it a miracle (DBY, 339).

It is natural for me to believe that, if I plough the ground and sow wheat, in the proper season I shall reap a crop of wheat; this is the natural result. It was precisely so with the miracles that Jesus wrought upon the earth. At the wedding in Cana of Galilee [see John 2:1–11], when they had drunk all the wine, they went to the Savior and asked him what they should do. He ordered them to fill up their pots with water, and after having done so they drew forth of that water and found that it was wine. I believe that was real wine; I do not believe that it was done on the principle that such things are done in these days by wicked men, who, by means of what they term psychology, electro-biology, mesmerism, etc, influence men and make them believe that water is wine, and other things of a similar character. The Savior converted the water into wine. He knew how to call the necessary elements together in order to fill the water with the properties of wine. The elements are all around us; we eat, drink and breathe them, and Jesus, understanding the process of calling them together, performed no miracle except to those who were ignorant of that process. It was the same with the woman who was healed by touching the hem of his garment [see Matthew 9:20–22]; she was healed by faith, but it was no miracle to Jesus. He understood the process, and although he was pressed by the crowd, behind and before, and on each side, so that he could scarcely make his way through it, the moment she touched him he felt virtue leave him and enquired who touched him. This was no miracle to him. He had the issues of life and death in his power; he had power to lay down his life and power to take it up again [see John 10:17–18]. This is what he says, and we must believe this if we believe the history of the Savior and the sayings of the Apostles recorded in the New Testament. Jesus had this power in and of himself; the Father bequeathed it to him; it was his legacy, and he had the power to lay down his life and take it again. He had the streams and issues of life within him and when he said “Live” to individuals, they lived (DBY, 340–41).

If we have faith to feel that the issues of life and death are in our power, we can say to disease, “Be ye rebuked in the name of Jesus, and let life and health come into the system of this individual from God, to counteract this disease”; and our faith will bring this by the laying on of hands by administering the ordinance of the holy Gospel (DBY, 342).

The Holy Ghost unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to those who seek the best gifts and keep the commandments.

What is a mystery? We do not know, it is beyond our comprehension. When we talk about mystery, we talk about eternal obscurity; for that which is known, ceases to be a mystery; and all that is known, we may know as we progress in the scale of our intelligence. That which is eternally beyond the comprehension of all our intelligence is mystery (DBY, 338–39).

If we were to examine the subject closely, we should learn that a very scanty portion of the things of the Kingdom were ever revealed, even to the disciples. If we were prepared to gaze upon the mysteries of the Kingdom, as they are with God, we should then know that only a very small portion of them has been handed out here and there. God, by his Spirit, has revealed many things to his people, but, in almost all cases, he has straightway shut up the vision of the mind. He will let his servants gaze upon eternal things for a moment, but straightway the vision is closed and they are left as they were, that they may learn to act by faith, or as the Apostle has it, not walking by sight, but by faith [see 2 Corinthians 5:7] (DBY, 339).

Just as fast as you will prove before your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to call them so, of the Kingdom of heaven—that you are full of confidence in God—that you will never betray a thing that God tells you—that you will never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, as quick as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity of them to bestow upon you [see Alma 26:22] (DBY, 93).

Now, brethren, preach the things that we verily believe, and when we come to points of doctrine that we do not know, even if we have good reason to believe them, [even] if our philosophy teaches us they are true, pass them by and teach only to the people that which we do know (DBY, 338).

If they will only live up to it, there has already been enough taught the brethren who have lived here for years to prepare them to enter into the strait gate and into New Jerusalem, and be prepared to enjoy the society of the holy angels (DBY, 339).

These are the mysteries of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, to know how to purify and sanctify our affections, the earth upon which we stand, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the houses in which we dwell and the cities which we build, that when strangers come into our country they may feel a hallowed influence and acknowledge a power to which they are strangers (DBY, 339).

If you say that you want mysteries, commandments, and revelations, I reply that scarcely a Sabbath passes over your heads, those of you who come here, without your having the revelations of Jesus Christ poured upon you like water on the ground (DBY, 343).

Suggestions for Study

The Lord gives gifts of the Spirit to strengthen and bless us, our families, and the Church.

  • What are the gifts of the Spirit? Why is it important that they be available in the restored Church of Jesus Christ? (See also 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; D&C 46:10–26.)

  • How can we know when the gifts of the Spirit are being manifest in our lives? How can we use them to bless others?

  • Who is responsible for the discernment of spiritual gifts and their use in the Church? (See also D&C 46:27; 107:18.) How does the use of spiritual gifts in a Church calling differ from use of those gifts in a personal or family setting?

Miracles strengthen and confirm the faith of those who love and serve God.

  • What are miracles? What is their purpose?

  • What does it mean to hear “the voice of the Good Shepherd” and to “enjoy with the sensations of the ever-living spirit”? How can miracles confirm our faith and testimonies? Why are the whisperings of the Spirit more convincing than spectacular displays of power? How can we be more attentive to all the miracles in our lives? (See also 2 Nephi 27:23; Ether 12:12.)

The Holy Ghost unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to those who seek the best gifts and keep the commandments.

  • According to President Young, why does God reveal “a very scanty portion of the things of the Kingdom”? (See also D&C 78:17–18.)

  • How can we prove ourselves “worthy to receive the mysteries”? (See also D&C 76:5–10.)

  • According to President Young, what are the mysteries of the kingdom of God? (See also D&C 84:19–22.) How could a mystery to one person be a plain, simple truth to another? Why is it sometimes tempting to speculate about that which we do not know?

  • President Young said, “Scarcely a Sabbath passes over your heads … without your having the revelations of Jesus Christ poured upon you like water on the ground.” How can we prepare ourselves to receive those revelations as we receive the sacrament and keep the Sabbath day holy?