Chapter 7: Recognizing and Developing Talents and Abilities

The Gospel and the Productive Life Student Manual Religion 150, (2004), 45–51


Introduction

The Lord encourages us to develop our talents and abilities. This often requires patience, self-discipline, and diligent effort. As we progress, we realize more fully our potential and become better at helping others.

Man standing in front of cars

Principles to Understand

  • Because of our development in the premortal life, each of us comes to earth with a unique combination of talents and abilities.

  • When we rely on the Spirit, the Lord will help us recognize and develop our talents and abilities.

  • The Lord will help us overcome our doubts and fears as we seek His help to develop our talents and abilities.

  • Developing talents and abilities requires individual work.

Supporting Scriptures and Statements

Because of our development in the premortal life, each of us comes to earth with a unique combination of talents and abilities.

  • “And this is the manner after which they were ordained-being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such” (Alma 13:3).

    Preexistence
  • “I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.

    “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men” (D&C 138:55–56).

  • Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

    “All the spirits of men, while yet in the Eternal Presence, developed aptitudes, talents, capacities, and abilities of every sort, kind, and degree. During the long expanse of life which then was, an infinite variety of talents and abilities came into being. As the ages rolled, no two spirits remained alike. Mozart became a musician; Einstein centered his interest in mathematics; Michelangelo turned his attention to painting. … Abraham and Moses and all of the prophets sought and obtained the talent for spirituality. …

    “… When we pass from preexistence to mortality, we bring with us the traits and talents there developed. True, we forget what went before because we are here being tested, but the capacities and abilities that then were ours are yet resident within us. Mozart is still a musician; Einstein retains his mathematical abilities; Michelangelo his artistic talent; Abraham, Moses, and the prophets their spiritual talents and abilities. … And all men with their infinitely varied talents and personalities pick up the course of progression where they left it off when they left the heavenly realms” (The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 1:23, 25).

  • Elder Bruce R. McConkie, then of the Seventy: “In this prior life, this premortal existence, this preexistence, we developed various capacities and talents. Some developed them in one field and some in another. The most important of all fields was the field of spirituality-the ability, the talent, the capacity to recognize truth” (Making Our Calling and Election Sure, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Mar. 25, 1969], 5–6).

  • Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. … Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual” (The Way to Perfection [1970], 50–51).

  • Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “In the premortal world we were taught the Father’s plan of redemption and enjoyed moral agency. Through the use of this agency, men and women developed varying appetites, talents, and capacities over time and no spirits remained the same” (Give Heed unto the Word of the Lord [CES fireside for young adults, May 2, 1999], 2).

When we rely on the Spirit, the Lord will help us recognize and develop our talents and abilities.

  • “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.

    Making pottery

    “To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:11–12).

  • “I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them” (Moroni 10:8).

    Woman playing guitar
  • Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

    “One of the great tragedies of life, it seems to me, is when a person classifies himself as someone who has no talents or gifts. When, in disgust or discouragement, we allow ourselves to reach depressive levels of despair because of our demeaning self-appraisal, it is a sad day for us and a sad day in the eyes of God. For us to conclude that we have no gifts when we judge ourselves by stature, intelligence, grade-point average, wealth, power, position, or external appearance is not only unfair but unreasonable. …

    “God has given each of us one or more special talents. … It is up to each of us to search for and build upon the gifts which God has given. We must remember that each of us is made in the image of God, that there are no unimportant persons. Everyone matters to God and to his fellowmen. …

    “… Taken at random, let me mention a few gifts that are not always evident or noteworthy but that are very important … :

    “… 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.

    “We must remember that to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. It is our right and responsibility to accept our gifts and to share them” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 23; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 20).

  • President James E. Faust of the First Presidency: “We must recognize that our natural gifts and abilities are limited, but when augmented by inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost, our potential increases manyfold. You need help from a power beyond your own to do something extraordinarily useful. You young [people] can have opportunities and receive blessings beyond your wildest dreams and expectations. Your future may not hold fame or fortune, but it can be something far more lasting and fulfilling. Remember that what we do in life echoes in eternity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 56; or Ensign, May 2002, 47–48).

  • Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

    “Place the Savior, His teachings, and His church at the center of your life. Make sure that all decisions comply with this standard.

    “This principle will see you through periods of testing and growth. Upward growth occurs in cycles that build upon each other in an ascending spiral of capacity and understanding. They are often not easy, but they are always beneficial. As you walk the path of righteousness, you will grow in strength, understanding, and self-esteem. You will discover hidden talents and unknown capacities. The whole course of your life may be altered for your happiness and the Lord’s purposes” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 43; or Ensign, May 1991, 34).

    Man standing beside pictures

The Lord will help us overcome our doubts and fears as we seek His help to develop our talents and abilities.

  • “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

  • “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 [Scripture Mastery, Proverbs 3:5–6]).

    Woman standing in front of stairs
  • Elder Richard G. Scott:

    “In many ways, the world is like a jungle, with dangers that can harm or mutilate your body, enslave or destroy your mind, or decimate your morality. It was intended that life be a challenge, not so that you would fail, but that you might succeed through overcoming. You face on every hand difficult but vitally important decisions. There is an array of temptations, destructive influences, and camouflaged dangers, the like of which no previous generation has faced. I am persuaded that today no one, no matter how gifted, strong, or intelligent, will avoid serious problems without seeking the help of the Lord.

    “I repeat: Don’t face the world alone. Trust in the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 47; or Ensign, May 1989, 36).

  • President Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth President of the Church:

    “Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I was your age. … I worried about school and where it would lead. It was the season of the terrible economic depression. I worried about how to earn a living. …

    “Now, here you are on the threshold of your mature lives. You too worry about school. You worry about marriage. You worry about many things. I make you a promise that God will not forsake you if you will walk in His paths with the guidance of His commandments.

    “This is the age of great opportunity. You are so fortunate to be alive. Never in the history of mankind has life been filled with so many opportunities and challenges” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 2; or New Era, Jan. 2001, 6–7).

    Man in room
  • Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with faith and courage, and He will help you endure any challenges you may face. He will help you overcome loneliness, feelings of desperation and hopelessness, setbacks of a personal, emotional, financial, and even spiritual nature; or will strengthen you when you are simply feeling overwhelmed by all of the demands for your time and attention. He will give you the ability to serve faithfully in every assignment you receive from your local Church leaders. Your faith and your knowledge of the restoration of the gospel will give you the strength to be faithful and true to the covenants you have made with the Lord, and to share your strengths and talents gladly to build up the Kingdom of God here on the Earth! Brothers and sisters, your testimony of Jesus Christ is the most important anchor that you can have to help hold you, steadfast and immovable, to principles of righteousness, regardless of the challenges and temptations that may come in the future” (Anchor to the Soul [CES fireside for young adults, Sept. 6, 1992], 4; see “Steadfast in Christ,” Ensign, Dec. 1993, 51–52).

Developing talents and abilities requires individual work.

  • “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:27–28 [Scripture Mastery, D&C 58:26–27]).

  • The Prophet Joseph Smith: “When the Master in the Savior’s parable of the stewards called his servants before him he gave them several talents to improve on while he should tarry abroad for a little season, and when he returned he called for an accounting. So it is now. Our Master is absent only for a little season, and at the end of it He will call each to render an account; and where the five talents were bestowed, ten will be required; and he that has made no improvement will be cast out as an unprofitable servant, while the faithful will enjoy everlasting honors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 68).

    Backhoe
  • President James E. Faust: “Some of you may think that you will discover your strengths and abilities by living on the edge. Perhaps you also think it is a way to find your identity or manliness. Your identity, however, cannot be found from thrill seeking, such as intentionally and unnecessarily exposing your life or your soul to any kind of danger, physical or moral. There will always be enough risks that will come to you naturally without your having to seek them out. Your strength and identity will come from honoring your priesthood, developing your talents, and serving the Lord. Each of you will have to work very hard to qualify for your eternal potential. It will not be easy. Finding your true identity will tax your ability far beyond climbing a dangerous cliff or speeding in a car or on a motorcycle. It will require all of your strength, stamina, intelligence, and courage” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 61; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 46).

Application and Examples

Read the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14–30. Explain what happened to the different servants and why.

  • What can happen to our talents if we do not continually develop them and share them?

Yia has had a difficult week. School is not going well. His family is not happy about him joining the Church several months ago. His friends at work avoid him since he joined the Church because he stopped doing things with them that compromised his standards. He is considering changing jobs but feels that his qualifications are not strong. He fears the future.

  • How might you help and encourage him to realize his potential?

Points to Ponder

  • How can developing your talents and abilities help your confidence?

  • How can you use your talents in your occupation?

  • What skill or ability would you like to develop that you do not currently have?

  • How might your patriarchal blessing help you to identify your talents?

Notes and Impressions: