Recognizing and Developing Talents and Abilities

The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual Religion 150, (2004), 29–33


Introduction

We come to earth with unique combinations of talents and abilities that we further develop during our experiences in mortality. Fears and doubts have kept some people from realizing the full potential of their talents and abilities. Help your students learn to identify their individual talents and abilities and resolve to develop them through dedication, determination, and hard work. The talents and abilities of Church members are reservoirs of blessings when they are willingly shared.

Mother and daughter at the piano

Principles to Understand

  • Partly 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.

Teaching Suggestions

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

Ask students to name some talented or skilled people, and list their responses on the board. Ask:

  • How long does it take to develop abilities such as these people have?

  • How can talents and abilities be used to benefit others?

  • Why do some people seem to be born with certain talents and abilities?

Share the following teaching from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Each person in this life is endowed with those talents and capacities which his pre-earth life entitle him to receive. Some by obedience to law acquired one talent and some another in pre-existence, and all bring with them into mortality the talents and capacities acquired there. (Abra. 3:22–23.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:688).

Ask students:

  • Why is it important to develop the talents we brought with us from our premortal life?

  • In what ways might our talents help us decide what type of employment to seek?

  • How can we use these talents in our occupations?

  • How can we use these talents in raising a family?

  • What talents might a mother find particularly useful in nurturing children?

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

Ask: How can we determine what our talents and abilities are? Responses might include:

  • Recognize what we can do well.

  • Ask others, such as parents and friends, what they think are our talents.

  • Take an interest or skills evaluation test, often given at schools or employment offices.

  • Learn about various skills or talents by reading, observing, or talking with others.

  • Pursue a few areas of interest with the aid of people who are skilled in those areas and can give advice and suggestions.

  • Pray for the Lord’s guidance.

  • Prayerfully read our patriarchal blessings.

  • Use leisure time to explore and develop useful skills.

Have students list a few of their talents in the “Notes and Impressions” section in their student manual and describe how they plan to develop them.

Have students identify someone who is very skilled or talented in the following areas and explain why that person has impressed them:

  • A trade or profession

  • Music, art, or other talent

  • A hobby or home skill

Have students read 1 Nephi 17:7–11, 16 and 18:1–2.

Ask:

  • What talents and abilities did Nephi use to accomplish the Lord’s errand? (He was able to process ore and make his own tools.)

  • What did the Lord do to help Nephi? (The Lord showed Nephi where to find the ore and how to construct the ship.)

Help students understand that by relying on the Lord, Nephi was able to use and develop his talents.

Have students read 2 Nephi 5:15–17.

Ask: Why do you think Nephi was able to teach his people to do all of those things? (He had learned and developed these skills earlier.)

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

Have students read Moses 6:31. Draw the following scale on the board:

(Fearful) 1—2—3—4—5—6—7—8—9—10 (Confident)

Have the students select a number on the scale that indicates how they think Enoch might have felt about his abilities. (They will probably select a low number.) Ask them to share experiences when they were faced with a task that they did not feel capable of completing or doing well and tell what they did to meet the challenge.

Ask a student to read Moses 7:13 and identify Enoch’s accomplishments.

Have students select a number on the scale that indicates what they think his confidence level was then. Ask what they think made the difference in Enoch’s confidence.

Have a student read Moses 6:32–34. Ask:

  • How did the Lord help Enoch overcome his doubts and fears?

  • What principles in these scriptures can we apply in our lives to help us have confidence?

Ask students what counsel they would offer in the following situations:

  1. 1.

    A young man or woman gained confidence while serving a successful mission. However, since returning home, he or she has not felt the confidence needed to find meaningful employment or pursue an education.

  2. 2.

    A young priesthood leader is uncertain about how to balance his Church calling with his education.

  3. 3.

    A young married couple is concerned about their ability to financially support a family.

Write on the board Don’t give up and Don’t you quit.

Share the following experience:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told how as a young man he took his young family across the United States from St. George, Utah, to Boston, Massachusetts, where he would attend graduate school. They had traveled only 34 miles when their car broke down. Elder Holland left his wife, Pat, and two young children with the car while he walked to a nearby town for help. After help was obtained and the car was repaired and driven back to St. George for inspection, they once again drove off, only to have the car break down again about 15 feet from where it had broken down the first time.

Thirty years later, with his children grown and married, Elder Holland and his wife drove by the exact spot where he had left them to walk for help. Thinking back on that incident, he said that in his mind’s eye he saw himself as a discouraged young man. He said: “His shoulders seemed to be slumping a little, the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. … In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: ‘Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 47–48; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 37–38).

Ask: How can our not giving up help us overcome our doubts and fears?

Ask a student to read the counsel from President Gordon B. Hinckley on page 47 of the student manual. Ask: What impresses you about President Hinckley’s counsel?

Developing talents and abilities requires individual work.

Show the students a picture of someone you admire and explain why you consider that person talented. Or display a picture of an athlete, concert pianist, leader, or other accomplished person. A local newspaper may be a good resource for a photo of someone who could be used as an example. Ask:

  • How do such individuals become so accomplished? (They often develop their talents through much practice and effort.)

  • What part does work and practice play in developing talents?

  • If we all practiced hard enough, could we all become concert pianists? Why?

  • What happens to a person’s talent if it is not used or developed?

Share the following statement from President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency:

“President [Heber J.] Grant had a favorite quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson which he lived by: ‘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. 2000, 57; or Ensign, May 2000, 45).

The following two stories from President Grant’s life illustrate how he developed skills in areas in which he originally had little ability:

  • When Heber J. Grant was only a child, he had little experience in sports. He joined a baseball club but had to play with the younger players. He explained:

    “One of the reasons for this was that I could not throw the ball from one base to the other; another reason was that I lacked physical 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 by my youthful companions that I solemnly vowed that I would play base ball [sic] in the nine that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah.

    “My mother was keeping boarders at the time for a living, and I shined their boots until I saved a dollar, which I invested in a base ball. I spent hours and hours throwing the ball at a neighbor’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 nine of our club. Subsequently I joined a better club, and eventually played in the nine 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).

  • As a young man, Heber J. Grant “resolved that some day he would be a bookkeeper in the Wells Fargo and Company’s bank. In those days all the records and accounts of the bank were written with a pen, and one of the requisites of a good bookkeeper was the ability to write well. To learn to write well was his first approach to securing this job and the fulfillment of his resolve; so he set to work to become a penman.

    “At the beginning his penmanship was so poor that when two of his chums 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 Grant’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.’ …

    “When Heber, still in his teens, was working as a policy clerk in the office of H. R. Mann and Co., he was offered three times his salary to go to San Francisco as a penman. He later became teacher of penmanship and bookkeeping at the University of Deseret (University of Utah)” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader [1951], 39–40).

    By the time Heber was 19 years old he had reached his goal to work at Wells Fargo and Company (see Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 42).

Ask: Why are most successes a result of hard work?

Encourage students to develop their talents and abilities. Share the following statement from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I could wish for you nothing better than that your lives be fruitful, that your service be dedicated and freely given, that you contribute to the knowledge and the well-being of the world in which you live, and that you do it humbly and faithfully before your God. He loves you. We love you. We want you to be happy and successful, to make significant contributions to the world in which you will live and to the on-rolling of this great and majestic work of the Lord” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 11).

Suggested Student Assignments

  • Ask students to list or review in the “Notes and Impressions” section of their student manual what they think are their talents and abilities. Have each student then ask someone he or she respects to list what that person thinks are the student’s talents and abilities. Have the students compare their two lists and identify two talents or abilities to focus on for further development.

  • After students have identified some of their talents and abilities, ask them to determine which of them might lead to meaningful employment. Then ask: If none of the talents and abilities you identified are directly related to employment skills, could any be used to contribute to a positive atmosphere in the workplace? How?