The purpose of this lesson is to help us discover, develop, and use the individual talents and abilities given us by our Heavenly Father.
Everyone Has Talents and Abilities
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).
If someone asked what talents we have, how would we answer? Some of us might think we have no talents. We may not be creative in artistic areas like singing, dancing, or writing. But we may have abilities we do not recognize as talents. We may have special skills in organizing, making friends, bringing peace, teaching others, or caring for children.
Ella, a girl in her early teens, was unhappy because she did not have the talents her older sisters had. She did not receive the attention and praise they did. In tears she went to her Aunt Susan, sobbing: “Nobody likes me. I’m just no good.”
After calming Ella and thinking for a while, Aunt Susan said: “I can understand how you feel, Ella. It would be difficult to live with two very popular, talented older sisters. It could make you feel quite inferior.” Then Aunt Susan said: “Ella, our Father in Heaven has taken great care to create each one of us individually. Don’t try to make yourself like someone else. Be grateful for your own talents and gifts and do your best to cultivate them.”
Aunt Susan explained that because of Ella’s ability to handle children exceptionally well, she made an ideal baby-sitter. She continued:
“I’ve heard your mother say … you always do your work well and willingly and do so much to make your home a better place to be.
“Have you ever realized, Ella, that when someone is ill, you know just what to do to bring the most comfort? [When I was ill] it was you who took the time to run my errands, keep fresh flowers by my bedside, and cheer me through your visits. You have a fine mind, Ella. … You love school and do very well there. … You have many gifts and talents which make you special just the way you are.” And then Aunt Susan asked Ella if she knew that “no two diamonds are, or ever have been, alike. …” She explained: “That’s one of the reasons the diamond … holds the greatest value of all worldly possessions. No two diamonds are alike, but they are all jewels. Never forget that you are a jewel, Ella.” (See Daryl V. Hoole and Donette V. Ockey, With Sugar ‘n Spice , 19–21.)
Our talents and abilities are gifts from our Heavenly Father. Every person is endowed with some of these gifts.
Discovering and Developing Our Talents
It is essential that we discover and develop our talents. The Apostle Paul said, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Timothy 4:14). But finding and improving our talents will require effort.
How can we discover our talents?
We should pray for the guidance of our Heavenly Father as we search and experiment to discover our individual talents. We may ask for special blessings to help us recognize them. If we have been set apart for Church callings, perhaps some talent was mentioned at that time or at the time of our release. We may ask ourselves, “What qualities do I have that helped me present a lesson, give a talk, work on a committee assignment, or help plan a party?” We should observe the lives of those whom we admire. Then we can check ourselves to see if we have some of their good qualities, even in small measure. Parents and other relatives, friends, and teachers can often help us recognize and develop our talents.
Where stakes of the Church are organized, worthy members can receive blessings from the stake patriarch. Special gifts and talents are often revealed in a patriarchal blessing. We may use it as a guide in seeking out and developing our talents. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “It is our great hope that every person, including the older youth, will be given the opportunity of having a patriarchal blessing” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 4).
Sister Nancy Seljestad of Homer, Alaska, told how she discovered her talents. She had asked her husband for a special blessing. During the blessing he was inspired to tell her that if she did not soon develop her talents, they would be taken from her and given to someone else. She said:
“I was shocked and scared and humbled.
“It made me think. … Nothing about myself seemed evident to me as a talent. How could I develop what I was unable to recognize? Buried somewhere inside me there must be an untapped source of gifts that were unknown, untouched, unused. …
“As a convert, I see talented people who have been in the Church all their lives, with years of practice to develop their singing, writing, and speaking talents. I had none of these things.
“Suddenly my insight came. I can act on the desires and interests that I have and thereby reveal and use my talents in small ways.
“Through meditation and prayer I discovered my desires and interests were:
“People: I decided to carry out the good intentions that I often felt but seldom followed through on to make others happy. As a starter I baked a pie for a little boy whose mother was away.
“Music: I can’t read notes or play an instrument, yet I love music. I contacted a sister with musical talent and said, ‘I’d like to sing a duet with you.’
“Drama: I volunteered to be in charge of an ‘evening of drama’ with donations to be given to the youth in our branch for their temple trip.
“Writing: Ofttimes I have strong feelings when I am touched by something that someone says or does. I decided to put those feelings in writing when they happen and mail them to the one who touched me. …
“Chances are I’ll never be ‘famous.’ … What is mine, though, can be shared with those dearest to me—my family, our branch members, and neighbors. Small, perhaps, yet capable of development, precious and God-given—my very own talents” (“I Dug Up My Talents,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 31).
Our talents may only be small at first. But with hard work they can grow. Improving one talent often helps us develop other talents. Special training or formal education helps us build many skills. Overcoming special challenges or handicaps can also help us develop new talents. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have many chances to find and develop new talents when we accept calls to serve. Many of us are called not for what we can do but for what we can be.
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 1977, 23).
Sister Maria Teresa P. de Paredes, wife of the former president of the Mexico Veracruz mission, testified: “When a woman is active in the Church, she develops surprising talents she did not know she had. Through studying the gospel and applying correct principles to her daily life, she changes into a better woman, more capable of fulfilling her stewardship in her home and helping her family and community” (quoted by Carol Larsen in “The Gospel Counterculture,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 23).
President Brigham Young said, “Every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and in all science and art belongs to the Saints” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 252).
President Spencer W. Kimball looked for the day when Church members would be great artists and master craftsmen. He challenged us to excel in our talents and skills. He cautioned us not to be satisfied with “good” but to work for excellence. He reminded us that those who develop their talents with the aid of the Holy Spirit should get superior results. (See “The Gospel Vision of the Arts,” Ensign, July 1977, 3.)
Display visuals 27-a, “A woman weaving cloth,” and 27-b, “A woman learning to play the guitar.”
Use Talents or Lose Them
After we have discovered and developed our talents, the Lord expects us to use them. If we do not use them, we will lose them. The Lord warned:
“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
“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).
Elder Richard L. Evans told of a mother who was concerned with “what her daughter was, or wasn’t, doing with her talents and opportunities. … The mother one day … said: ‘I’ve given you life. Now you do something with it!’” Elder Evans then said: “We could conceive of the Father of us all saying about the same: ‘I’ve given you life. Now you do something with it! Now make the most of it! I’ve given you time, intelligence, the good earth and all it offers—now use it’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 86–87; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 88).
How many talents we have is less important than how well we use them. The Lord said, “Of him unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3).
Happiness Comes through the Righteous Use of Talents
The Lord said:
“Seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
“For verily I say unto you, they are given … that all may be benefited … that ask of me, … and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts” (D&C 46:8–9).
Talents and abilities should help others as well as ourselves. We show our gratitude to Heavenly Father for our talents when we use them to enlighten, lift, and build others. We should use them to teach children and youth and to inspire them to greater effort. Our families are blessed as we use our abilities in our homes. As we learn to sew, cook, and keep an orderly home, we can beautify our lives and lighten others’ work. As we develop a kind and loving nature, we bring peace and harmony into our homes. We can extend our talents to bless the neighborhood where we live. We can bring joy to friends around us as we help those in need.
Unfortunately, some people discover a talent, develop it well, but use it in ways that do not help others. In fact, some use their talents to promote unrighteousness. The person who has a beautiful singing voice may use it to sing immoral songs. The person who can write inspiring poetry may misuse that talent and write pornographic literature. A gifted speaker or teacher may lead others into sin. “Talent without character is more to be dreaded than esteemed” (Richard L. Evans, Thoughts … for One Hundred Days , 208).
Earlier in this lesson we learned about Sister Seljestad, who discovered and developed several new talents. Sister Seljestad’s branch president asked her to be the public relations director for the branch. This gave her an opportunity to use some of her newly found talents. She approached the local newspaper editor with the idea of writing a religion column in her community’s weekly newspaper. This gave her the chance to meet and work with leaders of other churches. Because of the column, she said, “I have been able to dispel many myths about the Church, and have given out copies of the Book of Mormon.” (See “Calling Inspires New Talent,” Church News, 4 Feb. 1978, 14.)
Elder Boyd K. Packer issued this challenge: “Go to, then, you who are gifted; cultivate your gift. Develop it in any of the arts and in every worthy example of them. If you have the ability and the desire, seek a career or employ your talent as an avocation or cultivate it as a hobby. But in all ways bless others with it. Set a standard of excellence. … Never express your gift unworthily” (“The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord,” in Speeches of the Year, 1976 , 280).
We are each blessed with talents and abilities and with opportunities to develop them. Our Heavenly Father expects us to use our talents for the benefit of others as well as for ourselves. Much joy can come to us and those about us when we use our talents for righteous purposes. As we use them righteously, they will expand and new opportunities and abilities will develop. It is important for us to remember that our talents are gifts from God and that He holds us responsible for what we do with them.
Examine your interests, seeking for a new talent; then develop it. Encourage your family members to discover and develop their talents.
Matthew 25:14–30 (parable of the talents)
Before presenting this lesson:
Study Gospel Principles chapter 34, “Developing Our Talents.”
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.