Our talents differ. To some is given one, and to some another. You cannot all be Gifford Nielson on the football field or Kresimir Cosic on the basketball floor, but you can excel in something. From your ranks will come our outstanding educators, attorneys, musicians, businessmen, physicians, statesmen, farmers, and scientists.
You probably have gifts and talents that you have not yet discovered or that are dormant. These must be awakened.
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.)
Even if you feel your talents are small, you can still achieve. Where the desire is strong, seemingly weak talents may be strengthened and developed. As a boy, President Heber J. Grant became aware of some limitations. He was not blessed with athletic talent. He could not sing well—in fact he couldn’t even carry a tune. He could not write legibly.
With a burning desire to achieve, and through long and consistent hours of practice, he became a member of the state-championship baseball team. He learned to sing many of the Latter-day Saint hymns. He became an expert penman and supplemented his income by writing Christmas cards.
President Grant summarized his achievements with these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “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.” (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Improvement Era, 1941, p. 355.)
Each of us possesses a personality all our own, and the Lord gives us talents that help us in building and developing that personality.
It is possible for gifts to be bestowed, but not received. The Lord asks the question, “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33.) Joseph Smith’s scribe, Oliver Cowdery once became envious and desired to have the power of translation himself.
In answer to Joseph’s inquiry, the Lord promised Oliver many gifts, among them the gift of translating other ancient records that had been hidden up.
It seems that Oliver, though he had been promised the gift of translation, neglected to seek diligently to obtain it. He fearfully made a feeble attempt to translate, but without prayerful thought and study and without asking if his translations were correct. As a result of his fear, half-heartedness, and wavering, the Lord took away the privilege of translating at that time, saying, “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced, but you feared, and the time is past.” (D&C 9:11, italics added.)
I wonder how often fear, envy, and procrastination prevent us from exercising the gifts and talents with which the Lord has blessed us.
When we receive a gift or talent from the Lord, we have an obligation to use it. In a parable the Savior told of a man who was preparing to go to a far country. Before leaving he entrusted to one servant five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent. The first two servants invested their talents and doubled them. The last servant fearfully buried his one talent in the earth. Upon returning, the traveler said to each of the first two servants, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” but to the servant who had buried his talent he said:
“Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
“Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own money with usury.
“Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:26–28, 30.)
There are others who have been blessed with talents but have failed to use them in a righteous way. Lucifer, son of the morning, had many fine qualities and talents, but becoming selfish and self-centered, he used his gifts to gather a third of the hosts of heaven and lead them in rebellion against Jehovah. For their willful disobedience they are denied mortal bodies and many other blessings that have come to the faithful. Lucifer, known as Satan or the devil, continues on his selfish way, destroying all who will permit themselves to come under his evil influence.
Those of us who are here have kept our first estate and have progressed to mortal life. Our responsibilities and potential are unlimited. My mission president, B. H. Roberts, asked, “Is it a strange and blasphemous doctrine, then, to hold that men at the last shall rise to the dignity that the Father has attained: Is it ‘heathenish’ to believe that the offspring shall ultimately be what the parent is?” (Mormon Doctrine of Deity, p. 33.) We are the sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father.
Man is a divine being, traveling from everlasting to everlasting. He passes through many phases in his quest for exaltation, gaining important knowledge in each of these. He is coeternal and coexistent with God, and existed as an intelligence before becoming a spiritual offspring of a Heavenly Father. Inspired prophets have assured us that we participated in the great council in heaven, where the spirit beings assembled and were advised of the earth that was to be organized. Upon learning of the opportunities that would be theirs, all the sons of God shouted for joy and the morning stars sang together. (See Job 38:7.)
Many of these spirits were potential leaders. Abraham was given the assurance that he was chosen by the Lord: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou was born.” (Abr. 3:22–23.)
Some of you young people also have been chosen as potential leaders, and you have been given the gifts you will need.
As a result of our obedience in that previous life, we are privileged to be born of mortal parents into this earth life. The Lord has said that we shall be tested and tried to prove if we will do all things that he shall command. We are striving for perfection. The Lord has given us the admonition: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) Life offers us many challenges that make this achievement difficult. How will we meet these challenges?
God has granted to each of us gifts, talents, and abilities, with the hope and expectation that we will increase and use them—not for selfish purposes, but for the benefit of others. Let us never forget that these gifts are given “that all may be profited thereby.” I suggest that service in the Church offers unlimited opportunities for the unselfish use of our God-given gifts and talents.
As we strive to magnify our gifts and talents and become what the Lord would have us become, we should keep in mind the question, “What is the greatest gift promised by the Lord?”
He has said: “And if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.)
That should be the goal of every righteous person—to some bright day enter the presence of our Heavenly Father, there to hear the joyful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matt. 25:21.)