Friday, July 29, 2011

Gifts of the Spirit vs Human Talents

It's commonly held and understood in the church that we believe confidently in the Gifts of the Spirit. The list is found in The Book of Mormon, Alma 9:21, 1Corinthians, Moroni 10, D&C 46.

Joseph Smith had this to say:  "We believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost being enjoyed now, as much as it was in the Apostles - days; we believe that [the gift of the Holy Ghost] is necessary to make and to organize the Priesthood, that no man can be called to fill any office int he ministry without it; we also believe in prophecy , in tongues, in visions, and in revelations, in gifts, and in hearings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that the holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and that holy men in these days speak by the same principle; we believe in it's being a comforter and a witness bearer, that it brings things past to our remembrance, leads us into all truth, and shows us of things to come; believe that "no man can know that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Holy Ghost/"  We believe in it in all it's fullness, and power , and greatness, and glory; but whilst we do this, we believe in it rationally, consistently and scripturally, and not according to the wild vagaries, foolish notions and traditions of men...

But suppose the gifts of the Spirit were immediately, upon the imposition of hands, enjoyed by all, in all their fullness and power; the skeptic would still be as far from receiving any testimony except upon a mere casualty as before, for all the gifts of the Spirit are not visible to the natural vision, or understanding of man; indeed very few of them are.  We read that "Christ ascended into heaven and gave gifts unto men; and He gave some Apostles and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers.

The Gifts come from God, they are of God; they are all the gifts of the Holy Ghost; they are what Christ ascended into heaven to impart; and yet how few of them could be known by the generality of men.  Peter and John were Apostles, yet the Jewish court scourged them as impostors.  Paul was both an Apostle and Prophet, yet they stoned him and put him into prison.  The people knew nothing about it, although he had in his possession the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Our savior was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows," yet so far from the people knowing Him, they sad He was Beelzebub, and crucified Him as an impostor.  Who could point out a Pastor, a Teacher, or an Evangelist by their appearance, yet had they the gift of the Holy Ghost? 

But to come to the other members of the Church, and examine the gifts as spoken of by Paul, and we shall find that the world can in general know nothing about them, and that there is but one or two that could be immediately known, if they were all poured out immediately upon the imposition of hands.  IN 1 Cor 12 Paul says, "There are diversities of gifts yet the same spirit, and there are differences of administrations but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.  But the manifestations of the Spirit is given unto every man to profit withal.  For to one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom, to another, the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing, by the same Spirit,; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy, to another the discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the self same spirit, dividing to each man severally as he will.  

There are several gifts mentioned here, yet which of them all could be known by an observer at the imposition of hands?  The word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge, are as much gifts as any other, yet if a person possessed both of these gifts, or received them by the imposition of hands, who would know it?  Another might receive the gift of faith, and they would be as ignorant of it.  Or suppose a man had the gift of healing or power to work miracles, that would not then be known; it would require time and circumstances to call these gifts into operation.  Suppose a man had the discerning of spirits, who would be the wiser for it?  Or if he had the interpretation of tongues, unless someone spoke in an unknown tongue, he of course would have to be silent; there are only two gifts that could be made visible - The gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy.  These are things that are the most talked about, and yet if a person spoke in an unknown tongue, according to Paul's testimony, he would be a barbarian to those present.  They would say that it was gibberish; and if he prophesied they would call it nonsense.  The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole, and yet it is one that is the most sought after."  (History of the Church Vol 5: 27-30).

In The Second Comforter pg 139-140 the author has some very valuable commentary on this topic:

"Not all the gifts may be outwardly observable but they are all inwardly detectable....  Many things can be faked, but you cannot fake spiritual power.  People pretend to espouse beliefs and /or traits all the time which to no belong to them.  but power in the Spirit cannot be a mere pretense.  Gifts of the Spirit cannot be feigned.  New and inventive ways to describe what is passed off as gifts of the Spirit cannot substitute for the absence of the traditional gifts named in scripture.  Some talents are commonly possessed by mankind whether they have ever been converted or not.  Calling such common talents a "gift of the spirit" may be a humble acknowledgement of the fact all things come from God, but such things are not the "gifts of the Spirit" which are identified in scripture.  The Scriptures are unequivocal in telling us healing, prophecy, ministering angels, speaking in tongues, etc. are the hallmark gifts of the Spirit.  If you have had such a witness and such an experience, you do not need to pretend something is a proof of the power of godliness when it is not.  You will experience the real thing.  And when you do there will be no need for pretending something else is the power of godliness which Christ promised He was retuning to the earth."

That last quote identifies something I think is relevant to all of us.  Human talents, or personal aptitude are not the same as gifts of the Spirit.  I've heard a range of opinions about this. Some say that when an action or behavior is repeated enough to gain total mastery, then this experience leads to a Gift of the Spirit.  Others say that human talents which are refined and beautiful are Gifts of the Spirit, (which is mentioned above).  Others seem to view human capacities as pretty much the same as these gifts.  That to me don't sound correct.  It sounds like the Gifts have been redefined due to a lack of them.  

When I've experienced the Gifts of the Spirit, all are edified.  It often had little to do with my human capacity, or set of talents, or my resume.  My level of experience paled in comparison to the level of experience the Spirit presence was able to portray through me.  It was enlightening.  It was not a perfected human talent, it had all the markings and effects of Spiritual Gifts as found in Scripture.  It was fun.  

What I think would be a terrible loss is if we, as a culture aren't seeing a gift of the Spirit we read about in our scriptures we just end up labeling the next best thing as if it were a gift of the Spirit.      

My point in this post is to not be lulled into security by believing in these Gifts, meanwhile trusting in common labels or assumptions surrounding them.  The real thing leaves no confusion, so we should seek the real thing.
Many gifts are available, and they all come from God.  So personal credit, or gaining pride from them, or calling them results of our own efforts to me sounds incorrect.  We know that the gifts are given for the benefit of the Saints.  As I look around the Church, and within my own ward, there are folks who are in need of the Gifts of the Spirit.  If we do not have them, or at least one of them, then we won't be able to serve those who may really need them.  That would be very unfortunate.  My hope is avoiding that.  We should use our talents, but not conflate human talents with gifts of the Spirit.     

No comments:

Post a Comment