The gift of prophecy, yeah that’s me; the gift of tongues, check. NOT! If you read the list of spiritual gifts in the scriptures and feel like you must have been absent the day the best gifts were handed out, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are far more gifts than the representative list presented by the Lord in the scriptures. Let’s talk about some of the other gifts, how the gifts work, and why we need them in the first place.
Diversity of gifts
There are three main places gifts are listed in the scriptures: Doctrine and Covenants 46; 1 Corinthians 12:4–12; Moroni 10:8–18. The famous chapter in 1 Corinthians on faith, hope, and charity (chapter 13) is also considered a passage about spiritual gifts. The three lists are basically the same each time it is given. This leads many to assume that those gifts listed are all there are. At least many assume that even if there are other gifts, because they are not specifically mentioned in the scriptures they must not be as important as those named in the lists (which isn’t true).
Purpose of spiritual gifts
In 1 Corinthians 12:13–31 Paul compares the gifts of the Spirit to the members or parts of the body. The body is a marvelous thing. No two parts of the body are identical to each other, though there are parts that look alike and operate alike. Every member of the body is unique in its ability and contribution to the functioning of the whole body.
A finger or a toe may be a little member, often hardly noticeable, yet if it becomes sick, infected, or ceases to perform its designated function, the whole body suffers, from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet. Every part of the body, as a whole, feels the lack of or the hurt of that member. If you need a good example, remember how crippled you were the last time you stubbed your little toe and couldn’t put any weight on that foot because of the injury. You felt that pain all the way from your foot to your brain.
The Lord has ordained that the members of His Church should be and act just like the parts of a body. We each have our assigned part to play in the kingdom of God, and we each come with our own special talents and abilities that make us unique in all the body. No two of us have exactly the same capacities and disposition. We each have capacities that can bless the lives of those around us. The question is, are we seeking to find those special abilities and capacities? Are we improving ourselves? Are we trying to find those gifts of the Spirit the Lord has to offer us through our righteous living? And are we doing all these things for the right reasons?
Everything the Lord does is with one goal in mind, the salvation and exaltation of his children. That is, after all, his work and his glory. Because faith is the means he has designated for us to become more like Him, the gifts that help us to become more like Him and to live like Him are only obtained by the exercise of faith.
This means that the spiritual gifts available to us come only through the Holy Ghost. They are designed to bless the lives of others, just like all of God’s blessings are never designed to bless only the person who receives the gift. Once blessed, that person either goes on to bless others or his/her own gift will fade away.
As an example, what good would the gift of prophecy be to Joseph Smith if only he knew of the prophecies? What good is the gift of healing if the one who wields the gift has no one to heal? How is one who is gifted with the godly virtue of compassion supposed to experience compassion if there is no one around for whom they can feel compassion?
The point is that gifts of the Spirit are not meant for personal consumption alone. If they are not used to bless the lives of other children of God then they are useless. This is the reason we have been offered spiritual gifts. All spiritual gifts are meant to reward those who exercise faith in Christ. Each and every gift is meant to enlighten the mind, or lift the heart, or lighten a burden, or give strength to the weak. These are supports given to the faithful to help them find joy in the blessings of the Lord along our difficult path back to God. And every spiritual gift is for the community, not just the person who wields the gift. We can only use our gifts in the service of others.
All the gifts listed in the scriptures are big gifts, like prophecy and the gift of tongues. While it is true that many experience the gift of tongues, this gift is most often seen among the missionaries of the Church. Without this gift we would, as a church, have a much harder time preaching to the nations of the world. Many of the missionaries have experienced miraculous speed in acquiring fluency in their designated language. No other organization on earth has ever been able to figure out why our missionaries are able to learn languages with the speed and thoroughness that they do.
Just as the small members of the body have their own unique abilities to contribute to the overall performance of the body, so too do individual members of the Church bring with them unique abilities that enable them to contribute to the progress of the Church in their own little corner of the kingdom. An important lesson to remember though is that spiritual gifts are not like the size and shape of your eyes or your chin. Spiritual gifts can come and go as the need arises. They are not necessarily a permanent feature in the personal landscape of your life.
An example of gifts that come and go might include the gift of discernment that a Bishop has while performing in his calling as Bishop. Once the mantle has been removed, some of the gifts that were his to enjoy for the last number of years quickly fade away as the new Bishop takes up the mantle to fulfill his new calling. This happens to all who go into and out of presidencies in the Church.
But what about the common member of the Church who isn’t in leadership? What do we have to look forward to as far as spiritual gifts? Many of those listed in the scriptures can still be experienced by those of us not in leadership capacities. We can still develop the faith to heal or to be healed. Many have the gift of knowledge of things or the ability to teach others with simplicity and power through the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can seek after the ability to be a peacemaker or to have a spirit of compassion or forgiveness. We can seek to follow the Spirit and gain the ability to gain the gift of operations, which is the ability to tell if doctrine or the spirit we encounter is from God or some other source.
We don’t have to be an apostle or a stake president to have gifts of the Spirit. These are meant for any and all members of the Church. They are designed to uplift all those around us as we each seek to bless the lives of others with whatever the Lord has given to us, whether it is a permanent part of our lives or a gift that comes with a calling.
Remember that gifts of the Spirit are available only for the blessing of other people. In the process of exercising our gift we are blessed as well, but spiritual gifts cannot be used selfishly. They cannot be hoarded for personal gain.
As you study the lesson and the materials that go with it, see if you can develop a greater sense of appreciation for the special nature of spiritual gifts. These are meant for the faithful only. They are a blessing, a reward for those who exercise faith in Christ. They are meant to bless the lives of others. As long as we are seeking for ways to be of help to the Lord in blessing the lives of those with whom we come in contact then the Lord will be able to bless those around us, and hence us, by giving us spiritual blessings that will bring joy to all who experience our influence.