Week 19 is scheduled for study May 3-9, 2021. The topic this week is about the best spiritual gifts. Some of these gifts include being more sensitive to the Spirit, becoming good record keepers, and developing characteristics that we think of when we think of the personality of Christ.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 46:1-6 – All earnest seekers are welcome to worship in the Lord’s Church.

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 46-48, write down impressions you receive. Then you might ask, as Elder Richard G. Scott suggested, “Is there more I should know?”

My head is swirling with things to address here. Modern words like inclusion, unity, and acceptance are vying for position in my thoughts. Alongside these thoughts in an acknowledgement of our tendency towards sameness in all that we do. We, as humans, just love repetition, habit, and we resist change, even change for the better.

When we go into Church on Sunday, what is the first thing many of us do when we enter the chapel? Don’t we make a beeline for “our bench?” Don’t we want to be seated with those with whom we are comfortable and enjoy sitting with? How many of us enter the building and our blinders go on? We neither see, no hear any visitors or new people. We see and hear only those whom we know and are looking for. Some of us don’t do this, but I’m willing to wager that most of us do this to some extent.

My wife and I went to a Stake Conference once. We arrived 30 minutes early, but just after the leadership meeting had let out. There was hardly anyone in the chapel, yet for all that there wasn’t an available seat in the room. Every single row in the chapel had either 1 member of a family saving the entire row for their family, or the row was littered with scriptures, hymn books, or other items to show the space was being reserved for someone who had not even shown up yet.

As we walked up and down the aisles looking for a seat, we would ask if they would let us sit with them. There were just the two of us. Surely a single family could allow just two more to sit with them on the bench. But no. Every person we asked told us they couldn’t possibly let us have even enough space on that big empty center bench to fit just 2 people.

Being a little on the older side, we can’t sit for prolonged periods of time on the hard chairs, so as the chapel began to fill up, we decided that evidently this wasn’t a very friendly place to be. We decided to go home instead. We were getting into our car in the parking lot when a stake clerk ran out and invited us to come and sit with his family. He made his adult son get up and go sit in the back so there was room for two more to squeeze in on our side bench. His had been the only friendly face we had seen that day.

Visitors Welcome

The sign outside on all our buildings tells us that visitors are welcome. But who is responsible for welcoming the visitor? Is that the bishop’s job, the RS/EQ President’s job, or the Primary President’s job? We have all made covenants with God to stand in for Christ wherever we are, and all times. That is what the basic baptismal covenant is all about. We promise to remember Christ and practice being like him. So what happens to so many of us when we walk into the Church house that everything we stand for gets immediately turned off?

I’ve seen people get angry when someone sits in their spot on Sunday. I’ve seen people turn people away and refuse to sit near them, for whatever reason. I knew one elderly man, many years ago, who was a widower. He smelled so badly of urine that he literally had a four bench empty space around him each week. No one would go near him. Yes, sometimes we do indeed fall short of the glory of God and of the love we receive from Christ.

I have given you some personal experiences of poor examples of Christlike behavior among the Latter-day Saints. I hope you have not witnessed anything like this yourself. My prayer is that your experience is filled with people who greet visitors at the door and offer to sit with them, who answer their questions and introduce them to the appropriate leadership in the ward. I sincerely hope that you are personally looking for that person who appears to be lonely, sitting by themself or who looks despondent.

The Lord commanded the Saints to open not just their chapels to those who want to come and see what we do in our worship services. He expects us to open our hearts to them as well.

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 46:7-33 – God has given spiritual gifts to bless His children.

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 46-48, write down impressions you receive. Then you might ask, as Elder Richard G. Scott suggested, “Is there more I should know?”

Let’s look at the verse that spells out why spiritual gifts are given, verse nine.

For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.

Before talking about the rest of the verse, I want to make mention of the end of the verse. The Lord says that spiritual gifts are NOT given to those who seek them for person gain, self promotion, or mere curiosity. These are the lusts to which he makes reference. He wants us to seek after the spiritual gifts, and he wants us to each have more than one of them. But there is only one on the earth at a time who can exercise all spiritual gifts, and that is the prophet. That doesn’t mean he uses every gift imaginable every minute of the day. It only means that he has active access to any gift if the need arises.

This may seem a little off topic, but it really isn’t. What is your favorite terrain? Do you prefer to live in the desert, the mountains, on the plains, in the forests, or on the beach? There are so many wonderful, beautiful types of places we can live in this world. Do you agree that every type of terrain produces something the is beneficial to humanity, that has its own special unique qualities that other types of terrain might not possess in such rich abundance? Spiritual gifts are the same as types of terrain.

Sure, one person may have exceeding faith, and do great things. Another might have the special talent to be able to believe the truth at times when others struggle with it. When you live in the desert and I live in the mountains, we may both be able to take advantage of our special living circumstances, but it is extremely difficult for me to receive the advantages of your desert terrain, as I have to live so far away from you to enjoy my mountain terrain.

Spiritual gifts aren’t like terrain in that they are meant to be mixed and mingled. Yes, they are all different. They all have a different purpose. They all strengthen a person in a different way, yet they are meant by God to be mixed with each other and mingled with the other gifts God has given us that we might all be strengthened and uplifted spiritually.

When I read verse nine I stopped when it said, “they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments.” Well, that counts me out. I kept rereading the verse and stopping at that point. It wasn’t until I stopped at the end of the next phrase that I realized that spiritual gifts are meant for me as well. The Lord continued by saying, “and him that seeketh so to do.” I am seeking to keep all the commandments. I am seeking to love the Lord, so I qualify, according to the Lord’s own words to receive a spiritual gift.

Many will write and make podcasts to talk about the individual gifts. I’ll let them carry that part of today’s lesson. My concern is that we all understand and believe that God wants us to have these gifts. And just as importantly, He wants us to realize that these gifts are meant to bless others. Pick a gift – singing, dancing, painting, empathy, humility, faith, power in prayer, etc. Now convince yourself that the gift you picked is only of worth to the one who possesses it. Can you do it? I can’t. It seems pointless to me to have a gift from God and keep it to myself. It is like having a pocket full of cash, but absolutely no way to spend it. How much more blessed are we when we can take that gift and share it with other to bless their lives.

Too often we become envious of the gifts other have. I think it is because we have under appreciated the gift(s) we ourself possess. If you don’t yet know what one of your gifts is, then what are you doing to find it and be grateful for it? We must learn to be grateful for our gift if we are going to use it to bless others. For just as easily as God can bestow a gift, He can remove it.

One last thought – don’t ever discount your gift. We can’t all be prophets, seers, and revelators. We can’t all possess all gifts. God deliberately limits us in the number of gifts we each possess because He wants us to bless each other’s lives through the sharing of our gifts. When we have a calling to fill in the Sunday School, don’t we look for those who have a gift or the potential of the gift to teach, communicate, and to bear pure testimony? If we are looking for someone to teach singing to our children, don’t we look for someone who has a love of the doctrines of the gospel and who can communicate that love to our children through song? This is how we both develop new talents and share the ones we already have. Rejoice in what you have, seek new talents, and be grateful for the talents of those around you who are blessing your life because of their willingness to share.

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 47 – The Lord wants His Church to keep a history.

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 46-48, write down impressions you receive. Then you might ask, as Elder Richard G. Scott suggested, “Is there more I should know?”

The idea that we should all be keeping journals, histories, or some sort of record of our thoughts, as been addressed constantly and consistently for years now. Every lesson in the Come, Follow Me manual has a suggestion just under the title of the week’s topic. Almost every single week the suggestion is that we each write down our thoughts of the spiritual ideas we have come into our mind and heart as we study the gospel this week. Why just look at the bold text right above this paragraph and you will see this week’s encouragement to write down our thoughts.

Why do you think the Church is (oh, so subtly) encouraging us to get into the habit of writing what we think? This is definitely not something the world encourages people to do. What do you think happens to people who record their experiences and thoughts? Might I suggest that self enlightenment and understanding is far less likely to come to someone who never spends time alone with their thoughts? I have heard many times from younger people that they are actually afraid to be alone with their own thoughts. They are so accustomed to the noise and clamor of the world that time alone, and in silence, frightens them. It actually confuses them.

The Church versus the individual

Today’s lesson is asking specifically about the Church keeping a record of the unfolding of the restoration. I agree that this record is important. What kind of understanding would we have of the beginnings of the Restoration if people hadn’t kept records of the official events that transpired within the Church? We would only have a sketchy understanding at best.

Much of what we understand about the beginnings of the Restoration come from people’s personal journals and letters to friends and relatives. They talked about how the gospel changed and influenced their lives and brought them greater happiness. And along the way in the discussions in their writing we get tidbits about what happened in the Church and how the Saints were handling those changes. Do you really think that any of those Saints who were writing letters or recording their thoughts, memories, and feelings in their journals, thought they would be quoted someday by historians or the Brethren in a General Conference talk?

Most people who write in journals do so because they feel a need to work out their thoughts and put them on paper. There is something magical that happens when we take what we experience and find the words in our vocabulary to express what happened and how we felt about it. And interestingly enough, when we choose to follow the admonition of the prophet to record our lives in this way, the Spirit occasionally steps in and influences our thoughts with expressions that are designed to bless us for being obedient, and to provide to those who read our writings in future years blessings none of us know anything about today.

Our writings won’t always be heavy doctrinal discourses or pithy comments that people will want to turn into memes. Most of what we write will only be a record, one that will reveal to others our character and personality. These people won’t be alive at the same time we are, so this is the only way they will ever be able, in mortality, to get a feel for us and what kind of person we are. It is through reading our “boring” accounts from our own life that they will see elements of themselves and their own life in what they read from our life. They will come to appreciate that their ancestor was faced with much the same kinds of problems, challenges, and relationship difficulties they are facing in the future.

The Church wants us to record what we are accomplishing in our callings, our family, our tender moments, and so much more. This is how the Saints of the future will see how the gospel of Christ unfolded and changed lives to better prepare God’s children for the millennial reign of Christ. We have much to go through, and much to learn before that happens. That means we have much that needs to be written by our own hand as we prepare for that day.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 46:2-6 – Making welcome

Let’s revisit this concept of being welcoming. How do you become a welcoming person? I’m not talking about just greeting someone who is coming to a meeting. I’m talking about being the kind of person who invites others to be comfortable and at peace in your presence. I think we have all met people who are so “welcoming” in their disposition that we just want to hang around them. We don’t need to talk, or be in the center of the conversation, we just want to be in the same room with this person, because they attract your soul to them. Why do you think that happens?

We all have met people that irritate us from the first moments we meet them. If we have our way, we will never spend more than what is required of us to be in their presence. They just make us feel icky inside, and we want to get as far from them as we can. This is how I felt when we tried to attend Stake Conference and no one would let us share their row, even though there was currently only one person sitting on the row. And when the Conference started, there were many empty places on each and every row. These people who were saving places did not have a welcoming spirit. They were unwilling to let others into their space and share themselves and the experience they were coming to have.

So what is it about the person you like to be around that makes their company so inviting? Many times it is because they have developed habits and character traits that you and I may not have developed yet. And just because we haven’t yet developed those traits, it doesn’t mean we can’t. We just have to decide that it is important enough to us that we will begin working on becoming that kind of person. Believe me when I say that such choices please the Spirit to no end. He will bless you in your efforts to be a person you believe to be better than you were yesterday. He loves all forms of improvement, and will encourage and support you in your efforts to be inclusive and loving to others.

I have seen many people claim that they are introverts, not extroverts – that’s just who they are. At this point they are emotionally shutting down the conversation and saying they have no intention or desire to change at all. I understand. It is difficult to be an extrovert when you are naturally shy and private in your preferences. But why does love have to be the sole domain of the extrovert? Aren’t there ways for introverts to love and be inclusive, to invite others to like and to be with them and feel loved and accepted?

There is much each of us can do to be better about being the kind of person who naturally invites others to be with us, to experience our love for them, and to enjoy their time with us and at Church. Many of these things are habits, like looking for people who look lost or discouraged, and finding something kind to say or to include them in a discussion or invite them to come with us to sit together. We are the Saints of God, the covenant making children who have promised to stand in the place of Christ wherever we are and in whatever our circumstances are. We are certainly not perfect at this by any means, but are we even trying to be better at keeping those covenants? Are we looking for ways to love like Christ and act like Christ? I think that if there was ever a soul to come to earth who was completely inviting in every sense of the words, it had to be Christ. What are you doing this week to try to be more like Christ by becoming more inviting and welcoming towards others?

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Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts

Week 19