Relief Society Lesson #9: Gifts of the Spirit
Oh, I want to teach this lesson! I love this topic – love the idea that, by love and grace, we each have gifts that can benefit humanity. I believe that authentic self-worth has its roots in identifying what we have to offer, what we have to give – in seeing ourselves as capable of doing something, however “small” in societal terms, to bring an extra measure of light to another. If God is Love, then spiritual gifts have at their root a divine love for us – and a desire for us to use such gifts to spread God’s love. My goal for this lesson would be to inspire sisters to feel gratitude for divine mercy they have experienced and to feel inspired to come to a greater understanding of the gifts they have to offer to others. Uselessness is a hard, hard feeling. Onto the lesson . . .
The opening “history section” talks about the Joseph’s gift of translation. Use it, if you feel so moved. Rather than just marvel (I’d hate for people to come away feeling that some gifts were higher on the hierarchy than others), focus on what we can learn from his experienced. For example, there was some degree of trial and error as Joseph “learned” how to exercise his mantle. This is my favorite paragraph from the section:
During this time, Joseph Smith learned that the divine gift was with him only when he was worthy to be guided by the Spirit. David Whitmer recounted: “One morning when [Joseph Smith] was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.”
We are each given gifts of the Spirit; each person’s gifts are necessary in the Church.
Read a two or three of these quotes aloud:
Articles of Faith 1:7: “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.”5
“We … believe in prophecy, in tongues, in visions, and in revelations, in gifts, and in healings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost.”6
Amasa Potter recalled: “I remember the Prophet arising to preach to a large congregation in the grove west of the Temple in Nauvoo. He stated that he would preach on spiritual gifts. … Joseph stated that every Latter-day Saint had a gift, and by living a righteous life, and asking for it, the Holy Spirit would reveal it to him or her.”7
“Paul says, ‘To one is given the gift of tongues, to another the gift of prophecy, and to another the gift of healing;’ and again: ‘Do all prophesy? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?’ evidently showing that all did not possess these several gifts; but that one received one gift, and another received another gift—all did not prophesy, all did not speak in tongues, all did not work miracles; but all did receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; sometimes they spake in tongues and prophesied in the Apostles’ days, and sometimes they did not.
“The Church is a compact body composed of different members, and is strictly analogous to the human system, and Paul, after speaking of the different gifts, says, ‘Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular; and God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily Prophets, thirdly Teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all Teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?’ It is evident that they do not; yet are they all members of one body. All members of the natural body are not the eye, the ear, the head or the hand—yet the eye cannot say to the ear I have no need of thee, nor the head to the foot, I have no need of thee; they are all so many component parts in the perfect machine—the one body; and if one member suffer, the whole of the members suffer with it: and if one member rejoice, all the rest are honored with it. [See 1 Corinthians 12:9–10, 18–21, 26–30.]
“These, then, are all gifts; they come from God; they are of God; they are all the gifts of the Holy Ghost.”8
- Do we really believe it – that each gift is necessary, that we all offer something to the whole? Do we show this in practice? For example, do we value some gifts over others? (More daring? Which ones – I think we often look out talents such as public speaking and afford the person possessing it with an extra measure of esteem).
- Similarly, do we ever undervalue our own gifts – perhaps through coveting others? This could be a great discussion . . . . consider asking people to explain 1) how they came to recognize spiritual gifts in themselves OR (perhaps even better) 2) how they came to recognize these gifts in others. I am often surprised when I point out one of my student’s strengths, how surprised they are by this recognition.
- What role do we have in acknowledging and helping develop talents in others?
We receive gifts of the Spirit through obedience and faith.
“Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made. [See Hebrews 11:3, 34–35.] A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. Faith has been wanting, not only among the heathen, but in professed Christendom also, so that tongues, healings, prophecy, and prophets and apostles, and all the gifts and blessings have been wanting.”9
What is the difference between a talent and a gift? Is there a difference? People with prodigious “gifts” have done great evil in the world . . .
“The human family are very apt to run to extremes, especially in religious matters, and hence people in general either want some miraculous display, or they will not believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost at all. If an Elder lays his hands upon a person, it is thought by many that the person must immediately rise and speak in tongues and prophesy; this idea is gathered from the circumstance of Paul laying his hands upon certain individuals who had been previously (as they stated) baptized unto John’s baptism; which when he had done, they ‘spake in tongues and prophesied.’ [See Acts 19:1–6.] …
Is there a danger in expecting wonders? What is the difference between seeking the fruits of the spirit and seeking miracles?
“But to come to the other members of the Church, and examine the gifts as spoken of by Paul, we shall find that the world can in general know nothing about them, and that there are but one or two that could be immediately known, if they were all poured out immediately upon the imposition of hands. In [1 Corinthians 12:4–11], 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 manifestation 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 divers 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 [see 1 Corinthians 14:11]. 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. So that according to the testimony of Scripture and the manifestations of the Spirit in ancient days, very little could be known about it by the surrounding multitude, except on some extraordinary occasion, as on the day of Pentecost. The greatest, the best, and the most useful gifts would be known nothing about by an observer. …”
I’d use this section to support the obvious vs. less obvious gifts. How might we recognize these gifts? What does “diversities of operations” mean?
Extra time – I’d look at women in the scriptures who experienced the grace and gifts of God!
- Here’s my examination of Mary.
- I’d also consider looking at Deborah (poet, judge, general), Hannah, Esther, Abigail, Mary Magdelene, Lehi’s wife, and Emma Smith . . .