Where Little is Given
Soon after this [her baptism], the gift of tongues rested upon me with overwhelming force. I was somewhat alarmed at this strange manifestation, and so checked its utterance. What was my alarm, however, to discover that upon this action upon my part, the gift left me entirely, and I felt that I had offended that Holy Spirit by whose influence I had been so richly blessed.
I suffered a great deal in my feelings over this matter, and one day while mother and I were spinning together, I took courage and told her of the gift I had once possessed, and how, by checking it I had lost it entirely.
Mother appreciated my feelings and told me to make it a matter of earnest prayer, that the gift might once more be given to me.
I walked down to a little spring in one of the meadows, and as I walked along I mused on my blessing and how I had turned away the Spirit of God. when I reached the spring, I knelt down and offered up a prayer to God and told Him if He could forgive my transgression, and give me back the lost gift, I would promise never to check it again, no matter where or when I felt its promptings.
I have kept this vow, but it has been a heavy cross at times, for I know that this gift is the least of all gifts, and it is oftentimes misunderstood and even treated lightly by those who should know better. Yet it is a gift of God, and should not be despised by him who receives it, but magnified to its extent, even as the lowest grade of the priesthood is the least of all, and yet it needs be magnified as earnestly as are the higher and greater offices. (Young Woman’s Journal Vol. 4, April 1893)
Since I first read this story about six years ago, I’ve thought about it and what it tells us about gifts of the Spirit many times. Here, Zina receives a gift of the Spirit after her baptism, but “checked” it. The gift left her and she realized that she should not have limited her gift and asks for it again and continues to use the gift throughout her life. It’s almost like the Parable of the Talents: Zina was given a “talent” and hid it like the servant who was afraid. But unlike that servant, she realizes its worth and it’s given back to her. I’ve also thought about what she didn’t do: she didn’t ask for the gift in the first place, and it doesn’t sound like she did anything in particular to “grow” this gift. It was simply given to her. If I wanted to have the same gift of tongues, would prayer and study give it to me?
It has caused me to rethink how I look at all gifts of the Spirit. Moroni lists many gifts including, faith, healing, prophesy, to see ministering angels, tongues, and more. In Doctrine and Covenants 46:13, we are told that even having a testimony of Christ is a gift of the Spirit.
And this is where I find Mormonism gives us conflicting messages. On one hand, Alma says that faith can grow from a simple desire to have faith and it can grow to a knowledge. On the other hand, faith and knowledge and a testimony of Christ are gifts of the Spirit and, “all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every (wo)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).
Unfortunately, I don’t have answers, but I do have questions.
My patriarchal blessing lists some gifts that I’ve been given. When I was 16 and receiving the blessing, I thought some of them were laughable and not “real” gifts, though I’ve since recognized their importance. And there are some gifts that I felt I had when I got my blessing, but I don’t really feel at the moment. Is it as simple as asking for them back, like Zina did here?
And is it possible that there are people who simply, by nature of never having been given the gift, cannot have faith or a testimony of Christ? Are there people, no matter how hard they try to build a testimony through prayer or scripture reading or service or obedience or whatever routes their Sunday School lessons suggest, will not be able to simply because not everyone is given that gift? Can we be ok with saying, “Some people have different gifts and it’s ok if a knowledge of Christ isn’t one of them?”