Gospel Principles 34: Developing Our Talents
Guest Post by Aimee Hickman
While preparing and teaching this lesson I would suggest doing whatever you can to keep the discussion from revolving around a notion of “talents” befitting a talent show. As a teacher, I would make this explicit at the start of the class, by creating a working definition of the word “talent” which does not necessarily denote a skill (musical, artistic or otherwise) generally thought of as something to entertain others. As this topic has the potential to help us truly “evaluate ourselves to find our strengths and abilities,” as the manual states, keeping the discussion relevant to every member of the class, not just those with a recognizable talent that entertains others is essential. Perhaps emphasizing the words from the manual of “gifts and abilities” rather than “talent” will further drive home this point.
How is developing our gifts and abilities a gospel principle?
I would ask the class why they think this is a topic worthy of a lesson at Church. Some points worth emphasizing:
• The LDS doctrine of premortal life and the understanding that there are ancient parts of ourselves that we need to access and better understand. You could read D&C 93:23-24 to talk about this idea of premortal life and understanding ourselves as we are, as we were and as we are to come.
• Understanding our unique gifts and abilities is essential to helping us fulfill our covenants and serve others.
• Understanding the variety and depth of our own talents can better help us see them in others.
How do we discover and develop our talents?
I would ask your class to consider times they have recognized an innate skill or ancient disposition in themselves and how they came to that realization. Some possible points of discussion:
• Reflecting on how different life experiences have taught you about your strengths and weaknesses
• Asking for insights from those who know you best
When I taught this lesson in a Gospel Principles class last fall, a class member shared a moving account of how he turned his former battle with drug addiction and criminal behavior into an ability to relate to and offer compassion to others that has served him well as a counselor in an addiction recovery program. As a teacher I was thrilled to hear someone recognize their compassion and fearlessness to reach out to those in dire need as a “talent.” Seeing our talents as something beyond entertainment skills but rather as abilities and character traits that can help us better know ourselves and serve each other seems to be the essential point of this lesson.
Developing skills and abilities that don’t come “naturally.”
Sometimes we need to develop parts of ourselves that don’t come naturally, whether it’s to serve others or better round-out our own potential. You may want to ask your class to think of and share experiences where their talents were stretched and how they grew as a result. I really like the quote in the manual from President Heber J. Grant on this topic: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased.”
“A talent is one kind of stewardship.”
I would ask your class what they think this quote from the manual means. Some ideas:
• We have stewardship over our own progression—it’s up to us to “fulfill the measure of our creation.”
• We can use our skills and abilities to lift and protect each other in order to help one another meet their potential.
I would conclude the lesson by giving your class some time to reflect upon their own gifts and abilities and to reframe their self understanding so that they may better value these qualities as talents worthy of praise and development. If there’s time left, it might be a nice bonding experience to go around the room and have everyone share a single talent they posses that they are proud of and eager to develop.
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.