DC-Lesson 15

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"Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts”

Church Cirriculum

The official church guide can be seen at the Official LDS Church site for a direct link to this lesson

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Additional Teaching Materials

Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts? Really?

This post originally appeared at Gospel Doctrine Underground,[1]

I am going to say something that might be a little controversial. I think we in the LDS Church have a complicated relationship with gifts of the spirit. Spiritual gifts get a lot of lip service in the church. On paper, we really like them, and section 46 is prime evidence of that. What’s more, certain gifts of the spirit are very accepted among Mormons. The gifts of healing and being healed are very big. People have great faith in them, and most families have multiple stories of these gifts blessing their lives. The gift of prophesy is also very highly regarded, especially to the extent it refers to gaining a testimony of Christ and his church. Even beyond that, most people are very comfortable with the gift of prophesy as it relates to promptings and premonitions that keep us and our families safe from physical or spiritual harm, or that help us serve those around us who are in need. The gifts of wisdom, teaching, discernment, etc. - - all very well accepted.

But other spiritual gifts are viewed with some, well, hesitation. Although no one would rule them out, the gifts of ministering angles and working miracles would be exercised and talked about very rarely. Maybe I lack faith, but if my neighbor told me (s)he had seen angels, I would wonder what was really going on. And the gift of tongues? Well, unless you are talking about missionaries or general authorities being able to learn and speak a language more easily than expected, I think you should proceed with caution. Can you imagine if someone started speaking in an allegedly angelic language in sacrament meeting? Even if someone there was allegedly able to interpret? How would your Bishop respond?

This ambivalence about spiritual gifts started early in our history. As the saints started gathering to Kirtland, many experienced and exhibited some fairly extreme spiritual manifestations. Speaking in strange languages, seeing visions, acting in unusual ways supposedly under the influence of the spirit - - it was all going on in Kirtland. Joseph was not always comfortable with these demonstrations, and often tried to rein them in. In fact, a theme of the Doctrine & Covenants is how to avoid deception by false spiritual experiences and manifestations.

It seems to me, the more subtle or understated the spiritual gift, the more readily accepted it is in the Church. Remarkable and emotional displays of spiritual fervor, or claims of special spiritual endowment, while commonly accepted by some Christians as gifts of the Spirit, would cause discomfort if not downright suspicion among most members of the Church.

So, are some gifts better than others? What are the “best gifts” referred to in Section 46, and how do we earnestly seek them? And if we earnestly seek them, what should we really expect to find?