RS/MP Lesson 22: “The Gifts of the Spirit” (Gospel Principles Manual)
Posted by NathanG on November 14, 2010
This lesson refers primarily to D&C 46 which discusses many of the same gifts as in 1 Cor. 12 and Moroni 10. D&C 46 deals in general with principles related to governing and conducting meetings. Meetings are to be conducted as directed by the Holy Spirit. Verses7-8 issues a command and a warning, that by following the Spirit, “ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrine of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts…”
The purpose of the gifts of the spirit is, in part, to aid the saints in avoiding the deception of false doctrines which may be of men or of devils. It’s more than just having a gift, though. We are to earnestly seek the best gifts. When we ask we should remember the purpose of the gift, that we will not consume it upon our lusts. All these gifts come from God for the benefit of his children. As you consider individual gifts of the Spirit, consider how this can help you to avoid being deceived.
Another commonly discussed purpose of the gifts of the Spirit has been deleted from the prior manual: “Their presence is proof that this is the true church. However, because they are easily imitated, gifts of the Spirit are not the only proof of the true Church.” Now the manual simply says “These gifts have been given to members of the true Church whenever it has been on the earth.”
The tricky part with gifts of the Spirit is that whether we think of them as a sign of the true church, for the edification of the saints, or to avoid deception, they are easily imitated by Satan. Sometimes it is easy to see and understand the imitation, other times it may be more complicated.
The Gift of Tongues and the Interpretation of Tongues
In the church we commonly talk about the gift of tongues as it relates to missionaries learning a foreign language, or rarer instances where a missionary was able to momentarily speak fluently the language they had struggled to learn (as the example in the lesson manual demonstrates), or times when the language is not known at all, and the speaker is able to speak and be understood.
I searched the internet a little to see what other Christian sects have to say regarding tongues. There is much disagreement as to the correct meaning of the gift of tongues within the Christian community. Several hold a similar view as ours (although several reject the notion that the gift of tongues is ever for the preaching of the gospel) and they reject the notion of speaking a gibberish tongue for personal prayer or worship. The tone of the articles suggest that speaking of tongues has caused a fairly significant disturbance in the Christian world over the last couple decades.
I may be feeling sorry for myself for being an English speaking missionary, but I was always drawn to 2 Nephi 32 as another avenue by which the gift of tongues may be manifest. Verse 2-3 “Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?… Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.” There were definitely times when my words were just words, but other times when I truly spoke the words of Christ and they were carried by the power of the Holy Ghost to touch the hearts of listener, who also heard and understood by the Holy Ghost. Is not this the gift of tongues?
The Gift of Translation
This is an interesting addition to a typical lesson on gifts of the Spirit as it is referenced to Joseph Smith in D&C 5:4 when Martin Harris seeks to be one of the three witnesses. The manual then refers to the Lord’s response to Oliver Cowdery when he unsuccessfully attempted to translate. I have been puzzled by the answer in D&C 9:8-9. Does anyone know how it was reasonable to expect Oliver to study out the translation in his mind and then ask if it was right? This wasn’t like someone being asked to translate the Book of Mormon from English to Russian, where both languages are known and someone fluent in each language can study out a translation and ask if it was correct. What was really expected of Oliver?
Is this a gift that should be sought after by the general membership of the church? Or is this something reserved for those who are sustained as seers?
The Gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge and to Teach These Things
Does Satan imitate this by giving knowledge and wisdom by another source, or does he simply deceive with lies? Is knowledge as it is used here only dealing scriptural definition of truth? Can knowledge of truth be learned any other way than through the Spirit? Are those who attempt to learn truth without the Spirit like the manual says “always learning but never arrive at the truth”?
The Gift of Knowing That Jesus Christ Is the Son of God
This is the gift of prophets and apostles who are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. The manual suggests this gift can be given to others as well. I wonder, though, how appropriate it is to expand this gift to others than prophets and apostles. The next gift discussed is the gift of believing the testimony of others. This could account for the basis of many testimonies of Jesus Christ rather than broadening the first gift to others beyond the prophets and apostles.
The Gift of Prophecy
Paul compares prophecy with tongues in 1 Cor 14. This is a gift which clearly benefits the saints, but which also seems to be one which causes commotion when excercised by those who are not in the proper position. Several instances in the Doctrine and Covenants define the proper order to receive revelation for the church. (The manual does use prophecy and revelation fairly interchangeably). The two keys for avoiding deception when someone prophecies is that a person will only receive revelation for an appropriate stewardship. Revelations will be consistent with what is present in the scriptures.
The Gift of Healing
There is a gift to heal and gift of faith to be healed. D&C 42:48 is referenced. I might go through D&C 42:43-52 and ask how well we follow what was laid out in the early church today.
Satan Imitates the Gifts of the Spirit
The question listed in the manual in this section is the most useful part of this section. “How can we discern between the true gifts of the Spirit and Satan’s imitations?” A discussion on this would likely be to compare apparent manifestations of these gifts from outside the church to manifestations from within the church. Do we think it is likely that there are imitations of these gifts within members of the church? Even from members within our own wards? How do we discern these imitations?
This lesson seems incomplete. We have talked about how it is important that we seek after the best gifts. The last gift discussed in the manual is the Gift of Faith (probably should have been placed first). This must be the foundational gift (although the scripture cited refers to exceedingly great faith, which may not be granted to all). Without faith we cannot hope to appropriately ask for any other gifts. Once we have faith it should lead on to hope and to the best gift, which will be discussed in Chapter 30: Charity.