Lesson 15: “Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts” #DandC2017

Purpose
To help class members identify gifts of the Spirit, seek to obtain them, and use them to serve others. [grin]

The early Restoration, anchored by the Book of Mormon, was essentially an anti-cessationist protest. Moroni is archetypal, but not anomalous. Not only does he riff on Paul’s litany of spiritual gifts, he goes on to say that if miracles have ceased and angels aren’t around, it is because people have lost faith in Christ, and it is there had been no redemption. I don’t want to spoil my book, but next time you read the Book of Mormon, take note of what it says about the Power of God.

The Lesson opens up with asking the teacher to have three class members read the follow account from Our Heritage:

a. Newel Knight administering to Philo Dibble (pages 42–43).
b. Amanda Smith receiving revelation on how to treat her injured son (pages 47 –48).
c. The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesying of Dan Jones’s missionary service (page 63).

These are cool and familiar. So I have three supplementary accounts for you:

Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1910, 119-120.
I testify that the gift of tongues is in this Church, that it has been enjoyed by men and women on very many occasions. I bear witness that there have been prophecies by the voice of tongues. I stand here in humility today and acknowledge that my wife, whose body now lies in the tomb, pronounced a blessing upon my head by the spirit of tongues, all of which has been fulfilled. I testify, also, that the gift of tongues was manifested on one occasion, when I was a little child, playing on the floor in the home of the late William C. Staines, when Sister Whitney, Sister Eliza R. Snow, Sister Zina D. Young, my mother and others of those noble women were present, whose lives are a testimony to all the world, of the purity, and the uprightness, and the virtue that there is in the Church of Christ. They were holding a Relief Society meeting. There was some singing in tongues by ‘Sister Whitney; there was given, by Sister Snow, through the gift of tongues, a blessing for all who were there. After the interpretation by Sister Young, and after Sister Snow had blest all the sisters, she turned and blest the boy playing on the floor, and Sister Young gave the interpretation. I did not understand it, but my mother made a record of it, and twenty years after it was given it was fulfilled. What was it? It was that the boy should grow to manhood, that he should become one of the leaders of the Church, and that God would bless him in proclaiming this gospel in foreign lands. I say that the gift of tongues is in the Church of Christ. I say that I am a living witness that a prediction made on my head by the gift of tongues was fulfilled twenty years after the prediction was made.

Susannah J. Smith, “Dear Sister Susa Y. Gates…,” Young Woman’s Journal 2 (October 1890): 34.
In the month of June 1884, there was a sister very sick [Ann Farnes], who had at different times bled profusely from the lungs. One day she was much worse than usual. I called to see her, and she was telling her two daughters who were present what to do about their temple work. I asked her if she would like some of her sisters to wash and anoint her. She answered yes. I went for your mother, Lucy B. Young, Elizabeth Townsend and Susan Martineau. Arriving at the house we found her in a dying condition; we knelt and prayed and then washed and anointed her. The spirit rested mightily on Aunt Lucy B. and she commanded her in the name of the Lord to arise and be made whole. She arose to her feet and walked a few steps. She again commanded her to sit down in the name of the Lord and be healed every whit.

Sister Ann Farnes was at that time eighty one years of age and she thanked God for His mercies manifested to her, for she was healed and called for something to eat, and in a few days went to the temple of God and did the work for her dead mother; being very deaf, Aunt Lucy took her through, and it was no trouble for her to hear.

There were nine of us present when she was healed, and it was a strong testimony to us that the Lord does hear and answer prayer. Sister Farnes is in her usual health and is at this time visiting her children at Snake River.

Hannah Adeline Savage, Record of Hannah Adeline Savage, Woodruff Arizona, and Journal, (Pinedale, AZ: Petersen Publishing, 1976), 14-15. [photographic reproduction of holograph. Microfilm of holograph available at the CHL.]
On the 4th of May 1889, two day after I sat up in my chair, Sister Lucy B. Young wife of President Brigham Young came to the Hospital to visit the sick. Dr. Pratt brought her in my room to see me she asked what ailed me and the Dr replied that I was bloodless and almost lifeless. then they started to leave my room when they got outside of the door sister Young came back and asked me again what ailed me. I replied I was impared at my last confinement, so when the Dr seen that sister Young noticed me she returned, and said to me Sister Young has great faith as she knew that I was [pg. 15] desirous of being administered to when an opportunity presented so I asked Sister Young to bless me and use the holy oil which she did.

She gave me a great blessing and told me I should be healed and that I should administer unto thousands. That I should receive the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof if I desired it. After the blessing She said Sister Savage you can get up when the Dr thinks it safe, and I replied I can get up now for the power of healing was on me. So she commanded me in the name of Jesus Christ to arise and walk, which I did. I walked acrost my room praising my maker for His goodness unto me. Oh how greatefull I was for I had then been bound in my bed for a year and 8 months Sister Young said the chains that had bound me was broken and that I should never be thus bound again.

Are these different than the story of Amanda Smith? In what way?

I believe in miracles. I believe in an open heaven. But as Brigham Young preached on the trail west: “Some times we lay hands upon the sick & they are healed instantly. Other times with all the faith & medicine they are a long time getting well, & others die.” [n1] Why?

Before reading the accounts in class, the less states: “1. All faithful members of the Church can receive gifts of the Spirit. Explain that gifts of the Spirit are spiritual blessings or abilities that are given through the Holy Ghost. These gifts were taken from the earth during the Great Apostasy, but God restored them in the early days of this dispensation. The exercise of these gifts can bless, edify, and unify us.” Is this true? The lesson manual precedes this discussion, by observing that everyone has different gifts. How does this diversity in gifts “unify us”?

The manual identifies the following spiritual gifts from D&C 46:

a. D&C 46:13. (Knowledge “given by the Holy Ghost … that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.”)
b. D&C 46:14. (Belief in others’ testimonies of the Savior.)
c. D&C 46:15. (Knowledge of “the differences of administration.”) Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve said that this gift is “used in administering and regulating the church” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 278).
d. D&C 46:16. (Discernment “to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God.” This gift helps us discern whether a teaching or influence comes from God or from some other source.)
e. D&C 46:17–18. (Wisdom and knowledge.)
f. D&C 46:19. (Faith to be healed.)
g. D&C 46:20. (Faith to heal.)
h. D&C 46:21. (The working of miracles.)
i. D&C 46:22. (Prophecy.)
j. D&C 46:23. (Discerning of spirits.)
k. D&C 46:24. (Speaking in tongues.)
l. D&C 46:25. (Interpretation of tongues.)

How were these reflected in the accounts above? Is knowledge superior to belief? If so, how? From the lesson manual: “Read D&C 46:9 with class members. In what ways can the gifts of the Spirit help us individually? What gifts have been of special value to you? (You may want to invite class members to share experiences in which their spiritual gifts have strengthened and blessed them.)” What does Paul say is superior to all these gifts? In what way was he correct?

_____________________________

  1. Brigham Young, Sermon, February 23, 1848 in Kenney, Woodruff’s Journal, 3:325.

Comments

  1. Great fun, J. Institutional memory is a fickle thing.

  2. Wow – these are tremendous accounts of gifts of the spirit. Does anyone else have the feeling that we rely less on these spiritual gifts than 150 years ago? When was the last time anyone heard someone speak in tongues and then someone interpret? If this happened in F&T meeting today it would freak everyone out. And why were both blessings given to Heber J. Grant given in tongues? Couldn’t he understand English?

    Healing blessings are still given today – but by less then 50% of the church population. Steps backward……

  3. Apples and oranges, DeAnn. The organizational practice of giving blessings is not the same as a gift of the spirit. Not all priesthood bearers who give blessings have the gift of healing, after all.

    I have a hard time telling stories of historical healings. I’ve tried recently to write a few, but find that it amounts to my bearing somebody else’s testimony — they say they have healed, or been healed, but there is seldom historical evidence of that — especially when the same source tells of returning a week later to “heal” yet again, but even absent that the details of whether someone’s ailment was truly cured or whether they merely felt comfort for the moment is seldom part of the record. The best I can do is report that someone else said they healed or were healed, i.e., bear someone else’s testimony.

    I know it is important to keep in memory these early expressions of the spirit — but I also wish that in our class discussions we could help people recognize other, less spectacular gifts, ones that are just as real and that we ourselves can claim and develop. The saddest tone of voice I ever heard was in an older man in this Sunday School lesson two cycles ago, who hung his head and said he had no gift. I switched gears on the spot and we spent the rest of the lesson time on how to recognize and claim the gifts that the scriptures insist we all have. That man is dead now. I hope he found some sense of his gift on this side of the veil, but if not I believe he must be aware of it now.

    By which I don’t mean at all to take anything away from your lesson commentary, J. — it’s especially useful to provide new accounts rather than repeat the same ones as if those same few were the only testimonies we have of such gifts. Thank you.

  4. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks Ardis. Those are excellent points. An to be honest, Hannah, wasn’t completely cured. The interesting question, and one which Steve Taysom approaches in his work, is what work is being done by these rituals? That is a complex question, but one that perhaps transitions things to the more familiar experiences of our day.

    I’d be the first one to get a weirded out if someone tried glossolalia in testimony meetings. Yet I so deeply value the accounts of our spiritual progenitors. And I don’t have answers to most of these questions. This topic is one were, I think the answers are still yet to be found.

  5. This should be an interesting less, mostly because the experiences we do have with talents tend to be very personal and sacred (making it hard to share with a large audience).

    My mother has the gift of knowing the Church is true, a gift I’ve always envied. I’ll continue building by house on the rock and rebuilding when the raids and floods come (as they already have)

    There’s always missionary half-jokes about speaking and understanding tongues, and that’s the one I keep hoping to develop. Not easy for someone who has a hard time learning languages, but I’m a work in progress.

    Many of these gifts can be a bit scary to have as well. For example, when giving a blessing to my dad to help get over a bad cold he had, I felt inspired to tell him how proud HF was in the “second chance” he’d gotten in his life. He’d joined the Church when he was almost 40, completely turning around his life for the 45 years afterward. He got over the cold, but part of me worried that I’d inadvertently given him permission to die off. He was 83, after all. The next month it was found that he had stage 4 cancer in his hips and lungs, a relic of his early days as an heavy smoker. he was gone three months later.

    Sure, the connection could just be my own imagination, but I’ve been part of and seen too many other instances to not believe such gifts do happen more often than we know.

    When I say the gifts can be a bit scary, I do mean that they can be frightening to have. What if you’re wrong? What if you’re right? I think the trick to it (which I’ve not at all mastered) is to be able to put aside those fears and trust that God has it handled, no matter what your role in it or what the outcome. It’s a chance to be a part of something much, much bigger than our Earthly lives, that we get to try to be a part of. Like helping your dad (or mom) work on an engine and them having you tighten something with a wrench for the first time. You might get it completely wrong, you may still have no idea how the engine works, but you got to be part of it.

    Awesome.

  6. Jason K. says:

    Thanks for this post, J., and I’ll second the affirmation of Ardis’s excellent comment.

  7. This should be an interesting lesson and discussion. So much so that it seems intentional (Spirit’s intent?), gifts of the Spirit do not follow a pattern. It would be so much different if there were a predictable “gift” at age 8 and another at age 18, a sequence of gifts for women and a different sequence for men. Thanks for the 19th and early 20th century stories–I’m glad for the historians among us. The stories I hear tend to be 20th and 21st century stories. In either case, I learn of gifts that confirm an ongoing and vibrant life of the Spirit, following no earthly order of hierarchy, gender, age, or worthiness.

  8. “Is knowledge superior to belief? If so, how?” Does verse 8 necessarily imply a hierarchy of gifts of the spirit? Could it be that the “best gifts” for any particular person are simply those the Lord chooses to give that person?

    In view of verses 11-14, why do we so often seem to insist that Moroni 10:4 means that the gift of knowledge (D&C 46:13) is available to everyone and to imply, as a result, that those who don’t claim certainty lack faith, sincerity, and/or intent? Is doubt (in the sense of uncertainty) the opposite of faith? or is certainty (at least sometimes) the opposite of faith? It might be nice to have an open discussion of such questions. They sometimes seem more important to faith in Christ and to motivation to act on his commandments than the more dramatic gifts of tongues and healing. I really appreciate the 19th and early 20th century stories. But I hope we don’t spend too much of our little class time on tongues and healing to the resulting exclusion of more subtle gifts. To me those stories are most useful as “confirm[ing] an ongoing and vibrant life of the Spirit, following no earthly order of hierarchy, gender, age, or worthiness.” Thanks, Chris, for that articulation of an underlying message.

  9. Thanks for the additional historical stories, and for making them examples where women are the ones exhibiting the gifts. I’m teaching this lesson on Sunday and I’ll use one of them. Hopefully it won’t offend the few class members who have made it known they are vigilantly watching for unseemly displays of progressive views by me. I’ll also make certain to spend time talking about the less spectacular spiritual gifts — the manual has a lovely quote by Marvin J. Ashton about that:

    “the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; … the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; … the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost”