Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
“Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts”
All faithful members of the Church can receive gifts of the Spirit.
God gives gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of His children.
We should seek and cultivate gifts of the Spirit.
A study of this lesson will help us identify gifts of the Spirit, seek to
obtain them, and use them to serve others.
Scripture references for study:
Articles of Faith 1:7;
1 Corinthians 12–13;
Moroni 10:8–18; Our Heritage,
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 15 Handout (PDF)
Gifts of the Spirit
Section 46 - Historical Background.
In a revelation through the Prophet Joseph in September 1830, the Lord
spoke to Oliver Cowdery. In this revelation, Oliver was commanded
by the Lord to "go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto
Obedient to this charge, Oliver soon left for the frontier settlement of
Independence, Missouri. Oliver was accompanied by Peter Whitmer,
Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson.
En route to western Missouri, they stopped and preached for several weeks
in Ohio, particularly in the Kirtland area where they found a great deal
Within three weeks they had baptized 127 persons, including Sidney Rigdon,
a Cambellite preacher.
With the departure of the four missionaries, these new converts were left
virtually leaderless. Without leadership and direction, this enthusiastic
group of converts engaged in practices, some new and some traditional,
that were not in harmony with the restored gospel.
The Prophet sent John Whitmer to preside over the Ohio branches, but it
was too much for him and he pleaded with the Prophet for help.
The Prophet arrived in Kirtland early in 1831 and was able to witness first
hand the confusion amongst these new Latter-day Saints.
Joseph found these new Saints in Kirtland striving to do their best, but
also found that they were continuing practices not in keeping with the
gospel. Joseph referred to them as "strange notions and false spirits."
A group in Kirtland called the Morley Family, lived an imperfect law of sharing all things, which caused some difficult
feelings. They had a revelator known as "Black Pete." They
claimed to see angels and to receive letters from heaven.
John Whitmer reported: "Some had visions
and knew not what they saw, some would fancy to themselves that they had
the sword of Laban, and would wield it as expert as a light dragon, some
would act like an Indian in the act of scalping, some would slide or scoop
on the floor, with the rapidity of a serpent, which they termed sailing
in the boat to the Lamanites, preaching the gospel. And many other
vain and foolish manoevers that are unseeming and unprofitable to mention.
. . . These things grieved the servants of the Lord, and some conversed
together on this subject, and others came in and we were at Joseph Smith,
Jr. the Seer, and made it a matter of consultation, for many would not
turn from their folly, unless God would give a revelation."
(Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p134)
Parley P. Pratt, who returned to Kirtland in the early summer of 1831,
wrote that "some very strange spiritual operations
were manifested, which were disgusting, rather than edifying. Some
persons would seem to swoon away, and make unseemly gestures, and be drawn
or disfigured in their countenances. Others would fall into ecstasies,
and be drawn into contortions, cramps, fits, etc. Others would seem
to have visions and revelations, which were not edifying, and which were
not congenial to the doctrine and spirit of the gospel. In short,
a false and lying spirit seemed to be creeping into the Church."
(Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p61)
In response to these practices, on March 8, 1831, the Prophet received
the revelation contained in Section 46.
The Lord stated, "But ye are commanded in all
things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies
unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking
uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things
with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits,
or doctrines 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, always remembering
for what they are given" (D&C 46:7-8).
James R. Christianson wrote regarding this revelation: "Admonished
to petition God in all things and respond to the resultant influence of
the Spirit with holiness of heart, upright conduct, prayer, and thanksgiving,
the Saints were informed that in this way they could overcome the seductions
of evil spirits and the deceptions of men who were agents of the adversary. To further avoid such calamities they were counseled to seek the best gifts
and to know why they were doing so." (Studies In Scripture,
- For additional background on this revelation see
Religious Enthusiasm among Early Ohio Converts at LDS.org.
D&C 46:8-12. Instructions on gifts of the
WHY DOES GOD GIVE THESE GIFTS?
To avoid deception (v8).
HOW DOES SEEKING THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT AID US IN AVOIDING DECEPTION?
As we seek to be worthy of these gifts, we draw closer to the Spirit, and
as such we are guided by that sacred influence.
Consider the experience of Jared Carter, an early New York convert: "On
a certain occasion I attended a meeting together with Sylvester Smith,
at Amherst, where, just as we were about to administer the sacrament, a
young woman was taken with an exercise that brought her to the floor. I doubted the propriety of such an experience in a public meeting and suggested
to Bro. Sylvester that we should try that Spirit according to the revelation
that God had given. Complying with my suggestion, we kneeled down
and asked our Heavenly Father in the name of Christ, that if that spirit
which the sister possessed was of him, he would give it to us. We
prayed in faith, but we did not receive the Spirit. After Bro. Sylvester
had made some communication which was not proclaiming against the spirit,
I arose and proclaimed against it with a loud voice, but this was very
trying to the brethren present, as nearly all of them believed that the
manifestations were of God and now after this I had some sore conflicts
with Satan, for he told me I had lost all my influence in the Church, and
sure enough that seemed to be the case for a while, but after contemplating
for a time, I received assurance that I had the approbation of my Heavenly
Father, which was better than the good will of many deceived brethren."
(quoted in Studies in Scripture, 1:205-206)
To benefit those who love the Lord and keep his commandments (v9).
Joseph Smith: "We believe in the gift of
the Holy Ghost being enjoyed now, as much as it was in the Apostles' days;
we believe that it [the gift of the Holy Ghost] is necessary to make and
to organize the Priesthood, that no man can be called to fill any office
in the ministry without it; we also believe in prophecy, in tongues, in
visions, and in revelations, in gifts, and in healings; and that these
things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe
that the holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and
that holy men in these days speak by the same principle; we believe in
its being a comforter and a witness bearer, that it brings things past
to our remembrance, leads us into all truth, and shows us of things to
come; we believe that 'no man can know that Jesus is the Christ, but by
the Holy Ghost.' We believe in it [this gift of the Holy Ghost] in all
its fulness, and power, and greatness, and glory; but whilst we do this,
we believe in it rationally, consistently, and scripturally, and not according
to the wild vagaries, foolish notions and traditions of men."
Elder Orson Pratt on gifts of the Spirit: "...whenever
the Holy Ghost takes up its residence in a person, it not only cleanses,
sanctifies, and purifies him, in proportion as he yields himself to its
influence, but also imparts to him some gift, intended for the benefit
of himself and others. No one who has been born of the Spirit and
who remains sufficiently faithful, is left destitute of a spiritual gift. A person who is without a spiritual gift has not the Spirit of God dwelling
in him, in a sufficient degree, to save him; he cannot be called a Saint,
or a child of God; for all Saints who constitute the Church of Christ,
are baptized into the same Spirit; and each one, without any exception,
is made a partaker of some spiritual gift....
"Each member does
not receive all of these gifts; but they are distributed through the whole
body [of the Church], according to the will and wisdom of the Spirit.... Some may have all these gifts bestowed upon them, so as to understand them
all, and be prepared to detect any spurious gifts, and to preside over
the whole body of the Church, that all may be benefited. These spiritual
gifts are distributed among the members of the Church, according to their
faithfulness, circumstances, natural abilities, duties, callings; that
the whole may be properly instructed, confirmed, perfected, and saved."
(Masterful Discourses of Orson Pratt, pp539-541)
WHAT ARE THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT AS LISTED IN THIS REVELATION?
To know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified
for the sins of the world (v13).
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "We all
have a right to know the truth. It is a requirement the Lord makes of every
member of the Church that he know for himself and have a testimony of the
truth in his own heart and not be under the necessity of depending upon
anyone else to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or that Joseph
Smith is a prophet of God." (CR, Oct 1952, p60)
Though we would not want to rank gifts of the Spirit, this must be the
most important. The core of our eternal existence depends upon this
knowledge. Without it, we have no hope.
Belief in others' testimonies of the Savior (v14).
If we do not have the gift listed in verse 13, this gift is a good starting
point that will guide our actions if we "continue faithful."
This is like a candle in the darkness that can lead one until the greater
light is obtained.
Knowledge of "the differences of administration" (v15).
WHAT IS THIS?
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, p278).
To know the diversities of operations (v16).
To know whether an influence is from the God or from another source.
"This refers to various spiritual influences at
work, for instance such as are manifested in Spiritism, anarchism, and
the numerous other 'isms.' To know whether an influence with a professedly
moral, or reformatory, aim is from the Holy Spirit, or from another source,
is a special gift." (D&C Commentary, p274)
President Stephen L. Richards: "Wisdom is
sometimes defined as sound judgment and a high degree of knowledge. I define
wisdom as being the beneficent application of knowledge in decision. I
think of wisdom not in the abstract but as functional. Life is largely
made up of choices and determinations, and I can think of no wisdom that
does not contemplate the good of man and society....
"I do not believe that
true wisdom can be acquired or exercised in living without a sound fundamental
knowledge of the truth about life and living. The cry of the world is for
wisdom and wise men. This is so particularly in the field of human relations.
Why are they not found? It is because men are so blinded to the truth."
(CR, Apr 1950, pp163-164).
"Refers to the gift to instruct others. There
is a difference between wisdom, knowledge, and ability to instruct . .
. . Knowledge is a carefully-stored-up supply of facts, generally
slowly acquired. The ability to instruct is the gift to impart of this
supply to others. Each is a gift of God." (D&C Commentary,
Moroni taught: "For behold, to one is given
by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom; And to another,
that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit"
On the last evening before the Prophet's martyrdom, Joseph prophesied to
Dan Jones, "You will yet see Wales, and fulfill
the mission appointed you before you die" (HC, 6:601). A few months later, Wilford Woodruff was sent to take charge of the British
mission. Among those who accompanied him was Dan Jones, in fulfillment
of prophecy. Over the next few years, thousands were baptized into
the Church through Dan Jones' gift to impart the gospel.
Faith to be healed (v19).
Throughout the history of the Church there have been many who have been blessed
great faith, sufficient to be healed when they call upon the Lord and his
Faith to heal (v20).
Worthy priesthood bearers are blessed with this great gift. Again,
many are the stories of those who have been healed through priesthood power. Among the most significant was the great day of healing when on the morning
of July 22, 1839, the Prophet arose from his own bed of sickness and being
filled with the Spirit of the Lord, he went forth along the river bank
healing all who were afflicted.
Philo Dibble relates the account of his being healed during the Missouri
troubles: "We all responded and met the
mob in battle, in which I was wounded with an ounce ball and two buck shot,
all entering my body just at the right side of my navel . . . .
"I continued on and arrived
home, or rather at a house in the field that the mob had not torn down,
which was near my own home. There I found my wife and two children and
a number of other women who had assembled. I told them I was shot and wanted
to lay down.
"They got me on the bed,
but on thinking of what the mob had said, became frightened, and assisted
me up stairs. I told them, however, that I could not stay there, my pain
was so great . . . .
"The next morning I was
taken farther off from the road, that I might be concealed from the mob.
I bled inwardly until my body was filled with blood, and remained in this
condition until the next day at five p. m. I was then examined by a surgeon
who was in the Black Hawk war, and who said that he had seen a great many
men wounded, but never saw one wounded as I was that ever lived. He pronounced
me a dead man.
"David Whitmer, however,
sent me word that I should live and not die, but I could see no possible
chance to recover. After the surgeon had left me, Brother Newell Knight
came to see me, and sat down on the side of my bed. He laid his right hand
on my head, but never spoke. I felt the Spirit resting upon me at the crown
of my head before his hand touched me, and I knew immediately that I was
going to be healed. It seemed to form like a ring under the skin, and followed
down my body. When the ring came to the wound, another ring formed around
the first bullet hole, also the second and third. Then a ring formed on
each shoulder and on each hip, and followed down to the ends of my fingers
and toes and left me. I immediately arose and discharged three quarts of
blood or more, with some pieces of my clothes that had been driven into
my body by the bullets . . . . From that time not a drop of blood
came from me and I never afterwards felt the slightest pain or inconvenience
from my wounds, except that I was somewhat weak from the loss of blood.
"The next day I walked
around the field, and the day following I mounted a horse and rode eight
miles, and went three miles on foot." (Early Scenes in
Church History, 8:83-85)
Apostle Matthew Cowley was another who seemed to have this great gift as
evidenced by his many wonderful stories.
The working of miracles (v21).
"A special divine power is needed for the working
of miracles. The Prophet Joseph had this power in a very high degree. It
was one of the evidences that he had the authority of the holy Priesthood."
(D&C Commentary, p275)
Certainly, the Prophet Joseph Smith was blessed with this great gift.
Another in this dispensation who had a unique gift of prophecy was Heber
C. Kimball. He made the following prophecy: "I
have seen the time when our brethren have had to eat beef-hides, wolves,
dogs and skunks. You may smile, but I can tell you that it was no laughing
matter at that time, for there were many who could not even have dogs to
eat. Many of the brethren in those trying times were clothed in skins of
wild animals. I felt impressed to prophesy to them, and I said, 'Never
mind, boys, in less than one year there will be plenty of clothes and everything
that we shall want sold at less than St. Louis prices'; and I thought when
I came to reflect upon it that it was a very improbable thing, and Brother
Rich told me that he thought I had done up the job at prophesying that
time, but the sequel showed the prediction to be of the Lord. In less than
six months, the emigration to California came through here laden down with
good clothing, bacon, flour, groceries and everything we wanted. The opening
of the gold mines had caused them to rush for the scene of excitement;
they came with their trunks full of the best clothing, and they opened
them and turned out a great deal of clothing, and the brethren and sisters
bought good coats, vests, shawls and dresses at a nominal price, and in
this way the Lord supplied our wants, and he will do so again if the circumstances
ever require it." (Journal of Discourses, 10:247)
Orson F. Whitney relates this story about Heber Kimball: "It
is related that, during this famine, a brother, sorely in need of bread,
came to President Kimball for counsel how to procure it.
"'Go and marry a wife,' was Heber's terse reply,
after relieving the immediate wants of the applicant.
"Thunderstruck at receiving such an answer at
such a time, when he could hardly provide food for himself, the man went
his way, dazed and bewildered, thinking that President Kimball must be
out of his mind. But the more he thought of the prophetic character and
calling of the one who had given him this strange advice, the less he felt
like ignoring it. Finally he resolved to obey counsel, let the consequences
be what they might. But where was the woman who would marry him, was the
next problem. Bethinking himself of a widow with several children, who
he thought might be induced to share her lot with him, he mustered up courage,
proposed and was accepted.
"In that widow's house was laid up a six months'
store of provisions!" (Life of Heber C. Kimball, p403-404)
The discerning of spirits (v23).
WHAT IS THIS GIFT?
"What this means may be illustrated by relating
a remarkable experience which the Prophet records. On the 9th of November,
1835, a man came to his home and introduced himself as a Jewish minister
whose name was Joshua. The Prophet entertained him hospitably, as he always
did both strangers and friends who visited him. One day Mr. Joshua said
that he was a lineal descendant of Matthias, and a re-incarnation of this
Apostle. The Prophet writes:
"'I told him that his doctrine was of the Devil,
that he was in reality in possession of a wicked and depraved spirit, although
he professed to be the spirit of truth itself. He said also that he possessed
the Spirit of Christ. He tarried until Wednesday, 11th, when, after breakfast,
I told him that my God told me that his god was the Devil, and I could
not keep him any longer' (Hist. of the Church, Vol. II.. p. 307).
"Thus the Prophet Joseph had the gift to discern
spirits." (D&C Commentary, p275)
Speaking in tongues (v24).
Joseph Smith: "Be not so curious about tongues;
do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate
design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious
to display their intelligence let them speak to such in their own tongues. The gifts of God are all useful in their places, but when they are applied
to that which God does not intend, they prove an injury, a snare, and a
curse instead of a blessing." (HC, 5:31)
Interpretation of tongues (v25).
President David O. McKay tells the following story: "The
occasion was a conference held at Huntley, New Zealand, a thousand people
assembled. Before that time I had spoken through interpreters in China,
Hawaii, Holland, and other places, but I felt impressed on that occasion
to speak in the English language. In substance I said, 'I have never been
much of an advocate of the necessity of tongues in our Church, but today
I wish I had that gift. But I haven't. However, I am going to speak to
you . . . in my native tongue and pray that you may have the gift of interpretation
of tongues. We will ask Brother Stuart Meha, who is going to interpret
for me, to make notes, and if necessary he may give us a summary of my
"Well, the outpouring of the gift of tongues
on that occasion was most remarkable. Following the end of my sermon Brother
Sid Christy, who was a student of Brigham Young University, a Maori, who
had returned to New Zealand, rushed up and said, 'Brother McKay, they got
"Well, I knew they had by the attention and the
nodding of their heads during the talk. I said, 'I think they have but
for the benefit of those who may not have understood or had that gift,
we shall have the sermon interpreted.'
"While Brother Meha was interpreting that or
giving a summary of it in the Maori language some of the natives, who had
understood it, but who did not understand English, arose and corrected
him in his interpretations.
"President George Albert Smith and Brother Rufus
K. Hardy visited New Zealand several years after that event, and Brother
Hardy, hearing of the event, brought home testimonies of those who were
present, and he took the occasion to have those testimonies notarized.
So it is the gift of interpretation rather than the gift of tongues, that
was remarkable." (quoted in Latter-day Prophets & the Doctrine
& Covenants, 2:126)
Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts.
"Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that
ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering
for what they are given" (D&C 46:8).
As we study Church history, there is no question that the gifts of the
Spirit have been part of the restoration of all things. They have
been a great blessing to those who have been faithful and lived worthy
of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord has commanded us in the above verse to "earnestly" seek after
these gifts. Do we enjoy the gifts of the Spirit in our lives? If
WHAT CAN WE DO TO DISCOVER THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US?
"He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according
to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh. And again,
I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever
you do in the Spirit; And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for
whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with. And ye must practise virtue
and holiness before me continually." (D&C 46:30-33)
As we review the gifts of the Spirit, it is evident that in most cases
they are given to us to bless the lives of others. Clearly, the Prophet
Joseph Smith possessed these great gifts and he spent his life blessing
the lives of others. I believe that we put ourselves in a position
to receive these gifts when we strive to serve others.
President George Q. Cannon taught: "If any of
us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us
perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What
is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct
these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray
for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Am I an envious man? It is my duty to seek for charity, which envieth not. So with all
the gifts of the Gospel. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, ‘Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.’ He
is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength
to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them."
(Millennial Star, 23 Apr 1894, p260)
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the gifts of the spirit as discussed in this
lesson. Why is it important for you to seek the gifts of the spirit? How can
you do that?
Resources Used In This Lesson
A New Witness for the Articles of Faith by Bruce R. McConkie.
Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.
Conference Reports (CR).
Doctrine & Covenants Commentary by Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl.
Early Scenes in Church History published by the Juvenile Instructor Office,
History of the Church (HC).
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Latter-day Prophets & the Doctrine & Covenants compiled by Roy W. Doxey.
Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney.
Masterful Discourses of Orson Pratt compiled by N.B. Lundwall.
Studies In Scripture, Volume 1, edited by Robert L. Millet
and Kent P. Jackson.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS).
The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith by Lyndon W. Cook.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
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