Grace & Gifts

I have been reading The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister. It is an amazing, inspiring, and beautiful work about Jesus Christ. In chapter 23, it talks about the blessing of grace. The whole grace versus works discussion is touched upon and he mentions 2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon.

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“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

He says that some misunderstand this scripture to mean that the Atonement of Christ provides the cleansing power to save us, while our works provide the perfecting power. But this is not so. Callister says:

“It is true that the Atonement provides the cleansing power. It is also true that works are a necessary ingredient of the perfecting process. But without the Atonement, without grace, without the power of Christ, all the works in the world would fall short of perfecting even one human being. Works must be coupled with grace both to perfect and to cleanse a person unto exaltation. In other words, grace is not only necessary to cleanse us, but also to perfect us.”

The way He perfects us is by sharing the Gifts of the Spirit.

These godlike attributes empower, ennoble and lift us to become better than we could be on our own merits—in other words, they help us to become godlike.

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Over the years, I’ve listened to and taught many lessons about the Gifts of the Spirit…but not until recently did I understand the power those gifts bring us. I believed we were each born with at least one gift and we could develop more throughout our lives just by being obedient and righteous.

But Callister shed more light on the subject, helping me to see a call for action:

“The Lord in his unbounded kindness anxiously seeks to shower these spiritual gifts upon us. It is his way of bestowing upon us some of the attributes of godhood. In some respects these gifts are like a spiritual gold mine at our disposal that remains untapped if we fail to pursue the mining process. But how do we tap into the gold mine and acquire gifts of the Spirit that may presently elude our grasp—these gifts that refine us, ennoble us, and ultimately even perfect us? Certainly, obedience to God’s word is necessary, but alone it is insufficient. There is yet another, perhaps more subtle prerequisite—we must ask. We must want the gifts so fervently that this pursuit is a constant, unending struggle.”

When I read this, it changed my whole outlook. I had been living my life as if God would decide which spiritual gifts He would bestow on me and when. And maybe I’d only get those when enduring a trial of some kind. Kind of like the doctor handing a child a lollipop after giving him a hurtful shot.

But no!

God is anxious to pour out as many spiritual gifts as I am willing to ASK and SEEK after through prayer and determined effort and reliance upon His atonement. He doesn’t want me to just sit and wait for Him to perfect me.

“Pure obedience and silent endurance are not enough. There must be a burning desire, a reaching out, a seeking, in short, an exhaustive exercise of our combined spiritual, intellectual, and emotional energies, all focused on obtaining these divine gifts.” Callister – The Infinite Atonement

So how can we know what spiritual gifts to ask for?

Callister suggests we take a good look at ourselves and figure out where we are weak, and then seek after the spiritual gift that would countermand that weakness and make it a strength. He gives this quote by President George Q. Cannon to show what he means.

“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.”

Through God’s grace, He helps us identify weaknesses so we can be humble and repent. That step is where I usually stopped after in the past. But if I push further, I can begin an intent quest to receive the gifts that will fill the holes those weaknesses left in me. If I lack courage to stand up for the truth, I can repent and pray for the gift of boldness and courage. If I bite my nails (which I sadly do), I can seek after the gift of awareness and self-control to overcome that bad habit. I don’t have to just sit and wait and hope God will shower random spiritual gifts upon me.

I can seek out what tools, or gifts, I specifically need to overcome my flaws and failings and be one step closer to perfection.

That doesn’t mean I do the work to perfect myself. It means I seek the grace of Christ through His atonement, hoping and praying for specific spiritual gifts I need from Him to become better than I can possibly be on my own.

That is beautiful doctrine… and it has made contemplating my weaknesses and sins not a depressing prospect, but a hopeful one. I see where I am weak, and have made a list of gifts I need to overcome those flaws. This quote by Parley P. Pratt, an early member of the Church in the 1800’s, lists many of these gifts we can seek after.

“The gift of the Holy Ghost…quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animations, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.”   

Those gifts are amazing!

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Who doesn’t want to develop more beauty of person or have their intellect expanded and have health and vigor? If we truly want it…and ASK for it with pure intent and determination to SEEK after it…He will give it to us, for Christ has said:

“Whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you. Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive.” 3 Nephi 27:27-29 in the Book of Mormon

I don’t know about you, but that doctrine brings me much joy.

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