Rejoicing in Our Gifts

The following is the talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, 19 July 2015.


I am Lynn Taylor. There have been a lot of new families that have moved in after Donna and I arrived, so I’ll give a little introduction. We have four boys. Devon finishes his mission in Japan this November. Joshua leaves for his mission to Little Rock, Arkansas in September. Kai is starting 10th grade, and Ari is starting 6th grade. Ari is very excited to have Sister Tonioli as his teacher this year.

Donna grew up in North Carolina. I was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico, but grew up in Arizona, where I graduated from high school, then went to college at a small engineering school that you have never heard of in Prescott, AZ. That is where I met Donna, who was my calculus tutor. She got me through calculus, so I figured I’d better hang on to her. That was a good idea on my part because she has gotten me through a lot of other things since then.

After college, I went into the Air Force as a pilot, flying the A-10 Warthog. I also spent time as a classroom instructor, teaching the Army and the Air Force how to play nice together, which was both challenging and rewarding. I have always loved teaching, and that assignment has always held a special place in my heart.

We got out of the Air Force about 10 years ago and moved to Hooper about five years ago, where I now work as the chief deputy for the County Clerk/Auditor. I have seen a few of you when you come in to get a passport or a marriage license. Donna starts grad school in physics at the U this fall.

We have been a lot of places, and seen and done a lot of things. I was not good at math, but I was a really good pilot, and a great teacher. What I am most proud of, though, is that I am a great husband and a great father. I know that I am because I try really hard, and my family tells me a do I great job. What’s more… and this is what you really need to pay attention to… I know that I am a great husband and a great father, and I have permission to enjoy that fact.

I became keenly aware of this when I heard someone speak at an event early last year. This gentleman introduced himself, and included the statement that he was a great husband and a great father. While he had a lot of wonderful things to say, what struck me most was right there in his introduction. I realized that, not only was he a great husband and a great father, he knew it. He owned it. And he enjoyed it. He had given himself permission to have joy in those talents of being a great husband and father.

And in doing so, he also gave everyone else in the room permission to do the same thing. I took that message to heart, and ever since then have had joy in knowing and accepting that I, too, am a great husband and a great father.

Now, if you’re applying these words to your own life, and the words “but not perfect” flitted through your mind, you just fell into the trap. Kick those words right out of your mind. We are not talking about being perfect. That is a talk for the next life. We’re talking about the here and now, and yes, we all know, none of us are perfect. Why do we always feel the need to bring that up? So forget it. We’re talking about being great, not perfect.

You have gifts and talents from your Heavenly Father, yes? We know from the scriptures that everyone has gifts.

From D&C Section 46

8 …seek ye earnestly the best gifts…

 

9 For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments,…

 

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

 

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

In Primary last week we talked about all of the different gifts there are. Many gifts are listed in D&C 46. Of course, that is not an exhaustive list. There are so many wonderful gifts out there. Everyone has been given gifts, and you can ask for and develop other gifts and talents that you desire. There is the gift to be a good listener. The gift to play the piano. The gift to be a good friend. The gift to be a great husband, a great father, a great wife, a great mother, a great son, or a great daughter.

How many times do we deny ourselves the joy from these gifts that can be ours because we don’t want to be too proud? At least, that is what we tell ourselves it is. We tell ourselves that to be too happy about our talents would be prideful. So we temper that joy, we focus on the ways that we aren’t “perfect.” We receive a compliment and think to ourselves “yeah, but…” then follow with an internal dialogue of our failings. Or worse, we tell the person who just gave us the compliment.

We often become so obsessed with humility that it becomes its own kind of fault. But is it possible to have both? Can we both rejoice in the gifts that we have been given, and at the same time not be overcome with pride? Once we receive these gifts, what spirit or attitude should we have towards them?

From D&C 88:33

33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

To truly receive a gift, then, we should rejoice in the gift that is given to us, and rejoice in the giver as well. Note that it is possible to do both: rejoice in the giver, and rejoice in the gift.

Perhaps the ability to balance those two is, in itself a gift. If it is, it is definitely one to seek after.
I am reminded of a discussion between Ammon and his brother Aaron. Ammon was reflecting on the miraculous success they had among the Lamanites. The next time you read through Alma 26, notice how many times Ammon uses the words “us” and “we,” when talking about everything they accomplished. He does give credit and glory to God, but he also acknowledges their own efforts in the process. I’ll start in verse 9, and point out just a couple of words he uses that made Aaron think that Ammon was “carried away unto boasting.”

In Alma 26, starting in verse 9, Ammon says:

9 For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren…, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God.

 

10 And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting.

 

11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.

 

12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

 

36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo.

So how do we strike that balance? How can we be like Ammon, who had the clarity to rejoice in the talents that he and his brothers received to bring about miracles? I testify that this clarity is a gift that can be obtained by seeking after it.

If you do not experience a full measure of joy in your gifts, then you are stuck in counterfeit humility that robs you of the joy and rejoicing that comes from using those gifts. If that describes you, then I encourage you to seek the gift of understanding so that you can rejoice in the talents you have been blessed with and have worked to develop.

Asking for such a gift is both our right and our responsibility. President George Q. Cannon said:

“How many of you … are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? … 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 you’re still stuck with Aaron, and are terrified that you will be overcome with pride, then I ask you to go read two General Conference talks. The first is President Benson’s April 1989 General Conference talk on pride. If you read it carefully, you will see that he does use the word “pride” to describe what he is warning about, but the word he used to define his core message was “enmity,” which is a very specific definition of pride. He says that:

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition…

 

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects…, works…, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”

So, pride, in the way President Benson talked about it, comes from self-elevation. It comes from viewing our gifts as a competition. However, this is not the only way to view our gifts. It is possible to put aside the culture of comparison and rejoice in each gift for its own sake.

President Uchtdorf referenced President Benson’s talk in one of his messages from the October 2010 conference. He says:

“I also remember one interesting side effect of President Benson’s influential talk. For a while it almost became taboo among Church members to say that they were “proud” of their children or their country or that they took “pride” in their work. The very word pride seemed to become an outcast in our vocabulary.”

 

In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced His Beloved Son with the words “in whom I am well pleased.”

 

Alma gloried in the thought that he might “be an instrument in the hands of God.” The Apostle Paul gloried in the faithfulness of members of the Church. The great missionary Ammon gloried in the success he and his brothers had experienced as missionaries.

 

I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful. I am proud of many things. I am proud of my wife. I am proud of our children and grandchildren.”

So, if you are worried that you cannot take pride in your gifts, or your talents, or a job well done, I will borrow from another brilliant talk by President Uchtdorf: “Stop It!”

If you need practice rejoicing in your own gifts, I recommend two things, and I’ll close with these. First, rejoice in the gifts of other people, and do so without comparison or envy. I rejoice in Brother Tonioli’s and Sister Cullison’s gifts for playing the piano that I get to enjoy every week, but I don’t envy them their gifts. I know that, if I really wanted that gift, I could seek after it. I may not develop it to their level, but I could still rejoice in whatever level I achieved. That isn’t a gift I seek after, though. I also rejoice in Brother Boyson’s gift for grilling the most delicious burgers on the planet. I am able to enjoy that gift without thinking myself any less because my talents are different.

So, as you practice rejoicing in the gifts of others, the second thing I recommend is to practice rejoicing in your own gifts. If you need to do that in a nonthreatening environment, please feel free to practice on Donna and me. We love to hear people rejoicing in their gifts. I know it might feel weird the first few times, but please don’t hesitate to practice on us. Come and tell us what you’re good at, what you love doing, and what gifts you have been given. As you do that, not only will you be able to experience more joy in your own gifts, you will be giving others permission to have joy in their gifts as well.

As we are reminded in 2 Nephi 2:25, “men are that they might have joy.” I know that our Father in Heaven showers gifts on us, and wants us to have joy in them as we use them to bless lives. That we may learn to more perfectly live in that joy is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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