“Neglect not the gift that is in thee."
1 Timothy 4:14
Recently, I led a Relief Society discussion at church on the subject of talents. I opened that discussion by sharing my experiences teaching an exceptional group of adolescent girls several years ago. A phrase I heard far too often from these young women, in response to the concept of God-given gifts, was this: “I don’t have any.” Time and time again, these lovely and accomplished young women insisted that they had no special talents at all…or at least, none worth mentioning. “How can that be?” I would challenge. If God is no respecter of persons, if Father in Heaven loves each of us equally, then why would He favor one child over another, especially when it comes to the gifts and attributes that make us who we are...and make possible the person we can become? The Lord uses our talents to bless us and to bless others, and He promises that “there are many gifts, and to every man [and woman] is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11).
In other words, God does not play favorites. Some gifts are more visible than others, but that doesn't mean they are more valuable. Neither does it mean we have less obligation to use them.
Talents are meant to be shared, which is why the Lord spreads them around a bit. They’re also intended to be developed. (No-brainer, right?) But there is one catch: In order to share talents…in order to develop them…we must first be able to see them. In ourselves. And if we can’t or won’t see them, we need to believe the Lord when He tells us they are there and resolve to find them.
How do we do this? First, we open our minds. Then we make a comprehensive list of things we like to do, including every dimension of our lives—spiritual, musical, dramatic, academic, athletic, and so on. Consulting family members, trusted friends, teachers, religious leaders, etc. is an excellent way to gather information, because others see in us what we might overlook in ourselves. (Of course, we have to be willing to listen to what they say!) We can also listen to what the Lord has to say, seeking additional insight through prayer.
One thing is certain. We need to make it our business to know what our talents are, because if we can’t name 'em, we can’t claim 'em. And if we can’t claim 'em, we can’t develop, share, or consecrate them to the Lord. Every gift we’ve been given, whether we are magnifying it or not, is a sacred responsibility, and God has expectations about what we do with it.
God-given talents should be acknowledged, like good friends, and introduced to others. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I began to understand that it wasn't prideful to "own up" to a talent...because if you couldn't own up to it, you couldn't own it, either. (And by “own” I mean take responsibility for…be a good steward over.) Remember the parable of the talents in the New Testament? The talent that was carefully placed underground (to languish there, unused) was taken away and given to someone willing to give it life and make the most of it.
Of course, in order to give a talent life, we must be courageous enough to embrace the risk inherent in admitting that it’s there in the first place. After all, if we never admit it exists, then we don't have to experience the growing pains of developing it...the trial and error of putting it out there and accepting the feedback (sometimes positive and sometimes negative) that makes it ready for prime time. Quite simply, we must create an open space for our talents to grow, or they will not grow at all. They may even wither away completely.
The Lord likes a go-getter. He’s made it clear that it is not good enough for us simply to return to Him the talents He has given us. We are to improve upon and add to our talents. He has promised that if we multiply our talents, our joy will be eternal.
"Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Timothy 4:14).
Short and sweet, right?
But it definitely packs a punch.
For every gift must have its time and place
or be forgotten…and the Giver, too.
Come, let us dedicate ourselves anew.
Receive and magnify each gift with grace.