Spiritual Gifts: The Cessationist Controversy from an LDS Perspective

Debate over spiritual gifts is about as old as the first New Testament passage describing them. Paul’s discourse and description of the gifts in 1 Corinthians is a response to the first-century Church’s turmoil over the nature and practice of these gifts.

The Montanist heresy is evidence of continued confusion in the second and third century.  From references found in Eusebius and others we learn that one of the greatest arguments between Montanists and the Church in Asia Minor was whether or not true prophecy could take place in an ecstatic state of hallucination and frenzy. Writings by Hilary and Ambrose suggest that the gifts of prophecy and speaking and interpreting in tongues were present in the Christian church well into the fourth century. Beginning with the fifth century, theologians such as John Chrysostom began to lament the waning of these gifts, though revivals continued to crop up periodically. In A.D. 1000 the Rituale Romanorum (Roman Ritual) defined glossolalia as prima facie evidence of demon possession. But in the centuries following, prophecy and tongues were found in groups such as the Waldenses in the 1100’s, the Franciscans in the 1200’s, the Anabaptists in the 1500’s, the Quakers in the 1600’s, the Methodists of England in the 1700’s, the Second Great Awakening in the 1800’s, and the Pentecostal Revival in the U.S. in the 1900’s.

Spiritual gifts, especially those of tongues and prophecy, have been the subject of debate into the 21st century. Pentecostal and charismatic movements exhibit tension with other evangelical groups over the manifestation of these gifts. Often the discussion is framed in terms of their temporary vs. permanent nature. Among noncharismatics it has been relatively standard to regard the gifts of tongues and prophecy as foundational for the church and designed only to be temporarily experienced by the early saints. A view that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit pertained only to the Christian church’s apostolic era may be labeled “cessationist.”

Non-cessationists deny that any of the spiritual gifts ceased after the first century. These movements generally see tongues and prophecy as active in the present as it was during the first 70 years C.E.

In a humanistic, enlightened age, it is difficult to see the more extreme manifestations of tongues and prophecy as anything but “loony.” Glossolalia, in particular, is associated with an extreme and fringe portion of the Christian community. Modern Mormonism has attempted to deal with the problem in an interesting way. The perception has entered into LDS thought that the gift of tongues is a spiritual gift whereby a member may experience augmented facility in a foreign language, especially for the purpose of missionary work. I am not quite sure when this interpretation came into vogue. We know that glossolalia occurred in nineteenth-century Mormonism. But it gradually fell from favor and this new interpretation seems to have been firmly entrenched by the time of its inclusion into Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.

“In their more dramatic manifestations [the gift of tongues and their interpretation] consist in speaking or interpreting, by the power of the Spirit, a tongue which is completely unknown to the speaker or interpreter. … Frequently these gifts are manifest where the ordinary languages of the day are concerned in that the Lord’s missionaries learn to speak and interpret foreign languages with ease, thus furthering the spread of the message of the restoration” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition [1966], 800).

During my mission I experienced this presentation of the gift of tongues. In my first area, we tracted into a Christian Bible study group meeting. They excitedly invited us in, only to bash us hard. We pulled out our scriptures and began to debate, and I felt that we held our own. My companion and I chattered freely, responding to questions, raising those of our own, and expounding scripture with our unique LDS interpretation. It was only an hour later, as we left the scene, that I realized the whole time I had been speaking in French! I’d been conversing with the same fluency I have in English. Given the weak state of my language ability, I saw this as a miraculous event. I’d experienced the Mormon gift of tongues.

LDS perception of the gift of prophecy has likewise been softened since the Kirtland and Nauvoo periods. We rarely see leaders or members predict future events. Rather, prophecy is now connected with receiving “inspiration,” usually concerning how best to serve those over whom one holds jurisdiction.

It is difficult to determine, therefore, whether the LDS conception of these two spiritual gifts falls into the cessationist or non-cessationist camp. The gift of tongues manifested as ecstatic vocalizing or singing of speech-like syllables in early Mormonism, but rarely thereafter. Prophecy was much more daringly given, as when Joseph predicted a War between the States. Are we then cessationist, holding that these gifts were valuable in founding the Restoration, but not as useful today?

Or are we non-cessationist, according to the words of the seventh Article of Faith: “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth?” Do we believe these gifts are still as vital and consistent and important as they always have been?

Your turn.

51 Replies to “Spiritual Gifts: The Cessationist Controversy from an LDS Perspective”

  1. I’d say that we have become Administrative Non-cessationists. The charismatic gifts are almost always expressed in such a way that they align within Church administration (gift of tongues is for missionaries, prophecy is for apostles, discernment of spirits is for bishops, etc). When priesthood blessings are given for health, comfort, or guidance I doubt that most members would see that as the exercising of a charismatic gift but rather the expression of the power and authority of the priesthood and as such are not per-se expressions of the Gifts of the Spirit. The personal gifts of testimony may be called upon and expressed at will and the passive gifts like “the word of wisdom” simply express themselves in members’ lives. All other gifts are meant to be used, and usually can only be called upon at will, within Church administration. Of course there are exceptions, but I think they’d be acknowledged by the general membership as such.

    In other words, “mine house is a house of order” is how the charismatic gifts are defined within the LDS Church. Any expression that is not orderly and within the Church structure is probably not a Spiritual Gift. It may still be divine in nature and origin, but it is not directly an expression of a spiritual gift.

  2. I think that officially, we are non-cessationist, and I’ve never heard anyone *say* that they think those gifts are no longer present or relevant. But I do think that there is a general cultural fear of them and that were anyone to stand up and start babbling incoherencies in SS, they would probably be considered for exorcism (another relegated practice?).

    But I’ve experienced a similar gift of language in my travels, and not always in a position of missionary related conversation. So the question I have is, are these gifts inherent to who we are and aways available, or are they limited edition and only allowable within a religious or spiritual context?

  3. I’m not about to relate the details of the experiences (especially since they weren’t mine to share) but I have heard of modern accounts of speaking in tongues and then interpreting it not related to foreign languages. i.e. the traditional view that glossalia is speaking in the Adamaic tongue. This was in a fairly robust ecclesiastical context too. (i.e. GAs present)

    However it’s true that the bulk of understanding tends to be tied to missionary work and the ability to fluently speak or understand a mainstream foreign language. I’ve heard some interesting accounts of interpretation of languages as well. Although once again I’d not feel comfortable sharing in a public forum.

    I am curious as to the shift over. It is interesting though that the traditional sense still comes up in church when discussing the Kirtland temple dedication. It is interesting that this wasn’t really discussed in the recent Joseph Smith PH/RS manual but instead there were several paragraphs of warnings on the gift of tongues. Weirdly the Kirtland incident is taught in the Primary lesson manual.

    I found a few relatively recent Ensign articles (i.e. last 15 years) which talk about it as well, including discussion of Brigham Young’s speaking in the “pure Adamic language.”

  4. I think that with Joseph Smith in the New York and Kirtland eras the understanding of these two gifts evolved to how they are usually understood today.

    Joseph Smith realized after Hiram Page came up with false revelations that the Church would never survive if everyone was alowed to claim prophecies and revelations without check. Joseph Smith reafirmed his position as the head of the Church and said that Hiram Page was out of his place. He began to istitute Church councils which allowed for the ability for prophecy and revelation to continue among the members, but still keep a heirarchy. When the Church moved to the Ohio and gained lots of converts there, there were lots of problems with people manifesting what they thought were spiritual gifts in unusual ways. Joseph Smith and most of the other Saints denounced this. See here: http://institute.lds.org/manuals/church-history-institute-student-manual/chft-06-10-8.asp under “Early Challenges in Ohio”. It was Joseph Smith who made it so that “prophecy is now connected with receiving ‘inspiration,’ usually concerning how best to serve those over whom one holds jurisdiction.”

    The gibberish-type of speaking in tongues had gone out of favor long before Bruce R. McConkie came along. For example, Joseph Smith taught this in 1834: “Brother Joseph then proceeded to give an explanation of the gift of tongues: That it was particularly instituted for the preaching of the Gospel to other nations and languages, but it was not given for the government of the Church. He further said, if brother Gordon [the individual who had spoken in tongues] introduced the gift of tongues as a testimony against brother Carpenter, that it was contrary to the rules and regulations of the Church, because, in all our decisions we must judge from actual testimony . . . Brother Joseph advised that [we] speak in our own language in all such matters and then the adversary cannot lead our minds astray . . .” (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1834-38/8Sept34.html)
    And in 1839: “Speak not in the Gift of tongues without understanding it, or without interpretation, The Devil can speak in Tongues. The Adversary will come with his work, he can tempt all classes, Can speak in English or Dutch. –Let no one speak in tongues unless he interpret except by the consent of the one who is placed to preside, then he may discern or interpret or another may.” (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1839/8Aug39(1).html)
    Also in 1839: “Were given for the purpose of preaching among those whose language is not understood as on the day of Pentecost &c, & it is not necessary for tongues to be taught to the church particularly, for any man that has the Holy Ghost, can speak of the things of God in his own tongue, as well as to speak in another, for faith comes not by signs but by hearing the word of God.” (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1839/27Jun39.html)
    1842: “If any have a matter to reveal, let it be in your own tongue. Do not indulge too much in the gift of tongues, or the devil will take advantage of the innocent. You may speak in tongues for your own comfort but I lay this down for a rule that if any thing is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine.” (http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1842/28Apr42.html)
    The gift of tongues has always been primarily for teaching the gospel, and the Church has never presented it as being a spiritual gift that needs to be widespread and dramatic for it to be the true church.

  5. Our Mormon scriptures are not cessationist. See Mormon 7: 35-38 and Moroni 10: 24-26. The best gifts of the Spirit are never to cease to be given to man, “so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved”. It is through the best gifts that we are saved, (which is why Moroni says that they won’t cease to be given so long as “there shall be one man…to be saved”.) If they ever cease among mankind, “it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” Also, “no man can be saved…if these things (the gifts) have ceased” because if the gifts have ceased, “then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.”

    Now, with that in mind, what do we see among the LDS? Do they prophesy today? No. Do they raise the dead? No. Do they miraculously heal every whit? No. Do they speak in tongues? No. Do they interpret tongues? No. Do they see angels? No. Do they perform miracles? No. And on and on down the list of best gifts. The best gifts have largely ceased among the LDS church. What best gifts do manifest, happen to a rare individual here and there, who exercises their “faith unto salvation.”

    So, the LDS are cessationists, contrary to their own scriptures. They have rejected the best gifts which save and have adopted lesser gifts which have no power to save.

  6. LDS Anarchist, I don’t think you’re qualified or appointed to speak for all LDS. You say “They don’t do x or y.” Maybe they just don’t shout them from the rooftops – such powerful spiritual events are often intensely personal or held with great reverence. I do in fact know someone whose life was miraculously spared and the OP itself told of the author’s experience with the gift of tongues. So you should cease your point about cessation. 😀

  7. 2 Nephi 31:13 comes to mind:

    “… yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.”

    I think that is referencing the “Adamic” language, as the language that angels speak, and the shouting part, well, that might be considered a little frenzied. And it very much falls in line with the Pentecostals too, in which speaking in tongues is a way of verbally praising God.

    So if a charismatic Christian asks if you believe in the gift of tongues, show them 2 Nephi 31:13.

  8. Proud Daughter of Eve, #6,

    The OP asked, “Are we then cessationist?” and “Or are we non-cessationist?”

    And then she said, “Your turn.”

    Was it not my turn? Did I not answer those questions, according to my understanding?

    You said, “I don’t think you’re qualified or appointed to speak for all LDS.”

    Look at the OP questions again. Notice that to answer the questions posed by the OP, one would have to speak for all LDS. Had the author desired to know whether the individual commenter was cessationist or non-cessationist, she would have asked, “Are you a cessationist?” and “Or are you a non-cessationist?”

    In other words, the questions themselves qualified and appointed everyone to speak for all the LDS.

  9. LDS Anarchist, even if you believe those are the answers, surely you’ve been around enough LDS circles to hear lots of stories of people claiming all those things. So even if you claim they are cessationists it appears that most Mormons don’t claim that themselves.

  10. Clark #9, the OP didn’t ask what we claim to be. In fact, the OP stated exactly what we claim to be (non-cessationists) in the second to the last paragraph:

    Or are we non-cessationist, according to the words of the seventh Article of Faith: “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth?”

    The question was, “what are we?”, not “what do we claim to be?”

    And yes, I’ve heard lots of hearsay testimony (“I’ve got an uncle whose missionary companion told him of another companion of his who…”) of miraculous occurrences, but hardly anyone I’ve ever personally talked to has told me of personal experience with best gift manifestations. Sure, I’ve heard of other types of manifestations and other gifts, but the scriptural best gift manifestations are very rare to come across in this day and age. They have all but ceased among us.

    About the only time best gift manifestations ever occur is on one’s mission. And the elder or sister who experiences such manifestations will often come home and never have such experiences again. I have sat in countless church and quorum meetings and whenever the subject of spiritual experiences (as in gifts and miracles) comes up, inevitably all the return missionaries rehash the experiences of their mission, whether it was a month ago or 20 or more years ago.

    I have met very few individuals who possess any of the best gifts. For example, I’ve met no one who possessed tongues, no one who possessed interpretation, no one who could prophesy, no one who beheld angels, no one who discerned spirits, no one who worked miracles, no one who had faith to heal, no one who had faith to be healed, no one who had the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge, no one who had the diversities of operations, and no one who had the differences of administration.

    Sure, there were people who had healed during priesthood administrations, but these same people had also not healed, and they never did it without invoking priesthood, so this was not the gift to heal. Sure, there were people who had been healed during priesthood administrations, but these same people during other priesthood administrations had not been healed, so this was not the gift to be healed.

    In none of the manifestations either witnessed by me or testified by people I listened to, were the gifts subject to the one who supposedly possessed them. They happened sporatically and randomly. The one who held the gift had no control whether it would happen or not. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they did not.

    Best gifts do not work like this. When you receive a best gift, you may manifest it whenever you want. It is under your control. It is subject to you, not you subject to it (D&C 50.) As long as you remain in your purified state, it is yours to wield to the benefit of your fellowman. So, no, what we have among ourselves are not the best gifts, despite our claims.

  11. I wrote the post because I do see a difference between the modern LDS version of spiritual gifts and what we have in the scriptures (ancient and latter-day). I find myself agreeing with LDSA that I have never personally seen or heard of gifts in the present-day church which align with what I perceive to be described in the scriptures. But we all know that there are claims to gifts and spiritual manifestations. They have changed a bit in emphasis and appearance. NCNTom in comment #1 speaks to this quite well. It looks like some of you are non-cessationist in that you believe the gifts we exhibit are essentially the same as those spoken of. Is that what you are saying PDOE? If, as Clark claims, most Mormons would agree that we are non-cessationist, how do they reconcile the changes? Or do they deny that there are changes?

    In my view a cessationist stance would be that strong manifestations of prophecy, tongues, and the like were necessary at the time of the Restoration but not as needed today. Do you think this position is accepted in LDS thought? (and yes, I’m asking commenters to speak for all LDS, or at least your perception of what latter-day saints believe.)

  12. *shrug* As Clark pointed out, LDSA must have been in LDS circles enough to hear many stories and in fact LDSA later confirmed that. So I don’t think LDSA is speaking correctly when he or she states “Do LDS do X? No.”

    I’ve wondered about the apparent change in gifts also. I think there are a number of things at work, one of which could be necessity. (The idea that it was more necessary during the Restoration than it is today.) I think the other is the difference in how we experience and express faith today. Since the Restoration, science and medicine have virtually exploded as areas of knowledge. Some Christians view faith in opposition to science but in my experience, LDS people don’t see it as an either-or proposition. Also, as a result of the boom of science and medicine, the miracles we need may have changed.

    For example: this fall my four-month old daughter developed Kawasaki’s Disease, something I’d never heard of until the ER doctor told me why she was being admitted. My head still spins when I think of the events of that week. The long and short of it is that the hospital we took her to is a renowned children’s hospital and that five of the country’s top Kawasaki doctors work there. The disease was caught in time, the medicine she was given has worked even though the IV came out before the full dose was finished and today she is happy and healthy.

    It’s not an old-fashioned “And then the priesthood put their hands on her head and instantly she was healed!” kind of miracle but it’s miraculous enough to me. God has given us knowledge and skill – which is not to say we don’t still need faith for healing, just that what it looks like when its working is different.

    LDSA challenged for primary source stories of miraculous healing. Here are two more: http://pledgie.com/campaigns/14534 and http://onkristasmind.blogspot.com/

    As for the gift of tongues, I go back to what the OP said about “My house is a house of order.” What’s the POINT of someone babbling incoherently? Like Joseph Smith said, if there’s no one to interpret, it’s not a revelation. The gift of tongues is for the enlightenment of others and I think insisting on interpreting “the tongue of angels” as speaking in the Adamic language is perhaps to miss the point.

  13. LDS Anachirst, I guess we hang in different circles. I hear first person narrative accounts of them all the time. I’m dubious about some of the accounts. But I’m equally dubious about a lot of 19th century accounts as well. However to say there’s nothing but distant third hand folk tales just boggles the mind.

    But perhaps this divide is due to your definition?

    Best gifts do not work like this. When you receive a best gift, you may manifest it whenever you want. It is under your control. It is subject to you, not you subject to it (D&C 50.)

    Can you point to a person in the 19th century who claims to be able to manifest spiritual gifts on demand in what you portray as a technological fashion? I think you’re artificially raising the bar in a fashion D&C 42 or other passages never claim. I’m not quite sure what you mean with your vague reference to D&C 50, btw.

  14. BiV, I guess my claim is that I don’t see spiritual gifts in the scriptures entailing the technological position that you at LDSA do. Further I don’t agree with LDSA that one can distinguish easily between priesthood blessings and gifts of the spirit in the fashion he is.

    BTW – just to clarify lest someone think I’m making a claim which I am not. I am not saying LDS think there aren’t spiritual gifts which are continuously operational. (i.e. continue to function) Rather I am saying that most LDS I’ve met who believe in such gifts don’t think that, “manifest it whenever you want. It is under your control. It is subject to you, not you subject to it.”

  15. To add, I’m not up on cessationist debates within the Protestant tradition. So perhaps the issue LDSA raised is pertinent there. However then I think the question an LDS would raise theologically is whether that view of gifts in the scriptures is accurate.

  16. Clark #13, asked me, “Can you point to a person in the 19th century who claims to be able to manifest spiritual gifts on demand in what you portray as a technological fashion?”

    I will do one better. I will point to a modern man, John Lester, who stated on my own blog, “And, by the way, even though I’ve only been given the gift of interpretation of public tongues one time, I speak in tongues myself ANY TIME I DESIRE as anyone who has received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit can.”

    The principle is simple. The gifts are given so that we can do the works of Christ and greater works, also. Christ was not subject to His gifts, they were subject to Him. Freely we are to receive them and freely we are to give them (Matthew 10: 8). You cannot freely give something that you do not possess, thus, the LDS do not possess the gifts, because they cannot manifest them at will. LDS cannot today do the works that Christ did, nor anything greater, because no one is exercising faith.

    The proof of this is the ministration of angels, which Moroni said, if it ever ceased, would be “because of unbelief, and all is vain.” The cessation of the appearance of angels among the saints is proof positive that they are not saints, because you cannot be a saint without exercising faith, and “if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.”

    Btw, the scripture I cited above in #5 (Mormon 7: 35-38) is a typo. It should be written Moroni 7: 35-38.

    Proud Daughter of Eve #12, I never said that the best gifts never manifest. What I said was the following:

    The best gifts have largely ceased among the LDS church. What best gifts do manifest, happen to a rare individual here and there, who exercises their “faith unto salvation.”

  17. LDSA, the reason I asked for a 19th century person was because this conception of gifts doesn’t seem to be a part of LDS theology. That you can find people who think it is today really isn’t relevant to the question at hand.

    The issue isn’t whether the gifts cease but rather whether their use becomes basically technological.

  18. Clark #17,

    Zina D. Huntington’s first husband wrote to her while away, reminiscing on how they would regularly kneel together in prayer at night and alternately speak in tongues. Both Zina and Elizabeth Whitney would regularly sing in tongues. It was Brigham Young who spoke in tongues and inspired Joseph’s endorsement of the practice. Their culture believed that the gifts of the spirit were real. They desired them and they had faith to receive them. (Source.)

    Does that sound to you like hit and miss gifts? Or does that sound to you like they used the gifts when they wanted to? In other words, the gifts were subject to them and not vice versa?

  19. The issue isn’t whether the gifts cease but rather whether their use becomes basically technological.

    What do you mean by “technological” in this context? I can’t decide if I agree with LDSA on his point that the gifts as described in the scriptures can be manifested at will. But, as I said, I do see a difference in their definition.

    The cessationist controversy pits those who continue to use the Biblical gifts against those who think they were valid foundationally but have now ceased. In the LDS church we don’t exactly think they have ceased, but we see them as having changed since the 19th century. PDOE’s #12 shows this, as she describes a miraculous healing through modern science and wonders what the point of “babbling” could be. I see this perspective as common to the Latter-day Saints. So perhaps we’re not as much “cessationist” as we are “transmutationist?” 🙂

  20. Eve (#12): As for the gift of tongues, I go back to what the OP said about “My house is a house of order.” What’s the POINT of someone babbling incoherently? Like Joseph Smith said, if there’s no one to interpret, it’s not a revelation. The gift of tongues is for the enlightenment of others…

    Lol — the POINT is that it is not incoherent babbling, except among a people who have largely ceased manifesting the gifts b/c of a lack of belief.

    For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

    Paul doesn’t say — “howbeit in the spirit he speaketh incoherent babbling.”

    I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

    Why would he say that? B/c it is a pointless gift?

    …let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;

    So, given that one can claim that the LDS still hold the gift of tongues among their congregations — we are still cessationists b/c it must then be that the reason we aren’t witnessing the gift of tongues is b/c the gift of interpretation of tongues has ceased among us — and therefore those with tongues are required to keep silent.

    Either way — LDS are cessationists, rather they desire/claim to be or not.

  21. I think I’m not communicating myself too well. Let me first address a couple of point and then try to formally restate what I am reading LDSA as arguing and then my counter argument. But first a few comments.

    1. By technological I don’t mean anything beyond the idea that the power is controllable by me. The contrast would be my ability to drive down the road with my car versus my ability to persuade some neighbor to drive me down the road. The former is purely technological. It works on demands (although we recognize the occasional problem like needing to fill up with gas or having a flat tire) The latter though is really out of my ability. I might try and use it and find I can’t. I’m at the whim of an other.

    The reason I bring up the distinction is that often there is a distinction made between religion and magic on exactly this grounds. (Acknowledging that both terms are somewhat nebulous and problematic for other reasons) So mastering magic is more akin to mastering science and then applying it to create technology. You follow, for instance, this alchemical recipe and if you do it correctly then a certain result occurs. As with science it may not be certain. (Think for instance the use of medicine, a technology, on a disease) But it is predictable.

    As I see it typically within the LDS theological tradition all spiritual gifts and blessings are seen more as persuading God rather than technological. That is they are seen more as my relationship with my neighbor, hoping he’ll drive me down the road, rather than akin to driving my car. There are lots of explicit statements of this by various GAs from the early period on up. There is thus a constant view that God may have other plans that don’t match mine. (The obvious example being the very historic narrative of spiritual translation)

    2. Regarding incoherent babbling. I think one has to acknowledge that there are lots of counterfeits of spiritual gifts. Clearly Joseph Smith was skeptical of the pentacostal and shaker speaking in tongues. Also clearly a lot of converts brought their behaviors with them into Mormonism. It’s always interesting to me that in discussing spiritual gifts speaking in tongues is focused on, as if the other gifts aren’t that important. (i.e. we don’t have gifts because this particular gift isn’t as common in public)

    3. Doing something regularly isn’t the same as doing it on demand. (This will hopefully be clearer when I formalize the arguments) Personally I’m inclined to believe Zina (one of my personal heroes) engaged in real speaking in tongues. I’m also inclined to believe that most 19th century Mormon speaking in tongues was not legitimate. That it was the attempt to mimic a real spiritual gift. (For the record I tend to think this about most spiritual gifts) In any case, no, your example doesn’t establish what I was looking for.

    (The arguments later tonight – sorry I’m pressed for time today)

  22. Just to give an 19th century example of what I think is the typical view, here’s Erastus Snow relating his gift in 1859. (It is admittedly more the common 20th century view of tongues, but it is an example of what I perceive to be how gifts were viewed)

    You may ask if I received the gift of tongues, that I could begin and speak to them in their own language by the power of the Holy Ghost without studying. I answer, Yes, when it pleased the Lord to give it to me; and when it did not, I remained silent. I did not have any special anxiety to preach to them in their own tongue any more than the Lord wanted to have me do.

    The idea being that it’s all for a purpose and tied to the inspiration of God and not something on demand I do whenever I want.

  23. Clark,

    It is true that in this post I specifically target the gifts of tongues (and to a lesser extent, prophecy), because these are the two which are at the forefront of the cessationist controversy.

    1. Thank you for your clarification of “technological.” You made it very understandable. I’m still on the fence with this one, though. I lean toward your view. However. I think that, though God may have other plans than the gift-holder, surely by the time one progresses to the point of exercising gifts they will know enough not to counter the will of God when they do so!

    2. Here you noted that JS was skeptical of pentecostal and shaker-type tongues (see also comment #3) and also that converts may have brought their understanding of the gift into Mormonism, thus exhibiting it in non-doctrinal ways. I thought you were heading toward advancing a theory that facility with foreign language is the only legitimate usage of the gift of tongues — until you said

    3. you believed Zina engaged in “real” speaking of tongues. I looked back in your comment #2 and it looks like you DO believe glossalalia is a genuine manifestation of the gift. Despite your “modern” story of glossalalia, you concede that there has been a shift.

    I’m looking forward to your further arguments later tonight. But I hope you also address this shift in modern Mormon thinking. Why do you think it has occurred, and what are the implications?

  24. Oh! we cross-posted. But your Erastus Snow quote adds to this discussion. Was Erastus in control of his gift but held it back (remained silent) because he knew when and when it was not the Lord’s will that he preach? Or was his gift subject to whenever the Lord “pleased to give it” to him? hmmm.

  25. Re: the technological use of the gifts, all the best gifts are gifts of faith. When you receive a gift, what you are really receiving is faith to do something. Once you receive faith to do something, you always have faith to do something unless you sin and lose faith. God works according to the faith of the children of men, so anytime someone who possesses a best gift exercises their gift, they are exercising their faith to do something, which God cannot deny. And so the gift manifests itself.

    Bona fide gifts of the Spirit do not operate solely according to the will of God, they operate solely according to the faith of men. And so we find, for example, Alma and Amulek beholding the destruction of the saints by fire and Amulek saying to Alma, “How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.” But Alma says to him, “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand.” They had faith to stop the destruction (a gift) yet the Spirit was not prohibiting them from using their gift, only telling them that they should not use their gift, for it was wiser to let the people die. Had they extended their hands and used their gift, the destruction would have stopped, even though that would have been against the will of God. God must act where there is faith, so the Spirit had to tell Alma not extend his hand (not to exercise his faith) so that the destruction would not stop. He couldn’t simply nullify the faith of Alma and Amulek. Believe it or not, God actually respects the will of man and will fulfill all his desires of faith.

    Manifestations of the gifts can come to men without them receiving the gifts themselves. These manifestations are akin to the neighbor (the Spirit) giving you a ride in a car (gift). Sometimes you get the ride, sometimes you don’t, according to the will of the neighbor (the Spirit). These types of manifestations give us a taste of the gift, so that we desire it and end up seeking it. When we have these manifestations, we say that we have have been given or received a gift. But really we have only received or been given a manifestation of a gift, because if you cannot at will exercise your faith at any given moment and manifest the gift again, you do not, in truth, possess the gift. In other words, you were never truly given faith to manifest the gift.

    If the gift is sought and obtained, this is akin to receiving the keys to the car (gift) that you desired. These keys are faith. Any time you exercise those keys, that car starts and takes you on the ride of your life. If you sin, you lose the keys. But if you stay in your purified state, the car starts whenever you turn your keys (exercise your faith).

    People who in actuality receive or are given the gifts (faith to do something), can fulfill the scriptural law and promise, “Ask and you shall receive.” Those without the gifts ask and do not receive. And why do they not receive? Because they do not have the faith required to receive.

    So, Erastus Snow, based upon what was quoted above, did not possess the gift of tongues, though he may have had manifestations of it when the Spirit granted him the privilege.

  26. re: predictability. If you look at how we are supposed to receive anything we ask for, it is given to us as a formula, with predictable results: We are to 1) ask God the Father, 2) in the name of Jesus Christ, 3) for something that is right and good (any of the gifts of the Spirit qualify), 4) in faith (in Christ), 5) believing that we will receive, 6) doubting nothing. The promise is that if all ingredients of the formula are present, what we ask for will be granted. If even one ingredient is missing, we will receive nothing. Notice that the will of God is not present in that formula. It is all up to us, with predictable results.

  27. Still short of time.

    BiV, I’m not convinced there is a shift. It’s just that in my opinion most people with real manifestations of the spirit simply don’t talk about them openly. When people do I confess my instinct is always to think it’s not legitimate. That’s all I’ll say to that beyond repeating my skepticism that LDSA hasn’t heard accounts. I hear them all the time. Getting towards why I don’t think there is a shift that’s because from early on there was a looking askance at the traditions of the shakers, pentacostals and so forth as counterfeits. (Either attributing it to the devil or at least not thinking it of God) This is very, very early on. However I’d also note that even Brigham Young doesn’t see these things as common and apparently is answering the same sort of charge LDSA makes.

    “Why do not the people speak with tongues” We do, and we speak with tongues that you can understand, and Paul says he would rather speak five or ten words in a language that can be understood, than many in a language that cannot be, This is what may be conveyed.” (Brigham Young, JD 15 :133 August 18, 1872)

    Do you suppose that Jesus Christ healed every person that was sick, or that all the devils were cast out in the country where he sojourned? I do not. Working miracles, healing; the sick, raising the dead, and the like, were almost as rare in his day as in this our day. Once in a while the people would have faith in his power, and what is called a miracle would be performed, but the sick, the blind, the deaf and dumb, the crazy, and those possessed with different kinds of devils ere around him, and only now and then could his faith have power to take effect, on account of the want of faith in the individuals. (Brigham Young, 3:45-46 Oct 5, 1855)

    Those are two quotes found rather quickly. (As I said I have little time) Note that the first presumes the very charge LDSA makes. Note the second presumes such public manifestations are very rare. Now of course here we have the intersection of history and theology. Someone might simply say that by the Utah period the church had already lost the gifts. I’d debate that point but it’s really not what I’m interested in. My point is simply that the perception of what the gifts was in the ancient church was that they were rare, were for a purpose and weren’t under the control LDSA portrays. The perception theologically was that the Church in Utah had them about like the ancient Church.

  28. LDSA, as you know the promise of Moroni 4 simply isn’t seen as technological nor is it typically seen as happening on demand. (Everyone knows people pray and don’t receive answers they recognize and that fact is presumed in talk after talk throughout the 19th century as well as the 20th – there are some who blame the prayer but I think in general people just recognize God acts according to his own purposes) One could appeal to the point of having “real faith” of course. But even D&C 46:13-14 has some receiving revelation while others have the gift to believe on their words, presupposing that not everyone gets a revelatory answer.

    BiV, as for Snow, I read him as saying it didn’t just happen that often. I don’t think he’s claiming special inspiration or knowledge of the people. In any case one might say that if something doesn’t work that’s an indication of God’s will. The idea these guys all have some special insight seems implausible to me. (I don’t even think Joseph claimed that level of knowledge of God) The point though is that it doesn’t occur on demand.

  29. When you receive a gift, what you are really receiving is faith to do something. Once you receive faith to do something, you always have faith to do something unless you sin and lose faith.

    I don’t think that’s accurate theology. But ignoring that issue, could you show that this was the view for the various eras of the Church? Joseph Smith doesn’t appear to have thought that. (See the afore mentioned quotations in 3) The idea that the speaking in tongues was all about having the faith to do so seems alien. Rather it requires faith and then fitting the purposes of God. One can raise the idea that if you have faith then you’ll someone mystically know God’s will in every particular. But I see no evidence that faith entails omniscience of that sort.

    All your examples as arguments (such as the example in Alma) require a lot of reading between the lines to get at the conclusions you are using them for. Alma doesn’t indicate at all they could use the gift on demand. Indeed I’d argue the scripture presents exactly the opposite. That they couldn’t use it on demand.

    If you say that this is really an example of how you are defining “best gift” then why can’t I simply say that I have the best gift of speaking in tongues it’s just that every time I go to do it I’m constrained by the spirit not to do it?

  30. Clark, I will give you a 19th century example since you seem fixated on that period in particular. Let’s just look at the Dispensation Head, for example. Joseph Smith, Jun. had the gift to translate. Could he translate on demand or only when he was directed by the Lord to do so? In other words, when translating the Book of Mormon, could he at any time go to the plates and resume the translation? The answer is, of course, yes. He was not subject to the gift of translation, his gift was subject to him. All gifts work this way.

    What other gifts did Joseph have? Here’s another one. He had the gift to behold angels. When Joseph prayed to behold an angel, angels came down and ministered to him. The Three Witnesses saw an angel with Joseph’s help. He prayed with them, adding his faith to theirs, until they also received faith and could behold the messenger. This gift was his to use on demand, as long as he remained purified.

    Joseph also had the gift of seeing visions. Joseph could pray to God to see a vision, and see it. He could see it on demand. Why? Because all gifts are gifts of faith. He had faith to see and so saw. Sidney saw the 3 degrees of glory with Joseph’s help. When Sidney finally got the faith to see, he saw the vision.

    Joseph also had the gift of receiving revelations. He could inquire of the Lord on demand and write them down. This was not a hit and miss gift. He could do this because he had faith to do this.

    Joseph may have also had the gift to prophesy, though if he did, it does not appear that he used it much. Although there are prophecies found within the revelations he received.

    As I said, all these gifts came by faith. They are gifts of faith. The healing gifts are called the “gift of faith to be healed” and the “gift of faith to heal.” They are “gifts of faith” to do something, as are all gifts. All gifts can be called the “gift of faith to” do whatever (prophesy, discern spirits, etc.)

    Perhaps you will try to counter this by saying that Joseph was unique. But that would be incorrect. All the saints who sought and obtained gifts used them on demand. The Book of Mormon record was brought forth so that we might have faith, by reading of examples of those who also had faith. The brother of Jared (who had every gift) is an example. Lehi (gifts of seeing visions, dreams, angels, prophesying), Nephi son of Lehi (same gifts as his father), Jacob brother of Nephi (same as Nephi plus gift of miracles), Alma (pretty much everything), and Nephi brother of Lehi (everything) are others. These men received gifts and could use them on demand. For example, it is written that Nephi had angels appearing to him daily. Do you think they just showed up unannounced each day or that he exercised his gift to behold them and prayed them down by his faith? Nephi was not unique in this. All these men had angels minister to them routinely.

    Joseph, who also saw angels, was our modern example to follow. It was his job to show us how it is done, but the LDS have not followed his example and exhibited the faith needed to obtain the gifts, as he did. What we get instead, then, are spiritual manifestations, which sometimes happen and often do not. The pattern found in the Book of Mormon, of seeing eye to eye, which Joseph attempted to get the saints to establish, has been dropped. Sidney saw what Joseph saw, but who else? David, Martin and Oliver saw what Joseph saw, but who else? Instead of propagating the gifts, by following the divine eye-to-eye pattern, the saints stumbled and fell on their faces.

    So, we moderns are largely cessationists in practice, all the while saying with our lips that the gifts are still with the church.

  31. I’m not so much focused on the 19th century so much as using it as a paradigm case of how the Church viewed the gifts. If one claims the view within the Church has changed it’s fair to actually compare what was said in the 19th century. I think people overstate the differences. (Which isn’t to deny differences, of course) When you say moderns are cessationists in practice I think it fair to compare the modern purported ending to what was actually going on.

    BTW – I don’t think Joseph was unique. Rather I think all these gifts are in practice quite common in the modern church. At least as much as in Nauvoo or early Utah.

  32. BTW – I don’t think Joseph’s gift of translation was subject to him. I think the history where he was unable to translate various things demonstrates that.

    I’m afraid I just don’t buy in the least your particular theological conception of faith. And that clearly is the lynch-pin for all your conclusions.

  33. I checked out Proud Daughter’s links with an open mind and hopeful heart. She provided them in response to the challenge to come up with some first hand experience of the gifts of the spirit. I was excited to see not one such claim but TWO!

    But I gotta be honest. I read them both and while I am left wondering if the second link was in fact the one that Proud Daughter intended to post…well I have to be frank…all I saw was one child saved at the hands of a paid professional, and one dead Sister.

  34. Elder C, I think that second link was supposed to refer to the healing of that deceased Sister’s son, here: Magical Tender Mercies. However, I suspect that you might not find this one an evidence of the scriptural gifts of which we are speaking, either.

    I know we haven’t had many commenters on this post, but I’m glad there has been this little controversy. I think it shows that modern-day LDS are far from unified on how we approach spiritual gifts. I believe we would find this throughout the Church, with several different ideas which haven’t even been covered here.

  35. Ah, ok i see. Yeah I was a little confused by the second link. Thanks. And thanks for raising these questions. As you point out there are myriad issues where I think we sometimes just assume that all LDS are on the “same page”, but nothing could be further from the truth.

  36. [admin note: this comment was not authored by TT. Sorry for the delay in catching it]

    An aside: when/where did you serve your mission?

    My personal experience: I only remember 1 person post-mission every testifying or claiming to have had the reception of a gift, but it, too, was a mission story. This same person did, however, share a story where he was able to foresee/read the mind of someone.

    He was sitting on the plane traveling somewhere for business, saw/read the mind of the lady sitting next to him, and told her both what he saw/read in her mind and what he saw/read to be the answer according to the Spirit.

    This guy is the only man I know to have claimed anything similar.

    Otherwise, whoever said that the LDS aren’t knee deep in the middle of cessation certainly hasn’t been where I’ve been. Not only are the LDS I run with (wards/branches I’ve attended the last 10 years) cessationists, but they’re fearful ones at that: i.e. they’re scared of the gifts. We’ve had it rammed into our minds (from the pulpit) that inspiration/revelation/gifts come down the priesthood channels so many times that people simply look for their leaders to guide/direct/reveal for them. We’re an apathetic bunch, if you ask me.

    Question: what about the gift of dreams? Is that, too, something that can be summoned at any moment, or something gifted to you as God sees fit, moment-to-moment?

  37. Clark #32:

    I think the history where he was unable to translate various things demonstrates that.

    I am not aware of Joseph not being able to translate what he tried to translate (other than when his gift was taken away for a time, until he repented.) I assume you are not referring to that. So, what are these other things he was unable to translate?

  38. TT #36:

    Question: what about the gift of dreams? Is that, too, something that can be summoned at any moment, or something gifted to you as God sees fit, moment-to-moment?

    I’ll assume you are asking me, as I’m the only one (that I know of) that takes the stance of “summoned at any moment.”

    The gift of dreams is, again, the gift of faith to have inspired/revelatory/prophetic dreams. (Obviously, we all have dreams, so that qualifier must be stated or implied.) So, if I had the gift of dreams, I could pray to God in Jesus’ name and ask in faith, believing I would receive, doubting nothing, that God speak to me by dream. Then I’d go to sleep and see the dream.

    This is the same principle as that used by the brother of Jared. He asked the Lord to do something specific (touch these stones with your finger and make them shine) and had faith that it would happen as he asked.

    The manifestation of the gift of dreams can come at anytime, unexpectedly, even to those who do not possess the gift.

  39. I might be speaking to myself by this time. It doesn’t look like too many people read this blog, but what the heck…

    Another way to look at this (the manifestation of the gift vs. the actual gift) is in light of what we know about the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Prior to baptism, anyone can have the power of the Holy Ghost manifest to them. This is, essentially, the gift of the Holy Ghost manifesting unexpectedly and temporarily. The Holy Ghost comes and then goes. No one has control over these manifestations.

    After baptism, we are confirmed and told to receive the Holy Ghost, which, if we do, we can have the Spirit to be with us always. We can then work by the power and gifts of God (Moroni 10: 25.) You cannot work by the power and gifts of God unless you can manifest your gifts according to your will.

    Think about it. Moroni taught that no one can do good unless he works by the power and gifts of God. If you do not have instant and continual access to that power and those gifts, so that you can work by them, you cannot do good works, which means that all that you do will be evil. If this were the case, none of us could be saved.

    But it doesn’t work that way. The gift of the Holy Ghost allows us to have continual access to the power and gifts of God. If, after that, we do not work by that power and those gifts, we are justly condemned, for we had the opportunity and threw it away by our unbelief. The only thing that activates these gifts and power is faith. So, it is imperative that we obtain the gifts (not just the occasional manifestation) because unless we do this and use them, we are not exercising faith, and if we are not exercising faith, we are damned to hell, for none of our works are considered, in the eyes of God, good.

  40. Also, I may be speaking only to myself and LDSA — but I thought of something else to add to my comment [#20]:

    In addition to the lack of the gift of tongues being manifest in meetings evidence of either (a) the gift of interpretation of tongues is gone — or (b) both gifts are.

    In addition to that, the reliance of the church solely upon the use of two elders administering priesthood anointings for healing is a sign that [at least] the gift of faith to be healed is no longer with the church [both healing gifts at most] — this is according to D&C 42:43-44.

    Were the gift of faith to be manifested freely by the membership, the leaders would not need to stress the use of priesthood anointings as the sole method to obtain healing.

  41. Yeah it is really silly. We get a call. Call for our side-kick. Put on our flaxen cords and tighten them round our necks. Anoint the head of the afflicted…and with the power & authority of the Melchizidek priesthood say “We bless you that the DOCTORS will be able to find out whats wrong,..that the DOCTORS will be able to treat and hopefully cure you.” or somthin along those lines. That may be as far as our lack of faith extends….but what about our logic? I mean if that is the typical M.O. then shouldn’t we be makin an appointment with the DOCTORS to place our hands on THEIR HEADS…since they are the ones who will be doin everything?

  42. Any idea what a bear symbolizes in dreams – especially one that hurts or attacks, but doesn’t kill?

    As to this: “So, if I had the gift of dreams, I could pray to God in Jesus’ name and ask in faith, believing I would receive, doubting nothing, that God speak to me by dream. Then I’d go to sleep and see the dream.”

    That’s only happened one time with me. Many other times I follow the same process, but nothing. It could be that I just don’t have the gift, but I also think there is a certain amount of faith involved (if faith is even the right word there): i.e. you might ask for something, for direction or to see what you need to do, but if there’s still something you need to work through, something you still need to stretch for, I’m not sure God is going to bypass that learning process just to give you something.

    Take, for instance, my situation. I’ve been praying for many weeks and months about what to do in regards to church and my situation in the church, even asking with supposed faith to be shown what to do. Nothing. No answers that are discernably from a divine source outside myself.

    Then, I lay to bed the other night and have a rather intriguing dream about Monson, his wife and the church which did answer my questions.

    Now, did that dream simply come now because I was ready for it, or did it come after months of inquiry and study because I needed to go through that process?

    So, although I agree that it would be pretty cool to have things instantaneously happen, I’m not sure that God is always going to be instantaneous – but, show me how I’m wrong here. Hebrews 11 speaks frequently about the role faith plays in things, that things aren’t necessarily as instantaneous as we’d like them to be.

  43. JJ, I no longer believe that we, the church, have any of the best gifts. Even the gifts that I thought I had, I now know that I don’t. They were manifestations, not gifts.

    Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you…For every one that asketh, receiveth.” (3 Nephi 14: 7-8.) That is a gospel law and promise. We, the church, ask and do not receive. This is because we do not ask in faith, because we do not have faith.

    The whole church is still under condemnation (D&C 84: 55-57.) You cannot be under condemnation while exercising faith. We are condemned because we do not exercise faith. Even the gift of belief is absent, for those who possess this gift have the scriptural signs follow them. These signs are absent in the church. If the gifts are found, they are found only in a rare individual here and there, not generally among the membership. However, even this doesn’t seem to be the case, because the beholding of angels is tied to the rest of the gifts, and the beholding of angels is completely absent in the church.

    We appear to be living during that time when the church is doing “the works of men…for a season”. The church is not built upon the gospel because if it was, “the Father” would “show forth his own works in it”, which are the gifts. Later, the church will be built upon “the works of the devil” for another season (a shorter one), after which it will be “hewn down and cast into the fire”. (3 Nephi 27: 10-11.)

    All of this is because of a lack of faith in Jesus Christ. One need only attend our meetings to see that faith in Jesus Christ is absent among the church. The church hardly mentions Jesus, at all. We talk of families, of programs, of missionary work, of tithing, of home teaching, of visiting teaching, of temples, of leaders, of everything but Christ. We mention Him only in passing while worshipping our leaders. Compare our meetings to any gathering of Christians and it becomes plain to see that they are more centered in Christ than we are.

    Nevertheless, Mormons and Christians both are devoid of faith in Christ, (despite all the talk by the Christians and claims of the Mormons.) But we, the Mormons, will receive greater condemnation than the Christians will, in the end, because we have been given everything we need to exercise faith, and have not done so.

    Okay, sorry for that rant, JJ…I don’t believe your dream was the gift of dreams, though it may, indeed, have been inspired of the Holy Ghost (a manifestation). God is, after all, merciful, and will do for us all that He can, despite our lack of faith. But the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are off-limits to us unless we obtain faith.

    God does not need to see us go through weeks or months or years of anything. He just needs to see that we have faith and once He sees that, He acts “immediately.” (Alma 34: 31.)

  44. This makes me feel sad. But it has been a Van Gogh day today for me, anyway.

    Do you really think it can be all that easy? Ask, and he acts immediately? What are we all doing wrong, then? Am I exercising on the wrong machine? Praying to the wrong God?

    Maybe we make up these versions of the gifts (i.e. they are answered scientifically) because it’s too depressing that we HAVE been praying for weeks and months and years, and the heavens give forth so sparingly.

  45. Not a lot of time to say anything. Quick thought. Injecting the notion of falsification into the discussion. How do we distinguish between the idea that the gifts are (per LDSA claim) usable on demand but they just follow God’s will and the idea that even the best gifts come and go? Given LDSA’s approach it seems unfalsifiable.

    To me gifts are tied primarily to function and so long as they are functional in the church then we aren’t cessationists. LDSA claims we are cessationists by demanding a qualification that simply isn’t made explicit anywhere. I can appreciate your appeal to our conception about the Gift of the Holy Ghost however your theology of “all or nothing” simply isn’t matched by my experience.

    I suppose the only way to judge this is by our personal experiences which just don’t seem to match. I see in Church almost too much discussion of gifts. Admittedly now that I’m established in a regular Provo married ward I don’t see that as much. I guess I differ with LDSA in that I see this as a good thing. I think there are many, many counterfeits to the gifts out there. My personal opinion is that folks who talk about them a lot typically don’t have them. I think we have a biased view of the 19th century simply because we are hearing about private encounters (say Zina’s prayers) which weren’t conducted openly. I already provided a quote from BY against the charge of cessation but he simultaneously indicated that these manifestations were rare then. Contra what I take LDSA to be claiming I think BY’s point is that this is always the case including in early 1st century Palestine.

    Put an other way, I think LDSA is seeing a problem created by his creating an artificially high standard.

    Once again though this comes down to personal experience and I recognize we all have different experiences. I see a lot of people claiming gifts in operation for long durations. Indeed one of the common narrative tropes in LDS discussions of gifts are just this. The spiritual gifts that accompany some calling that one notices only when the calling ends. (Especially Bishop narratives) Once again perhaps TT and LDSA haven’t encountered such narratives. I can but say that in all the wards I’ve been in (all over Canada, Lousiana, NM, and Utah) they were extremely common.

  46. BiV #45:

    Sorry for making you sad. That wasn’t my intention.

    Do you really think it can be all that easy?

    Yes, that is the way the gospel is intended to be. The Savior said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 30.) It is designed to be easy so that we would have no excuse to fall back on when we failed, so that our condemnation would be just, so that it would be entirely our fault and not because God made it too hard to do. But we seek after hard things so that we make the gospel a meritocracy and perish because of “the easiness of the way.” (1 Nephi 17: 41.)

    But again, it all comes down to faith. Alma said, “It is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.” (See Alma 37: 38-47.) The compass, or Liahona, only worked according to their faith in God. All devices of God (Liahona, Urim and Thummim, etc.) work in this same way, just as Alma explained to his son Helaman (see above referenced scripture), and also all other “non-device” gifts of God.

    Ask, and he acts immediately?

    Well, we have to ask in faith, otherwise he doesn’t act. In fact, such faithless prayers are counted evil by God. (Moroni 7: 9; also James 1: 5-8.)

    What are we all doing wrong, then?

    The scriptures show how to correct this. When I’m done with that research I told you I’m engaged in, we’ll talk more. Don’t lose hope.

  47. This may be a dead thread by now making this a moot point, but I found it Googling spiritual gifts and have enjoyed reading over the discussion. I think I fall somewhere in between Clark and LDSA traveling in the direction of the later. As Clark argues, I find that manifestation are more common than we think, but also that those who not only have genuine manifestations but are also willing to share them PUBLICLY are extremely rare. I have however developed friendships with members who as a daily part of their life exhibit various gifts of discernment and even healing. Interpret that how you will, but I am satisfied as to these things being genuine gifts of the Spirit. Here’s my bone with all this, like LDSA and a few others have mentioned, we in these days seem to be absolutely paranoid about the concept of DEVELOPING GIFTS of the Spirit. A member of the Church might honestly receive more to get him or herself started on the right path by the study of Occultism than by conversing with rank and file member of the church today. Note that I’m not necessarily encouraging this approach, just stressing a point. Obviously the scriptures are our starting point, and no place seems to tell us better where to go from there (studying the scriptures that is) than 2 Nephi 32. If we are truly to “seek after the best gifts” though, should there not be members of the church who have obtained these gifts standing ready to assist the rest of us in obtaining them all over the world? If there’s anyone still watching this thread, I’d love to hear your continued thoughts.

  48. we in these days seem to be absolutely paranoid about the concept of DEVELOPING GIFTS of the Spirit

    This honestly hasn’t been something I’ve noticed. I think people get rather suspicious at people who think they can develop on their terms certain spiritual gifts. (Typically the flashy ones) Makes me think of Pentacostals.

    Here is a scripture to chew on concerning “gifts on demand”:

    The key part of the scripture is, of course, the “seek unto my Father.” It’s that which we are disputing over. The issue isn’t the gifts on demand part so much as what it means to be in harmony with the Father part.

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