This is part 2 of 2 in a blog post about the significance of gifts of the spirit and their relationship to the doctrine of Christ. If you have not read part 1, I would encourage to do so first.
Last Days Prophecy
Unfortunately, some people or religious institutions do not accept the truthfulness that all gifts of the spirit are, in fact, available today to all people. Sure, there are always conditions associated with the ability to exercise spiritual gifts, but they are absolutely available to all. For any person or religious institution to deny or limit the teaching or accessibility of spiritual gifts is a fulfillment of Book of Mormon prophecy in our day and the propagation of “Unbelief.” Unbelief is one of two major plagues of our day (D&C 84:49-58) and it is manifested in many, many different ways.
The Book of Mormon is the only book of scripture that prophesies of people in the last days that will deny both the gifts of God and the power of God. Remember, all things are made available to mortals by and through gifts of the spirit. Also, remember, that power of God is made manifest through all the gifts of the spirit.
“For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance. And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men” (2 Nephi 28:3-5)
“And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever. And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them… And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing. And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled. Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. [note that to be perfected in Him, become spotless through His grace and not deny His power it is because you will have experienced God through gifts of the spirit and have your baptism of fire and Holy Ghost]” (Moroni 10:7-8, 30-33)
“Wo unto him that spurneth at the doings of the Lord; yea, wo unto him that shall deny the Christ and his works! Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!” (3 Nephi 29:5-6)
“O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day [having received your baptism of fire and Holy Ghost]. And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them. For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” (Moroni 9:6-9)
“For behold, after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire? Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?” (Jacob 6:7-8)
“By Their Fruits”–The Test for All
“By their fruits ye shall know them” is a true principle. It is especially true when you are attempting to discern whether a person or religious institution is unbelieving and therefore denying the power of God and the gifts of the spirit. Consider the Lord’s own words in 3 Nephi 14. As you do, remember that the gifts of the spirit are the means whereby each individual can come to know God firsthand.
1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged (think comparing amongst one another).
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
7 Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
8 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
12 Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat;
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
24 Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
Now, I will share with you a few fruits of any unbelieving persons (including false prophets) and unbelieving religious institutions:
- Any person and religious institutions that does not promote spiritual gifts or even encourage individuals to seek for them or use them in their individual relationship with the Lord.
- Any person and religious institutions that are selective about righteous spiritual gifts–they are ok with some spiritual gifts while not ok with others. Sometimes if a person or religious institution is unfamiliar with certain gifts of the spirit they will instead interpret or label these same gifts as dark gifts. An example of this is speaking with tongues, and I’m not just talking about speaking a foreign language to you like Samoan, Russian, Hungarian, Spanish. This includes praying (1 Corinthians 14:1-5), speaking (2 Nephi 31:13-14, 2 Nephi 32:2), and prophesying (1 Corinthians 14:14-16) in tongues. What is seeming “babble” to one can be praises unto the Most High God for another that is filled with the spirit to exercise this gift.
- Any person or religious institution that polices, discourages, limits, prohibits, or discriminates against any other person using spiritual gifts based on a title, a calling, their gender, their age or whether they are deemed spiritually worthy or not. Persons or religious institutions that do this are trying to be an intermediary between a person and their relationship with the Lord. The reality is that spiritual gifts are available to all. Also, all things are, in fact, possible in one’s relationship with the Lord because He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and perfectly just and merciful. To believe otherwise is “unbelief”—the same unbelief prophesied in our day by the Book of Mormon.
- Any person or religious institution that waters down the meaning or significance of gifts of the spirit. This is done by dismissing the importance of spiritual gifts, or downplaying the significance of spiritual gifts, or even altering the definition or purpose of specific spiritual gifts.
I’d like to share an example of this by exposing a false tradition that exists. I am a member of a certain religious institution. Unfortunately, this same institution has limited the definition and purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues in their core curriculum. I use this specific gift as an example because culturally it is a spiritual gift that people, in general, are relatively unfamiliar with.
“What is the purpose of the gift of tongues? The gift of tongues is sometimes characterized as speaking in a language no one understands. However, the Prophet Joseph Smith referred to the events in Acts 2 to clarify that this gift of the Spirit is “given for the purpose of preaching [the gospel] among those whose language is not understood; as on the day of Pentecost. … The ultimate design of [the gift of] tongues is to speak to foreigners” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 383–84). The Feast of Pentecost, a major Jewish holiday, brought Jews from many nations to Jerusalem. The gift of tongues allowed these visitors to understand the Apostles’ words in their native languages.”
This is a selective extract from Joseph Smith. It is also a deceptively incomplete interpretation of this specific spiritual gift. There are reasons that this religious institution has strategically chosen to water this down and explain it away. I will share with you just a few things to help offer you some additional and alternative context and add to your person study of this particular spiritual gift if you choose.
First, what occurred on the day of Pentecost was speaking, prophesying, praising, and praying in tongues (Acts 2:1-4) not just for the purpose of missionary work (Acts 2:5-12).
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The exercising of this gift accompanied the receiving of their baptism of fire and Holy Ghost that was prophesied by the Lord would occur (John 14:16, John 15:26; Acts 1:5,8).
“Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:2-3)
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; 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. But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.” (2 Nephi 31:13-14)
“Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high. Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost; let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof. And let thy house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory.” (D&C 109:35-37)
Also, Joseph Smith was well acquainted with both the gift of speaking in tongues and the gift of interpreting tongues used outside of the purpose of missionary work to foreign peoples and lands. Consider just a few of his own words:
“About the 8th of November  I received a visit from Elders Joseph Young, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball of Mendon, Monroe county, New York. They spent four or five days at Kirtland, during which we had many interesting moments. At one of our interviews, Brother Brigham Young and John P. Greene spoke in tongues, which was the first time I had heard this gift among the brethren; others also spoke, and I received the gift myself” (History of the Church, 1:295-297).
“This winter [1832-33] was spent in translating the Scriptures; in the School of the Prophets; and sitting in conferences. I had many glorious seasons of refreshing. The gifts which follow them that believe and obey the Gospel, as tokens that the Lord is ever the same in His dealings with the humble lovers and followers of truth, began to be poured out among us, as in ancient days;—for as we, viz.: Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Newel K. Whitney, Hyrum Smith, Zebedee Coltrin, Joseph Smith, Sen., Samuel H. Smith, John Murdock, Lyman E. Johnson, Orson Hyde, Ezra Thayer, High Priests; and Levi Hancock, and William Smith, Elders, were assembled in conference, on the 22nd day of January, I spoke to the conference in another tongue, and was followed in the same gift by Brother Zebedee Coltrin, and he by Brother William Smith, after which the Lord poured out His Spirit in a miraculous manner, until all the Elders spake in tongues, and several members, both male and female, exercised the same gift. Great and glorious were the divine manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Praises were sung to God and the Lamb; speaking and praying, all in tongues, occupied the conference until a late hour at night, so rejoiced were we at the return of these long absent blessings” (History of the Church, 1:322-323).
Also consider the words of Brigham Young:
“In September, 1832, Brother Heber C. Kimball took his horse and wagon, Brother Joseph Young and myself accompanying him, and started for Kirtland to see the Prophet Joseph. We visited many friends on the way, and some branches of the Church. We exhorted them and prayed with them, and I spoke in tongues. Some pronounced it genuine and from the Lord, and others pronounced it of the devil. We proceeded to Kirtland and stopped at John P. Greene’s, who had just arrived there with his family. We rested a few minutes, took some refreshments and started to see the Prophet. We went to his father’s house and learned that he was in the woods chopping. We immediately repaired to the woods, where we found the Prophet, and two or three of his brothers, chopping and hauling wood. Here my joy was full at the privilege of shaking the hand of the Prophet of God, and receiving the sure testimony, by the spirit of prophecy, that he was all that any man could believe him to be as a true prophet. He was happy to see us and bid us welcome. We soon returned to his house, he accompanying us.
“In the evening, a few of the brethren came in, and we conversed upon the things of the kingdom. He called upon me to pray; in my prayer I spoke in tongues. As soon as we arose from our knees, the brethren flocked around him, and asked his opinion concerning the gift of tongues that was upon me. He told them it was the pure Adamic language. Some said to him they expected he would condemn the gift Brother Brigham had, but he said, ‘No, it is of God’” (Millennial Star, vol. 25, p. 439).
Also Zebedee Coltrin:
“At Kirtland, we were called to the school of the prophets, and at one time when Joseph was in the translating room, myself and others were talking about the gift of tongues, when the spirit of tongues fell upon me and I [Zebedee Coltrin] spoke under its influence. Joseph came into the room and said, “God bless you, Brother Zebedee, that is the spirit of God.” He told me to continue and the gift of tongues and of prophesying rested on the greater part of the brethren present and we continued speaking in tongues and prophesying through that day and the greater part of the following night.” (“Zebedee Coltrin Address, Minutes of the High Priest Meeting, Spanish Fork, Utah, February 5, 1878,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah, 103)
Also, at a meeting in 1835, Elizabeth Ann Whitney received a blessing from Church patriarch Joseph Smith Sr., in which she was promised the “gift of singing inspirationally.” During the meeting, Whitney arose and began singing in an unknown language. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Parley P. Pratt interpreted her song for other hearers. “In ancient days there lived a man,” the song began, “Amidst a pleasant garden, Where lovely flowers immortal bloom’d, And shed around a rich perfume; Behold, his name was Adam.” Joseph Smith Sr. believed Whitney sang in the pure language of heaven.
There are more examples in early church history. Joseph Smith taught much more on this particular example (gift of tongues) that we are discussing. To minimize it or limit its meaning or significance is wrong. Note that in each of these examples, speaking in tongues had nothing to do with spreading the gospel amongst foreigners for the purpose of missionary work.
Yes, Joseph Smith also taught that each should be discerning and careful to exercise this gift of tongues in its fullness. However, its value, significance, potential and power ever been removed in the slightest. To teach anything less than the full meaning and application of this gift of the spirit (tongues) is not only a false tradition but fruits of unbelief, lack of revelation and understanding.
- In general, you will know the integrity of any person or any religious institution based on whether they deny both the gifts and power of God to any degree. You will know whether they really do know the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ by this same criteria.
You will know whether any person or religious institution is unbelieving by whether or not they embrace the gifts of the spirit, seek for them, and happily encourage all to seek them out and exercise them all.
Now consider your own unbelief for a moment. For example, if a fellow church member, friend, or family member tells you that they have visions or dreams (a form of visions) and that this gift is one way that the Lord personally teaches them, do you non-verbally or verbally criticize them? Do you unrighteously judge them? Is your heart open enough to listen or even believe their gifts or do you think they are a little crazy? Do you discourage or encourage them going forward in their own personal relationship with the Lord? Do you believe that the Lord works with each person in a personalized or customized manner? Or, do you believe that only a few select individuals, particularly church leaders or past and present prophets, are the only ones authorized to have those kinds of manifestations? There is much you can learn about yourself by pondering this one example.
How Will You Recognize the Gifts of the Spirit?
There are both gifts of the spirit (“of light” or “of God’s Holy Spirit”) and gifts of darkness. Gifts of darkness can be what scriptures describe as “devices.” [link to “devices” in 3 voices SG]. So, how does a person know whether gifts of the spirit (vs. gifts of darkness) are being exercised? I will share a couple of things for you to consider and ponder on:
Two Two-Edged Swords
First, remember “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). It is not only a way to know truth, but it is the way to receive all truth.
It is the responsibility and accountability of any witness (listener, observer or receiver) to seek for their own witness of anything that is potentially a gift of the spirit. This is the beauty of God’s great laws and power that both the person righteously exercising the gift(s) of the spirit and the witness will both be using the same spirit–the Holy Spirit of God. If a witness seeks for a confirmation and gets a “no,” then either the person exercising the gift or the witness is incorrect.
This seems simple enough but this is also why it is so important to develop your own gift of revelation and gift of discernment–because you will be held accountable either way. You see, you are personally accountable for any message that is revealed by the person exercising the gift(s).
The two-edged sword for the person exercising the gifts (we’ll call this person “the deliverer”):
- The deliverer is an instrument in the hands of God if they have permission (authority) to exercise the gifts according to the will and guidance of the Lord.
- The deliverer will be damned if they seek to exercise gifts without permission. For a deliverer to claim they have authority (permission) and they do not, in fact, have that authority (permission) is to take the name of the Lord in vain.
The two-edged sword for the witness (the one receiving or witnessing a person exercise the gift) is:
- The witness has the personal responsibility to be present, hear, or receive the message (witness the gift) and to discern it. They should ponder. Pondering is simply you figuring out the right or best questions to ask the Lord. You will always receive an answer equal to the question.
- The witness is a beneficiary of the gifts when they know by the Holy Spirit that it is gift(s) of the spirit or not. They benefit in their personal relationship with the Lord because truth is sought and received.
- The witness has the responsibility to be open minded to the things of God–to know and believe that all things are possible in and through the Lord. His ways are not always familiar to each person.
If it is from God, and it is relevant to yourself at that moment then you are personally accountable for acting on it (exercising faith). If you don’t, then you are damned (halted in your spiritual progress). Likewise, if the person’s message is not, in fact, coming in and through the gift(s) of the spirit and you receive it as truth and act on it going forward, then you are also damned (halted in your spiritual progress.) In any situation, it is necessary for both the person exercising the gift(s) of the spirit and the witness, to use the Holy Spirit or there will be damnation to either or both persons. Keep in mind, getting it wrong is part of the process of learning the voice and words of God in your mind through the Holy Spirit.
My Personal Invitation
When it comes to the gifts of the spirit, I encourage you to be believing! Have “sufficient hope” in the nature of God. He is willing to work with you personally in our own journey and within the bounds of your own unique relationship with Him. It is through the gifts of the spirit that you will develop this critical relationship.
Invite you to seek for spiritual gifts. I invite you to exercise your gifts. I invite you to encourage all others to equally seek for and exercise their gifts of the spirit. Remember that your personal relationship is equally important to the Lord–no more, no less. Be happy for others! This is evidence of God working in the lives of others and is cause for celebration and praising of the Lord.
I also invite you to share your personal experiences with the gifts of the spirit where you are inspired. Do not fear the judgment of others. Have faith knowing that gifts are of God and all of this is scriptural. Be believing of the gifts of the spirit despite it being taboo among certain peoples or groups. In order for there to be a healthy shift in culture toward gifts of the spirit, it requires people of faith to set a new standard of acceptance, teaching, encouraging, and sharing.
This is blog post part 2 of 2 about the gifts of the spirit.
Part 1 | Part 2
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