See also: D&C 46; Moroni 10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-13
[The following from the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual]
D&C 46:11–12. “And to Every Man Is Given a Gift:”
Elder Orson Pratt taught that “whenever the Holy Ghost takes up its residence in a person, it not only cleanses, sanctifies, and purifies him, in proportion as he yields himself to its influence, but also imparts to him some gift, intended for the benefit of himself and others. No one who has been born of the Spirit, and who remains sufficiently faithful, is left destitute of a spiritual gift. A person who is without a spiritual gift has not the Spirit of God dwelling in him, in a sufficient degree, to save him; he cannot be called a Saint, or a child of God; for all Saints who constitute the Church of Christ, are baptized into the same Spirit; and each one, without any exception, is made a partaker of some spiritual gift.
“Each member does not receive all these gifts; but they are distributed through the whole body [of the Church], according to the will and wisdom of the Spirit. . . . Some may have all these gifts bestowed upon them, so as to understand them all, and be prepared to detect any spurious gifts, and to preside over the whole body of the Church, that all may be benefitted. These spiritual gifts are distributed among the members of the Church, according to their faithfulness, circumstances, natural abilities, duties, and callings; that the whole may be properly instructed, confirmed, perfected, and saved.” — Masterful Discourses, pp. 539–41
D&C 46:7–8. Not All Supernatural Manifestations Are Gifts of the Spirit:
Elder Marion G. Romney said: “By the statement in the revelation on spiritual gifts, ‘. . . it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, . . . and to others the discerning of spirits,’ it appears that there are some apparently supernatural manifestations which are not worked by the power of the Holy Ghost. The truth is there are many which are not. The world today is full of counterfeits. It has always been so. Away back in the days of Moses, when Aaron’s rod became a serpent, then Pharaoh’s wise men, sorcerers and magicians ‘. . . cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: . . .’ (Ex. 7:11–12) Isaiah warned against seeking ‘. . . unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: . . .’ (Isa. 8:19)
“The Saints were cautioned by the Lord to walk uprightly before him, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that they might ‘. . . not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; . . .’ (D&C 47:7)
“These citations not only sustain the proposition that there are counterfeits to the gifts of the Spirit, but they also suggest the origin of the counterfeits. However, we are not required to rely alone upon their implications, plain as they are, for the Lord states specifically that some of the counterfeits ‘. . . are of men, and others of devils.’ [D&C 46:7.]
“Some of these counterfeits are crude and easily detected, but others closely simulate true manifestations of the spirit. Consequently, people are confused and deceived by them. Without a key, one cannot distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit.” — In Conference Report, April 1956, pp. 70–71
D&C 46:14. The Gift to Believe on the Testimony of Others:
Some receive the gift of believing in the testimony that others have received. This gift could be manifested in the lives of people who investigate the Church because they believe in the testimony of members or missionaries while not yet possessing a personal testimony of their own. Children may receive this gift of believing in the testimony of their
parents until they receive their own testimony. This gift follows the one spoken of in verse 13, perhaps because it refers to the gift that prophets and Apostles have of receiving a special witness of the Savior. The gift of the Spirit spoken of in verse 14 is for the Saints in general to believe on the testimony of God’s servants.
D&C 46:24–25. The Gift of Tongues:
This is one of the most misunderstood gifts. The Lord may grant the gift of speaking in tongues to give an unusual message or communicate with those who speak a different language, as on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:4–12). But newly-called missionaries who quickly grasp a foreign language may also be experiencing the gift of tongues.
Because this gift is often counterfeited and used to deceive, the Prophet Joseph Smith warned: “Be not so curious about tongues, do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious to display their intelligence, let them speak to such in their own tongues. The gifts of God are all useful in their place, but when they are applied to that which God does not intend, they prove an injury, a snare and a curse instead of a blessing.” — History of the Church, 5:31–32; see also 1 Corinthians 14:1–25.
D&C 46:28–33. “He That Asketh in Spirit Shall Receive in Spirit:”
The gifts of the Spirit are available to all who pay the price, which includes entering into a covenant relationship with the Lord, obeying the commandments, and seeking perfection with all one’s heart. The gifts will be the greatest to those who seek most earnestly, but they are available to all: to the missionary who needs help in learning a foreign language, to the person whose temper frequently flares, to parents who seek help in rearing their children. President George Q. Cannon wrote:
“How many of you . . . are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever; content to be baptized and be members of the Church, and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this? . . .
“. . . If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Am I an envious man? It is my duty to seek for charity, which envieth not. So with all the gifts of the Gospel. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, ‘Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.’ He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. If a man lack wisdom, it is his duty to ask God for wisdom. The same with everything else. That is the design of God concerning His Church. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses, because God has promised to give the gifts that are necessary for their perfection.” — In Millennial Star, April 1894, pp. 260–61
Some Manifestations Are Not of the Spirit:
Using the Doctrine and Covenants as a guide, Elder Marion G. Romney provided the following rules to aid in discerning the differences of manifestations: “By the statement in the revelation on spiritual gifts, ‘. . . it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, . . . and to others the discerning of spirits’ [D&C 46:16, 23], it appears that there are some apparently supernatural manifestations which are not worked by the power of the Holy Ghost. The truth is there are many which are not. The world today is full of counterfeits. It has always been so. . . .
“The Saints were cautioned by the Lord to walk uprightly before him, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that they might ‘. . . not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men.’ [D&C 46:7] . . .
“These citations not only sustain the proposition that there are counterfeits to the gifts of the spirit, but they also suggest the origin of the counterfeits. However, we are not required to rely alone upon their implications, plain as they are, for the Lord states specifically that some of the counterfeits ‘. . . are of men, and others of devils.’ [D&C 46:7]
“Some of these counterfeits are crude and easily detected, but others closely simulate true manifestations of the spirit. Consequently, people are confused and deceived by them. Without a key, one cannot distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit.” — In Conference Report, April 1956, p. 70
Sometimes people listen with great respect when scholars renowned in various academic fields criticize the Church or its teachings. Elder Boyd K. Packer warned:
“Many an academic giant is at once a spiritual pygmy and, if so, he is usually a moral weakling as well. Such a man may easily become a self-appointed member of a wrecking crew determined to destroy the works of God.
“Beware of the testimony of one who is intemperate, or irreverent, or immoral, who tears down and has nothing to put in its place.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1974, p. 138; or Ensign, May 1974, p. 95)
Does the claim or teaching conform to the gospel of Christ? Even if individuals claim that their message is of God or is approved by the Church, if it does not conform to established doctrine, one can safely put it down as being false. The standard works and the direction of the living prophets are the measuring rod by which the teachings of the gospel are to be evaluated. President Joseph Fielding Smith stressed the importance of using the scriptures as a standard by which to judge: “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203)
Does the claim or teaching come through the divinely established order? At the time of the organization of the Church in the latter days, the Lord taught the Saints about the importance of the prophet and President of the Church: “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; for his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21:4–6)
Those who have special claims to new doctrines do so outside the established order of the Lord’s kingdom. The Prophet Joseph Smith warned the Saints early in this dispensation about those who would attempt to function outside the bounds of the stewardship the Lord had given them: “I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom” (History of the Church, 1:338).
President Joseph F. Smith gave the following instruction about those who violate the divinely established principle of order: “The moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter.” — In Journal of Discourses, 24:189–90
Let us review some of the less-conspicuous gifts: “the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; the gift of avoiding vain repetition; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.”
We must remember that to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. It is our right and responsibility to accept our gifts and to share them. God’s gifts and powers are available to all of us. — Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “‘There Are Many Gifts,’” Ensign, November 1987, p. 20; D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse, The Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 312
The gift of discernment is essential to the leadership of the Church. I never ordain a bishop or set apart a president of a stake without invoking upon him this divine blessing, that he may read the lives and hearts of his people and call forth the best within them. The gift and power of discernment in this world of contention between the forces of good and the power of evil is essential equipment for every son and daughter of God. — Elder Stephen L. Richards, Conference Report, April 1950, p. 163
If you give anything for the building up of the kingdom of God, give the best you have. What is the best thing you have to devote to the kingdom of God? It is the talents God has given you. How many? Every one of them. What beautiful talents! What a beautiful gift! It is more precious than fine gold that I can stand here and give you my ideas, and you can rise up and tell me what you think and feel, and thus exchange our ideas. It is one of the precious gifts bestowed upon human beings. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol 8, p. 346
Gifts of the Spirit are infinite in their number and endless in their application. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 314
One of the most common of all sins among worldly people is relying on and then boasting in the arm of flesh. This is a most serious evil. It is a sin born of pride, a sin that creates a frame of mind which keeps men from turning to the Lord and accepting his saving grace. When a man knowingly or unknowingly engages in self-exultation because of his riches, his political power, his worldly learning, his physical prowess, his business ability, or even his works of righteousness, he is not in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. . . . The many admonitions in the scriptures to avoid boasting send the message that we should realize the source of all our blessings. Everything is given by God. All talent, creativity, ability, insight, and strength comes from him. In our own strength we can do nothing. . . . When we seek the praise of man more than the praise of God, it will become easy to fall. — Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Conference Report, April 1990, pp. 84-85
The gift of prophecy . . . is not a saving principle; it is a gift. It is to comfort our hearts. It is to give us the testimony of the mind and will of God concerning things which are to come. As Elder [Heber J.] Grant has said, “I may prophesy from now till the coming of the Son of Man, and if I fail to keep the commandments, I will not be saved in the kingdom of God.” — Elder John W. Taylor, Conference Report, April 1900, p. 26
No wonder we sometimes shrink. A little voice may say, “I’d rather not do that. I’m not sure I can carry it through.” But this is the very nub of our stumbling block. Until we covenant, which is more than a casual New Year’s Resolution, He cannot bless us to keep our covenants. Without exception, the Lord appends a divine blessing to every covenant we make, guarantees a response from on high, and gives a promise and blessing. In the church our duties expand into privileges, and our privileges expand into higher duties. The most inclusive attendant blessing of the sacrament is His Spirit. And His Spirit, like He, himself, is not sent into the world to condemn the world, but to lift us. He is not committed to putting us down. The gifts and the fruits of the Spirit engulf all our deepest needs, whatever our present desires: insight, flashes of guidance, energy, all the virtues that center in Christ, and through them, all the fire that purifies our feelings and our aspirations. Yes, we come to the sacrament to renew covenants but we also come to be renewed – to be renewed with a divine infusion and then we increase in our strength to honor our covenants with Him and with each other. — Truman G. Madsen, “The Savior, the Sacrament, and Self-Worth,” BYU Women’s Conference, 1999
One of the gifts of the Gospel which the Lord has promised to those who enter into covenant with Him is the gift of discerning of spirits – a gift which is not much thought of by many and probably seldom prayed for; yet it is a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint. . . . No Latter-day Saint should be without this gift, because there is such a variety of spirits in the world which seek to deceive and lead astray. In a revelation to the Church upon the spirits which have gone abroad in the earth the Lord says:
“Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.” [D&C 50:2]
The Lord warns the Saints and says: “Beware lest ye are deceived.” [D&C 46:8] And that they may not be deceived, He commands them to seek earnestly the best gifts.
The Apostle John says:
“Behold, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” [John 4:1]
This counsel of the beloved Apostle applies as much to us in these latter days as it did to the Saints of his age. All manner of spirits have gone forth to deceive, to lead astray and to obtain possession of the children of men; and many people yield to them because they are invisible and cannot, perhaps, think that they can be possessed by invisible influences. Anger, backbiting, slander, falsehood and various passions are manifested by people under the influence of false and deceptive spirits. . . .
Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it.
The gift of discerning of spirits, also, is one that is of great importance to the Elders who are laboring in the ministry. We have known Elders become so filled with zeal and so desirous to do good, or what they supposed to be good, that they exposed themselves to the influence of the adversary. They would be filled with a species of what has been called “wildfire,” and, carried away by zeal, they would go too far; they would say and do imprudent things and yet, being prompted by the purest and best motives, would feel entirely justified in their course. In the history of the Church there have been many illustrations of this. Elders can work themselves up beyond that which is proper and wise and be led to say and do many imprudent things and overstep the line of propriety. Now, the gift of discerning of spirits is necessary to keep these kind of feelings in check.
The gift of discerning spirits is not only necessary for this purpose, but it is necessary in the branches of the Church. Newly baptized members, anxious to obtain the gifts, are liable sometimes to be taken advantage of by the adversary and to imbibe or yield to a wrong spirit. A newly organized branch of the Church, where the gifts are manifested, especially the gift of tongues, has to be watched with great care. The Elders laboring in the branch or presiding in the conference must be in a position to discern between the Spirit of the Lord and other spirits that may seek to steal in. . . .
In all the situations in life, therefore, in which Latter-day Saints can be placed there is great need for them to possess the gift of discerning of spirits. Fathers and mothers need it for their own benefit. They need it in their families, in the training of their children. All Saints need it to enable them to escape from the many evil influences that are abroad. The Elders need it for their own sakes; they need it also in the government of the branches, of the conferences, of the wards, of the stakes and, indeed, the entire Church. It is a great and blessed gift, and it should be sought for by all. (Gospel Truth, 1:198-200)
There are now many things existing, and which our people are brought into contact with, that are calculated to deceive. Especially is this the case in the early lives of both sexes, who are apt to be deceived by appearances – by judging men by their outward appearance, expressions and sometimes by their dress and demeanor. There is a gift in the Church of God which if obtained enables us to escape deception, and detect all kinds of spirits and evil. It is the gift of discernment of spirits. The Lord has promised unto us this gift, so that we shall be able through that gift to discern the spirits of men and women who may be brought in contact with us, so as not to be deceived by them. Some persons have this gift. It is natural to them while others seem to be utterly destitute of it, and therefore easily deceived, because they have no discernment. Now we can ask God for this gift and have it bestowed upon us. If we seek for it in faith it will be given us. — President George Q. Cannon, Collected Discourses, 2:249, July 5, 1891, The gifts of the Gospel are given to strengthen the faith of the believer. Discourses of Brigham Young, 161