Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Gift of Discernment

Last week I re-read the phrase "quick to observe" in Mormon 1:5 and was reminded of a talk given by Elder Bednar that really made an impact on me. It's so important to notice things, and that's something that I struggle with. However, as I re-read his talk, I discovered another quality that is even more important than noticing, and that is developing the gift of discernment. That's something else to work on! But here are some of his thoughts that helped me understand this a little bit better.

"President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), who served as a counselor to four Presidents of the Church, taught powerfully about the gift of discernment:
'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. …
'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.'"

Elder Bednar continued,
"We learn that the gift of discernment operates basically in four major ways.
"First, as we 'read under the surface,' discernment helps us detect hidden error and evil in others.
"Second, and more important, it helps us detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves. Thus the spiritual gift of discernment is not exclusively about discerning other people and situations, but, as President Cannon taught, it is also about discerning things as they really are within us.
"Third, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others.
"And fourth, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us. Oh, what a blessing and a source of protection and direction is the spiritual gift of discernment!"

"I repeat again for emphasis the truth that discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark. You and I can press forward safely and successfully through the mist of darkness and have a clear sense of spiritual direction. Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, and the necessary from that which is merely nice.
"The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes and feeling with the heart—seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing with spiritual ears and feeling with the heart—hearing and feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine."

Aren't those some neat thoughts? I particularly liked the thought that we can be given the ability to see the good in ourselves and others. So, when I'm feeling down and discouraged, I just need to remember that I can pray for help to see myself as God sees me.

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