Good afternoon my dear brothers and sisters. Sister Rasband and I are honored to be here in this beautiful and newly dedicated building, and to share this time with you. This is a marvelous learning institution, and I commend each of you for the time you spend attending this great school.
This is a beautiful building. I am overwhelmed at the magnitude of this structure. What a wonderful blessing it will be to all who come here. As I have looked over this newly dedicated edifice, and have observed the fine and outstanding craftsmanship, it brought to mind a little parable President Boyd K. Packer shared in April of 2000, at the dedication of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
President Packer said:
“Do you think it possible for those of us who are called upon to speak to draw attention away from this wonderful building long enough to focus on the purpose for which it was built? Perhaps it can be done with a parable...
“A merchant man seeking precious jewels found at last the perfect pearl. He had the finest craftsman carve a superb jewel box and line it with blue velvet. He put his pearl of great price on display so others could share his treasure. He watched as people came to see it. Soon he turned away in sorrow. It was the box they admired, not the pearl.”1
Certainly this is a most beautiful building, but we all will want to be careful not to lose site of the reason we are here, and for which it was built, “to strengthen students spiritually, academically, physically and socially.”2 Each of you are building toward your futures, and will be forever grateful for the knowledge that you gain here.
University time can be one of the happiest times of your life; especially if you work hard and take advantage of the many opportunities that are here for you.
When it came time for me to select a university of my choice, some of the campuses I would have liked to have chosen I could not qualify for. Not academically, because I had worked through high school more than I had studied, nor financially, because I just could not afford to live away from home. Hence, the option I chose was to attend the University of Utah, where I could live at home, work locally, and attend school full time. I am most grateful for my alumni status at the “U” and will always be appreciative for the fine education I received there.
We have a lot of fun when our family gets together for the ball games. My children have all attended BYU-Provo. Between the games, teasing, and cheering, life can get pretty exciting as the red and the blue meet on the field. Needless to say, when the U wins a game over BYU, I, for just a brief moment, get to raise the red flag in victory for my team!
I am pleased to say that I have a few of my family and friends attending BYU-Idaho, who have joined here with us in this devotional. It has been special for Sister Rasband and I to have had the opportunity to share a little time with them today.
I have many fond memories from my experience at the U. First and foremost was meeting my eternal companion Sister Rasband. If nothing else would have happened there, it would have all been worth it to meet and marry Melanie. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple and moved into married student housing at the U. I would suspect that sounds familiar to many of you here today.
While I was at the University of Utah, I had the blessing of serving as the Elders Quorum President in one of the married student wards. There I met my dear friend and mentor, and future employer and partner, Jon M. Huntsman. I was 24 years old at the time, and he was my high council advisor. I will be forever grateful to the Lord, for being in the right place at the right time, as our meeting changed my life forever.
Sister Rasband and I also had the special privilege of meeting countless numbers of wonderful young people. We developed choice, Christ-centered relationships with them that still continue to this day. I am sure each of you are making friends and life-long acquaintances here at BYU-Idaho, just as we did in our early life.
As I have pondered and prayed on what I should share with you in the next few minutes, I have felt impressed to address a subject I struggled with and did not understand well myself as a young man, but have come to know is very important in each of our lives. With the help and guidance of the Lord, I would like to share with you a message on talents and abilities.
Now before you say in your minds: “I don't have any talents, or I don't know what my talents are,” let me share with you that everyone has been blessed with many marvelous capabilities and talents. One of the great objectives of our journey through mortality is to improve upon them. The Savior powerfully taught this lesson in His parable of the talents.
A few days before His Crucifixion, Jesus took His disciples to a place on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem3 and gave what is known as the Olivet discourse.4
The quiet and panoramic setting was wonderfully suitable for the Savior to teach His disciples of the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs of His Second Coming. As He spoke, His words distressed the disciples. Jesus tried to comfort them, saying, “Be not troubled, for, when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.”5
As a part of this sermon Jesus gave several parables. In the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible, the Prophet made it clear that these parables refer to the last days.6
Jesus told the story of a master who gave each of his three servants a sum of money. The amounts were set according to each servant’s previously demonstrated capabilities. The man then left for a long time. When he returned, he asked each of these servants to report what he had done with the money.
The first two servants revealed they had doubled his investment. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,”7 was the master’s reply.
The third servant then came trembling before his master. He had already heard what the others had reported and knew that he could not give a similar report. “I was afraid,” the servant said, “and went and hid thy talent in the earth.”8 The master was upset. “Thou wicked and slothful servant,” he said. Then he commanded, “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.”9
In modern revelation the Lord affirmed the principles in this parable: “But with some I am not well pleased, for … they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. “…Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.”10 These are very solemn words spoken by the Lord and worthy of our consideration today.
Sometimes we have a fear of using our talents. We use excuses such as “I know I can't do that,” or “someone else can do it much better than I,” or “those listening to me, or watching me, will criticize and judge me.”
Again, let me read the words of the Lord: “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.”11
President James E. Faust spoke on this subject, and gave this profound counsel. He said: “We may wonder whether it was fair to take the talent from the one who had the least and to give it to the one who had the most. From the outset, however, the Lord explains that each man had ability.
“Some of us are too content with what we may already be doing. We stand back in the ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ mode when opportunities for growth and development abound. We miss opportunities to build up the kingdom of God because we have the passive notion that someone else will take care of it. The Lord tells us that He will give more to those who are willing. They will be magnified in their efforts...” “But to those who say, ‘We have enough,’ from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”12
The Prophet Joseph Smith, through revelation recorded: “…that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold…”13
Every person comes to earth as a unique individual. Similar threads may run in families, but each of us has a tapestry all our own. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote: “Each person in this life is endowed with those talents and capacities which his pre-earth life entitle him to receive. Some by obedience to law acquired one talent and some another...”14
The Lord made it clear that it is not good enough for us simply to return to Him the talents He has given us. We are to improve upon and add to our talents. He has promised that if we multiply our talents we will receive eternal joy.
Our dear President Hinckley said this about the importance of our talents: “You cannot afford to waste your talents or your time. Great opportunities lie ahead of you.”15
It is so important to identify and put into practice each day, the talents we have each been blessed with. However, we must also be cautious and use our talents wisely in building up the kingdom of God here upon the earth. We need to engage in the activities, service, and lifestyle that will help to strengthen and protect our talents to be used righteously. As an example, let me share with you counsel from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve.
“Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong—in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess. If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths as well as by exploiting our weaknesses.”16
Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve, also addressed this very subject when he stated: “Too often, however, those who possess great talents are selfish and do not use their gifts for the benefit of others. And more importantly, they do not acknowledge that these gifts are God-given. If we properly understood the source of our creative talents, there would be no application of writing, dancing, music, or photography for Satan’s purposes. The prophet Moroni wisely counsels us about using our talents for evil. He exhorts us to ‘come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.’”17
Elder Hales further goes on to say: “It would seem that our Creator approves of and would encourage us to develop our creative gifts and talents. In section 46 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told to ‘seek … earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;…
‘For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
‘To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
… ‘And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.’
“This scripture tells us that it is not wrong to seek earnestly for the best gifts if we do it for the right reasons.”18
Applying the teachings of the parable of the talents has been a challenge and a great blessing in my life. I would like to share with you three principles which have been a great help to me in my efforts with this process.
First, Seek earnestly to discover the talents the Lord has given you. The talents God has given us first become apparent in the interests we pursue. If you are wondering about your talents, make a list of the things you like to do. Include all the activities you enjoy from different dimensions of your life—spiritual, musical, dramatic, academic, athletic, and so on. Study and ponder your patriarchal blessing for insights and inspiration. Consult family members, trusted friends, teachers, and leaders; others often can see in us what we find difficult to see in ourselves.
Sister Rasband, throughout our life together, and Brother Huntsman in my many years of working with him, helped me in this effort. They saw in me gifts and talents that I did not recognize in myself. Choose wisely your friends and mentors, as they will help you identify the gifts and talents you have been blessed with. Listen to your parents and grandparents. They know you well and we are never too old to take the counsel of those who have already travelled the road we are now on.
Eldred G. Smith, former Patriarch to the Church, gave this wonderful counsel: “Everyone has inherent talents. From a study of your [Family History] genealogy, find the talents you have inherited by the things you like to do, and do easily, that some of your ancestors have done. Then become an expert or a specialist in some phase of that field. The Lord will bless your efforts in your studies and in your daily work.”19
In this day and time, when Family History work has become so accessible to everyone, it would be well to look into the lives of your ancestors. Perhaps you will find a vast amount of information that will help you in recognizing the gifts and talents you have been blessed with. In many cases, you will find that you have many of the same talents as those who have gone on before.
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in His service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children.”20
Let me reassure you my young brothers and sisters, each one of you has been blessed with special talents. Each of you has been blessed with divine talents by our Father in Heaven. He is waiting for you to identify, develop, and magnify those talents He has blessed you with.
President James E. Faust said: “As sons and daughters of God, we are obligated to develop as many of our divinely given talents as we can…You will be happier if you know who you are and feel good about yourself.”21
I remember a wonderful Primary teacher who frequently invited me to read the scriptures in front of the class. I was not comfortable reading in front of the other children. She told me what a nice reading voice I had and how well I read. What she said and the way she encouraged me helped me gain confidence and realize one of my talents from the Lord at an early age. I have often thought since then, that one of her great talents was to help children, especially me at that time, gain the self assurance needed to accomplish, what seemed to be, a very frightening assignment.
As a 19-year-old missionary, I yearned to know if I had been blessed with any helpful missionary-related talents. I felt a great desire to know how I could magnify whatever gifts I had so that I could be a more effective servant of the Lord. As I studied the scriptures and my patriarchal blessing, prayed fervently, and had various missionary experiences, several of my talents were made known to me. These talents, identified and strengthened as a missionary, bless me in my ministry to this very day.
The second principle I would like to share with you is: Use your talents to build up the kingdom of God, and I don't just mean the Church. Our first priority in building the Kingdom is in helping others in our own family. Parents are in a unique and powerful position to encourage and support their children in developing their talents. Siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family members; we all have many opportunities to help others identify their talents. I am grateful for the many people who have helped me add to my talents. The successes in life of those we assist, sponsor, mentor, and lift as they pursue their own talents can bring us great joy and satisfaction.
Focusing on serving the Savior can guide us toward making proper decisions in our daily lives. This perspective prepares us to do whatever the Lord may ask of us at any time. President Gordon B. Hinckley exemplified this important attitude: He said: “My talents may not be great, but I can use them to bless the lives of others. I can be one who does his work with pride in that which comes from hand and mind.”22
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Let us remember, too, that greatness is not always a matter of the scale of one’s life, but of the quality of one’s life. True greatness is not always tied to the scope of our tasks, but to the quality of how we carry out our tasks whatever they are. In that attitude, let us give our time, ourselves, and our talents to the things that really matter now, things which will still matter a thousand years from now.”23
Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson has said: “Expand your knowledge, both intellectual and spiritual, to the full stature of your divine potential. There is no limit to your influence for good. Share your talents, for that which we willingly share, we keep. But that which we selfishly keep, we lose.”24
The third principle I would like to share is: Acknowledge God’s hand in your success. We must never forget or stop acknowledging that all talents and abilities come from God. Some were given to us before our birth, while others have been acquired as we have developed. However, in both cases, they are gifts from a benevolent Heavenly Father, whose gracious blessings are also the means for improving our talents and obtaining others. The Lord has said, “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is His wrath kindled, save those who confess not His hand in all things.”25
Many years ago, Elder Marvin J. Ashton, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, shared these powerful and inspiring words: “It pleases God to have us humbly recognize his powers and his influence in our accomplishments rather than to indicate by words or innuendo that we have been responsible for remarkable achievements.”26
Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve, counseled: “Prayer is an essential part of conveying appreciation to our Heavenly Father. He awaits our expressions of gratefulness each morning and night in sincere, simple prayer from our hearts for our many blessings, gifts, and talents.”27
Now in closing, I would like to share with you for a moment an experience in our family’s life about a special baby boy who was sent to this earth with a very special gift and talent from his Heavenly Father.
This little boy is our grandson, Paxton. Paxton was born in July of 2010. He was born with a rare chromosomal defect which has him in a life-threatening condition. Paxton spent the first four months of his life in the newborn intensive care unit of the Primary Children’s Medical Center. Through much faith, fasting, priesthood blessings, and countless prayers, he is now at home with his parents and two brothers.
Whenever I am near Paxton, I can feel the strong spirit of love and peace that he radiates. The medical teams who have watched over him each day also commented on the spirit this little boy carries. And even with all of his challenges he now faces, he has brought a sweet peace to his parents and big brothers. Paxton has brought our family so close together, and has taught each of us about the important things in life, things that really matter.
Paxton has and continues to teach us what President Uchtdorf so beautifully taught in the October 2010 General Conference when he said: “…we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.”28
That is the special gift this little boy was born with, teaching all of us the important things in life--“things which will still matter a thousand years from now.”29 This is truly Paxton’s special gift he will carry throughout his life. We thank our Father in Heaven for each day we have with this special little baby.
I am thankful for the knowledge the Lord has given us—that we are His children and that we are to magnify and multiply our talents to our fullest potential.
The experiences you have each day, if you will allow them to be, can and will be stepping stones that will help to shape each of your lives, as they have mine. They will assist you in finding your gifts and talents that will be used as you progress through mortality here upon the earth.
It is my humble prayer, my brothers and sisters, that we will seriously ponder and pray to find our talents. That we may use them in building up the Kingdom of God here on the earth, that we may be found worthy to stand before the Lord at the last day and in His presence hear Him say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” 30
1 Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 2000, 7
2 Church News, December 17, 2010
3 See Matt. 24:1, 3
4 Matthew 24 and 25 (See also D&C 45:16-75; JS—M 1:5-55)
5 D&C 45:35
6 See Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 25:1
7 Matt. 25:21; see also Matt. 25:23
8 Matt. 25:25
9 Matt. 25:26, 28
10 D&C 60:2, 13
11 D&C 60:2
12 James E. Faust, "I Believe I Can, I Knew I Could," Ensign, Nov. 2002, 49
13 D&C 82: 18
14 Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Volume I, The Gospels
15 Gordon B. Hinckley, "Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts Unceasingly," Ensign, May 2007, 115-117
16 Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign, Oct. 1994, 11
17 Robert D. Hales, “Every Good Gift,” New Era, Aug. 1983, 4
19 Eldred G. Smith, “Decision,” Ensign, May 1978, Pg. 29
20 Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969
21 James E. Faust, "Who Do You Think You Are?" Ensign, Mar. 2001, 2
22 Gordon B. Hinckley, "Words of the Prophet: Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel," New Era, July 2000, 4
23 Spencer W. Kimball, "First Presidency Message: A Gift of Gratitude," Liahona, Dec. 1977,1
24 Thomas S. Monson, "The Spirit of Relief Society," Ensign, May 1992, 100
25 D&C 59:21
26 Marvin J. Ashton, "Neither Boast of Faith Nor of Mighty Works,"Ensign, May 1990, 65
27 Robert D. Hales, "Gratitude for the Goodness of God," Ensign, May 1992, 63
28 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Things that Matter Most," Ensign, Oct. 2010, 19
29 Spencer W. Kimball, "First Presidency Message: A Gift of Gratitude," Liahona, Dec. 1977, 1