Elder Bednar outlines 8 principles about spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes

To help new mission leaders better understand the relationship between spiritual gifts and the attributes of the Savior, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles examined the fundamental truths presented in Moroni’s final farewell at the end of the Book of Mormon, found in Moroni 10

Among Moroni’s major points are that gifts of the spirit are dispensed to the faithful and spiritual gifts always accompany faith. Moroni also writes that “we are to come unto Christ, be perfected in Him, and thereby sanctify our souls,” Elder Bednar taught during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 24. 

Principle No. 1: “Spiritual gifts are prerequisites for and essential to our coming unto the Savior, being blessed with His attributes and becoming like Him.”

The sequence of Moroni’s instruction was the first of eight principles Elder Bednar emphasized as he focused his remarks on basic principles that govern the operation of spiritual gifts and the patterns whereby God’s children become more like the Savior.

Principle No. 2: “Spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes are blessings given by God to His children through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

All who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by proper priesthood authority and the laying on of hands are eligible to receive spiritual gifts, Elder Bednar said. Such gifts are intended to “bless and benefit those who love the Lord and seek to keep His commandments” (see Gospel Topics “Spiritual Gifts”). 

Principle No. 3: “The Lord determines if and when all spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes are received. Nevertheless, we should do all in our power to desire and become eligible for such gifts. We do not earn or develop these gifts and attributes in our own strength.”

The very name “spiritual gifts” teaches a vital lesson: All such gifts are given by God according to His will and timing, Elder Bednar explained. Spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes are not earned or developed by personal discipline. 

Using the example of charity as described in Moroni 7:46-47, he said, “Indeed, we must honor our covenants and live worthily and do all that we can do to qualify for the gift; but ultimately the gift of charity possesses us; we do not possess it.”

He continued: “We receive spiritual gifts when God can trust us to be what we need to be, to do what we need to do, and to be guided to the right place at the right time, so that if a gift or gifts are given, they operate through us to bless other people. Spiritual gifts always and only are given to us so that they can bless, help, lift and assist someone else.”  

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 24 broadcast from the Conference Center Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 24 broadcast from the Conference Center Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Principle No. 4: “Appropriately seeking for and being blessed to receive spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes requires one to ‘get out of the way’ and look beyond self-centered desires, concerns and personal preferences.”  

The focus of one’s work should be on the Savior, not on individual capacity, Elder Bednar said. “Becoming anxiously engaged in God’s holy work, according to His will, His ways and His timing, requires us to subvert ego, self-centeredness, personal aggrandizement and priestcraft.”

The Lord gave this correction to Sidney Rigdon in 1831: “And now behold, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, am not pleased with my servant Sidney Rigdon; he exalteth himself in his heart, and received not counsel, but grieved the Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 63:55; emphasis added). 

Principle No. 5: “Real intent denotes integrity and sincerity in our desires and actions associated with receiving and using spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes.”

“Full purpose of heart” and “real intent” were two of several principles Nephi highlighted as he concluded his teaching and testifying about the doctrine of Christ (see 2 Nephi 31:13). 

Elder Bednar pointed out that the footnote for “real intent” in this verse lists the topics of “Integrity” and “Sincerity” in the Topical Guide. “Real intent thus denotes integrity and sincerity in our motives, desires and actions. We continually must ‘watch ourselves’ and guard against double-minded and duplicitous reasons for our thoughts, our words and our deeds,” he said. 

Principle No. 6: “Receiving spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes requires both commencing and continuing.”

Oliver Cowdery, who acted as the Prophet Joseph Smith’s principal scribe during the translation of the Book of Mormon, learned a valuable lesson about the importance of both commencing and continuing.

After he was given the gift of translation, he apparently delayed or postponed the exercise of the spiritual gift he had received. The Lord stated, “Behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:5; emphasis added). 

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Accepting spiritual responsibilities and promised blessings requires one to both commence and continue acting in doctrine and faithfully pressing forward through the “merits, mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah,” Elder Bednar said. 

Principle No. 7: “We can in mortality be blessed with and receive essential attributes of a Christlike character.”   

Through the power of God’s grace and mercy, every act of selfless service rendered helps one become more acquainted with the Savior. 

“Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts and characteristics that enable us to reach outward to love, serve and bless others and to ‘put off’ the tendencies of the natural man to turn inward in self-centeredness and selfishness,” Elder Bednar explained. “We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination.”

Depending on the Savior, and in time, “line upon line, precept upon precept,” Elder Bednar said, “we can by the power of the Holy Ghost become men and women of Christ.”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Elder D. Todd Christofferson during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 24 broadcast from the Conference Center Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Elder D. Todd Christofferson during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 24 broadcast from the Conference Center Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Principle No. 8: “Personal worthiness is the absolute and indispensable key that enables us to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and receive all spiritual gifts and Christlike attributes.”

Emphasizing his use of the word “worthiness” and not “perfection,” Elder Bednar noted that though it is not possible to attain perfection in mortality, “we can and should be worthy, improving, repenting and becoming.”

He concluded by quoting Elder Parley P. Pratt, who articulated the power and effects of the gift of the Holy Ghost: “The gift of the Holy Ghost … inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigour, animation and social feeling.  …  In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears and life to the whole being.”

Elder Bednar testified, “The glorious blessings described by Elder Pratt are available to all members of the Lord’s restored Church who modestly, humbly and meekly desire to ‘lay hold upon every good gift’ and strive to ‘be perfected in [Christ].’”