Saturday, July 31, 2010

Talk: Developing Our Talents

Justin gave his first “adult” talk in church on July 11th.  In our Church, the members instruct each other during our main Sunday meeting.  Members are invited under the direction of the Bishop to share teachings on a variety of topics.  Youth are invited from age 12 on to give about a 3-minute talk.  Adults may be asked to speak for 10 or more minutes, so it’s a big jump to go from a “youth” talk to an “adult” one.  Justin handled the challenge well.
Here is his talk from that day:

Good morning Brothers and Sisters for those of you who don’t know me my name is Justin Peacock. I’m 19 years old and for the last year I attended school up at BYU. While I was up at school I completed my mission papers and sent them in and then I received my call in early March. I have been called to serve in the Mexico Mexico City West mission. I will be speaking Spanish and I report on the 21st of July. Back when I received my mission call, July 21st seemed like a lifetime away. And now it’s crazy to think that it is just right around the corner and I’m up here giving my farewell talk in church. But, here I am and I am excited about the next step I am about to take in my life.

Anyway, today I was asked to speak on the topic of developing our talents.

First of all, what is a talent? In the dictionary, a talent is defined as a special natural ability. So in other words, it is a skill or ability that comes easily for us because it is something that God has blessed us with. For example, Michael Jordan has a talent for playing basketball, Will Smith has a talent for acting, Beethoven has a talent for music, Steve Jobs has a talent for business and so on and so on…Now, the examples I just gave are the talents that everybody easily recognizes. It is important to know that along with these obvious talents, everyone is blessed with spiritual talents as well. In D&C 46 it talks about spiritual talents or gifts that everyone has been blessed with…READ D&C 46:11-14…and for the next 10 verses or so this scripture continues to name different gifts that people have been blessed with.

So why is it important to develop our talents, whether they be worldly or spiritual? We can find the answer to that question in the scriptures in Matthew chapter 25. This is known as the parable of the talents. Jesus teaches us in this parable just how important it is to develop your talents. In the parable a Lord gives his servants talents. Unto one he gives 5 talents, to another two and to another one. After the servants have received their talents, the servant that received 5 went out and used his talents and gained 5 more. The servant that received two doubled his talents as well by gaining two more. However, the servant who received one talent did not gain any talents. That is because instead of using his talent, he hid it in the Earth and did not use it. After a while, the lord of the servants returned to speak with his servants. The man who had received 5 talents told his lord that he had gained 5 talents more. The lord replied unto him in verse 21 –
“Well done, thou hast been good and faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the lord.”
Then, the man who had received two talents told the lord that he had gained two talents more. In verse 23 the lord replies by saying
“Well done good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee a ruler over many things: enter into the joy of thy lord.”
Then, the man who had received one talent told his lord that he was afraid and hid his talent in the Earth. The lord was very angry with his servant for this and called him a “wicked and slothful servant” and in verse 28 the lord actually takes this man’s one and only talent away from him and gives it to the man with ten talents because he is not afraid to use the talents that he is given.

This parable is a great example of why it is so important that we use and develop our talents. By using and developing our talents the Lord has blessed us with, as the two servants in the parable did, we show God that we are grateful for what he has given us and that we are not afraid to use the things we are blessed with. When we show God our willingness to use the abilities He has blessed us with, he will continue to bless us with more and more things throughout our lives because he knows we will use his blessings. As we expand our talents that we have, opportunities for new skills and talents will present themselves to us, and our talents will multiply. On the other hand, if we are like the servant who hid his one and only talent and was afraid to use it, not only will we lose the talents God has blessed us with, we will fail to gain any additional abilities or skills simply because we did not develop the talents that God has blessed us with.

So now that we know why we should develop our talents, the next step is knowing how we can best develop our talents that we have been given. In the Gospel principles booklet, there are six steps that will help us develop our talents to their full potential.

The First thing that we need to do is discover our talents. We should evaluate ourselves to find our strengths and abilities. If you are having trouble finding your own talents, your family and friends can help evaluate your special skills. You can also read your patriarchal blessing, which may talk about some natural abilities that you have been blessed with. Another option is looking at your family history and the talents that your ancestors possessed. This may give you some clues as to what skills you have since you may have inherited talents from them. Just remember, if you try all these things and are still struggling to discover your talents, you can always ask our Heavenly Father for help and guidance as you search for the talents that God has blessed you with.

The second step for developing our talents is time and effort. We must be willing to spend the time and effort to develop the talent we are seeking. We cannot expect a talent to develop if we do not put time and effort into it. For example, You will not become a great basketball player if you shoot hoops once a month. You will not develop spiritual talents if you are lazy in your scripture study and do not pray regularly. You will not become a great singer if the first time you try to sing is at an audition for American Idol. All these things take time and effort to develop. So, we must make sure that we set time aside to practice our talents and abilities. For physical or outwardly talents, this means scheduling practice times or working with an expert or coach to develop your skills. Examples include music lessons, sports practices or workouts, and any other kind of training for your talent. For spiritual talents, it is important to set aside time every day to pray, and read and study your scriptures so that you may have the spirit with you, because you cannot develop your spiritual talents if you do not strive to learn more and have the spirit with you.

The third step is faith. We must have faith that our Heavenly Father will help us, and we must have faith in ourselves. As you strive to develop your talents, you may and probably will encounter difficulties and obstacles. Do not get discouraged. Just push through it and have faith in yourself, your talents, and in Heavenly Father. Pray to Him for strength and guidance as you continue to work hard in developing you talents, and He will help you, have faith. We will grow from our struggles and it will make us better. In the May 1991 Ensign, Elder Neal A. Maxwell described this process in this quote:
“One’s life cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free… therefore how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences, which made thee what thou art! Then let me come and dwell with thee and fully share thy joy! Real faith…is required to endure this necessary but painful development process.”
This quote just helps reemphasize that obstacles and struggles are apart of everyone’s life, but we must have faith and be able to get past them. We should not get discouraged, no matter what we must keep our faith.

Fourth, we must learn the skills necessary for us to develop our talents. We cannot expect to just naturally know everything about our particular skill or ability. It is important that we take opportunities to learn the most we can about our particular talent so that we are able to use it to the best of our ability. This might mean taking classes, having an expert teach you, reading about your talent, or maybe even just watching someone perform your talent. Examples of learning about your talent include music lessons, attending a trade school, having someone coach you or teach you about sports or any other talents. As we become more knowledgeable and more familiar with our talent, we will be more capable of using our talent to its full potential.

The fifth step is that we must practice our talent. Every talent takes hard work to develop. Simply setting aside time does not necessarily mean that we will improve our talent if we do not work hard. You cannot expect to improve on your talent by giving minimal effort during the time you spend developing your talent. The mastery of a talent must be earned; it is not something that will just be handed to you. Think back to the people I previously mentioned with noticeable talents – Michael Jordan, Will Smith, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs. All of them were able to become successful at what they do because they worked hard with the talent they were blessed with. For example, Michael Jordan may have been blessed with a talent for basketball, but he only became so great at basketball because he worked hard and tried to improve the best he could. One of Michael Jordan’s coaches in Chicago, Doug Collins, had this to say about Michael Jordan’s work ethic :
“Practice is what made Michael go, each day, he had this need to show he was the best. It became part of Michael. Some guys take nights off. Some guys take days off. He never did that. Throw away all the talent. The way he practiced put him on a level above everybody else.”
Michael Jordan did not take his talent for granted and he was willing to work hard to develop his talent. Now, this is an example of working hard to develop a physical talent we have been blessed with. But we must remember that it is also important to work hard on spiritual talents. This not only means putting time into prayer and scripture study, but it means striving to become better in all aspects of your spirituality. This means striving to be more Christ-like in everything you do, repenting of mistakes you make, studying your scriptures with real intent, praying by communicating with Heavenly Father instead of just going through the motions. It means taking every opportunity we can to learn and improve ourselves. We cannot be lazy in developing our spiritual talents. Just like Michael Jordan had to work hard to become a great basketball player; it will take hard work from us if we want to develop our spiritual talents. We have to put all of our effort into it if we expect to improve. If we want to be great at our talents, we have to be willing to put work and effort into it. Otherwise our talents will be wasted – Former Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow has a quote that exemplifies this when he says
“Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”
The sixth and last step to developing talents successfully is sharing them with others. It is by using our talents that they will grow. If we go back to the parable of the talents in Matthew chapter 25, in verse 29 it reads…..

This scripture is saying if we do not use and share our talents, they will be taken away. We need to use them, or we’re going to lose them. We should not be afraid to share our talents with others. We must remember that a talent is something that God has blessed us with and is something that is meant to be useful for us, so we should share it every chance we get. We should be proud of our talents…it is what makes us unique and different than others.

I would just like to bear testimony that I know if we follow these 6 steps for developing talents, which again are: 1. Discovering our talents 2. Time and effort 3. Faith 4. Learning the necessary skills 5. Practice and hard work and 6. Sharing our talents with others…if we follow them we will successfully develop our talents and God will bless us for it.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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