To Every Man is Given a Free Gift

In D&C 46:11 we read, “there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.” I’ve long taken that to mean that literally every person on earth has a spiritual gift, if they’ll hearken to the light of Christ. Often we don’t realize just how many gifts we are making use of until we’re released from a calling or if we get out of tune with the spirit. At that point skills and abilities we depended upon leave.

The question is, however, whether D&C 46:11 is speaking of all people[1] or just people in the Church. “Hearken, O ye people of my church” (1) Even relative to verse 11 we have “I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your aminds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.” Some read that to imply that the gifts spoken of are gifts to the Church and not a general statement about gifts.

I’ve long read it as a very broad claim and to note how the spirit works among non-members to either lead them to some portion of God’s word or to prepare them for the work in the spirit world. However it is undeniable that the section itself is addressed to the Church as a whole. The question is whether that particularly verse is so limited.

Elder Oaks, speaking in 1986, distinguished between spiritual gifts and “the Spirit of Christ, manifestations of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Oaks notes that there are manifestations we’d call gifts tied to each of these. As Moroni said, “all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.” (Moroni 10:17) Oaks ties different gifts to these distinctions. To him there are preparatory gifts and then spiritual gifts proper which require baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. This makes sense. The June 15, 1842 Times and Seasons editorial is usually attributed to Joseph Smith. There he wrote, “we also believe in prophecy, in tongues, in visions, and in revelation, in gifts and in healings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost.” That certainly lines up more with D&C 46’s gifts only being for the Church (those confirmed and receiving the Holy Ghost).

The difficulty, as Elder Oaks notes, is that manifestations we’d call spiritual gifts come to those who have not received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Indeed a testimony is the best example and it usually comes prior to conversion and baptism. Likewise under the Law of Moses prior to the Day of Pentecost the gift of the Holy Ghost wasn’t given.[2] Going back to that statement of Moroni, it seems like God manifests his spirit in many people. The question thus becomes purely terminological. Do we call those gifts of the spirit or not?

What then of the “everyone has a free gift”? Whether we attribute it to the gift of the Holy Ghost or the light of Christ, that does seem something everyone has. Oaks seems to emphasize this, relying in large part on Moroni.

Moroni says that all spiritual gifts “come by the Spirit of Christ.” (Moro. 10:17.) The Spirit of Christ “giveth light to every man that cometh into the world.” (D&C 84:46.) It “is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.” (Moro. 7:16.) By this means every son and daughter of God has “the light” to judge what is right, and to seek to “lay hold upon every good thing.” (Moro. 7:18–19.) By this Spirit, all may seek to learn of God and to exercise faith in Him. Enlightened by this Spirit, all may seek spiritual gifts, which, Moroni says, “come unto every man severally, according as he will.” (Moro. 10:17.)

Moroni 10:17 seems the key scripture, and suggest that everyone receives spiritual gifts of some sort to direct us on our path. Whether we should read that in the similar passage in D&C 46 or not, it does seem true.

[1] I’ll just grant the linguistic use in the 19th century where man or mankind refers to all humans even if women and non-northern Europeans were often treated differently. So I’m assuming this means people. The question is whether it means people in the Church or all people. Elder Oaks, in one of his early talks, seems to assume it’s for the Church.

[2] We’ll leave the Nephites out of that as their priesthood and rites are a bit more complicated.

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