02 September 2010

Thoughts on the Gift of Discernment, Part 1

This topic (the gift of discernment) has been in my thoughts lately. Wanted to share some quotes I found about this subject.

From Elder Stephen L. Richards:
First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate, which has been spoken of in our hearing before particularly as between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions -- spiritual impressions, if you will -- to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them. It's the gift every missionary needs when he takes the gospel to the people of the world. He must make an appraisal of every personality whom he meets. He must be able to discern the hidden spark that may be lighted for truth. The gift of discernment will save him from mistakes and embarrassment, and it will never fail to inspire confidence in the one who is rightly appraised.

The gift of discernment is essential to the leadership of the Church. I never ordain a bishop or set apart a president of a stake without invoking upon him this divine blessing, that he may read the lives and hearts of his people and call forth the best within them. The gift and power of discernment in this world of contention between the forces of good and the power of evil is essential equipment for every son and daughter of God. There could be no such mass dissensions as endanger the security of the world, if its populations possessed this great gift in larger degree. People are generally so gullible one is sometimes led to wonder whether the great Lincoln was right, after all, in the conclusion of his memorable statement, "You can't fool all the people all the time." One does feel at times, however, a sense of pity and sympathy for some of the peoples of the world whose education, information, and exposure to higher ideals and exalted concepts have been so arbitrarily and ruthlessly restricted.

There is a class of people now grown sizable in the world who should possess this great gift in large degree. They know how the gift is attained. They have been educated in its spiritual foundations. They have been blessed with the counsels which foster it. They know how to order their lives to procure it. You know who they are, my brethren and sisters. Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. With this gift they would be able to detect something of the disloyal, rebellious, and sinister influences which not infrequently prompt those who seemingly take pride in the destruction of youthful faith and loyalties. Discerning parents will do well to guard their children against such influences and such personalities and teachings before irreparable damage is done. The true gift of discernment is often premonitory. A sense of danger should be heeded to be of value. We give thanks for a set of providential circumstances which avert an accident. We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin.

-- Elder Stephen L. Richards, Conference Report, April 1950, pp. 162-163, emphasis added.

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