I love corn on the cob. As a child, I watched my father eat corn on the cob with such awe. Dad could eat an ear of corn with precision. By the time he finished, the cob looked like he had taken a sharp knife and cut the corn off. The corn was chewed off in nice neat rows. Try as I might, I could not make my own corn cob look anything like Dad’s cob. Mine always had strands of corn hanging every which way. I’m persistent. My whole life, I kept trying, but I just could never do it.
About a year ago, I was looking at a picture of my Dad, and I noticed how straight his teeth were. I had a good laugh at myself. You see, I have an overbite. Of course, I was never going to succeed in making my corn cobs look like my Dad’s! I don’t know why it took me more than sixty years to figure that out, but it did!
The corn cob quandary gave me something to think about. Heavenly Father gives each of us different skills and different gifts. We can also seek extra gifts by asking Heavenly Father for them. Now, I suppose I could ask Heavenly Father for straight teeth to make my corn cobs nice and neat, and I suppose Heavenly Father could put a free orthodontist in my life. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Spiritual gifts are given to further our Heavenly Father’s work. A nice, neat ear of corn may be a cute trick, but it’s not going to help our Father get His children to mind their Ps and Qs and follow Christ so we can return to Him.
Thinking about this, I began to assess my own spiritual gifts. I knew I had been given certain gifts, but I had never really thought about some others. I realized that I had been given some gifts that I wasn’t really using. When my children were growing up, on a limited budget, I tried hard to give them Christmas and birthday gifts that they would actually use and enjoy. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I failed miserably, but I tried. I remember how bad I felt when the gifts sat in the closet, drawer, or toy box unused. How must my Heavenly Father feel that His gifts are sitting idle?
My patriarchal blessing tells me to ask for spiritual gifts. While I have done this, it occurs to me that I’ve been pretty ungrateful in asking for more gifts when I haven’t used all the gifts Father already gave to me. I’m trying to rectify that situation. Repentance is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
The corn cob taught me that my skills and gifts are not the same as other people’s skills and gifts—and that’s okay. Heavenly Father has a lot of work to do on the earth, and He needs children who are skilled and gifted in many ways to get that work accomplished. It’s my job to figure out what He wants me to do with the gifts given to me, and what other gifts to ask for to help me accomplish the work. He could have given me all the skills needed from the beginning, but He wants to teach me “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). Any other way would just confuse me, give me an oversized ego, and make me ungrateful. I always told my children at Christmas, “Santa Clause doesn’t always give you exactly what you ask for, but he always gives you something neat.” Not to compare Santa to Heavenly Father, but the principle is the same. Heavenly Father gives me what I need when I need it; nothing more, nothing less.
“I am grateful for the blessing of having a physical body, which is an amazing gift from our Heavenly Father. Our bodies have over 600 muscles. Many muscles require exercise in order to be in condition to perform our daily activities. We could expend much mental effort reading and learning about our muscles, but if we think this will make them stronger, we will be very disappointed. Our muscles grow only when we use them.
I have come to realize that spiritual gifts behave in the same way. They also need to be exercised to grow. The spiritual gift of faith, for example, is not just a feeling or a mood; it is a principle of action that frequently appears in the scriptures linked to the verb exercise. Just as reading and learning about muscles is not enough to build muscle, reading and learning about faith without adding action is insufficient to build faith.
. . . Thanks to the Restoration of the gospel, we can come to understand how our Heavenly Father helps us develop spiritual gifts. It is more likely that He will give us opportunities to develop those gifts rather than just granting them to us without spiritual and physical effort. If we are in tune with His Spirit, we will learn to identify those opportunities and then act upon them” (Juan Pablo Villar, “Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles,” Apr. 2019 General Conference).
I’m grateful that an ear of corn taught me to use the spiritual gifts my Heavenly Father has given me. I’m humbled and repentant as I strive to use those gifts. I will continue to seek other spiritual gifts as needed to further His work, but with a grateful heart.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.