We all have capabilities (gifts), and we all have opportunities to serve (callings).
The apostle Paul encouraged the members of the church in Ancient Rome to be patient with their friends who were non-believers. Perhaps these friends were not currently using their gifts and fulfilling their callings, but “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” he wrote (Romans 11:29). We don’t usually associate the word “repentance” (a change of mind) with God. Here are a few other translations of this sentence:
- “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (New International Version).
- “God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (New Living Translation).
- “God doesn’t take back the gifts he has given or disown the people he has chosen” (Contemporary English Version).
(See Romans 11:29 on biblehub.com.)
Paul’s main point is this: God has given all of us talents and skills, and He has missions for all of us to fulfill. Even if we have fallen short in the past, those gifts and callings are still available to us as soon as we are ready to engage and accept them.
Near the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni explains how priests and teachers were ordained in the ancient church. The person performing the ordination would say a prayer and would then lay their hands on the head of the individual and say some prescribed words. Moroni concludes:
After this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.Moroni 3:4, italics added
In June of 1829, the Lord assigned Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to identify twelve men to serve as His modern-day apostles. Speaking to those future apostles about their responsibility to select other leaders and teachers, He echoed Moroni’s description:
You are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers; to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men.Doctrine and Covenants 18:32
And shortly afterward, these same instructions were codified in section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.Doctrine and Covenants 20:60
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, every time a person receives a leadership or teaching assignment, we follow this pattern. Hands are placed on the person’s head and they receive a personal blessing as directed by the Spirit. (See General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Chapter 18: Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings.)
I think this pattern is significant. Like a job, a church calling has clearly defined responsibilities, but we each bring our unique talents and personalities to that assignment, and God can inspire us to perform specific acts of service within the framework of that role.
Earlier in section 20, we learn that salvation comes to those who “believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:27). Belief comes first: How can we use gifts or fulfill assignments from God if we don’t believe that they exist. We need to have the confidence that God has given each of us unique abilities and that He has specific missions for each of us to perform.
And as Elder Robert D. Hales has emphasized, we need to make the effort to understand what those gifts and callings are:
To find the gifts we have been given, we must pray and fast. Often patriarchal blessings tell us the gifts we have received and declare the promise of gifts we can receive if we seek after them. I urge you each to discover your gifts and to seek after those that will bring direction to your life’s work and that will further the work of heaven.“Gifts of the Spirit,” Brigham Young University Devotional Address, 1 August 1993
Today, I will strive to better understand my gifts and callings, so that I can more effectively apply my unique capabilities to accomplish my missions in life.