Five talents, two talents, one talent. The wealth was not evenly distributed. But it didn’t matter, because this wasn’t a permanent gift. The owner was merely leaving town, and he had entrusted three of his servants to look after his wealth in his absence.
What were they to do with all this money? He didn’t say. But two of the servants seemed to sense that preserving it was not sufficient. They needed to put it to work, invest it, and see if they could make it grow. But the third was afraid. He buried his portion and later returned to the wealthy man exactly the amount he had received.
The wealthy man was unhappy. There were so many ways this servant could have made the money grow. If he had even deposited it in a bank account, it would have at least accrued a little interest. Burying the treasure amounted to very poor money management. (See Matthew 25:14-30.)
A talent in this parable is a large quantity of money, equivalent to approximately 75 pounds of silver. Over the years, largely because of this parable, the word has acquired the broader meaning in common use today: “a special natural ability, aptitude, gift committed to one for use and improvement” (See “talent,” Online Etymology Dictionary.)
When Moroni worried that the Gentiles would reject his words, he wasn’t thinking of himself. He was concerned about the effect that rejection would have on their own souls. Here was his worry, as expressed to the Lord in prayer:
If the Gentiles have not charity…thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.Ether 12:35
Rejecting inspired words and even mocking them was not constructive. If his future readers spent time and energy tearing things down instead of building things up, they would eventually find that the gifts they thought they owned were no longer there.
In 1831, the Lord gave a similar warning to a group of church leaders gathered in Independence, Missouri. He had previously commanded them to preach the gospel. Now, he reproved some of them for holding back:
With some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have.Doctrine and Covenants 60:2-3
He subsequently reiterated this warning to the people who would subsequently travel to Missouri:
Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.Doctrine and Covenants 60:13
God has given each of us many gifts, including possessions, natural abilities, and opportunities to build relationships with other people. If we choose to develop these gifts and put them to good use, they will grow. If we bury them and fail to use them, we may lose them entirely.
Today, I will use the gifts and talents God has given to me. I will remember that time is valuable, that I should use my time and talents productively, and that if I do so, those talents will grow.