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RS/MP Lesson 34: “Developing Our Talents” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on May 14, 2011

I want to offer a couple of thoughts on the section of the Lesson titled “We Can Develop Our Talents in Spite of Our Weaknesses.”

Weakness/es (Ether 12:27)

The first scripture mentioned in this section is Ether 12:27 which starts,

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble.

Question: Why or what significance is there in the fact that Moroni use the singular here, “weakness,” rather than the plural, “weaknesses”?

My own thinking is that “weaknesses” (plural) suggests traits or characteristics which can be changed relatively easily, like changing a dirty shirt, whereas “weakness” (singular) suggests an overall condition or state that cannot really be changed, at least not as easily, without changing something fundamental and core about ourselves.

Question: In the last phrase of verse 27 God says that for all who humble themselves, he will “make weak things become strong unto them.” How does this compare (and contrast) with the claim that God will make their weaknesses become strengths?

I’ll come to my own thoughts on this question later.

Enoch’s Slowness of Speech (Moses 6)

The next scriptural passage mentioned is Moses 6:26-47. In this passage, Enoch is called to prophesy to the people by calling them to repentance, but Enoch hesitates because he is “slow of speech” (v. 31). God then tells Enoch “open thy mouth and it shall be filled” (v. 32). Enoch goes forth in the land and “crie[s] with a loud voice, testifying against their works; and all men were offended because of him” (v. 37). We read later in 7:13 how Enoch’s speech became so powerful that

he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him.

Question: Why does the Lord give us weakness(es)?

Answer #1: I think a common answer to this question is that we are given weaknesses so that we can become humble, and then because of our humility—and because of our own diligence and efforts—God will help us make these weaknesses strengths. (In teaching this lesson, in fact, I think I’ll propose this answer to the question, and get other class members to nod along in agreement—then, I will start questioning deeper and try to get others to articulate problematic aspects of this answer.)

In a certain sense, I think Answer #1 seems to account for what happens to Enoch: he is a poor speaker (or whatever “slow of speech” means), but he is humble, and so God makes his speech strong. A more careful reading of these verses in Moses 6 suggests that this isn’t quite right (after all, people are at first offended by Enoch’s words), but I’d like to return to Ether 12 to make what I think is a stronger and clearer case that Answer #1 is inadequate.

Moroni’s Weakness in Writing (Ether 12:37)

Question: If we take Answer #1 as true, then we should expect that Moroni, who was humble and concerned about his weakness in writing, should have become a strong writer. Did he? Why or why not?

I think there are various interesting responses that could be given to this question. However, rather than trying to evaluate or discuss in much depth various responses, it is probably better to read Ether 12:37 to see what the scriptures have to say about this question:

And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If [the Gentiles] have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.

It seems that Moroni’s weakness in writing was not transformed. Moroni did not become a strong writer. This means that Answer #1 is problematic, even though it didn’t seem too obviously problematic when applied to Enoch’s experience.

Question: If Answer #1 is problematic, what is a better answer? Why does the Lord give us weakness(es)?

Answer #2: I don’t have any great answer to provide, but I think a better answer would be that we are given weaknesses to help us recognize our general state of weakness. This state of weakness, if properly recognized, will help us become truly humble. When we our truly humble, we will be more receptive to God’s word and more responsive to God’s voice (like Enoch; unlike those Enoch was called to preach to)—and more accepting and trusting of God’s will, like Moroni declaring “O Lord, thy righteous will be done” (Ether 12:29). Because of Moroni’s genuine humility, he was promised that he would eventually be made strong by receiving a place in God’s heavenly mansion(s)—however, Moroni was not promised that he would ever become a strong writer!

8 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 34: “Developing Our Talents” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. kirkcaudle said

    Nice thoughts here Robert. I really like what you have done with Ether 12:27. I would like to compare what you have done with Ether 12:27 with another scripture in this lesson, 2 Cor. 12:9 which reads, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

    This verse is interesting because it uses weakness in both the singular and plural. The word used for weakness and infirmities is actually the same word in Greek.

    ἀσθένεια (as-then’-i-ah)=is the singular translated in the KJV as weakness

    ἀσθενείαις (as-then’-i-eyes)=is the plural translated in the KJV as infirmities.

    The word can actually mean either weakness or infirmities, so it is interesting that the same word is translated differently within the same verse. However, i am not sure that both of these words have the same connotation in English.

    I think Paul is saying (via god) that he is made perfect by his weakness (his overall condition). Therefore, he will glory in those individual traits or characteristics that give him insight into that condition.

    I think I will have my class read Ether 12:27 and 2 Cor. 12:9 together this week and see what we come up with.

  2. kirkcaudle said

    I’m not sure why my last post is all in italics. Sorry if that is bothersome!

  3. Robert C. said

    Nice, Krik—I love 2 Cor 12, this is a great verse to add to the lesson.

    (I wonder if my comment will show up in italics also—weird….)

  4. Karl D. said

    Robert,

    The italics tag on the word “not” in the last sentence wasn’t closed correctly. Thus any text after that word was still affected by the italics tag. I hope you don’t mind that I closed the tag.

  5. kirkcaudle said

    Darn it Robert! :)

  6. Robert C. said

    Thanks, Karl.

  7. Ama said

    When is the next post coming about the lesson on obedience? I teach it next week!

  8. Robert C. said

    Hi Ama,

    Joe was scheduled to post some notes by this Sunday, but he’s actually in the process of moving, so I’ll cover for him this week, and I’ll try to get some notes up sooner than Sunday—hopefully by Saturday morning at the latest….

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