~ Lorenzo Snow, December 7, 1869 ~
Reading through the first chapter of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, the parable of the talents comes to mind. In the Graco-Roman First Century, Talents referenced the amount of weighted gold an individual possessed. The moral lesson here, and as applicable in the context of the first chapter of the manual, is that each one of us possess certain abilities to learn, comprehend and understand. In short, we start off in different capacities in our ability to learn. Living an authentic Christian lifestyle is based on how we are applying our capacity to learn and increase in knowledge and understanding. This is summed up in the following statement:
In this system of religion that you and I have received there is something grand and glorious, and something new to learn every day, that is of great value. And it is not only our privilege but it is necessary that we receive these things and gather these new ideas.
The nature of religion is not so much about dogmatism or doctrinal assertion. The nature of religion is based on aligning oneself to a particular philosophical belief system in which we learn and understand the value and importance of maturing spiritually in our present life. Spiritual maturation is not something that happens in a vacuum. An individual must obtain particular knowledge and understanding. They must grow through a process of transformation. This can only happen through our ability to learn. The scriptures are replete with passages that differentiate the wise and the fool. The wise increases in knowledge and understanding, ever learning and discerning. Unlike the wise, the fool is not careful in how they learn and mature in their own lives:
There are some who do not learn, and who do not improve as fast as they might, because their eyes and their hearts are not upon God; they do not reflect, neither do they have that knowledge which they might have; they miss a good deal which they might receive. We have got to obtain knowledge before we obtain permanent happiness; we have got to be wide awake in the things of God.
What this means is that for us to develop a more authentic Christian lifestyle, we must understand the virtue of learning. Understand the nature of gaining appropriate knowledge in our lives to where we are not only increasing our own talents – we are empowered to help others increase in their own talents and understanding as well. This comes back to the purpose and application of the parable of the talents. Two of the three men were given different weighted amounts of gold. The first two invested and increased their talents. The third hid his talents.
How we increase our knowledge, empower ourselves to learn through the faith and grace of God is by exerting ourselves, engage in faithful living, and persevere:
There must be a labor of mind, an exertion of those talents that God has given us; they must be put into exercise. Then, being enlightened by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, we may get those ideas and that intelligence and those blessings that are necessary to prepare us for the future, for sceneries that are to come.
This fits in well with the nature of the parable because the master did not commend the three individuals on how to utilize their talents. Each one possessed the capacity to discern and apply their understanding in how to increase their particular lot in life. Today, living in our culture and society, we tend to focus on the idea that God provides and until he provides, we sit and wait. This is dangerous thinking because we must be dutifully engaged in learning and increasing in learning through the empowerment of our faith. Our Heavenly Father has given us our lot, it is up to us to take that and improve on it whenever and however we may.
The same principle will apply in all our actions in relation to the things of God. We have to exert ourselves. … This remaining idle without putting ourselves into action is of no use; if we remain perfectly neutral, nothing is accomplished. Every principle that is revealed from the heavens is for our benefit, for our life, for our salvation and for our happiness.
Learning by faith requires that we come to an understanding of the principles of redemption, salvation, and how our lives truly become transformed. Faith is an action where we engage it on a daily basis. A Christian is not someone sitting idle. Everything the scripture teaches, it teaches that we are to be active. Active in ministering to others, active in seeking the will of God, active in service to our families and communities, active in living out an authentic Christ-centered life that shines forth the purpose and reason for the hope that lies within our own hearts.
We think, perhaps, that it is not necessary to exert ourselves to find out what God requires at our hands; or in other words, to search out the principles which God has revealed, upon which we can receive very important blessings. There are revealed, plainly and clearly, principles which are calculated to exalt [Christians] and preserve them from much trouble and vexation, yet, through lack of perseverance on our part to learn and conform to them, we fail to receive the blessings that are connected with obedience to them.
The failure to engage in increasing our knowledge and learn through the power and efficacy of faith disables us to live a true and authentic Christian life. Like the individual who dug a hole and hid his talent, he remains stagnant, not ever changing. Fear, instead of hope, ruled his life. He feared the loss of the talent given him. He remained idled and through his inaction and idleness, he truly lost all that he possessed when the master returned and each one of them reported back on how they increased the talents provisioned into their hands. Likewise, we become stagnant in our own lives, fearful and anxious. We lose hope and become lost within the mist of darkness where confusion and disillusion hinders our ability to move toward a healthier and meaningful life.
We must not neglect our spiritual improvements while we seek for worldly wealth. It is our duty to make every effort for the purpose of advancing ourselves in the principles of light and knowledge, as well as of increasing around us the temporal blessings and comforts of this life.
In other words, we must be actively seeking after the Kingdom of Heaven and not after the treasures of the world (Matthew 6:33; KJV). It is when we seek after the will of the Father, grow in our knowledge and understanding of his will, do we increase in the ability to provide for ourselves and our families. the principle truth of gaining knowledge in this life is to increase the kingdom of God, to increase and empower others towards a more authentic lifestyle. In essence, the increase of our learning by faith, we are blessed all the more by the hand of a loving and Sovereign God.
For our information and spiritual knowledge we are entirely dependent—we feel so dependent—upon the Lord. And in proportion to the exercise of our faith do we receive information, communicated through the Lord’s servants. … He addresses us, through his servants, who address us on occasions of this character when we assemble together to worship our God.
The more we come together to learn from one another, to hear the words of God breathed out from the scriptures, and gain personal revelations in relation to our own counsel and inspired living – true authentic Christianity takes root, is cultivated and eventually blossoms with beauty and splendor. In all things, our lives is not meant to merely overcome and endure – our lives are meant to grow and increase in knowledge and learning how to endure and overcome those things that challenge us. This only happens if we take action and increase the talents we have been provisioned with. Today, we have a choice to either remain idle and stagnant in our faith, or we can grow and increase our faith through learning and obtaining knowledge that facilitates true spiritual maturation.