Tag Archives: talents

The Intimidating Parable of the Talents

The words of the Savior’s parables are few, and simple, but their lessons are profound. The lessons apply quite easily to mortals in general, but I get so much more out of them when I take them personally.

It’s always easy to see how they apply to others, but the lessons become very pointed when I consider how they apply in my own life.

The parable of the talents is one of these. (See Matthew 25:14–30). We could take it to mean that we all should use the talents and resources our Heavenly Father has given us to do good among our fellow men and women. That is a universal admonition.

But when I consider the parable of the talents at a personal level, it becomes intimidating—and inspiring.

Whatever gifts I have been given personally are a trust to be honored. They are part of my inheritance from a divine parent, never to be squandered or ignored.

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The amazing, intricate structure of a leaf.

And yet, what can I, a very flawed mortal and a comparative babe, hope to offer to the Master by exercising those talents in the very basic ways of which I am capable?

I have asked many times for the Lord to show me how to use the talents He has given me in service to others, for His purposes. I have asked for direction to avoid using them in any other way—in any way that might be simply self-aggrandizing or somehow damaging to another of His children.

Sometime after the end of my life, somewhere far in the future, I expect there will be an accounting for my stewardship on the earth—perhaps an interview of some kind. What will I tell Him then? What shall I show Him to indicate how I increased the talents He gave to me before He sent me to earth? Would I seriously say, “Well, I wrote a lot of articles and a handful of novels”? Would I seriously show my photos of beautiful lilies to the Great Creator—to Him who dressed the lilies so much more magnificently than the dress of any earthly ruler? (See Matthew 6:28–29.)

I hope my photos praise His magnificent works. I meant those articles and books to help others see eternal truths as they apply in this life. Still, my works are insignificant compared to His.


Grass, early morning.

It is best to avoid the comparison. The risk of comparing is that I will always come out the loser, and then I might be tempted to do as the slothful servant did and hide my very small talents in shame.

The only wise course is to try to develop them, and to try at this stage of life as never before. Then someday I will show Him the best that I have to offer and plead for forgiveness for those times when I did less than my best. I hope He will be merciful and kind.

It seems likely the only things that will really count in that stewardship report are the things that have brought good into the lives of others—my wife, my children, people I have had the chance to touch in daily life. I don’t think articles and books and photographs are going to count for much, unless they have strengthened or uplifted or inspired someone else.

In other words, I believe the things that will count—the things He might see as an increase of my talents—are the things He would have asked me to do for someone else.

That realization is breathtaking.

I hardly dare ask Him, as flawed as I am, and yet more and more at the beginning of each day I do: Please show me someone to serve today, and how I can help.


The Pain of Growing

Whenever I ask the Lord how He would like me to develop my talents in His service, He usually responds with an assignment—one that will make me grow.

This time it is five short videos within two weeks. Three of them will be within a larger piece that is to be broadcast into several countries.

Guate_26Oc13_1625bI know how to use a camera, though I am strictly an amateur at video, and I have written scripts. But the parts about finding actors, finding a place to shoot, and setting a scene are all new to me. I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” (Jeremiah 1:5), and we have to believe that He knew us all, because Paul taught the Hebrews that we are His children (Hebrews 12:9). Therefore I suppose He knew me well enough to know that I need to be stretched. Maybe when I ask what I can do to improve my talents in His service, I’m secretly hoping that He will say, “Just keep on doing what you’re doing.” But growth never works that way, and He wants us to grow. The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis warned that if we truly want to be His disciples and serve Him, He will stretch us, and the process may seem painful at the time. But in the end we will be more than we could ever have expected of ourselves.

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These photos are results of a self-assignent in trying to show the majesty of His creations. The intricate, living geometry of plants is at once the handiwork of the Supreme Scientist and Consummate Artist.

This current assignment intimidates me. People I respect are depending on me to produce, and I have never done this before. I want it to be perfect. Chances are it won’t be, because I am not perfect, and I am not experienced at this, and so much of what must happen is out of my control.

But it is not out of His control. Today I determined to go to work on the assignment instead of spending any time lamenting my lack of experience, my lack of resources (nearly nothing), and my lack of preparation. There is no time to be spent lamenting. And today He helped me. He helped me find things I had not expected to be able to find. He helped me perform better than I am ordinarily capable of in a language that is not my native tongue. It would be presumptuous to call these “small miracles.” (I have always wondered how people reconcile that term in their own minds. Are there any small miracles?) But I ended the day farther ahead than I had hoped at the beginning.

The Savior taught that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). He told us through another prophet that every one of us is to “improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:18).

So here is the really scary part: I have been given much. The Lord has a great deal invested in me.  How can I possibly return anything worthy of His investment?

The answer is that I can’t—except with His help. And so tomorrow morning I will get up and go to work again and pray that He will help me produce works worthy of His kingdom.