It has been an amazing year of study for me so far. If you have been following along you may be noticing that no only am I learning new things about the scriptures and deepening my understanding but that I am also seeing things in new and enlightening ways.
Today I want to talk about discernement. Let me first begin with how I understood that word until very recently. I, of course, am a product of the modern age of advertising and so some of the ways I understand things stem from there. A person with discerning taste is someone who knows what is good or high quality or desirable and loves those things. I have always thought of my husband as a person with the gift of discernment because he can often tell pretty quickly whether to trust someone where it takes me ages to figure out that someone may not be treating me well.
So to me, when I have heard about the gift of discernment in church classes I have thought of it in a way to be protected from being deceived or taken advantage of. That the Spirit will help you know when to avoid certain things or people. And I don’t think that is completely incorrect because there are verses all over every book of scripture that talk about it.
1 Kings 3:9 …discern between good and bad
1 Corinthians 2:10 …to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
3 Nephi 24:18 then shall ye return and discern between the righteous
D&C 63:41 enabled to discern by the spirit
But I had a thought as I was doing my study. So often we use the Gift of Discernment to weed out but what if we used it as a way to include? What if we asked Heavenly Father for the Gift of Discernment so that we could be more inclusive in our activities and service. (Remember my blog post about asking for more gifts?)
How would that feel? I think it would mean instead of seeing the negative in people we could see them as God sees them or even as they would like to be. I know that I am always trying to be better and if people only saw me for my worst parts nobody would ever want to be around me. The thing about that is that most of my worst parts are hidden inside. Some people are beautiful on the inside but their worst parts are the things we can readily see and so perhaps we avoid them when if we would reach out to them those beautiful parts of them might rub off on us.
Focus on the One
I was studying a conference talk from April 2021 this week called Poor Little Ones by Elder Jorge T Becerra. In that talk he spoke about a story in Acts 3 where Peter and John heal a man at the temple gate. The first thing in the story is that Peter fastened his eyes upon the man. He saw him. This might be a little obvious until we stop and think aboout it. I imagine that the temple gate is a busy place with people going in and out and lots of people all around. I was just in Chicago this past weekend. there were thousands of people there. I can’t tell you what very many of those people looked like. There were a few that I paid attention to and spoke with. Some for longer conversations and some with just a brief exchange but seeing those people took effort. I had to stop what I was doing and focus. So that’s how I imagine Peter. Going about his business and seeing this one man sitting on the ground and stopping to focus on him.
That stopping to focus on one person is what is required in ministering I think. Elder Becarra speaks about how efforts of consistent and intentiaonal ministering will be magnified by the Lord. I wonder sometimes – actually very often – if we allow the fact of the ministering list and the assignement gets in the way of the service we are being asked to provide. That list and assignement are a way to keep things organized which is necessary when there are so many people to care for. But here is a beautiful quote from the talk:
Brothers and sisters, the Apostle Paul taught a key element in our ministering. He taught that we are all “the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:27) and that each member of the body is needed in order to ensure that the entire body is edified. Then he taught a powerful truth that entered deeply into my heart when I read it. He said, “Much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour” (1 Corinthians 12:22–23; emphasis added).
Hence, in each ward and branch we need everyone—those who may be strong and those who are perhaps struggling. All are necessary to the vital edification of the entire “body of Christ.” I often wonder who we are missing in our various congregations that would strengthen us and make us whole.
Now imagine if we began to approach those to whom we are assigned to minister as people who we need in our lives and in our wards. We all ove to feel needed and necessary. I know that there have been many times that I have felt unneeded or unnecessary. I have felt as if no one really cares if I am there or not. How much better would those times have felt if someone had reached out to me after church to see how I was doing and say they missed me. Or even on weeks when I was there wouldn’t it have been nice to have a middle of the week check in? The thing that kept me coming back to church was my own attachemtn to Jesus Christ but all of us aren’t there and honestly that strong tie can lossen at times and we need that physical attachment to other members.
Back to the Beginning
I think perhaps we should all be praying for the Gift of Discernment to help us know when to reach out to others. To help us to know when someone is lonely and maybe just needs someone to listen. The point of ministering is to give us a buddy to walk with through this journey of working to become as God sees us.
In Acts 3:8 after the man is healed it says “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” Peter and John didn’t just serve him and walk away. They walked with him, continuing their service.