As I studied the Doctrine and Covenants in November and December of last year, I was overwhelmed with the consistency of a theme: people who came to the prophet for further light and knowledge were told of gifts they had been given for the purpose of doing the work of the kingdom. In due time (fairly quickly in this fast-moving restoration), they were called to use those gifts. Consistently, the gift preceded the calling, often by years.
Joseph was gifted with an ability to use seer stones long before Moroni brought him interpreters. Oliver was gifted with an ability to use a divining rod long before he would stand beside Joseph as Aaron, a second witness, a two to Joseph’s one. Hyrum was gifted with a testimony of the work that would develop within him, allowing him to know anything he wished of the Lord, while told at the same time that he “need not suppose that (he was) called to preach until (he was) called.”(11:15) Eventually, he was called to be that witness. Emma was gifted with a promise that her husband would support her in the Church, just as she was gifted with several opportunities to lead, she also serving as a two to Joseph’s one. Indeed, stewardships throughout the Doctrine and Covenants are referred to as gifts, and their responsibilities often preceded by the words, “I give unto you to …” (see especially 128).
Joseph was also warned that there were those (specifically Martin) who would “(seek) to take away the things wherewith (he had) been entrusted” and that “he (had) also sought to destroy (Joseph’s) gift.” (10:7)
He was called to account and told that he had “delivered them up, yea, that which was sacred, unto wickedness.” (10:9)
In the Doctrine and Covenants version of the discussion of gifts which occurs in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and latter-day record, Joseph records the purposes for gifts of the spirit as well as a selection of sample gifts.
Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby. (emphasis added)
It’s clear that there is a dual benefit to the these gifts, to the receiver and to the Church. There is also a clear guidance that those who focus solely on self-development are missing the point, even spiritual self-development. As we discussed in our prior essay, our bodies are not solely our own, though we have a stewardship over them. Our gifts are not solely our own either, but contribute to a shared stewardship in the kingdom.
An estate is a gift or a resource over which one has a stewardship. It is an inheritance and a deed, in legal terms. We often speak of our choice in pre-mortal life to come to Earth under our Father’s plan as “keeping our First Estate.” We kept it because we honored it, protected it, and chose to abide by the terms and conditions of that stewardship gift. Because we exercised our right to agency wisely, we retained it when we came to this next stage and were added upon. Those who did not keep their First Estate did not continue forward into their Second, and lost the conditional gift of their agency.
The essence of our Second Estate is the temple of our body. Elder James E. Talmage remarked in 1913,
We have been taught . . . to look upon these bodies of ours as gifts from God. We Latter-day Saints do not regard the body as something to be condemned, something to be abhorred…. We regard [the body] as the sign of our royal birthright…. We recognize … that those who kept not their first estate … were denied that inestimable blessing…. We believe that these bodies … may be made, in very truth, the temple of the Holy Ghost….
It is peculiar to the theology of the Latter-day Saints that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul. Read your dictionaries, the lexicons, and encyclopedias, and you will find that nowhere [in Christianity], outside of the Church of Jesus Christ, is the solemn and eternal truth taught that the soul of man is the body and the spirit combined. [CR, October 1913, p. 117]
Our body is the conditional gift we have been given, and it will retain its fullest capacities in the resurrection only if we honor the terms and conditions of its exercise here, protecting the sacredness of our body’s most holy capacity: to be united as Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the Earth. To create, as gods.
It’s important to note that we don’t have to either be married or bear children in families to fully fulfill this sacred obligation and keep our Second Estate. The gift precedes the calling.