“Discerning the Good in Ourselves,” Liahona, September 2021
For most of my life, I have defined the gift of discernment as being able to recognize right from wrong, truth from error. While that is a critical part of the gift, I recently learned there is more to it.
I found a treasure in the footnotes of a talk given in the April 2020 general conference. A speaker quoted President Stephen L Richards (1879–1959), former First Counselor in the First Presidency, who said, “The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them.”1
Doesn’t that sound like poetry?
The Holy Ghost can help us uncover the good inherent in others. The truth of that statement was so sweet to me that I wanted to learn more. I found that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also taught that the gift of discernment helps us “find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us.”2
Since this discovery, I’ve come to realize how important this part of the gift of discernment is. We need to find the good qualities in ourselves so that we can develop them. As we do, we will feel and act more like the children of God we really are (see Psalm 82:6; Mosiah 5:7; Moroni 7:19).
So how can we start finding the good in ourselves? Here are a few ways to get started.
It is a doctrinal truth that everyone has certain gifts from God (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:11)—and it is not vain to think about them. In fact, the Lord has asked us to! The scriptures teach us to seek “earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:8; emphasis added).
As we become more aware of our gifts or talents, we should find ways to use them to serve others.
One way to identify your gifts is by asking someone you trust! Ask them what your strengths are. If you’re like me, you might think that sounds awkward. But remember, this isn’t about vanity; it’s about finding what individual traits or attributes you have to offer your brothers and sisters of the world (see Mosiah 8:18).
For example, a kind neighbor once told me that I have a gift for helping people feel at ease. Rather than brushing the comment off as only polite praise, I started watching for that gift in my life. As I did, I realized that Heavenly Father could help me use my social skills to befriend others and bless more lives than my own.
By recognizing your gifts, you can consciously choose to use them to bless others (see Doctrine and Covenants 82:18).
Patriarchal blessings are also a good source for seeing our unique, God-given gifts. Elder Larry R. Lawrence, an emeritus member of the Seventy, said: “The Spirit can show us our weaknesses, but He is also able to show us our strengths. … When we read our patriarchal blessings, we are reminded that our Heavenly Father knows our divine potential.”3
Studying your patriarchal blessing helps you focus on developing the traits that can help you reach your potential.
In my case, I often picture the type of mother I hope to be one day. Without realizing it, I get caught up in thinking that a good mother is fit, organized, and beautiful—and that her cinnamon rolls are the envy of her ward’s Relief Society. While those things are not bad, studying my patriarchal blessing has shown me that the Lord cares more that I am a kind and charitable mother. For me, those Christlike traits are the ones I should be most anxious to develop.
The sacrament is a time to think about the Savior. It’s also a time to reflect on your progress toward becoming like Him. As you work to discover your inherent good traits, looking back each week at your achievements, experiences, and social encounters can help you see certain moments where your gifts were manifested.
President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “As you examine your life during the ordinance of the sacrament, I hope your thoughts center not only on things you have done wrong but also on things you have done right—moments when you have felt that Heavenly Father and the Savior were pleased with you. You may even take a moment during the sacrament to ask God to help you see these things.”4
Here are some questions you could ask yourself or God during the sacrament:
How did I follow Christ’s example this week?
Whom did I serve?
When did I feel the Spirit this week? Why?
What is a Christlike trait I’m trying to develop? How am I doing?
Is there anything in my life I should pray for help with?
Is there anyone I need to forgive?
What is one problem, big or small, that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ helped me with this week?
Pondering the goodness of God and evaluating my life during the sacrament rather than focusing only on failures and flaws helps me put my trust in Him.
We are given our callings for a reason, even if we do not know the reason at first.
I was once called to the Relief Society presidency of my young single adult ward. I was excited to start. But after a few months, I felt discouraged. I couldn’t see any spiritual growth in those I was trying to minister to. My efforts to visit and befriend seemed to fall flat.
One Sunday, I felt like I was missing the spiritual gifts that help someone be good at ministering. My prayer during the sacrament that day was to feel assurance that I was capable of my calling. I felt impressed to ask for a priesthood blessing.
I met with my bishop, and as he laid his hands on my head, one of the first things he said to me was, “Heavenly Father appreciates the kindness you show to others.”
The Spirit washed over me, and I felt assured that the Lord was pleased with my efforts. I felt I did have a portion of the gifts needed to minister lovingly. I had just been measuring my failures rather than my successes.
Your callings are great opportunities to find and use your spiritual gifts.
We don’t need to wait to begin uncovering the good in ourselves.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said:
“Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not ‘more’ of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. …
“I learned in my life that we don’t need to be ‘more’ of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.”5
We can start with a prayer. Tell Heavenly Father how you feel now, and how you want to feel about yourself. Specifically ask for the gift of discernment to help you see your inherent goodness. Some of the sweetest moments of my life have come from saying these prayers. I believe Heavenly Father is eager to help us see all that He sees.
Because of our identity as children of God, we are destined for greatness (see Doctrine and Covenants 78:17). Through the gift of discernment, we can come to know that for ourselves.