Parable of the Talents

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Question: How does Heavenly Father expect you to use the blessings you have been given?

Answer: The Lord expects us to improve on what He has given us. In the Savior’s time, a “talent” referred to money. But the Lord’s parable of the talents can teach us about how He wants us to use the blessings He has given us. The Lord expects us to improve on what He has given us. Our talents will be magnified as we serve in the various callings we accept in the Church.

Like the man in the parable, Heavenly Father has given each of us some something very valuable–not coins, but special abilities or talents, like singing, showing love, playing an instrument, or serving others. Like the people in the parable, you have to work hard to make your talents grow!

Matthew 25:14-30

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man (Christ) travelling into a far country, who called his own servants (disciples, apostles), and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents (a talent was a substantial sum of money), to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability (each is an individual and is given a stewardship according to personal capacities, talents and abilities); and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. (He developed and increased his talents.)

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. (He developed and increased his talents.)

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. (He did not develop and increase his talent.)

19 After a long time the lord (Christ) of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them (had them account for how they had used that which he gave them).

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Note: It is significant that the reward for both the servant who had received five talents and the servant who received two talents was exactly the same. It is comforting to know that those with fewer talents and abilities, who do their best, will receive the same reward as those who currently have higher abilities.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said (made excuses for his lack of performance), Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering (harvesting) where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful (lazy) servant, thou knewest that I reap (harvest) where I sowed not (planted), and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury (interest).

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath (who has done the best they can with what they were given) shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant (symbolic of the wicked) into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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President James E. Faust:

I first heard the wonderful story of The Little Engine That Could when I was about 10 years old. As a child, I was interested in the story because the train cars were filled with toy animals, toy clowns, jackknives, puzzles, and books as well as delicious things to eat. However, the engine that was pulling the train over the mountain broke down. The story relates that a big passenger engine came by and was asked to pull the cars over the mountain, but he wouldn’t condescend to pull the little train. Another engine came by, but he wouldn’t stoop to help the little train over the mountain because he was a freight engine. An old engine came by, but he would not help because, he said, “I am so tired. … I can not. I can not. I can not.”

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Then a little blue engine came down the track, and she was asked to pull the cars over the mountain to the children on the other side. The little engine responded, “I’m not very big. … They use me only for switching in the yard. I have never been over the mountain.” But she was concerned about disappointing the children on the other side of the mountain if they didn’t get all of the goodies in the cars. So she said, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” And she hooked herself to the little train. “Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. ‘I think I can—I think I can—I think I can.’” With this attitude, the little engine reached the top of the mountain and went down the other side, saying, “I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”

At times all of us are called upon to stretch ourselves and do more than we think we can. I’m reminded of President Theodore Roosevelt’s quip, “I am only an average man but, by George, I work harder at it than the average man.” We develop our talents first by thinking we can. We are all familiar with the parable of the talents. The Master gave one five talents, another two, and another one, “every man according to his several ability. …

“Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

“And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

“But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.”

After a long time the Master asked for an accounting. The one who had received five talents reported that he had gained an additional five talents and received the commendation, “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” He that received two talents gained two other talents and also received the promise of a greater dominion. But the one who had received the one talent returned with his single talent, saying, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: “And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.”

In accounting for his stewardship, this slothful servant imputed to his master his own character flaws. He could have at least put the money in circulation and received interest on it instead of burying it in the ground. His talent was taken from him and given to the man who had 10 talents. Then the Lord tells us, “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

Liz Lemon Swindle

Liz Lemon Swindle

We may wonder whether it was fair to take the talent from the one who had the least and to give it to the one who had the most. From the outset, however, the Lord explains that each man had ability. Some of us are too content with what we may already be doing. We stand back in the “eat, drink, and be merry” mode when opportunities for growth and development abound. We miss opportunities to build up the kingdom of God because we have the passive notion that someone else will take care of it. The Lord tells us that He will give more to those who are willing. They will be magnified in their efforts, like the little blue engine as it pulled the train up the mountain. But to those who say, “We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”

The Lord entrusts all of His servants, including every priesthood holder, with spiritual talents. The Lord, who endows us with these talents, tells us: “I believe you can. I believe you can.” While we are not all equal in experience, aptitude, and strength, we have different opportunities to employ these spiritual gifts, and we will all be accountable for the use of the gifts and opportunities given to us...

Those of us who now hold the priesthood responsibility of this Church, must follow and sustain our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. Like the “Little Engine That Could,” we need to be on the right track and develop our talents. We must remember that the priesthood can only be used for righteous purposes. When used “in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

To stay on the right track, we must honor and sustain those who hold the presiding priesthood keys. We are reminded that many are “called, but few are chosen.” When are we chosen? We are chosen by the Lord only when we have done our best to move this holy work forward through our consecrated efforts and talents. Our efforts must always be guided by the righteous principles set forth by the Lord in the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”

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The priesthood is given to bless the lives of others. President David O. McKay said: “The very essence of Priesthood is eternal. As it finds expression in life it manifests power. We can conceive of the power of Priesthood as being potentially existent as an impounded reservoir of water. Such power becomes dynamic and productive of good only when the liberated force becomes active in valleys, fields, gardens and happy homes; so the principle of power is manifested only as it becomes active in the lives of men, turning their hearts and desires toward God, and prompting service to their fellow men.”

If we aren’t serving others, then the priesthood really doesn’t benefit us because it is not a passive power. Brethren, be generous with the power of blessing which comes through the priesthood, especially to members of your own family. Remember that the Lord has said, “Whomsoever you bless I will bless.”

In preparing for the time when we will account to the Lord for our own personal priesthood stewardship, where will we be? Remember that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there.”

I hope we will not be like the big passenger engine, too proud to accept the assignments we are given. I pray that we will not be like the person in the well-known poem who said:

Father, where shall I work today?

And my love flowed warm and free.

Then He pointed out a tiny spot

And said, “Tend that for me.”

I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!

Why, no one would ever see,

No matter how well my work was done;

Not that little place for me.”

And the word He spoke, it was not stern;

He answered me tenderly:

“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.

Art thou working for them or for me?

Nazareth was a little place,

And so was Galilee.”

I also hope that we will not be like the freight engine, unwilling to go the “extra mile” in service. The Master taught us that “whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Some of the most rewarding times of our lives are those “extra mile” hours given in service when the body says it wants to relax, but our better self emerges and says, “Here am I; send me.” ...

Each of us must climb mountains that we have never climbed before.

Brethren, great is our work, and heavy are our priesthood responsibilities. I hope and pray that we can go forward with this holy work humbly, prayerfully, and unitedly under the guiding Spirit of the Lord and the direction of President Gordon B. Hinckley, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 83; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 88; Excerpts from General Conference, October 2002, “I Believe I Can, I Knew I Could,” by President James E. Faust.