Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Gift of Knowledge

I was able to speak on Sunday about the gifts of the Spirit. I chose the gift of knowledge, and hopefully spoke about it in a new way.

One of my favorite Book of Mormon stories is that of Ammon. After he miraculously defended the king’s sheep against dozens of men, the King naturally wondered at his power. Ammon proceeded to teach King Lamoni all about the gospel and his heart was touched and he believed. In fact, so great was his belief, that King Lamoni was overcome and fell to the earth as if he were dead. 

For two days, the scriptures tell us, his wife, mourned over him. I can only imagine her anguish, her questioning, her sorrow. Her husband appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be dead. In fact, they were on the way to take his body to the sepulcher and bury him, when she, out of desperation, sent her servants to see if Ammon could help, if he could provide any new insight, any hope. He came, and this is what happened. 

“Now, Ammon knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God. Therefore, he saw the king, and he knew that he was not dead.” (Alma 19:6-7)
Much to the relief of the queen, he told her that her husband was not dead, but that he would rise the next day. He knew this would happen. How did he KNOW?  I’ll get back to that in a moment.
In the New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, we can read of a list of the gifts of the spirit, gifts from Heaven that we are given ‘for the benefit of the children of God’ (D&C 46:26). In each of these accounts, it lists separately the gift of wisdom, and the gift of knowledge. I’ve always felt these two gifts were very similar in nature, having to do with education, study, and learning. But as I pondered them, a new idea began to form. In order to explain this, please allow me to get a little grammatical. 
In the English language, the verb, ‘to know’ has several meanings. I can say “I know Algebra” and “I know my daughter Eden” and you intrinsically understand a difference in way I know Algebra from the way I know my daughter. In most other languages, however, different verbs are used for these two situations.  In Spanish, for example, the verb ‘saber’ means, to know something intellectually, as in, I know algebra, whereas, the verb ‘conocer’ means to know something on a deeper, more personal level, to know from experience, as in I know my daughter from having personal experience with her. 
So, I wondered which kind of ‘knowledge’ the gifts of the spirit was referring to, the intellectual study, or the kind of knowledge that you gain from experience. Out of simple curiosity, I looked up these scriptures in Spanish. The gift of wisdom, the first gift talked about, uses the noun ‘sabiduria’ which comes from the first type of knowing “saber”-- the intellectual type. The gift of knowledge is referred to as ‘conocimiento’ or the noun version of ‘conocer’ which is the type of knowledge that comes from personal experience. I found that both interesting and insightful that the gift of wisdom is all about education and learning, but that the gift of knowledge might not have as much to do with education and study as I previously thought, but more from what we learn from our personal experiences. It is about this gift of the spirit, the gift of knowledge that I want to talk about today. 
Now, back to Ammon. How did he know that King Lamoni was going to be okay?  From years of medical studies? Did he take his pulse, check his pupil dilation? No, his knowledge was not of the intellectual type, but from personal experience. Recall that not too long before his mission to the Lamanites, he had seen an angel with his brothers and his friend Alma. He saw Alma fall down and lie seemingly dead for two days and two nights. No doubt he had sat by his friend’s side as he went through the same transformation that was happening to King Lamoni. Ammon recognized what was going on and was able to share his knowledge with the queen. What a gift! He knew King Lamoni was not dead.  He could tell the queen, ‘Your husband isn’t dead. He’s going to wake up tomorrow. And when he does, he’ll be a better man. He’ll treat you more like a queen than he ever has before. He will be a better father. A man of God.’ Ammon had been blessed with the gift of knowledge, and he shared it with the person who needed it most.
Within weeks of moving to Arizona, I began to suffer from horrible panic attacks. They were scary and entirely new to me. My family, on both sides, were incredible helps, taking turns to watch my kids and keep me distracted from my new reality. The reality that I had a mental disorder. No one in my family had panic disorder, or new anyone who did. I was the ‘special’ one. I felt completely broken. Less than. Even, crazy. I put on a mask every time I went to church or had any interaction with friends. What was I going to say? “Hi, I’m new to the ward. My name is Jennie Blaser. Oh, and I’m crazy.”

One of my new friends was the YW president and was socially, spiritually, and mentally all together. We would get our kids in their strollers every morning and go for walks. After weeks of this, I decided to tell her about my health issues, hoping that she liked me by now enough to not run kicking and screaming away. After I explained what I was going through, I hesitated, waiting for her reaction. She stopped the stroller and turned to me and said, “I know exactly how you feel. I have panic disorder too.” 

Words fail me when I try to explain the affect of her words “I know exactly how you feel”. If I close my eyes, I can still see the swings moving in the distance, feel the sun stroking my back and hear the muffled shouts of children playing at the elementary school. I remember it so well, because it was the first time I felt hope in my situation. I had been burrowed down in a pit, lost inside a tunnel, and suddenly, there was a ladder. A light. She knew what I was going through, because she had been through it too. And she was standing as an example that I could get better. Hope. And, though nothing had changed physically, the neurons in my brain were still misfiring, everything was different. Such simple words, “I know how you feel”. But, what a gift!  What a gift her knowledge was for me that day in the park. The hope her knowledge gave me will forever be a gift I treasure. I knew I would be okay. 

Since that time, I have, unfortunately (simply because I would never wish a panic attack on my worst enemy), had the privilege of sharing my knowledge and coping skills with at least 1/2 a dozen people, who are suffering from panic attacks. I look at the knowledge that I now have as a gift, not one to be ashamed of, but one to share with those who need it. Because in the scriptures we read that the gifts of the spirit are given ‘that all may be profited thereby’ (D&C 46:12). So, we are to share this knowledge with those that need it most. How do we know who needs it and how to share it? Well, simply put, it is a gift of the Spirit. Let the Spirit be your guide.

I believe that we all have this gift of knowledge to one degree or another. We have all had certain trials and experiences that have taught us valuable lessons and blessed us with knowledge.  

Does anyone out there know what it feels like to be bullied, or teased, or even worse, ignored? Do you know what it’s like to feel invisible? I guarantee that there are youth and even adults in this audience who feel that way now. Who could use your knowledge. Who need the slice of hope your knowing can provide with the simple phrase, “I know how you feel. You are not alone.” 
Do you know the heartache of loneliness or disappointment when life has not turned out the way you thought it would. Could you impart of that knowledge and by so doing give the hope of a brighter tomorrow and the lifting of a lonely burden today. 
Do you know the crushing heartbreak of loss that makes your insides feel like they are on a perpetual roller coaster? Imagine the comforting hug and whispered words of someone who can honestly say, “I know how you feel.”
You have this gift. And we need you. Yes. You. I wish I could be like Richard G. Scott in his General Conference talks where he looks straight into the camera and his eyes pierce into your soul. If I could, I would look each of you in the eyes and say, “Yes, YOU have this gift. You have knowledge that the Spirit has given because of the trials, challenges, and opportunities you’ve had in life. You’ve learned things. And we need YOU. We need the knowledge that you’ve gained. We need to hear those comforting and healing words, “I know how you feel.” And know we are not alone in our sufferings. 
Many years ago, long before I was born, my family was called to serve a mission in the remote Island Kingdom of Tonga. So my parents and their five children, all daughters, moved 1/2 way across the world. Part way through their 3 year mission, my mom gave birth to a baby boy. The people all rejoiced, saying my parents needed to come all the way to Tonga to get a boy. I can only imagine their joy was great to have a son. Now, please do not misunderstand me. My parents love their daughters, all 9 of us! But, I’m sure they were glad to have a baby boy. Everything seemed fine. For a while. But after a few days, my brother became sick. He couldn’t keep down anything and was slowly, but surely starving to death.  Soon, the local saints took over the housework and care of my five oldest sisters to allow my parents to spend what little time remained with my brother. 
At one point, my mother had slipped out of the bedroom, I’m sure to help one of my sisters, and my dad was alone with my brother, whose sunken eyes and sallow skin showed he didn’t have much time left. My brother was too weak to cry, or make any noise. My dad had been carefully trying for a long time to get a tiny dropper of water down his throat. Then, my brother threw that up. I can only imagine the grief of my father. I’m sure he wept the tears that my brother could not cry. In anguish, he cried up to Heaven, “But you don’t understand; I don’t want to lose him. He’s my son. My only son.”  As soon as those words left my father’s mind, he felt his whole world trembling and quaking, as if everything was slipping from his grasp. In the midst of this turmoil, there came a quiet, unexplainable peace that seemed to fill the immensity of space. Then, he seemed to hear a voice, coming from the very depths of eternity, full of the most tender compassion imaginable, saying, “I know. I know.”
I could continue the story of how two entire nations united in faith and prayer for my brother and were promised a miracle, and how a phone call from a newly called apostle, Elder Thomas S. Monson came just at the right time to help. And how my brother was flown to Primary Children’s hospital and is now living in Mesa with his wife and 6 beautiful children, but that is a story for another day. 
Heavenly Father knew what it was like to lose His only Son. Because He did. No miraculous phone call came. No nations united in prayer and fasting. He sent His Son. For us. Alma, even the same Alma that slept under the power of God for two days and two nights which taught Ammon to know what King Lamoni was going through, said these words of his Savior, our Savior Jesus Christ:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people. (Alma 7:11-12)
Not according to His Divinity, for surely He is divine and could know our sufferings through His omniscient, divine power, but He suffered according to the flesh, meaning, He experienced it personally, humanly, that He may know how to best help us and that He may say “I know how you feel. Together, we can carry this burden.”
We can look at the knowledge we have gained from the hard times in our lives as burdens, locking it up and suppressing the pain, or we can turn to the Lord, and realize it is a gift of the Spirit, and we can use that knowledge to help those who are struggling. By so doing, we can draw closer to the Savior and become more like Him who truly does know how we are feeling. This I know, from personal experience.  


taylorz of lehi said...


I LOVED this talk. I echo the sentiments. I too have had to deal with challenges not of my choosing. After I got home from my mission (only a little before I met you) my parents announced their divorce and my older brother had a psychotic episode that lead to his schizo-affective disorder diagnosis. That combined with a few other life-stressors I won't mention here, sent me in a whirlwind of emotional pain and anxiety. I laughed at the "hi my name is Jennie and I'm crazy" part because that's how I felt. Now I wouldn't choose to go through that period in my life again, but I have to say that it has made me much more 'knowledgeable' about compassion and suffering and I agree that we need to share our experiences. That is why we have them. SO…. I was wondering if you would let me share part of this talk in a Relief Society lesson I'm teaching Sunday on Elder Holland's talk, "Like a Broken Vessel". It fits perfectly. I wish you lived closer. I'd take you to lunch :)

Lisa Andrews said...

Beautifully written, Jennie! Love your insights into looking at trials as a gift and how we can help others because of them. Thanks for sharing this!

Diana Waite said...

You are truly AWESOME--such words of wisdom--I am GRATEFUL to call you my friend, thanks for always looking UP! ;)

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