When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, “I used everything You gave me.”
Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it, piece by piece – by thought, choice, courage, and determination.
We are told that talent creates its own opportunities but it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.
"Let me be clear: We're an incredibly arrogant band and we believe in ourselves above all others. But we also acknowledge that there's no way we can take credit for where we are. I didn't design my larynx, if you want to go right back to Square 1. ... So we work very hard to capitalize and validate what we've been given. Because we have been given it. It's not graciousness, it's just honesty." --on the success of his band
The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today? To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success - the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history for those children born in the last half of the year, it would today have twice as many adult hockey stars. Now multiply that sudden flowering of talent by every field an profession. The would could be so much richer than the world we have settled for.
To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice a gift.
Could there be among us embryo poets and novelists like Goethe (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832)? Have we explored as much as we should? Of the creator of Faust, Emerson said, “The old eternal genius that built the world had confided itself more to this man than to any other.” But Goethe was not the greatest nor the last. There may be many Goethes among us even today, waiting to be discovered. Inspired Saints will write great books and novels and biographies and plays.
Can we not find equal talent to those who gave us A Man for All Seasons, Doctor Zhivago, Ben Hur? This latter book I read when a small boy and many times I have returned to it. Critics might not agree with me, but I feel that it is a great story. My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music and such have pleased their millions, but I believe we can improve on them.
We have the great Rembrandt (1606–1669), whose style is original, founded on the work of no other artist, whose coloring is somber and reaches its highest achievement in combinations of browns and grays. There are few paintings about which so much has been written as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch or his self-portraits. His morals also have been subject to criticism.
And we have the Italian painter Raphael (1483–1520), generally accepted in the European world as the greatest of religious painters.
It has been said that many of the great artists were perverts or moral degenerates. In spite of their immorality they became great and celebrated artists. What could be the result if discovery were made of equal talent in men who were clean and free from the vices, and thus entitled to revelations?
Members of the Church should be peers or superiors to any others in natural ability, extended training, plus the Holy Spirit which should bring them light and truth. With hundreds of “men of God” and their associates so blessed, we have the base for an increasingly efficient and worthy corps of talent.
Take a Nicodemus and put Joseph Smith’s spirit in him, and what do you have? Take a da Vinci or a Michelangelo or a Shakespeare and give him a total knowledge of the plan of salvation of God and personal revelation and cleanse him, and then take a look at the statues he will carve and the murals he will paint and the masterpieces he will produce. Take a Handel with his purposeful effort, his superb talent, his earnest desire to properly depict the story, and give him inward vision of the whole true story and revelation, and what a master you have!
Balance in large measure is knowing the things that can be changed, putting them in proper perspective, and recognizing the things that will not change. And balance also lies in attitude. May our attitude be one of achieving balance and wisdom and understanding in all that we do.