Willie Holdman
"Joseph Smith's First Vision" (stained glass) in the Palmyra Temple.

We talked last week about the importance of not “oversimplifying the gospel” to our children or to ourselves. One disastrous way of doing this is to focus too much on the “wrappings” and not enough on the “gifts” and on the “giver.” Let us explain.

As we write books or give lectures around the world on values, on balance, on families, we find people and audiences everywhere who want more than philosophies, technologies and self-help formulas. They want spiritual insight, they want answers about eternal purpose, about immortality and about the mind and will of God. These answers do not come from gurus or motivators or best-selling authors. Questions of the spirit require answers from the spirit — answers that have to do more with soulful enlightenment than with secular education, more to do with inspiration than with intellect.

We believe, of course, that we have found these spiritual answers — not deduced them or developed them — found them, in the theology of a religion that is unlike any other. For years as we have spoken or written to “secular” audiences, we’ve felt the frustration of giving the “self-help” part of the answer but not the higher “spiritual help” part. We’ve felt like we were leading people to a plateau rather than a mountaintop, dealing more with the short term than the long, more with the symptoms than the cause, more with the mind than with the soul.

During our mission presidency in London and throughout another year spent in England 10 years later, we became close friends with a member of the British Parliament named Rhodes Boyson, who asked a particularly thoughtful and interesting question: “I know about Joseph Smith and the gold plates and the Book of Mormon and the fact that you believe your church was restored by God,” he said, “but what I want to know is exactly what it was that was restored. What doctrines or teachings of Christ do you claim were lost and had to be replaced or put back on earth.” Then to make his question more graphic, he added, “To me, all the visions and gold plates are just the wrappings. I want to know what gifts are inside — what actual doctrines are in the package.”

The question was so intriguing to us that we eventually made an attempt at answering it in writing, and the result was the longest letter we had ever written, an 85-pager that may have been the best exercise we have ever undertaken in clarifying the gospel and the Restoration in our own minds.

As we thought about it, it seemed to us that there were 12 separate “gifts” that were direct answers to Rhodes’ question about “what was restored.” We mentioned them in last week’s column, but in short form they were: 1) knowledge of man's pre-mortal existence and of the eternal fatherhood of God; 2) knowledge of the purposes of earth and mortality; 3) knowledge of the degrees and dimensions of life after death; 4) enhanced faith in God and in his justice; 5) a more complete comprehension of Christ, of his roles and of his relationship to us; 6) the Holy Ghost; 7) the priesthood; 8) eternal marriages and deeper family ties; 9) a more personal sense of gratitude, confidence and humility; 10) greater clarity on our potential and God’s promises; 11) the church itself with its priorities, programs and practical guidelines; 12) the greatest gift of knowing more about the Giver.

As an experimental exercise early in this new year and as a potentially great conversation, consider asking your children, no matter what their ages, how much they know about each of these 12 gifts of the Restoration.

Next week we will suggest some thoughts on gifts one and two and on how they can be better taught and more emphasized in the home and with our children.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."