In the parable of the talents, as related to us in the book of Matthew in the New Testament, there are three servants who are each given a sum from their master. This amount was their responsibility and stewardship. No one was there to tell them what to do with it or how to use it. You know how the story goes. Those with 5 and 2 talents were able to double them into 10 and 4. The servant who was given 1 talent buried it and returned that which he was given. The master then called the last an unprofitable servant and said to "cast that unprofitable servant into outer darkness" - which is one of only 9 times the term "outer darkness" is used in the entire Bible and one of only 22 uses in all of the LDS standard works. So the fact that outer darkness is the result for this unprofitable servant tells us that much more than whether or not you develop your earthly talents (i.e. singing, sports, homemaking, accounting, etc., etc.,) is being spoken of in this parable.
The first thing I want to talk about is the audience. When the Savior gave this parable, He was speaking with His disciples while on the Mount of Olives. These were people who were trying to learn how to forsake the world and come out of it - people who were trying to learn to have their hearts abide in Zion. They were everyday people like you and me. People who sought to be good and to do good and who did not know or realize how much of their lives were encumbered with unnecessary things. They were people who, in order to sustain daily life, were a little focussed on money - perhaps more than was necessary and perhaps not. But money spoke to them. So the Savior gave them the parable of the talents - to let them know it was something that was important and prized which the lord gave to his servants.
Then we must ask ourselves, what is it that our Lord prizes? What does He have to give us that is more important than any other thing? I would argue that it is truth, doctrine. For if we truly understand doctrine, we convert and we heal, according to Isaiah. And if we seek truth more than any other thing, then our hearts are in a state of humility - for you cannot seek your own and seek the truth. It is either one or the other.
If the Lord is giving to us doctrine, truths of eternity, then what is this parable really saying to us?
Let us just agree that the talents are representative of doctrine and truth. If this is true, then what did the first two servants do with the truths they were given? They were not careful with them. They did not hoard them. They were not afraid to pick them apart and see what was there. They were even as Peter who, when he knew it was the Lord on the shore, recklessly cast himself into the sea to swim to Him. They took those doctrine, and with reckless abandon, gave themselves over to them and tested them.
They found that not only did those doctrine hold up against testing, but more was added to it. Because when you understand "doctrine a" and also understand "doctrine b," then you will gain "doctrine c." It must be so. We are taught, "...these two facts exist...And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them..." (Abraham 3: 6, 8 in part) Are we also not told that "all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole?"
If this is true, if all truth builds upon each other to reach an even greater truth, then "doctrine a" plus "doctrine b" must equal "doctrine c." And then you take "doctrine b" plus "doctrine c" and it must equal "doctrine d." And on and on into eternity. All truth building on the truth already obtained.
This is the parable of the talents. Each truth building on the next until what was 5 has become 10, what was 2 has become 4. What was the master's reaction to his servants? He did not scold them for risking what he had given them. Rather, he praised them, he said to them, "Well done, good and faithful servant, thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
Faithful over few things shall be made ruler over many. If I can take what little doctrine I now understand, my one talent, and pick it apart, ask questions of it, put it to the test in the most recklessly abandoning way and it stands up to the test, then I will have gained understanding in my heart of that doctrine - not just knowledge in my head. (Lest I be misunderstood, I'm talking about reckless abandon in keeping laws pertaining to a doctrine, not in breaking the laws pertaining to a doctrine.) As I do this, another truth will come into my awareness. However small or simple that truth may be, I add it to the truth I already have and again I tear it up. I test it with reckless abandon. I let the Atonement of my Savior cover my mistakes and go to work on that truth. If it holds up and passes the tests (In Alma 32:28 it says it will swell within your breast, it will enlarge your soul, it will enlighten your understanding. The Doctrine and Covenants section 9 says you will have a burning within your bosom. Paul says that we will no longer look through a glass darkly, but will see clearly. Nephi speaks of it as the scales of darkness falling from our eyes. On and on, it is all the scriptures say, it is all they teach. It is the moral of every story and the point of every chapter) then you know it is truth. Add it to the truth you've already obtained and see it grow greater still until all truth is circumscribed into one great whole.
Enter thou into the joy of thy lord. THIS is the path to joy. To obtain truths and doctrine. Picking apart and testing, giving yourself over to a doctrine completely and with abandon.
The slothful servant was afraid of the doctrine. He was afraid to test it and try it. He didn't want to lose it. He didn't want to mess up. So he did not trust what he was given and use it wisely. Instead he buried it down deep inside. He held onto it tightly, never questioning it so he could understand it. But instead letting it sit buried deep, thinking this would keep him safe. All he has is taken from him - for he never truly obtained it.
And how do you obtain a doctrine? We will get the surface of that topic in the next post.