12 February 2013

Write Your Own Book: Pride and Perdition, or Humble and Exalted

3 Wise Men Too Proud to Ask for Directions
Losing Ourselves Through Selfishness and Pride

In our fast-paced world, our attention and focus upon spiritual integrity can very easily be eclipsed by selfish desires taking us away from the reality God wants us to live in.

We all too often lose sight of what is really important because, unfortunately, during the course of our day our definitions of importance seems to change. We deviate from our Heavenly Father by poorly prioritizing at the expense and interruption of our spiritual growth.

We all have a tendency to focus on the self. We put emphasis on our career growth, finding our dream house, choosing what educational path to follow, getting ourselves out of debt, making ourselves presentable before the public, and the list goes on.

How Pride Enters In

There is nothing inherently bad about focusing on these important issues—until one exalts his accomplishments independent of God. Thus, pride.

The problem of pride is many times silent. It is often—to the self—absent of noise and sound. It is not until we come unto God through a formula of asking, seeking, and knocking that our weaknesses may be manifested to us. In the following article I hope to introduce the doctrinal paradox Jesus teaches about those who wish to rank themselves upon the scale of status and position. Get humble, or take a tumble, which is what happens when we try to exalt ourselves.

What is Exaltation, and How do We Get it?

Most of us tend to think about exaltation in terms of getting recognition for achieving something, such as a high income, or attaining a certain level of status in our community, at work with our peers, or even our appearance.

However, that is not what the LDS church teaches. Exaltation in the LDS faith means becoming "joint-heirs with Jesus Christ" and eventually receiving as Jesus says, "...all that my Father hath..."

Our efforts and accomplishments are not what will bring us exaltation into the heavenly celestial realms of Godhood. Exaltation is a gift from God, given when we allow ourselves to become sufficiently humble before him, partake in all of the necessary ordinances by those who are in authority to act in his name, and continue in the path of humility.

Just because an active LDS member of the church has a temple recommend does not give him or her a solid ticket into heaven. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma spoke so well and clear that even a child could understand, "Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life."[xiv] 

If there is anything we can learn in the scriptures, it is that we cannot obtain exaltation by exalting ourselves. Our dependence and faith upon God and his Son Jesus Christ is crucial to our eternal progression both here, and upon us entering the veiled afterlife.

God's way of exalting men is quite different than what man would do. God says to man, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."[xv]

Here is the key: Humility. God exalts mankind when they humble themselves before him and when they do that then God says, "Friend, move up higher." [xvi] Jesus had to make this clear to his disciples through the telling of a parable:

"And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." [xvii]

What is Pride, and Why is it a Sin?

In simple terms, pride can be thought of as a combination of puffery and plagiarism. It happens when we take the credit for what our Lord has done, and give it to ourselves. Think about the following quote for a few moments:

“We speak a language that we did not make; we use instruments that we did not invent; we invoke rights that we did not found; a treasury of knowledge is transmitted to each generation that it did not gather itself." [i]

These gifts were given freely to us to us yet we sometimes walk around arrogantly and ungrateful with our stiff necks as if to say "we deserve it, and that we deserve even better.

What is it that we are so proud of? Are we not the accumulative inheritors of the eons that have gone before us? The successes in life that we enjoy today have been determined by those who came before us. When things have been handed to us on a gold platter what thanks do we give? To whom do we give thanks? What are we proud of?

Are we, as a society, so overindulged and ungrateful for the gifts we receive from the past that we forget we are the products of dust from the ground, formed by God? Our own scriptures tell us that "God formed man of the dust of the ground?"[ii]

Is it dust we worship and give thanks to; or God?

Dust from the Earth
The Great Men of God Weigh In

·         Our Father Abraham said, "I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes"[iii]

·         Moses had a vision that showed him that "man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed."[iv]

·         At Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion he testifies that "all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing"[v]

·         The Psalmist claims that his, "age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity."[vi]

·         The Great Isaiah states that "the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance"[vii]

·         King Benjamin made a speech that impacted his hearers to the extent that they fell to the earth having "viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth."[viii]

·         The Book of Heleman says, "O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth."[ix]

When a Positive Self-image Turns into the Sin of Pride

Why do we inflate ourselves? Why do we puff ourselves up? Why do we love ourselves so much that we act and behave in ways that come at the expense of others?

Sometimes we forget how our actions affect the lives of others. A common example of this is in the area of building our careers. We want the boss to look favorably on us, and seek out ways to build our career, forgetting that our office politics could have a negative effect on a coworker.

If we do not check in with ourselves to monitor our own behaviors and motives, we are in danger of becoming like Narcissus.

Narcissus: In Love With His Own Reflection

Narcissus was a handsome young Greek who rejected the advances of a beautiful woman and a beautiful life. This led him to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water until the end of his life. Like Narcissus, our pride and selfishness indicates our loss with the reality of who we really are.

Sometimes we overestimate our positive qualities to the extent that we place ourselves in an illusory world in which we are more important and better than others. Instead of reducing our "appearance of authority" we exalt ourselves. Those who exalt themselves above others bear a likeness to the son of perdition. The scriptures tell us, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who exalteth himself..."[x] 

The Benefits of Being Humble

There is a difference between being humble and being humiliated. God loves His children. He does not want to humiliate you, but he does want you to be humble so that you can grow and receive blessings. Just as we correct our children for their own good, God corrects us for our benefit.

Keep reading to find out how it works:

Even a mustard seed cannot grow until it is first planted in the dirt. Only until then can outside forces such as water (Baptism) and the sun (The Son) can aid in its (your) growth to achieve greatness in the Kingdom of God.

One of the greatest and most widespread hindrances of man being prepared to meet God is pride. Pride lays the foundation of all other sins.

There is not one sin that can be named in which pride will not be found at the root of the sin.
Jesus was constantly rebuking both his disciples and the non-believers for thinking that they were more spiritual than others. The Scribes and Pharisees were always at Jesus side pointing the finger of scorn upon him for not being as spiritual law a abider as they were.

One Pharisee who exalted himself was condemned by Jesus as he stood and prayed "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

By this we may interpret that Jesus would rather bless and exalt someone who would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but instead pleads, "God be merciful to me a sinner," than someone who prays, pays tithing of all that he possesses, and fasts twice a week; yet through his pride exalts himself at the expense of others.

On the other hand, Jesus' disciples wanted to, "command fire to come down from heaven, and consume [those less spiritual], even as Elias did?"[xi]

Parable of the Ten Virgins

Parable of the Ten Virgins
At another time, Latter-Day Saint Apostle Dallin H. Oaks reminds us that the Parable of the Ten Virgins is specifically speaking to his disciples. He says, "This parable contrasts the circumstances of the five foolish and the five wise virgins. All ten were invited to the wedding feast, but only half of them were prepared with oil in their lamps when the bridegroom came. The five who were prepared went into the marriage feast, and the door was shut. The five who had delayed their preparations came late. The door had been closed, and the Lord denied them entrance, saying, 'I know you not' (Matt. 25:12). 'Watch therefore,' the Savior concluded, 'for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh' (Matt. 25:13). The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came." [xii]

The teachings of The Book of Mormon explicitly state that those who are prideful will like the great and spacious building fall, "and the fall thereof was exceedingly great." [xiii]

How to Live a Humble Life

What is humility? Well there may be a thousand definitions, "but it means at least acknowledging one's dependence on the Lord, acknowledging when and where one is not self-sufficient." [xviii]

LDS prophet Spencer W. Kimball revealed, in my opinion, the greatest definition of humility:

Spencer W. Kimball
Humility is not weakness but strength. One can be bold and meek at the same time. One can be courageous and humble. If the Lord was meek and lowly and humble, then to become humble one must do what he did in boldly denouncing evil, bravely advancing righteous works, courageously meeting every problem, becoming the master of himself and the situations about him and being near oblivious to personal credit. Humble and meek properly suggest virtues, not weaknesses. They suggest a consistent mildness of temper and an absence of wrath and passion. Humility suggests no affectation, no bombastic actions. It is not turgid nor grandiloquent. It is not servile submissiveness. It is not cowed nor frightened. No shadow or the shaking of a leaf terrorizes it. Humility is teachableness-an ability to realize that all virtues and abilities are not concentrated in one's self. ... 

Humility is gracious, quiet, serene-not pompous, spectacular, nor histrionic. It is subdued, kindly, and understanding-not crude, blatant, loud, or ugly. It never struts nor swaggers. Its faithful, quiet works will be the badge of its own accomplishments. It never sets itself in the center of the stage, leaving all others in supporting roles. Humility is never accusing nor contentious. It is not boastful. When one becomes conscious of his great humility, he has already lost it. When one begins boasting of his humility, it has already become pride-the antithesis of humility. 

Humility is repentant and seeks not to justify its follies. It is forgiving others in the realization that there may be errors of the same kind or worse chalked up against itself. ... It is not self-abasement-the hiding in the corner, the devaluation of everything one does or thinks or says; but it is the doing of one's best in every case and leaving of one's acts, expressions, and accomplishments to largely speak for themselves. 
Humility develops through prayer and study. Somebody asked me this morning, 'How do you keep humble? ...I think there is a formula that will never fail. First, you evaluate yourself... My breath, my brains, my hearing, my sight, my locomotion, my everything depends upon the Lord. That is the first step and then we pray, and pray often. Well, you can create humility, and humility has to be fed, too, in the same way, with the right kind of vitamins. And when you have success, you do not glory in it for you, you glory in it for the Lord. 

Those able in one area profess general expertise. Many voices, loud and harsh, come from among educators, business and professional men, sociologists, psychologists, authors, movie actors, legislators, judges, and others, even some of the clergy, who, because they have learned a little about something, seem to think they know all about everything. This egotism and pride is prompted by the cunning father of lies.

Take no honor for healings. I have been impressed at the number of times the Lord said, 'Go thy way and tell no man.' And I have been led many times in my blessings-when I felt there was going to be special healing, and that they were such people as would go out and shout it from the housetops-to say, 'And when you are healed, tell no man who laid his hands upon your head.' I think that takes away from me the temptation to want to be spectacular, or to want praise, or to want credit, and from them the urge to publish a sacred, intimate miracle. That relieves me. It leaves me more humble and I am sure then I am in a better position to call down the blessings of the Lord again. Remember when Moses, after long service, said in effect to his people, 'How long must I bring you water and food. How long must I do it.' The moment he himself began to be an important element in the performance of the Lord's blessing, he lost his place and was denied entrance into the promised land. As important as he was, Moses was only the mouthpiece of the Lord. 

I have heard men say, 'I have the gift of healing. I would like to give you a blessing.' That seems to me to be wholly out of line, and I can imagine that it would not be long until the Lord would take away his gift of healing when he was so eager to take the credit and honor for it." [xix]

Life Lessons Learned

Richard G. Scott
There are some examples in my life wherein I have seen both the prideful and the humble.

One brother, whom I will not mention, once bragged to me all the great and mighty things he had accomplished in his lifetime.  He told me just outside of church that he had chosen to step down and sometimes refused to accept high political positions, as he believed that those decisions would have been contrary to his religious beliefs. He then sealed the spiritual moment by saying, "You see, I'm a very humble man."

As soon as I got home I wrote that in my journal so that I would never forget it. Spencer W. Kimball once said, "When one becomes conscious of his great humility, he has already lost it. When one begins boasting of his humility, it has already become pride-the antithesis of humility."[xx]

There is a story in LDS lore that tells of a representative of the devil complaining that the man he has been trying to influence on earth is humble and therefore unreachable.
The Devil replies, "Yes he is, have you reminded him of that lately?"

One important experience I had was with Elder Richard G. Scott. There was a big conference where this Apostle, along with President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, came to speak to us in the Stockton, California arena at UOP.

When it was over, my family and me happened to see Richard G. Scott. He locked eyes on my younger brother and moved forward to greet him. He said "Hi, I'm Richard."

Now he could have introduced himself with many titles. He could have used Prophet, President, Apostle, Elder... something! But he addressed himself as a man, a friend, a normal person. He stripped himself of the Kingliness and Royalness so to speak and was humble enough to introduce himself as a man.

[i] Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory: Text and Readings, pg. 133 Émile Durkheim
[ii] Genesis 2:7 KJV
[iii] Genesis 18:27
[iv] Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:10
[v] Daniel 4:35
[vi] Psalms 39:5
[vii] Isaiah 40:15
[viii] Mosiah 4:2
[ix] Heleman 12:7
[x] 2 Thessalonians 2:3
[xi] Luke 9:54
[xii] Preparation for the Second Coming, Dallin H. Oaks April 2004 General Conference
[xiii] 1 Nephi 11:36
[xiv] Alma 5:28
[xv] Ether 12:27
[xvi] Luke 14:10
[xvii] Luke 14:7-11
[xviii] Truman G. Madsen
[xix] Teaching of Spencer W. Kimball
[xx] Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.232-233

*Edited by Nancy Owens February 2013
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Write Your Own Book: Pride and Perdition, or Humble and Exalted by Michael A. Hickman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


BYU Carpet Cleaner

I carpet clean the Mission Training Center and love the gospel of Jesus Christ. These posts contain my experiences, thoughts and opinions on spiritual things.

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