Dealing with Pride
Punished for Your Own Sins
I wanted to start out by setting a foundation for this topic. Article of Faith 2 reads, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adams transgressions”. That Article of Faith can be interpreted a couple of different ways. One interpretation of course being that Adams transgressions will not affect my ability to return to my Father in Heaven. Another way, and I believe this is how Joseph Smith really intended this to be understood, is that I and I alone am responsible for my transgressions. It is ultimately my responsibility to work toward my exaltation, it’s not the bishop’s responsibility, not my wife’s, nor my parents but fully my responsibility. So this is what I’d like us to be mindful of as I go through the material this morning. Remembering that we need to be looking inward and focusing on our personal spiritual self.
Beams and Motes
In General Conference during the priesthood session, President Uctdorf told a story about man who liked to take walks in his neighborhood. One of the things this man looked forward too was walking past a home where the lawn was perfectly manicured, always had flowers in bloom, and had healthy, shady trees. One day while on his walk this man came upon this house to find a single dandelion in the middle of the lawn. The man quickly began to question, why hadn’t the neighbor pull this weed? After all this weed would cast seeds that could cause the entire lawn to be overrun with dandelions. This man was bothered by this one single weed and he really wanted to do something about it. He wondered if he should pull it or spray it. He even though he could sneak over during the night and remove this weed. As this man headed to his own home, this single dandelion occupied his mind. He entered his home without even a glance to his own yard, which was blanketed with hundreds of yellow dandelions.
In Matthew 7 we read about motes and beams:
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
So the savior here first councils us to avoid judging because if we do judge we will be judged in that same manner. Then he asks us, we are you concerned by that little splinter in someone else’s eye, when you have a huge bean in your eye? He this instructs us, to first remove the beam from our eyes and then we can see clearly enough to help others around us.
Seeing Yourself As You Really Are
President Uctdorf tells of a story about a man who was caught by the police committing a crime. This man had somehow convinced himself that if one rubbed lemon juice on their face they would be invisible to cameras.
“When a scientist at Cornell University heard about this story, he was intrigued that a man could be so painfully unaware of his own incompetence. To determine whether this was a general problem, two researchers invited college students to participate in a series of tests on various life skills and then asked them to rate how they did. The students who performed poorly were the least accurate at evaluating their own performance—some of them estimating their scores to be five times higher than they actually were.4
This study has been replicated in numerous ways, confirming over and over again the same conclusion: many of us have a difficult time seeing ourselves as we truly are, and even successful people overestimate their own contribution and underestimate the contributions that others make.5
It might not be so significant to overestimate how well we drive a car or how far we can drive a golf ball. But when we start believing that our contributions at home, at work, and at church are greater than they actually are, we blind ourselves to blessings and opportunities to improve ourselves in significant and profound ways”
It's Really About Pride
At this point some of you might be sitting their thinking,” you’re really talking about pride here”. I would agree, It’s our pride that will prevent us from seeing our own beams and only seeing the motes in others eyes. It’s our pride that prevents us from seeing the hundreds of dandelions in our yard.
When most of us think about pride we immediately think of the Nephits. It seems like they spend a good majority their recorded history in the pride cycle. Seems like just as they get things figured out, pride begins to set in and they start that slow path to destruction. It’s even how the Book of Mormon starts out. Because of the pride of the people of Jerusalem they didn’t listen to Lehi and wouldn’t repent. The people were so prideful, they refused to listen to a prophet who warned that Jerusalem would be destroyed – which later happened.
Pride isn’t something that comes on us overnight. Pride is something that slowly encroaches on us. President Uctodorf councils, “terrible and often unnecessary things happen when members of the Church become disengaged from gospel principles. They may appear on the outside to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but on the inside their hearts have separated from their Savior and His teachings. They have gradually turned away from the things of the Spirit and moved toward the things of the world.
Once-worthy priesthood holders start to tell themselves that the Church is a good thing for women and children but not for them. Or some are convinced that their busy schedules or unique circumstances make them exempt from the daily acts of devotion and service that would keep them close to the Spirit. In this age of self-justification and narcissism, it is easy to become quite creative at coming up with excuses for not regularly approaching God in prayer, procrastinating the study of the scriptures, avoiding Church meetings and family home evenings, or not paying an honest tithe and offerings”.
Lord Is It I?
Take a Look Inside Yourself
We need to occasionally take a steps back and look at our lives to ensure pride hasn’t set in. An example from my personal life I thought of was at work. Every week I submit a weekly report to my boss. I also ask those that work for me to submit a weekly report. These reports simply state what we accomplished and what we were not able to get too during the week. While they get glanced over by other leaders in the organization, they really have served as a way for me to do a personal inventory about my week. Was I efficient with my time? Did I spend my time on meaningful work or did I focus on less important things?
President Uchtdorf provides us some spiritual questions we should ask yourself. Now remember this talk was given in priesthood session so while it says brethren a lot, it applies to the sisters just as equally.
“My dear brethren, will you please look inside your hearts and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”
Have you disengaged—even slightly—from “the … gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to [your] trust”? Have you allowed “the god of this world” to darken your minds to “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ”? My beloved friends, my dear brethren, ask yourselves, “Where is my treasure?” Is your heart set on the convenient things of this world, or is it focused on the teachings of the diligent Jesus Christ? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Does the Spirit of God dwell in your hearts? Are you “rooted and grounded” in the love of God and of your fellowmen? Do you devote sufficient time and creativity to bringing happiness to your marriage and family? Do you give your energies to the sublime goal of comprehending and living “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?
Brethren, if it is your great desire to cultivate Christlike attributes of “faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and service],” Heavenly Father will make you an instrument in His hands unto the salvation of many souls.”
President Uchtdorf gives us plenty of things to think about. Examining our lives is something we need to do on a regular basis. We never want to admit when we are drifting off the course of righteousness. Some of us will avoid this self-examination and then sometimes when we do we will create excuses and justify our actions. However having the ability to avoid pride and see ourselves as we truly are is essential for us to grow spiritually. Only by humbling ourselves, recognizing our weaknesses can we begin to make appropriate changes to help come closer to our Heavenly Father.
This principle is taught to us in the Book of Ether 12: 27, “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.”
Gods Power Can Help Us
Lets talk for now a bit about the power of God in all this. We are taught that regardless of what we do in this life it is only through the Savior that we can enter into the next life and eventually return to our Heavenly Father. So the question must be asked how do we tap into that power? How is it that a priesthood holder, while not holding the power of the priesthood but rather the authority, call upon priesthood power to heal the sick? How can a mother struggling with a rebellious child receive revelation to assist that child?
In James 4:10 we are taught to, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up”. This is again taught to us in more modern day revelation D&C 1: 28, “And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time”.
We have been taught that humility is the anecdote to pride. Its only when we are humble can we call upon the power of God to assist us in our lives. Returning to the book of James we are taught that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
I sat and thought about what could be the perfect example of this. Who in history ignored the mote in others eyes and focused on the beams in their own eyes? Ultimately I thought of Joseph Smith. Here was someone who could have spent time arguing with the various preachers and pastors of his time. He could have argued or at least gotten caught up in the arguing that they were doing. But instead he focus on himself. How was he to know what church to join? Ultimately, he humbled himself and received a visit from God himself. Now Joseph didn’t stop there. Many times in his life he felt unworthy or that he needed more knowledge and he humbled himself and turned to God for help.
We can use the example of Joseph in our lives. I won’t promise anyone a visit from God but I can promise that if one humbles themselves and looks inward for opportunities for improvement, then can you be an instrument in the Lords hands and he will use you to further his kingdom.