Saturday, September 26, 2015

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson Chapter 18: Beware of Pride

This chapter is FULL of great truths and warnings.  There is NO WAY I will get through even half of it during my allotted time in Relief Society.  I'm still trying to decide what I will use, but here are my favorite passages and some of my thoughts on it.

A portrait photograph by Busath Photography of Ezra Taft Benson in a dark suit and striped tie, sitting in a dark leather chair.
photo credit
In his first general conference address as President of the Church, President Ezra Taft Benson taught about differences between pride and humility: 
“Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. … 
“Pride is characterized by ‘What do I want out of life?’ rather than by ‘What would God have me do with my life?’ It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.
“Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.”
The Lord has warned us to beware of pride.
“Pride goeth before destruction.” (Prov. 16:18.)  Pride brings about the destruction of individuals and of nations, and no one is immune to the pride of sin.
The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.”  Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.” And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.”
In the premortal council, it was pride that felled Lucifer, “a son of the morning.” At the end of this world, when God cleanses the earth by fire, the proud will be burned as stubble and the meek shall inherit the earth.
Three times in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord uses the phrase “beware of pride,” including a warning to the second elder of the Church, Oliver Cowdery, and to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet. 
The central feature of pride is enmity toward God and our fellowmen.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. 
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled.
The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.
Enmity toward God:
Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. 
Elder Neal A.Maxwell once said...the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar.  ...When you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
 Enmity toward our fellowmen:
Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. 
The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” 
Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.  
Pride is manifest in many ways.
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. 
Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.
  • Disobedience 
Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him. He thinks this lowers his position.
  • Seflishness
Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking.
  • Secret combinations
Pride results in secret combinations which are built up to get power, gain, and glory of the world.
  • Contention
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride. 
Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. Contention ranges from a hostile spoken word to worldwide conflicts. The scriptures tell us that “only by pride cometh contention.”
  • Easily offended and hold grudges
The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges.  They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.
  • Do not receive counsel or correction easily
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures. 
  • Low self esteem
The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.” 
If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem.
Pride limits or stops progression.
Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression.  The proud are not easily taught. They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong. 
Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student, and all mankind. Our degree of pride determines how we treat our God and our brothers and sisters. Christ wants to lift us to where He is. Do we desire to do the same for others? 
Pride fades our feelings of sonship to God and brotherhood to man. It separates and divides us by “ranks,” according to our “riches” and our “chances for learning.”  Unity is impossible for a proud people, and unless we are one we are not the Lord’s. 
Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church.
The antidote for pride is humility.
Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees. Now you can see why the building in Lehi’s dream that represents the pride of the world was large and spacious and great was the multitude that did enter into it.
Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.

The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness. It is the broken heart and contrite spirit. 
God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, “Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.”  
Let us choose to be humble. 
In speaking of being compelled to be humble, I am reminded of Hugh B. Brown's story about a currant bush.  This story was recently retold by D. Todd Christofferson:

President Benson gives us the following counsel on how to overcome pride and replace it with humility.  I like that each of his ideas for overcoming pride starts with, "we can choose to humble ourselves..."   Only we can choose to humble ourselves.  Only we can make change our attitude.  our Heavenly Father will never force us.  Any choice or change we make is ours alone.
  • conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are.
  • by receiving counsel and chastisement.
  • by forgiving those who have offended us.
  • by rendering selfless service.
  • by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others.
  • by getting to the temple more frequently.
  • by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God.
  • by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.
I think the biggest way that I can overcome pride is by being aware of it within myself and by admitting my mistakes and taking responsibility for them right away.  As I've been preparing for this lesson over the last month it has amazed me how many times a day I allow pride to step in and rule my actions, thoughts and words.  I've been surprised at how quickly I turn to prideful thinking or having enmity in my heart towards those around me, even my husband and children! 

I have never considered before that even with those I love the most, when I bring contention into my home or become offended by what one of my family members say or do, I have enmity towards them.  Remember that enmity is hostility, hatred and opposition.  It's not very pleasant to think about when it is put into those terms.

Thankfully, this is easily remedied by humbling myself, seeking forgiveness and trying to be better.  I am so thankful for the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Because of this wonderful gift, and the opportunity I have to partake of the sacrament, I can renew myself and re-devote my life to God and start over as often as necessary.

Watch yourself for just a day.  Ponder on your actions and feelings.  Are your thoughts, actions and feelings coming from a place of humility or hostility?  Are they rooted in love or hatred?  Do they bring forth fruits of unity or opposition?

Let us choose to be humble. We can do it. I know we can. 
Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. 
We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. 
We must yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” put off the prideful “natural man,” become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” and become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble.”

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