Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pride and the Priesthood

(find the talk here)


President Dieter F Uchdorf’s talk was given during the Priesthood session of General Conference. This session is broadcast on a closed circuit, instead of being publicly broadcast. Those who are not Priesthood holders have to wait until the transcripts or recordings come up on LDS.org to hear or read the words from that session.

President Uchtdorf’s talk is exactly what I have been needing lately. I have found myself become less patient, more depressed, and easily convinced of my sometimes perceived lack of worth. All of these things I have been able to connect to an increase in pride. So I enjoyed studying President Uchtdorf’s talk – especially the part at the end “How do we become more humble?” But rather than start at the end, I’ll start at the beginning, highlighting some of my favorite points.

President Uchtdorf referenced a talk given by President Ezra Taft Bensen called “Beware of Pride”. After this talk, President Uchtdorf says he remembers that “pride” practically became taboo in the Church.

President Uchtdorf reminds us that there are different meanings and uses of the word “pride”:

In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced His Beloved Son with the words “in whom I am well pleased.” … I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful. I am proud of many things.

I think it was a good thing for a prophet of God to come out and tell people that it isn’t a sin to be proud of your family, your accomplishments, or other things that you are pleased with.

The meaning of pride that President Bensen and President Uchtdorf warn against is the on which “at its core … is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with ‘Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,’ it always seems to end with ‘Therefore, I am better than you.’”

President Uchtdorf then reminds us that pride involves worshipping ourselves instead of worshipping God. I thought he explained the sin of pride with great clarity when he mentioned that simply acknowledging the good things you have done is not a sin, until it ends with “Therefore, I am better than you.” This is where I have been slipping recently.

As a child, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I could do anything wonderful. When people gave me compliments, I simply shrugged them off, “No, no, not really.” It took me several years to begin to graciously accept compliments. In the recent years, however, I have found myself slipping toward the other extreme – accepting the compliments and “inhaling” – as President Uchtdorf says. I accept the compliments, and then think that because I am getting so many compliments, I must be better than other people in that way. I have been learning that one of the best ways to counter this tendency is to find things to compliment in other people, especially if I can compliment the same thing. Someone says I have a great voice, and I look for people to compliment on their voice. People say I’m a wonderful mother, and I find another wonderful mother, and give her the same compliment. Doing this helps me realize two things: 1.) I can be a great ____ (fill in the blank) or great at ____ (fill in the blank). 2.) So can other people, which means me being great is not the same as me being better.

President Uchtdorf explains this phenomenon that I have experienced. He says “sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position. … This is the sin of ‘Thank God I am more special than you.’… For others, pride turns to envy: they look bitterly at those who have better positions, more talents, or greater possessions than they do. … When those they envy stuble or suffer, they secretly cheer.” I used to be on the “pride as envy” side – back when I couldn’t accept compliments. Then I slowly drifted into the “Thank God I am more special than you” camp. I am still working on moving back to the middle.

So, how do we do it? How do we become more humble? President Uchtdorf reminds us that “It is almost impossible to be lifted up in pride when our hearts are filled with charity. … When we see the world around us through the lens of the pure love of Christ, we begin to understand humility.” Filling our hearts with charity is hard, but it is not impossible. I know that praying for that charity is one of the biggest, and best, steps we can take toward humility.

The moment we stop obsessing with ourselves and lose ourselves in service, our pride diminishes and begins to die. … There are so many ways we could be serving. we have no time to be absorbed in ourselves.

How have you become more humble? How do you keep yourself humble? Do you struggle more with pride as envy? Or pride as self-glorification? Do you work each day to have charity in your heart? Have you lost yourself in service to others and noticed your pride begin to die?

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