Sunday, July 27, 2008


I gave this talk in Sacrament Meeting on June 8, 2008:


How humility allows Christ to guide my life

I have a confession to make: as soon as I figure out what the topic of any given Sacrament Meeting is, I generally see if I can write my own talk. I think of all the scriptures that relate to the topic and then see if I can come up with a 10 or 15 minute talk. Of all the topics I have contemplated giving a talk on, I think the topic of humility is the only one I have ever consciously contemplated NOT giving a talk on. It is a difficult subject. I always remember listening to a talk by one of the Seventy several years ago where he said that he had some ideas on the subject of humility, but he wasn’t going to speak on it. He said, “I know that as soon as you think you have it, that probably means you don’t.” And from that time on, it has been a subject I have not wanted to ever have to speak on. So, here I am assigned to speak on the subject of humility. Specifically I’ve been asked to speak on how humility allows Christ to guide my life. This is probably Heavenly Father’s way of compelling me to be humble.

I’ve had several ideas since Bro. [Bishop's Second Counselor] called - several ideas on what direction to take; there are so many things I wanted to say. I thought I could just go with the simple and powerful D&C 112:10:

10 Be thou ahumble; and the Lord thy God shall blead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.

That’s my talk in a nutshell, but I thought Bro. [Bishop's Second Counselor] may want something a little longer. One of the first things I thought of and one I came back to many times is from a song that was popular just a couple years ago. It is a song by Gnarls Barkley called Crazy, and you probably think I’m crazy to think of that for Sacrament Meeting. There is a verse that says (and this sounds really silly when I say it without singing it to the music), “Who do you think you are? Ha, ha, ha, bless your soul. You really think you’re in control? Well?” To me, that verse marks the difference between being humble and not.

The question is, “Who is in control of your life?” Because ultimately, everything we are and have is a gift from God. In an amazing and startling way everything we have and are, as King Benjamin says, from the “dust” we are made of to the air we breathe to everything we see and feel around us is literally a gift from God; literally and physically here by His will. Our talents and abilities, according to King Benjamin and the Savior, are gifts from God given to us so that we can serve each other and glorify God. Even our weaknesses are a gift from God, according to Mormon, given to us why? To humble us so that we will seek God and rely on Him. You might think to yourself, “My soul is my own,” but it isn’t; someone else has already paid the price to redeem your soul – it isn’t yours. The only thing that is ours, the only thing truly ours to give, is our will. That is why we have agency – because our will is our own. That is why the only acceptable sacrifice is that of a broken heart and contrite spirit. Because our will is the only thing that we really have to offer, and the only way to offer it is through a contrite heart.

There are other definitions of humility – teachable, meek, contrite spirit, poor in spirit, submissive – but I think they all come back to understanding that we can’t do it on our own and must rely on God and submit our will to His.

The scriptures are full of contrasting themes of pride and humility. We could start with the council in heaven recorded in different ways by several prophets. It is recorded very simply in Abraham chapter 3:

24 And there stood aone among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and bwe will make an earth whereon these may cdwell;
25 And we will aprove them herewith, to see if they will bdo all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who akeep their first bestate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second cestate shall have dglory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the aLord said: Whom shall I bsend? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And canother answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will dsend the first.
28 And the asecond was angry, and kept not his first bestate; and, at that day, many followed after him.

We know from other scriptures that the question was basically, “Who will be our Savior?” Christ humbly answered that He would carry out the Father’s plan, but Satan wanted things different. He wanted to do it his way and receive the honor all for himself. His pride wouldn’t allow him to follow the Father’s plan, as Doctrine and Covenants 29:36 & 37 says:

36 And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the adevil—for, behold, the bdevil was before Adam, for he crebelled against me, saying, Give me thine dhonor, which is my epower; and also a fthird part of the ghosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their hagency;
37 And they were thrust down, and thus came the adevil and his bangels;

So we see that even in our premortal existence we had agency and the ability to submit our will to that of our Father’s.

Keeping with that theme leads us to the ultimate contrast of pride and humility. The battle started in Heaven has continued here on earth. The ultimate act of pride is recorded in several scriptures, but I think said best in D&C 76:

25 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an aangel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who brebelled against the Only Begotten cSon whom the Father dloved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
26 And was called aPerdition, for the heavens bwept over him—he was cLucifer, a son of the morning.
27 And we beheld, and lo, he is afallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!
28 And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old aserpent, even the bdevil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our cGod and his Christ—
29 Wherefore, he maketh awar with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.

And of course, the ultimate act of humility occurred in the
Garden of Gethsemane. As recorded by Mark:

32 aAnd they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be asore amazed, [a better translation of “sore amazed” would be “terrified surprise” – he had never felt the effects of sin before and as he began to feel the effects of our sins, the feeling surprised and terrified him] and to be bvery cheavy;
34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; atake away this bcup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

We know he prayed three times, asking the Father if the cup might not be removed from Him, that he was visited and blessed by an angel that he might endure what he was about to do, and that finally as he completely submitted his will to that of the Father’s he was able to accomplish the Atonement, pay the price of our sins, and redeem us from our fallen state.

These are ultimate examples of pride and humility, but there are other themes of humility throughout the scriptures. One of the main themes running through the book of Isaiah is that of what I call humility and humiliation: those who humble themselves before God and rely on him are ultimately exalted, while those who puff themselves up in their pride are ultimately humiliated and cast down.

We have a great example, and one we should more easily be able to relate to ourselves, from our recent Sunday School class on the people of King Noah, Abinadi, and Alma. We get three great examples, or groups of people, from this. The first is King Noah and his priests. They are full of pride and will never give that up and they are eventually run out of the city and destroyed, King Noah being burned to death as Abinadi had prophesied. The second group is the small group led by Alma that fled the city before King Noah could catch and kill them. I’ll come back to them in a minute. The third group is the group that remained in the city and ran Noah and his priests out. They were captured by the Lamanites and put under severe oppression. They eventually humbled themselves due to their circumstances, turned to God for help, and eventually Ammon was led to them and was able to help them escape and return to Zarahemla. Alma and his group had humbled themselves before they ever left the city. God directed Alma to take his followers and flee because Noah was about to kill them. He lead them to a place where they prospered until one of the wicked priests of Noah, now a captain of the Lamanites, found them and put them under bondage. Immediately they turned to God for help: (from Mosiah 24)

10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he aput guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.
13 And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as bwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did astrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.
16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17 And he said unto
Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go awith thee and deliver this people out of bbondage.

The Lord led them directly to Zarahemla.

So we have the perfect example for what the three groups we generally find in the world today: 1) those who are proud and will never accept that they need anyone else and never accept God – their ultimate fate is humiliation, as it says in Isaiah 5: 14 – 15:

14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their apomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the alofty shall be humbled:

; 2) those who, after being compelled to humble themselves, accept God and receive His blessings, but only after much sorrow and tribulation; Alma chapter 32 describes this group and the next even better, starting in verse 12:

12 I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn awisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding bpoverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble.
13 And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh arepentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and bendureth to the end the same shall be saved.
14 And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be ahumble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?
15 Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.
16 Therefore, blessed are they who ahumble themselves without being bcompelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without cstubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.

and 3) those who humble themselves, accept and rely completely on our Father in Heaven, and submit their will to Him, and, as Mosiah
3:19 says:

19 … eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

One last example from the scriptures. One of my favorite chapters from the Doctrine and Covenants is section 121. I can always hear the voice of the Savior when I read it. It came from a letter the Prophet wrote while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Parts of the letter eventually became Sections 121, 122, and 123 of The Doctrine and Covenants. I’ve read the whole letter and had a copy of it, but last night my computer wouldn’t read the CD where I have it so I have to tell the story from memory. Section 121 starts with the Prophet recounting his pleadings with the Lord:

1 O God, awhere art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy bhiding place?
2 aHow long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
3 Yea, O Lord, ahow long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful boppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with ccompassion toward them?
4 O Lord God aAlmighty, maker of bheaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy cpavilion be taken up; let thy dhiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine eheart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
5 Let thine aanger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy bsword cavenge us of our wrongs.
6 Remember thy asuffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.

The letter somewhat describes his mental state and attitude at the time of those pleadings and they were a little less than humble. He was angry with the Lord, I think, accusing Him for not doing anything to save the Saints. Then Joseph says something to the effect that when he had calmed down and humbled himself before the Lord, then, when he is humble, he hears the whisperings of the Spirit and the answer of the Lord:

7 My son, apeace be unto thy soul; thine badversity and thine afflictions shall be but a csmall moment;
8 And then, if thou aendure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy bfoes.
9 Thy afriends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Let’s skip towards the end of section 121. Starting in verse 34:

34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their ahearts are set so much upon the things of this bworld, and caspire to the dhonors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

In other words, we aren’t chosen because we fail to humble ourselves. As soon as we let any ounce of pride in – described in those verses as setting our hearts on the things of this world, aspiring to the honors of men, attempting to cover our sins, or exercise any control over others – the powers and blessings of heaven are withdrawn from us. It goes on, starting in verse 39:

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little bauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.

So it is the nature of man (go back to Mosiah
3:19 for the nature of man) to not be humble. Then, the Prophet starts describing what it is to be humble:

41 …, only by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By akindness, and pure bknowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the csoul without dhypocrisy, and without eguile
45 Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;

What a great description of humility. Before we finish the chapter and see the rewards of humility – and how humility allows Christ to guide our lives – let me relate one more example from the Savior.

In John chapter 3 the Savior has his famous meeting with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, so in other words he was a leader of the Jews, who considered themselves to be saved, for lack of a better modern term, just by the fact that they were the chosen people. Nicodemus comes to the Lord at night and says:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these amiracles that thou doest, except bGod be with him.

We don’t know the extent of the term “we” but we accept that Nicodemus and some others of the Pharisees knew who Jesus really was. Jesus’ reply seems to be an indication of what that knowledge would require. He starts his response with “Verily, verily” – and there are three places in this chapter where Jesus starts his reply with “verily, verily” – that is Jesus’ way of saying “This is going to be on the final exam so take notes.” Jesus tells Nicodemus that everyone must be baptized in order to enter the Kingdom of God. So he is telling a leader of the Jews that Everyone Must be baptized – it isn’t enough to be a descendant of Abraham – everyone must be baptized. And they spend the rest of the chapter discussing that.

Then in chapter 4, Jesus is at a well in Samaria and asks a Samaritan woman to draw water for Him. Now, to the Jews of Jesus’ day, the Gentiles were dogs, but the Samaritans were lower than dogs. The Samaritans were the vilest of creatures. And culturally in that day, women were the lowest class of person. So the woman is naturally surprised that a Jew would ask her to draw water. Verse 9 says:

9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the aSamaritans.

In verse 10, Jesus replies that if she knew who was asking, she would ask of Him and receive the living water. I want to come back to this in a minute.

She goes on to say she would like to have that water because she is tired of coming to the well every day and Jesus goes on to ask her about her husband. Starting in verse 17:

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a aprophet.

The point Jesus was making is that He knew her; He knew who she was and what circumstance she was in before He asked her to draw the water in the first place. So we have Jesus coming to this Samaritan (low) woman (lower) knowing already what circumstance she was in and her background (even lower) and telling her she can have this living water, He will give it to her, if she only asks. He tells Nicodemus everyone must be baptized, and then he tells the woman of
Samaria that everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done, can come to Him and receive His living waters if they will just humble themselves and ask.

Back to section 121 and we see the blessing of humbling ourselves and submitting to the will of our Savior, and how He will guide us if we do, starting in verse 45:

45 …; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant acompanion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of brighteousness and truth; and thy cdominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

What great blessings. That is the living water that everyone can have if they will just humble themselves and ask.

For more examples of humility and pride and the consequences of each, go home and do research on the City of Enoch and the Cities on the Plain – Sodom and Gomorrah. The City of Enoch gives us a perfect example of how people live and treat each other when they are humble. And Sodom and Gomorrah give us a perfect example of what it is to lack any humility and the destruction that awaits.

In a CES fireside, Nov. 7 2004, D. Todd Christofferson said it very simply (paraphrasing… replacing “a sense of the sacred” with “humility”):

"The importance of having [humility] is simply this -- if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself.

"On the other hand, with [humility], one grows in understanding and truth. The Holy Spirit becomes his frequent and then constant companion. More and more he will stand in holy places and be entrusted with holy things. Just the opposite of cynicism and despair, his end is eternal

Brothers and Sisters, I know, completely and without any doubt, that as we humble ourselves before our Savior and submit our wills to His, these will be our blessings; we will feel His love; we will have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost; and our prayers will be answered.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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