The Lord’s Pattern of Leadership

Standard

In 2010 in a forum intended for individuals who work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Bednar spoke on leadership: “Just think about any responsibility you’ve ever had as a leader in the Church. Were you well prepared before you were called? No. Did you know what you were doing when you were called? No. So the Lord, by inspiration through those who are in authority, calls us to do things that we’ve never done, that we’re not prepared to do, and that we struggle with on the front end especially, learning what we’re to do.

“Well, my phrasing for that is what happens as soon as you begin to have any idea of what you’re doing and gain any measure of confidence, you’re released and you’re clueless again in some new responsibility.

“And there’s a reason for that. As long as we’re clueless we’re dependent upon heaven. As soon as we think we know what we’re doing then we tend to rely more on the arm of the flesh. In the Church every single one of us has been in the position where heaven took a chance on us. We didn’t know what to do, we certainly were not experienced, we were worthy and willing, but heaven took a chance.

“Truthfully, when we then are the one in the chair to receive inspiration for someone else, aren’t we less willing to take a chance on other people? We want folks who have the requisite skill and capacity, and we want everything to run smooth and so we use the same 10 people who at some point in time were given an opportunity, developed the skill and the capacity and the confidence, and we want to look good so we just keep moving them around in the different auxiliaries. The great enjoyment comes when someone who’s really clueless gains confidence in capacity. Thats fun….

“Not too long ago I was visiting with President Packer, and he made just a very interesting observation. He said, ‘David, serving in this responsibility, the longer you serve, the less able you feel.’ If you think about a person who would serve as a stake president, for example, nine years, the first three years you’re pretty much totally clueless, so you’re safe because you’re dependent on heaven.

“The second three years you might begin to see repeating kinds of challenges and cases and you’re still clueless, but you’re not totally clueless so you feel reasonably comfortable. The danger comes in the last three years that you might ever begin to think ‘I know what I’m doing.’ I would suggest ‘Yeah, I know what I’m doing’ is an absence of humility. Because even though this is the 93rd time you’ve seen a case like this, you have no idea what you’re gonna do. As long as that’s your approach. New person, new circumstance, and yes you benefited from the previous 93, but this is a soul where they deserve your very best, and you can’t just apply everything from the past to this particular one.

“So the great danger comes after we have gained experience that we might begin to think we really know what we’re doing.” (A Conversation on Leadership¹; emphasis added).

So if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and feel like you’re in over your head, that’s exactly where you need to be!

Notes

1. While the document is hosted and accessible freely online by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its use is “intended for use only by the Church workforce”, which is why I did not provide a direct link. Interested parties can perform a web search for the document and find a PDF of it. I’ve seen the PDF go on and off line over the years so it might be removed from general accessibility at some point

The Hollow Hedonism of Pride

Standard

Pride is ultimately manifest by and in Satan. Lucifer, or “the Shining One” was truly a “son of the morning (2 Ne. 24:12). After his fall from heaven, that son of the morning became the prince of darkness and the father of mourning. Of those who follow Satan it is said, “Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them” (Moses 7:37). We gain some insight into why Lucifer fell from Heaven in the writings of Isaiah. Speaking of Lucifer, “For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…” Who are these stars? They are us! “I will sit also upon the [mountain of the assembly of the gods], in the [farthest north heaven]; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (2 Ne. 24:13-14). Satan said, “I want this, I want that.” This is a very selfish and prideful mindset. He wanted to be above all; he wanted God’s glory without any effort.

Because of this God said, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the [depth] of the pit” (2 Ne. 24:15). For, “the proud and lofty, and…every one who is lifted up…shall be brought low” (2 Ne. 12:12). An apostle stated, “One way or another, the grossly selfish will finally be shattered, whimpering, against the jagged, concrete consequences of their selfishness” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1999, p.25). As a result of his pride, that Shining One became degenerate like an “abominable branch” (2 Ne. 24:19) without root or fruit; yea, he became even “as a carcass trodden under feet” (2 Ne. 24:19). Those who walk a prideful path will find that instead of leading to celestial peaks, it leads only to the dark depths of the pit. The lives of those who follow the tempter’s travesty of the truth, end up in tragedy.

What then is pride? “It is an attitude that commences with personal comparisons with others and leads to demeaning thought or oppressive actions directed at other sons and daughters of God” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Pure in Heart”, p.96). Pride is as C. S. Lewis said, “the complete anti-God state of mind.” God is “immeasurably superior” to us and “unless [we] know God as that – and, therefore, know [ourselves] as nothing in comparison – [we] do not know God at all. As long as [we] are looking down, [we] cannot see something that is above [us]” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp.109-111). Proud men or women “preach and set themselves up fro a light unto the world” (2 Ne. 26:29). “They put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain” (2 Ne. 26:20). Pride is the great stumbling block. When men walk by the light of the sparks of their own conceit, their lives are full of shadows of darkness (see 2 Ne. 7:11). Christ is the true light of the world and when men walk by the light of any other source, their light grows dim and soon dies out. The proud who set themselves up as lights unto others, only set themselves up to become lost in the tepid mists of darkness. Since pride is self-centered selfishness that is also competitive, those who engage in this hollow hedonism will never focus on the true source of edification, which source is Christ. Those who seek to compete with God will never succeed. Their end will be a pitiful brokenness.

The natural man is a prideful creature, thus, steps must be taken to overcome this great sin called pride. The road one must walk to leave the valley of pride is not an easy path; it is an uphill journey but it leads to the exalted heights of eternal life. Overcoming pride is accomplished by humbly following Christ, even if and especially if that means treading the thorny paths that He forged. As we follow Christ we too need to take up our crosses. We must submit ourselves to our Father’s will, even to the point of crawling forward on our knees. King Benjamin taught, “And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:25). This is an important point to focus on. King Benjamin stated that we are less than the dust of the earth because the dust of the earth belongs to God. We are here on earth to show that we are willing to turn ourselves over completely to God. Christ ransomed us for Him but we must submit our wills to God’s, else we do not belong to Him and, as Benjamin taught, in a sense really are less than the dust of the earth. Joseph Smith taught us that the earth “abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law” (D&C; 88:25). The earth lives a celestial law, do we?

Those who do not humbly follow Christ are “in open rebellion against God” (Mosiah 2:37) for “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24). He or she who is prideful and unrepentant is not following Jesus Christ and therefore serves the devil. Of these people the Lord stated, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C; 1:16).

Overcoming pride is essential to our eternal salvation. We cannot trust in the arm of the flesh because flesh is dust and corruptible and must waste away. God will never fail us. He is there as we seek Him. We must pray for humility. We need to repent of our prideful ways and turn our hearts completely to Christ. This is a complete submission of our wills to God’s. Only with the power of the Holy Ghost can we create this vast change within ourselves! I was not completely correct with my statement. Only the power of God, of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ’s Atonement can make this change within ourselves. However, we need to demonstrate effort. The Holy Ghost will teach us how to humbly follow Christ and submit our wills to God’s.

Great power, even greater faith, comes to us as we are humble. With humility and faith we can work miracles. The greatest miracle will be to change from the old man of sin and be reborn as a new creature in Christ. As we are humble we may be instruments in the Lord’s hands. The more humble we are, the more effective we may be. I pray that we may strive to live in humility and take upon us the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fasting and Prayer, Part 1

Standard

The Lord commanded Jeremiah to prophesy to the people “upon the fasting day” (Jer. 36:6), indicating that the Israelites had special days of fasting. To the House of Israel it was one way to show sorrow, especially sorrow for sins, “the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them…and stood and confessed their sins” (Nehemiah 9:1-2). Fasting is a way to show humility and contrition before God, “But as for me, when they [enemies] were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom” (Psalm 35:13). As an aside, this verse also reveals David’s character – he mourned when his enemies were ill and treated them as he would a friend or brother (see Psalm 35:14). In the book of Joel we find another example of sorrow and fasting, “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God” (Joel 2:12-13). Is fasting really about mourning and sorrow? It is if you are expressing sorrow for sins or for unfaithfulness to the Bridegroom; however, fasting can also be a thing of great joy.

“And on this [the Lord’s] day thou shalt do none other thing…that thy fasting may be perfect, or in other words, that thy joy may be full. Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer” (D&C; 59:13-14). This seems quite at odds with how fasting was portrayed in the Old Testament. However, fasting is not only a way to show humility and sorrow but it is also a way of showing devotion to God and personal mastery over the flesh. It is a way to worship God. What could be more joyful than worshiping God?
Fasting is a commandment, “Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth” (D&C; 88:76). It’s not something we should take lightly. Another commandment we have received is to read the words of Isaiah [3 Ne. 23:1; see also Mormon 8:23].