Sufficiently humble?

In the August 2015 Ensign magazine is an anonymous article on page 10 titled “We Believe in Being Humble.” On the opposite page are artistic renderings depicting five ways a person “can show humility”: “receiving counsel and correction,” “giving selfless service,” “praying with real intent,” “serving a mission,” and “doing family history work and attending the temple more frequently.”

Joseph Smith with SwordIn Mormonism, those are all admirable goals. As President Ezra Taft Benson, who is quoted five times in this one-page article, stated, “The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness. It is the broken heart and contrite spirit.”
Reflecting on this six-paragraph article, it made me think. First of all, it reminded me of the famous quote given by Joseph Smith toward the end of his life. On May 26, 1844—just a month before he would die at the Carthage Jail—Smith presented “his testimony against the dissenters at Nauvoo.” The talk, which can be in History of the Church 6:408-409, referenced 2 Corinthians 11:1ff and quotes Smith as saying,

“Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”

Some Latter-day Saints have argued that Smith was doing nothing more than Paul, who had “boasted” about his travails in a defense of his apostleship. Yet does Joseph Smith’s situation really compare with Paul’s? After all, Paul was innocent of the charges leveled at him. How about Joseph Smith? The Nauvoo Expositor—the one and only issue produced—explained some of the shortcomings of Joseph Smith, including his polygamous ways. (More on how Smith married about three dozen women, including teenagers and women married to living husbands, can be found at Joseph’s Wives.com) In addition to those charges, Smith was proven to be a liar (including deceiving his own wife on his other marriages) as well as a false teacher (for instance, consider the King Follett Discourse). In no way should Joseph Smith be considered in the same category as “Paul, John, Peter, (or) Jesus.”

Several passages in the Book of Mormon talk about humility, including Alma 5:27, which says,

“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?”

Notice how the writer explains that it is the blood of Jesus cleansing people from their sins. While Mormons like to talk about the Atonement, grace, and mercy as reasons why they have a hope at exaltation, how many of them actually think they are doing everything they’re supposed to in order to qualify for the celestial kingdom? They all “try” and “do the best” they can, but I rarely find anyone who can attest that they are doing everything the church requires.

When it comes to “doing family history work and attending the temple more frequently,” as the final illustration explains on page 11, I ask: What must a person do in order to get invited into the temple? Of course, baptism and confirmation into the LDS Church are required. In addition, the person must be a member in good standing for a year. The candidate is then interviewed by the church’s representative (the local bishop) to determine if he or she is “worthy” to receive a “temple recommend.” Among other things, this person must claim:

  • Being sexually active with nobody but a spouse
  • Imbibing no drugs, alcohol, coffee or tea
  • Faithful attendance to church functions
  • Being a full tithe payer (10%) of one’s income

The last time I checked, none of the official questions ask the candidate if he or she is “cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ.” Rather, everything asked in this interview points to one’s own works and personal actions! This scenario sure sounds different from the Harold_Copping_The_Pharisee_and_the_Publican_300parable Jesus told about the publican and the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray. Said the Pharisee:

“God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” (Luke 18:11,12).

The Pharisee’s attitude is not uncommon among many sincere people who erroneously think that their “good works” impress an all-holy God. The publican’s demeanor was entirely different. Knowing that he was sinful and undeserving of God’s notice, he approached God in the temple by praying, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). His attitude, not that of the Pharisee, caused our Lord to comment, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).

In the interview with the church representative, a person is required to declare his or her righteousness to be allowed to enter the temple. And if the church’s unique rules are kept, the church provides its blessing and deems the person “worthy” to receive a temple recommend card, allowing freedom to walk in the holiest places where many others members (who are, obviously, not as “worthy”) are not allowed to tread. Doesn’t this entire procedure foster a sense of pride? For someone to think they’ve earned the right to enter this unique religious building because of their personal holiness or “worthiness” is opposite from the attitude the Bible says we’re supposed to have.

All in all, when I look at what Mormonism does to people, it seems that this religious organization turns out many more Pharisees than their leaders would ever admit.

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10 Responses to Sufficiently humble?

  1. falcon says:

    My observation is that a huge part of LDS humility is compliance. That’s really what the LDS is aiming for among the membership. The LDS sect is a top-down authoritative organization that demands total obedience from the membership. The leaders don’t make mistakes. They are to be honored and followed without question. This is not “humility”.
    In the LDS structure there is the “in” crowd, the popular kids. The rest, the rank-and-file, are to serve those at the top and the organization. So “humility” is really “compliance”.

  2. Mike R says:

    I think we all have met a Mormon priesthood holder who exhibited a ” better than you ” type attitude
    and I think that the propensity to think about others like that is more apt to be learned in Mormonism than non Mormon churches ( Christian ) . The Mormon gospel is a system , and within it is an assembly line where normal human males are being made into Almighty Gods who will one day be as the Creator is today . That type of twisted reasoning can often produce religious men who feel they are superior to non Mormons .

    Joseph Smith drifted from the truth about God and came to think he could become an Almighty God , that goal can produce a mentality that would cause a man to act in a less than humble manner and might explain to some degree why he gave himself significant power ( Lt. General ; secretly ordained a earthly king ) .

    The bottom line is that if the Mormon church is what it claims to be ever since it appeared on the scene in 1830 ( the one and only true church of Jesus ,preaching the very same gospel as Jesus’ apostles did 1700 years earlier ) then it’s leaders should emulate Jesus’ apostles .Joseph Smith , Brigham Young etc . were hardly the modern day counterparts of Paul .
    This is especially true concerning their gospel preaching which is the most important comparison of all .

  3. falcon says:

    “All in all, when I look at what Mormonism does to people, it seems that this religious organization turns out many more Pharisees than their leaders would ever admit.”

    Yea that’s probably true and I think Mike highlighted why. So my question would be, “Who are the truly humble in the LDS church, the women or the men.” I don’t mean to start a gender war here but I think it’s the women who do most of the work in the sect, holding it together, and talk about having to “submit”. They better be good girls or hubby might not resurrect you from the dead by calling your secret name and pulling you through the veil. OK I’m being sarcastic, a little, however within the culture, I’d be willing to bet that “haughty” would more easily be applied to the men.
    If you think you’re going to be a god and have fooled yourself into thinking you don’t sin, I think the humble merit badge would not be pinned on your temple sash.

  4. falcon says:

    I think this is a good summary of what humility is:

    “People often wonder what humility means or what is the definition of humility. In the Bible, humility or humbleness is a quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and vanity. Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.” Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others.”
    “Why do qualities such as courtesy, patience and deference have such a prominent place in the Bible? It is because a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility dissipates anger and heals old wounds. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the arrogant power-seeker.”
    “Humility means putting God and other persons ahead of our own selfish interests. Humility comes with the knowledge that God’s creation as a whole transcends our own narrow interests. As with other aspects of wisdom, humility will gain us much more than we sacrifice.”

    It would be a good exercise for Mormons to consider Joseph Smith and if their founding “prophet” was a humble man. Looking at the fact that he took advantage of at least thirty-three women, eleven of whom were married to other men, would demonstrate that he was selfish, self-centered and a narcissist. And that’s one of the great LDS cover-ups. I sat through a movie about Joseph Smith at the Carthage Jail Visitors Center and had to contain myself from jumping up and going on a rant. The troubling thing was watching the young couple with a baby in front of me who were obviously lapping it all up. I felt truly sorry for them because their demeanor told me they were true believers in Smith; pious, devout, sincere and yes, humble. All of the qualities that Smith never had.

  5. MJP says:

    Mormon humbleness is interesting. On one level they are very humble but on another very arrogant.

  6. MJP says:

    I believe humility is more about knowing who you are and your status and recognizing that relationship with others. This definition includes knowing your strengths and weaknesses and that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and everyone has value. Knowing you are good at, let’s say, cooking gives you the right to act more confidently and assertively in a kitchen, but it does not give you the right to demean others who are not as good in a kitchen. Those others may be great musicians, writers, etc. and the cook may be terrible at those things. Therefore, while it is OK to assert yourself in the area you are good at, you are not good at everything. We therefore humbly treat everyone with the courtesy and respect everyone deserves.

    I realize my definition may allow for some to become [filtered profanity or slur]y in some areas. So what? Paul was certainly [filtered profanity or slur]y in areas, as was Peter, not to mention Jesus. People often forget, though, that humbleness is not a call to meekness.

  7. falcon says:

    I don’t know why but when I see something like this attached to Mormonism, I get the feeling that “humility” can become a behavioral expectation with suitable pressure applied for performance. Thankfully, I’m not in a church culture. Must be too much rebellious Baby Boomer in me, but I chafe at pressure being put on people to perform according to the norms of the group.
    Christianity isn’t all that complicated. It comes down to knowing who God is, receiving the gift of eternal life he offers us through faith in Jesus, then being conformed to the character of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It’s really between the individual and God.

  8. falcon says:

    I can’t get past this idea of how religious leaders can manipulate and control their membership by emphasizing to the faithful how they need to strive for perfection. The idea of “humility” is one such character quality that can serve to enslave and control the believers.
    The message is, “You’re not good enough. You need to do more. You need to improve. You need to double your efforts. You are falling short.” Interpretation? “You are scum.” I’ve read enough exit stories of former Mormons to know that this is how the treadmill of chasing success in the LDS sect ends with many feeling defeated. Everything is to look pretty and perfect on the outside, but on the inside are people who are hurting emotionally and for whom religion is a destructive force.
    It also creates an “in” club in the minds of the membership; an attitude that we’re better than those Christians who think they can sin with impunity and still be saved.

    There is nothing like freedom in Christ. Not free to sin but free to be accepted by God as we are warts and all. Through Jesus, the Father looks at us as perfect, not because of what we’ve accomplished in our striving but because we have put our faith and trust in Jesus. It’s a difficult concept for those who are in a performance based religion to wrap their minds around.
    I’m obedient to God not because of what I try to do out of compulsion, but who I am in Christ; having no righteousness of my own to brag about, but because I have come to fully trust in Him and what He has done for me.
    Are you tired of carrying the burden of having to be perfect, to earn your way and your reward? Jesus accepts us as we are, fallen people who for all of our efforts could never get good enough to earn anything in the sight of God. He stands with open arms willing to forgive and accept based on our trust and reliance on Him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

  9. RikkiJ says:

    Have you heard LDS Missionaries discuss Matt. 7:7 in the context of praying about the Book of Mormon? Is praying about the BoM being sufficiently humble or is it simply not in the tests that Jesus has provided about a false prophet?

  10. Mike R says:

    RikkiJ,

    It’s interesting how Mormon Missionaries want a person to pray about the Book of Mormon before the D&C and PGP ? Why is that ? I think we both know the answer to that question .

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