Faye and I gave talks in our church meetings yesterday. We have been asked to share the text of our talks. Faye shared hers on the blog yesterday. Today’s post are my remarks.
I chose to give mine on “Humility.” I started by singing a song (with hand motions in parentheses) to my grandchildren:
Thanks to our Father
We will bring
For He gives us (put hands out in front of me, elbows bent at my side, palms up)
Everything. (rotate upper body from side to side, keeping hands in front of me)
Eyes (point to eyes) and ears (point to ears) and
Hands (wiggle fingers) and feet (point to feet)
Clothes to wear (touch clothing) and
Food to eat. (pretend to eat food)
I sang that song to capture the attention of my grandchildren…but also to introduce my topic for today: humility. Gratitude is an essential characteristic of humility.
When I was in high school, my Grandma Amy Mayberry would have the five or six boy cousins around my age stand up at family reunions and sing, “It’s Hard to Be Humble…when you’re perfect in every way…” Grandma had a great sense of humor and it was all done in fun…but I wonder if, at some level, she was trying to teach us something about humility.
I read a cartoon that said, “For me, humility is a matter of great pride.” “Consciously trying to acquire humility can be problematic. One person insightfully said, ‘If you think you have it, you don’t. We should try to develop humility and be sure we didn’t know when we’ve got it, and then we would have it. But if we ever thought we had it, we wouldn’t.’”[i] Yes, humility has been a difficult attribute for me to understand and to live.
One of our Articles of Faith states, “We believe in the same organization that existed in Christ’s primitive church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.” In Christ’s church today — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the office of “evangelist” is now called a “patriarch.” He serves about 3,000 church members in his geographical area. Under inspiration from God, he pronounces a “patriarchal blessing” upon members who are striving to live God’s commandments and who desire to know God’s specific blessings and cautions in their individual lives.
I received my patriarchal blessing when I was 17 years old, a senior in high school, and at the same time I sang in fun that “It’s hard to be humble.” One of the phrases in my patriarchal blessing says, “…even though reverses and obstacles and heartaches come to you, you should learn to accept them with all humility and acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is in all things.” I have read my patriarchal blessing many times in my life. I have sometimes wondered what the Lord meant when He told me of forthcoming “reverses and obstacles and heartaches.” What would some of those be? I’m certain that He knew that one of those would be Ashton’s death, which has been an indescribable reverse and obstacle and heartache for me.
For the past 3 months, I have been studying, pondering and praying to better understand this counsel from the Lord, which He gave me when I was 17. What does “in all humility” mean? The other word that stands out for me is “learn.” I have concluded that I CAN increase and improve my humility. I’m sure I still don’t understand humility completely, but I think I understand better now than I did 3 months ago.
One of Christ’s modern-day apostles, Boyd K. Packer, taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”[ii] As I’ve studied humility, that has been one of my goals: to have these studies of humility help improve my behavior. Yes, it IS hard for me to be humble…and no, I’m certainly NOT perfect!
A good friend taught me a way to look at life that has helped me: “Everything is an opportunity. Find the opportunity.” I watched a segment of a documentary about buffaloes: their instinct is to turn INTO and walk INTO a storm as it comes.[iii] This allows them to get through the storm more quickly than cows, who tend to move AWAY from the storm, causing them to experience the storm longer. I wonder if there is something for me to learn here: turn and face my challenges with submissiveness to God and His will in my life.
“Fortunately, the Savior has given me a model for developing humility. When His disciples asked Him, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He responded by placing a little child in their midst and stating, ‘Whosoever…shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
“In this passage the Savior teaches me that to become humble is to become as a child. How do I become as a child, and what are the childlike qualities I should strive to develop? King Benjamin, in his profound Book of Mormon sermon, provides guidance:
“’For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, 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.’”
“King Benjamin seems to teach that becoming like a child is a gradual process of spiritual development in which I am aided by the Holy Ghost and my reliance on Christ’s Atonement. Through this process, I will eventually acquire the childlike attributes of meekness, humility, patience, love, and spiritual submissiveness. True humility will inevitably lead me to say to God, ‘Thy will be done.’ And because what I AM does affect what I DO, my submissiveness will be reflected in my reverence, my gratitude, and my willingness to accept callings, counsel, and correction.”[iv]
This is one of the many counter-intuitive paradoxes of our mortal existence. The scriptures teach that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. One of these paradoxes is that, for me to move forward, I must look back…at children…and learn from them.
The song that I sang at the beginning of my talk is one that Faye found several weeks ago when we were having Family Home Evening with our granddaughter, Jordanna Faye (“Faye Faye”), who is two. She and her mother, Rubi, are living with us while our son, Jordan, is in Air Force Basic Training in San Antonio, Texas. We have been singing that song almost every night for the past several weeks. It is something that Faye Faye has very much enjoyed. It has had a profound impact upon me, as well, as I think of my Heavenly Father and all that He has blessed me with…even the very air that I breathe! Reminding myself of my dependence upon God and my gratitude for His innumerable blessings has helped me improve my humility.
It has been insightful for me to watch Faye Faye as she loves her mother and gets concerned if Rubi is out of her sight. Most of the time, she is very obedient to Rubi. She does not hold grudges. She is quick to show her love. Could I follow her example as I love and want to be close to my Heavenly Father? Could I be more obedient to God and to the leaders He has placed on the earth? Could I be quicker to forgive? Could I do better at showing my love to my fellowman…especially Faye and the rest of my family?
After prayers in the evening, Faye Faye often will give everyone a hug and say their name: “Gampa, Mima, Mommy”…and then she wraps her arms around herself and gives herself a hug and says “And Faye!” That is a girl who has a proper perspective of her own importance in God’s eyes. What a blessing! What an example!
I learned from our five-year-old granddaughter, Clara, to be teachable. We spent a Saturday morning together. She was eager to learn how to pump herself on the swing, to read the word “and” in The Book of Mormon and how to fly a kite. What an example to me of seeing the world for the first time and being willing to learn and grow!
When I was in my mid-twenties, I went on two horseback rides where I used poor judgment and tried to go too far with too little daylight; the end of the ride was in the dark. In each case, I had a different nephew with me; one nephew was 9 and the other was 13. I was becoming agitated and frustrated with how much farther we had to go to get back to our camp. I was not showing patience with my circumstances. Each time, the nephew set an example for me by asking if we should pray. I was embarrassed and humbled that I had not thought of that and that I had not set the example by being more patient…so I asked them if they would say the prayer. In each situation, our conditions immediately improved and we made it back to our camp safely. I’m grateful for those nephews’ examples and for their parents, who taught them to pray.
“Our Father in Heaven, in His great wisdom and love, sends His spirit sons and daughters to this earth as children. They come to families as precious gifts with a divine nature and destiny. Our Heavenly Father knows children are a key to helping me become like Him. There is so much I can learn from children.
“Children provide examples of some of the childlike qualities I need to develop or rediscover in myself to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They are bright spirits who are untarnished by the world — teachable and full of faith. It is no wonder the Savior has a special love and appreciation for little children.
“Among the transcendent events of the Savior’s visit to the Americas, His tender ministry to the children stands apart. In a poignant way, He reached out to each child.
“’And he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept…And he spake unto the multitude and said unto them: Behold your little ones.’
“Notice that He didn’t say ‘glance at them’ or ‘casually observe them’ or ‘occasionally take a look in their general direction.’ He said to BEHOLD them. To me that means that I should embrace them with my eyes and with my heart; I should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father with divine attributes.”[v]
Finally, I’m grateful for the only perfectly humble Child, Jesus Christ, who expressed perfect gratitude to His Father and who submitted Himself perfectly to His Father’s will when He took upon Himself my sins, my mistakes and my sorrows. I pray that I will do better at utilizing his atonement and the Holy Ghost to become as a little child and thus follow His perfect example of humility.
Written by Carter