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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Church Leadership Corruption: Discussion 7 Pride: The Source of it All
Since local Church leadership is lay leadership, local Church leadership is us –YOU and ME. My intent in writing this essay is so people can evaluate their own behavior, not label or malign others. It also assumes that local Church leadership at the stake and unit level is the only Church leadership corruption that needs to concern ordinary members today. Corrupt Church leadership ABOVE the stake level IS NOT addressed.
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Disclaimer: If anything I say violates scripture, modern revelation or current Church guidance like that contained in the Handbook, I withdraw it. I do not have direct access to all these materials, so I cannot be completely certain that what I am asserting is currently accurate. I hope the reader will absorb my general points and not pick at the details. Most of the details are for illustration purposes only.
These series of postings will consist of eight parts and be posted every three days according to the schedule below.
Pride: The Source of it All
Pride is really the bottom line here. President Bensen captured so many facets of pride in his classic address: Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4. Unless otherwise noted, all the quotes below come from this talk.
Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church.
Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.
We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. (See Alma 6:2–4; Matt. 23:25–26.)
Cleansing the inner vessel is my intent in writing this polemic. In further guidance, Elder Benson states:
The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.” (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.” (Moro. 8:27.) And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39.)
Pride caused the Book of Mormon people to fall. It can cause us to fall as well. Let’s look at the various facets of pride and compare them to the points I have brought up.
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Enmity toward God and outr fellow men means we are hostile or in opposition to them in some manner. Corrupt Church leaders can be hostile or in opposition to those directing their actions, or hostile or in opposition to those who receive their actions.
When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.)
Without enmity, we would be scrupulous about following the scriptures, modern prophets and their directions. We would never want to be at odds with them in any way. We would seek to know and follow all relevant instructions. Personal decision making would not come into play, unless one is simply trying to apply divine guidance in something where some ambiguity exists. Where ambiguity does exist, we would seek His Will rather than our own.
Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)
In the July 2010 Ensign, Elder Paul E. Koelliker, “Recognizing Righteous Leadership,” Ensign, Jul 2010, 30–32 expands on this idea.
One of the most oft-observed failures of leadership comes when we place too much emphasis on being recognized as a leader. Thinking that we are more important than others can be perilous to us and to those we lead. It is vital that we not become trapped by the enticement of recognition or adulation.
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) counseled: “It is so very important that you do not let praise and adulation go to your head. Adulation is poison. You better never lose sight of the fact that the Lord put you where you are according to His design, which you don’t understand. Acknowledge the Lord for whatever good you can accomplish and give Him the credit and the glory and [do] not worry about that coming to yourself. If you can do that, you’ll get along all right and [you] will go forward with a love for the people and a great respect for them and [you will] try to accomplish what your office demands of you.”1
Leadership titles in the Church are generally only temporary and we will yield them up regularly to others. Having the title does not make us righteous leaders any more than Eli’s did. Our actions while holding the title do. Our concerns should center in being worthy and acting worthy of the title. Seeking and valuing any praise or acclaim can derail us and the success of our otherwise worthy efforts.
In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.
Emphasizing one’s title, seeking acclaim for oneself, using position to acquire resources and privileges in order to make comments like, “It was such a privilege to attend [insert event name], be in [insert person’s name]’s presence, experience this event etc., is simply emphasizing that you have had access to something than someone else did not. You should not be advertising to other members what you received or experienced and they did not, especially when your motive is simply to engender jealousy because of your favored position or privileges.
In the pre-earthly council, Lucifer placed his proposal in competition with the Father’s plan as advocated by Jesus Christ. (See Moses 4:1–3.) He wished to be honored above all others. (See 2 Ne. 24:13.)
Satan’s plan called for him to receive all the glory. Christ’s plan would give all the glory to Heavenly Father. It is interesting that Satan was jockeying for the glory before the deed was even done. It suggests he valued the glory more than the deed. People now seek glory and give the deed short shrift, sometimes even masking over the failure of their effort, because the glory is most important to them, not the deed intended to have produced it.
It was through pride that Christ was crucified. The Pharisees were wroth because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which was a threat to their position, and so they plotted His death. (See John 11:53.)
For the Pharisees to have embraced Jesus as the true Christ, it would have up-ended their world badly. They would no longer have had their exalted position in the Jewish religion or the Jewish society. When Christ found fault with what they had done, it was even more of an affront. His teachings criticized, minimized and declared corrupted the very practices they had sought so hard to set up. To abandon them would be an admission they had been wrong. Admitting wrong-doing is not something easy for the proud.
Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:6–8.)
Here is out-right competition between two military leaders. When the people seemed to elevate David over Saul, in Saul’s mind at least, he exerted effort to tear down his rival. It is plausible that both men’s military successes served God’s purposes. Once Saul made David his target then God’s purposes suffered.
The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7; D&C 30:1–2; D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?”
Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.)
Efforts to cook the book or skew statistics in our favor suggests that men’s judgment weight heavier than God’s. Heavenly Father knows the truth, even though distortions can muddle men’s knowledge. All the elaborate food, decoration, music and other money excesses discussed cannot possibly be for Heavenly Father’s benefit. The objective is obviously men’s approval, not Heavenly Father's.
When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod. (See 1 Ne. 8:19–28; 1 Ne. 11:25; 1 Ne. 15:23–24.)
Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.
This bottom-up pride is largely what tears stakes and units apart. Of all the ways I have discussed how local leader corruption can manifest itself and cause discord, discord often exists because of the temporarily non-called leaders who murmur, find fault, gossip and otherwise undermine a leader – whether the leader is good or bad.
Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him. He thinks this lowers his position.
Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking.
People primarily concerned with self care little if others are being oppressed, forgotten, minimized or otherwise marginalized; as long as they themselves are happy with things. They care little if others are not fully informed of activities or given the opportunity to participate.
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.
It is interesting that “generation gaps” is mentioned. Young Single Adults and especially children are often forgotten or rendered second-class members. Christ’s behavior on this earth, his teachings, his visit to the Nephites in the new world all stand as a witness that he did not consider them of secondary importance. In fact, the opposite is true. In the pre-earth or post-earth life there is no reason to consider them secondary. Our cultural mores that still hold children to be less important than adults should be set aside.
The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. (See 1 Ne. 16:1–3.) They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. (See Prov. 15:10; Amos 5:10.) Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures. (See Matt. 3:9; John 6:30–59.)
Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. (See Alma 12:10–11.) The proud are not easily taught. (See 1 Ne. 15:3, 7–11.) They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.
I almost despair in trying to appeal to proud leaders. The tendency is to discount what I say, condemn me for saying it and cling even tighter to what they have been doing. The proud dig in and stay put. I have learned over the years that this is a dangerous mind set.
This can often be gauged by how people react to having their urban legends, feel good stories and faith promoting rumors they constantly email around to people refuted. In the early days of the Internet I corrected a somewhat distant cousin of mine. This person sent me an email profusely thanking me for sending the truth and immediately sent out a retraction to everyone who had received the original email. Since that time, this person’s reaction has been my model for how to deal with this. It amazes me how many people who have been corrected by me and others defiantly continue to send these same types of stories out and sometimes even the same stories multiple times. Also, some of them are very mad at me for correcting their misinformation. They simply do not want to deal with the truth.
An excellent scriptural example of how to react to correction is Alma when he heard the words of Abinadi. (See Mosiah 17). Alma listened, changed his own behavior, and encouraged others to do the same. Whatever pride he had as one of King Noah’s priests, he swallowed it. His transformation became complete. As a result, he lost his religious and secular positions and titles. He almost lost his life. We should be guided by his example.
The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.”
If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem.
Let us work to ensure that our self-esteem has the proper foundation.
Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student, and all mankind. Our degree of pride determines how we treat our God and our brothers and sisters. Christ wants to lift us to where He is. Do we desire to do the same for others?
Pride fades our feelings of sonship to God and brotherhood to man. It separates and divides us by “ranks,” according to our “riches” and our “chances for learning.” (3 Ne. 6:12.) Unity is impossible for a proud people, and unless we are one we are not the Lord’s. (See Mosiah 18:21; D&C 38:27; D&C 105:2–4; Moses 7:18.)
In a recent talk Elder Claudio D. Zivic remarked, “Conflicts between Church members can also lead to apostasy.” Claudio D. Zivic, “Avoiding Personal Apostasy,” Ensign, June 2009, 26–27.
In the Teachings of Joseph Smith manual there are several quotes that are a bit different from what usually gets referred to:
Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, reported: “Joseph the Prophet … said, ‘Brethren, remember that the majority of this people will never go astray; and as long as you keep with the majority you are sure to enter the celestial kingdom.’ ”16
William G. Nelson reported: “I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say: ‘I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.’ The history of the Church has proven this to be true.”17
Ezra T. Clark remembered: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say that he would give the Saints a key whereby they would never be led away or deceived, and that was: The Lord would never suffer a majority of this people to be led away or deceived by imposters, nor would He allow the records of this Church to fall into the hands of the enemy.”18 “Chapter 27: Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),315–26.
We have the fullness of the gospel. We have extensive and thorough guidelines from modern prophets. There is no reason for us to go astray, except for pride.
Next time: Conclusions and Solutions