Humility

by Alice T. Clark

True humility is the recognition of one's imperfection that is acquired only as one joyfully, voluntarily, and quietly submits one's whole life to God's will (Micah 6:8; James 4:6; Mosiah 4:10; Morm. 5:24; Ether 6:17). This includes obeying in love his every commandment, repenting of sins, honoring with endurance his every covenant, and striving for greater perfection with self-discipline. Humility can result only from faithful submission to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Seeds of humility can be experienced in spontaneous moments of overwhelming gratitude, awe, and reverence when individuals recognize God's hand in the beauty of a sunset, the power of a waterfall, the miracle of life, or the magnitude and glory of human creations. Thus humility is not only a state of being but a process of obeying and reconciling one's life to God's providence as it is made known through his scriptures, prophets, creations, and answers to prayer.

Those seeking to be humble are counseled to pursue knowledge of God's glory, to experience his goodness and love, to receive a remission of sins, and to "retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you" (Mosiah 4:11).

The Church promotes understanding of humility by encouraging members to study the scriptures and writings of Church leaders who pair this virtue with other virtues such as being meek, patient, loving, and submissive (Mosiah 3:19); gentle, long-suffering, diligent in obeying God's commandments, and full of hope and charity (Alma 7:23, 24); faithful and prayerful (D&C 105:23); repentant (Moro. 8:10); wise (Alma 32:12); able to bear adversity and weaknesses (Ether 12:27); joyful and pure in heart (Hel. 3:35); knowledgeable (D&C 4:6); self-disciplined; and teachable and broken-hearted. A lifestyle void of humility exhibits undesirable qualities: pride (Hel. 4:12); haughtiness (Isa. 2:11), wickedness (2 Ne. 28:14), guile (D&C 124:97), jealousy (D&C 67:10), evil (2 Chr. 36:12), hate, envy, anger, arrogance, inordinate ambition, fault-finding, and self-righteousness.

Latter-day Saints with a testimony pursue humility as a duty, believing it is God's will to seek this virtue. "God will have a humble people. We can either choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble" (Benson, 1989, p. 6). As the foundation for spiritual progress, humility disposes people to hear God's word, to be receptive to inspiration, revelation, and spiritual wisdom. It befits members to accept callings in the Church. Humility must accompany repentance before baptism (D&C 20:37), approaching the divine with "a broken heart and contrite spirit" (2 Ne. 2:7; 3 Ne. 12:19; D&C 20:37). To seek humility is to ask it of God, to recognize it as fruit of a spiritual life (2 Chr. 33:12). Divine grace, strength, and forgiveness are promised to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5; 3 Ne. 4:33; Ether 9:35; D&C 1:28; 104:23). Scripture warns the proud of impending afflictions, temptations, and even destruction (Isa. 10:33; 2 Chr. 12:7; Mosiah 3:18; Morm. 5:24; D&C 5:28, 32). Adversity and weaknesses can humble individuals, bringing them closer to God. Trials often develop spirituality and humility. However, Church leaders emphasize that good conduct and humility without covenants and ordinances will neither redeem nor exalt (Packer, p. 82).

Latter-day Saints are enjoined to imitate Jesus, who was meek and lowly, following not only his example and teachings but also those of his prophets as they walk in his footsteps. "Only Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to provide that hope, that confidence and that strength to…rise above our human failings. To do that, we must…live by his laws and teachings" (Benson, 1983, p. 6). To become humble like Jesus, to become his disciples, individuals must take up their crosses, trust in him, approach perfection through wise choices, and submissively endure to the end (D&C 122:7). Christ's pattern of humility was unblemished. Though members aspire to this perfection, they are to keep perspective on their fallibility by balancing unfulfilled aspirations to emulate Christ with positive recognition of his gifts to them, of their worth as God's children, and of their progress toward humility over a lifetime. In the face of social pressures for self-interested individuality, the Church stresses selflessness and humility as keys for returning to God. Persons who would attain the fulness of the immortalizing promises of the Atonement must persist in achieving humility in spite of obstacles and societal ethics that distract from this goal (Mosiah 3:19).

The desire for humility is nourished by an understanding acceptance of the greatness of the Savior's sacrifice to provide salvation and resurrection for all. As people comprehend God's love for them, hearts and minds will be humbled and drawn into closer unity with him and with all fellow beings.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page)

Bibliography

Benson, Ezra Taft. "Jesus Christ: Our Savior and Redeemer." Ensign 13 (Nov. 1983):6-8.

Benson, Ezra Taft. "To the Elderly in the Church." Ensign 19 (May 1989):4-8.

Maxwell, Neal A. Meek and Lowly. Salt Lake City, 1987.

Packer, Boyd K. "The Only True Church." Ensign 15 (Nov. 1985):80-82