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Humility: The Misunderstood but Required Virtue

Humility: The Misunderstood but Required Virtue

Humility has been defined as the condition of being meek and teachable (see Guide to the Scriptures). However, some have said that if you think you are humble, you are not. That makes it hard to work on. In my view, there are two aspects to humility that can be understood and used to seek and monitor our progress in acquiring and maintaining the attribute.

The first is the vertical dimension. It involves our attitude towards and relationship with God. To be humble in this respect is to recognize that with God’s help, we can do or be anything that is needed (see Philippians 4:13). Without His help we will ultimately fail. “Humility includes recognizing our dependence upon God and desiring to submit to His will” (Guide to the Scriptures). Preach My Gospel puts it this way: “Humility is willingness to submit to the will of the Lord and to give the Lord the honor for what is accomplished. It includes gratitude for His blessings and acknowledgement of your constant need for His divine help. . . . You are confident that you can do whatever the Lord requires of you if you rely on Him” (120).

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Preach My Gospel

The second is the horizontal dimension: how we view and relate to each other and human beings in general. In this respect I found a statement years ago that can guide our attitude towards others in a humble way: “I am just as good as anyone else, but no better.” When we truly internalize that feeling for those around us, we will be humble. This is easy in some respects but hard in others. For an example, it may be easy for me to feel I am just as good as my neighbour, but what about the stake president or one of the Apostles? It may be hard to feel just as good as he is. On the other hand, it may be easy to feel no better than a friend, but what about the beggar on the street? It may be a challenge to not feel better than he is. But again, “I am just as good as anyone else, but no better.” The closer we can get to that standard, the more humble we are on the horizontal dimension.

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If this seems to be a lot of questionable effort, remember the words of Alma: “Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble” (Alma 32:15).

How can we humble ourselves?

How can we humble ourselves?

The scriptures teach us that one way is fasting (see Psalm 35:13). Our model is that of a little child (see Matthew 18:4). Prayer adds power to our fasting; further power comes from exercising our faith and yielding our hearts unto God (see Helaman 3:33–35). Recognizing our weaknesses can add to our humility (see Ether 12:27).

What are some of the blessings promised to the humble?

What are some of the blessings promised to the humble?

The Lord dwells with him that is humble (see Isaiah 57:15); “he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12); “God . . . giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5); our faith and humility allow the Lord to turn our weaknesses into strengths (see Ether 12:27); humility is one of the requirements for baptism (see D&C 20:37); “humble yourselves before me, . . . and you shall see me and know that I am” (D&C 67:10); if we are humble, “the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10); humility allows learning wisdom (see D&C 136:32) and invites enlightenment by the Spirit (see D&C 136:33).

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Elder David A. Bednar has warned us that one of the gravest dangers we have here in the Church in the Africa Southeast Area as we move forward in living the gospel is the potential impact of the pride cycle described in the Book of Mormon. One of the greatest blessings of humility for us is the promise of President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) that humility is the antidote for pride (see “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4).

May we seek to understand the Christlike attribute of humility and choose to humble ourselves.