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Humility gives strength when weaknesses arise

Published: Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010

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What would we learn about the Savior, if we were to speak with him face to face? What would most impress us about His character and demeanor? The Prophet Moroni has left us his impressions from just such a sacred experience. Among other things, Moroni related "that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another…" (Ether 12:39). Moroni learned that humility is a Godly attribute.

Earlier, this attribute of humility was on Moroni's mind as he sought the Lord regarding his weakness in writing. Moroni felt humbled after reading the mighty writings of the brother of Jared. In comparison to this great and articulate prophet, Moroni felt inadequate "because of the awkwardness of our hands" (Ether 12:24). He recognized that the Lord had given him strength to be powerful and great in speaking, but, "when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words" (Ether 12:25).

What could be done? It appears that the difference between self-defeating feelings of inadequacy and true humility is the response to our situations. Upon recognizing our weaknesses, we have several courses that we can take. One might be to retire into a shell because we feel that we are not as good as others. Another might be to feel jealous of those that we believe are strong and capable. A third, and better alternative, is to turn to God, seeking His strength. Moroni learned that God has given us weakness that we might be made strong, if we humble ourselves before Him! True humility, like that possessed by the Savior, is in our relationship with Our Father in Heaven, not in comparing our abilities with that of other human beings. The Son of God is the Almighty I AM. Yet, He honestly faced reality. That is, everything that He is, everything that He knows, He readily acknowledged that He learned from God the Father.

Such a truthful approach to our lives gives us both pause to be humble before God and hope for our future as we turn to our Father in Heaven in prayer, asking that He will consecrate our efforts (see 2 Nephi 32:9). This past year I was surprised to learn that a daughter requested that her bishop give her a more challenging calling. She was faithful in always attending Church meetings, but she had sought to stay in the background and seldom, if ever, participated in discussions. She recognized her weakness and sought to improve. Although somewhat frightened, she humbly offered that she would do more because she trusted that her Father in Heaven would bless her in her efforts. She was immediately called to teach in Relief Society — a calling that she had earlier half-joked would cause her to go inactive. In her case humility was a requirement for opportunities to better serve in the kingdom.

All will feel inadequate and weak during the challenges of mortality. We may ask ourselves questions such as: How can we meet the demands of family and work? How can we better serve in Church callings? How can we overcome sins that so easily beset us? How can we overcome addictions, impatience, anger and a host of other frailties and temptations? All of these concerns have a common answer — we must humble ourselves before God and seek His guidance and strength.

Perhaps the most difficult of challenges to being truly humble is to accept the answer, "No." While living in Jerusalem and studying the testimonies of the Gospel writers, I was impressed that the most sincere and soul anguishing prayer ever uttered was answered, "No." The Savior pled with His Father that the bitter cup of the pains suffered in atoning for sin might pass from Him. Yet, He humbly submitted to the Father's will and wisdom in accepting that the answer was, "No." The Savior set the example for all to follow, including humility to look to Our Father in Heaven for strength and to acknowledge His wisdom is superior to our own.

Craig James Ostler, Battle Creek 3rd Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah East Stake, is a BYU Professor of Church History and Doctrine.