Tag Archives: Pride

How Are You Doing with Those Resolutions?

So, here we are one week into the new year. How are you doing with those new year resolutions?

Yeah—me too.

But I’ll keep trying.

I gave up making long lists years ago. All of my resolutions could be summarized, really, in a few words often sung by Latter-day Saint children: “I’m trying to be like Jesus, I’m following in His ways . . .” All of the other ideas for resolutions come down to this, one way or another. I know I am imperfect, but I am trying to become more like the One who never fell into imperfection.

It is embarrassing to tell you this. Anyone who knows me knows how far from perfect I am.

It is painful for me to think about the audacity of this idea—humiliating, really. It makes me cringe to think how ashamed I would be of so many things if I were in the presence of Jesus Christ. And yet I am joyful when I understand that He wants to forgive me.

He said, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). He said, “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I don’t think He was kidding about either of those things. When I think of how far I have to go, the thought is terrifying in one way, and exhausting.

Maybe you feel the same way about His commandment. Anyone might be tempted to think, “How could I ever do this?” But I don’t think He meant we have to do it by tomorrow, or even by the end of this year.

If I get to the end of this year and feel like I’m better than at the beginning, then I can hope. If I keep getting a little better day by day, then I can hope for salvation through His grace. There is no other way.

I have found that I have to reduce this following Him, this striving for perfection, to one day at a time. At the beginning of the day, I pray for help to handle the things that I know may be spiritual challenges for me, along with stumbling blocks that I cannot foresee. That is the only way I know to approach this challenge. Maybe a stronger person could improve by leaps and bounds. But for me, it requires baby steps, one day at a time.

How am I doing so far today? Well, so far I’ve already felt pride and anger and impatience.

But I tried to help the person who made me feel those things, and now I feel better about him.

Maybe that’s progress.

The Sidewalk to Nowhere

DSC00110Mrs. S. and I love to explore the places where we are, so we do a lot of walking. In our new neighborhood, we recently discovered the sidewalk to nowhere. It begins across the street from our granddaughters’ school and curves off along a canal into a large, vacant tract of land.

The whole area is still under development, but what, we wondered, is the purpose of this sidewalk? What is its destination? So one day we decided to follow it.

The sidewalk runs along that stagnant canal and through an area that has become a DSC00114dumping ground for excavated dirt, and trash and debris. There is a hint at least of clandestine activity out here—discarded beer and liquor bottles, and broken, abandoned things. Stolen, perhaps? Is that why there’s an abandoned grocery cart in the canal?

The sidewalk ends in the dirt (or mud, in season) about 50 yards from a back street in an industrial area.

Is this walkway part of some developmental master plan? Who knows. Right now, it’s just a useless side trip.

This path makes me wonder how many sidewalks to nowhere there are in my life.

When I choose to do something that I know God does not want me to do—when I sin willfully—I know I am taking the sidewalk to nowhere. The path is going to end in disappointment and worthless trash, and I run the risk of getting lost, unable to find my way back.

DSC00113But what about the times when I simply have not thought out my course? Would I choose this path if I knew from the beginning that I would find only trash along the way and a nasty mud hole at the end?

What about the times when I set out on the path to acquiring more money or things? Has that ever ended in any lasting happiness?

What about the times when I set out to justify myself? “I was right and she was wrong.” “That other driver was a careless jerk.” “What I should have said to him was . . . .” There’s nothing worthwhile at the end of that path.

What about the times when my attitude was, “Father, I can handle this by myself”? When did that ever turn out well?

Standing here at the beginning, I can choose to follow this path, or I can turn to the right or left on one of the routes that lead to places of fulfillment—places where I can learn, and love, and be with family. They will be places where I can serve, instead of simply passing time.

If I choose the right path, ultimately it will take me Home.

The best way to choose is probably to ask myself, “Which path would the Master follow after saying, ‘Come, follow me’?”




The Decline and Fall of Just about Anyone

Visiting the ruins at Copan, Honduras, was one of the things on my bucket list, so now I can cross that off. But it left an interesting, unexpected lesson.


Trees growing out of monuments surrounding one of Copan’s plazas.

We have heard the same basic story about Mayan civilization at a number of different archaeological sites now—Chichen Itza, Tulum, Quiriga, Tikal, Copan. Once they were powerful places, centers of culture and commerce with important religious and family ties to each other. Then in a comparatively short time they faded away as the Mayan civilization declined and fell.

The Mayans reached a zenith of learning and culture, with great knowledge of astronomy and engineering and great skill in art. And then, seemingly, they lost the light they had and slid into cultural and intellectual darkness. We are told that the final collapse came as the nobles, a self-selected upper class, glutted and pampered themselves through abuse of the lower class. Finally, the poor, fed up, walked away to free themselves, and in doing so abandoned the knowledge and culture that had been the fiefdom of their rulers.

As a believer in the Book of Mormon, I see this end as the natural result of the cycle of pride and wickedness repeated through centuries in that history of the descendants of Lehi. Ultimately, pride, arrogance, and greed leached away the opportunity for a society and the individuals in it to repent and thus be rejuvenated.

As a believer, I’d like to see the people who built these cities connected by archaeological evidence with families and characters in the Book of Mormon. But I doubt that it will ever happen. God has never yet given mankind a free pass to certainty.  There is a cost in spiritual, and sometimes temporal, terms in gaining knowledge. Religious belief will always have to be validated by the exercise of faith, not by scholarship or archaeological discovery. I don’t think anyone is ever going to find the graffito somewhere in Mesoamerica that says, “I, Nephi, was here.”

Nevertheless, there’s an important personal lesson in the historical outline of the Mayan fall: decline can come to our society or to us personally for the same reasons, and it will be just as deadly spiritually and intellectually.


Ceiba roots growing down the side of a stone structure.

We saw at Copan great, well-engineered monuments that are being cracked and broken apart by the irresistible roots of ceiba trees growing out of crevices between the stones. There is irony in the fact that what the Mayans considered the tree of life is helping to destroy the monuments they left behind.

We have to be very careful what we allow to take root in us, because in the end the roots of certain habits or weaknesses we cultivate can become irresistible forces.

Pride, in particular, is a treacherous seed. We can get so caught up in admiring what we’d like to believe we are that we lose sight of what we could become.


Demon figure, Copan museum.

Gluttony for any kind of satisfaction or creature comfort can dull and eventually choke the life out of our ability to respond to the Spirit of God.

Becoming dependent on the sacrifices of others, and even demanding them—because after all, we’re special and we deserve this treatment—leads to social irrelevance and to surrender of the ability to act for ourselves.

The decline may be gentle at first, almost unnoticeable. But if we take no action to change things, there will come a point when decline is irreversible. Once the roots of the ceiba trees become strong enough to break apart solid rock foundations, there is no stopping them.