Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Be-Attitudes: Service And Humility

Posted by nhilton on February 5, 2007


The more I serve, the more inadequate I feel. I am coming to see that as we serve, no matter the capacity in which we serve, we gain humility. Pause. I guess I have to stop here and ask, “Is humility = to feeling inadequate, what about BEING inadequate?” (I think of Moses here, the feeling part. Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman & the Nobleman representing, perhaps, both expressions of inadequacy. John 3-4) Regardless, this humility opens up my heart to the teachings or promptings of the Spirit, enabling me to better “hearken.” Isn’t this THE goal, to “hearken?” By so doing one should reach the journey’s end successfully? (Question Mark Emphasized)

I’d like to invite discussion along this theme. Has service increased your humility? Are there archetypal examples of this happening? Is humility a prerequisite to hearkening to the Spirit? What does it mean to “hearken to the Spirit?”

I’m particularly interested in how service plugs into the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5) and Sermon At the Temple (3 Ne. 12). I see the Beatitudes as incremental and culminating with a continual “hearkening” to the Spirit the means AND the end. There are a multitude of scriptural paths to follow in this thought process, but as a springboard, here are just a few: Zech. 3:8; Matt. 25:21; Mark 9:35; John 12:26.

I’ve included a graphic illustration below of this “line upon line” depiction of the Beatitudes. Perhaps it will better explain my point, where perhaps my words have failed me.

Thanks to anyone willing to venture down this ponderpath, Nanette

The Beatitudes

36 Responses to “Be-Attitudes: Service And Humility”

  1. Robert C. said

    Nanette, very interesting. I’m thinking how steps 6-8 in your chart (pure-in-heart/see-God, peacemakers/share-gospel, and persecuted/endure) seem to generally follow Isaiah’s theophany in Isa 6 where he sees God, is purified, then shares the gospel, and is described as being persecuted (or at least that the people will be hardened). On the other hand, it’s interesting there that Isaiah sees God before purification takes place, which makes Isa 6 all the more curious to me (since in the temple it seems the purification rituals take place before encountering the Lord at the veil).

    I’ll have to think more about the first four Beatitudes relating to the first four “princples and ordinances of the Gospel.” In particular, I think it’d be interesting to analyze Matt 5 and 2 Ne 31 side side by side, the “being filled” / “receiving the Holy Ghost” followed by “peacemakers” / “having the tongue of angels” followed by “persecution” / “enduring to the end” seems quite interesting.

    As to your questions, I haven’t been able to think of examples of service increasing humility. My failure in this makes me wonder about the interplay between the two. I’ve had experiences where service has made me more humble, but then I’ve also had experiences where service has made me frustrated and impatient (I’m ashamed to say!). It seems the scriptures talk mostly about the call to us as being simulataneous or perhaps even reversed: be humble and serve. I do think there are related metaphors of growth in many scriptures, for example in Alma 32 it seems that all we neeed is a little bit of desire to believe, and that desire can eventually cause the word to grow in us.

    I don’t really have access to a good etymological dictionary, but according to the American Heritage Dictionary, hearken/hearing comes from the Indo-European root keu (I.), which seems to connote “opening” (cf. “cave”), so I think to hearken/hear the Spirit is to open onself to its influence. With Alma 32 on my brain, the “poor” emphasis of the Beatitudes reminds me a lot of the poor Zoramites who were much more open to the word than the rich….

  2. Robert, I eagerly await your further thoughts on the beatitudes and 2 Nephi 31 (you’ve got me thinking).

    I’d like to know what we mean here by “humility.” I have a difficult time thinking about in terms of “feeling inadequate.” (I personally read Moses’ inadequacy as pride, not humility.) Some of this difficulty for me is related to the fact that I have never felt inadequate for any calling I’ve been given, though I might have thought there were others more qualified than myself (I think I inherited this from my no-nonsense mother). I suppose I take comfort in Joseph’s example: he was not exactly what most people would call humble, yet he was the humblest man I’ve ever read about. He had–as Eduard Meyer pointed out–no real feelings of inadequacy, as far as I can read.

    So how do we read humility? Nanette’s post takes it as something that comes in degrees, but I’m not so sure. My experience tells me that I’m either humble or not: willing to listen or not. Service in the kingdom increases my knowledge, my understanding, my compassion, my desire to love, my abilities to do this or that, etc., but I don’t know that humility is something that can be increased. (I’d love to hear dissenting opinions on this. I’ve never taken up this topic in conversation, so I’m interested to see how weird my thoughts on this are. And I’d loved to be talked out of them if they’re quite simply silly.)

    As for “what does it mean to hearken to the Spirit,” are you sure you want to open that can of worms? I am convinced that that is the only important question in teaching, really (that is, I think that is the only question we’ve asked on this blog: we’ve just asked it a dozen ways so far). I’d really like to discuss that topic more directly now, though…

  3. nhilton said

    Perhaps my question was a long, run-on question with too many fundamental questions at the root…I’m impressed that the two of you even ventured to answer it (them). Encore!

    Robert, I KNOW that service increases humility and, therefore (Joe), that humility is a quality that can be acquired and added upon. (Alma 5:27; Hel. 3:35 implies that humility is a quality we must seek to increase during this life.) The primary service, or calling, that increases my humility is parenthood. All other service falls under this–at least for me– as formative and acting as a catalyst to humilty.

    I, too, have had negative results from my efforts at serving–all the more reason to feel humbled! If my service ended up “happily ever after” I would have done it perfectly, right? It’s when I try my hardest and it goes south that I wonder about myself. I think this is one point at which humility and hearkening intersect. As we recognize that our efforts at service are basically inadequate, we must reach out for inspiration, direction, real assistance from the Spirit to compensate for our lack. Hearkening to the Spirit is essential in performing perfect service, or the service that God desires/requires.

    Robert’s word definition is fabulous. An important quality of humility is being teachable and being open is definitely synonymous with this.

    Talking about humility is difficult. When was the last time you prayed for THIS gift of the Spirit: Humility? God tells us he will either have a humble people or humble His people, i.e. Alma 32:16. It’s not optional, simpily the path to humility is optional. I prefer to humble myself, if this can even be done BY one’s self.

    You brought up Joseph Smith as an example of humility. I believe his life of service, service that was so often critized and “gone south” in the eyes of mortal man, was integral to his acquisition of true humility. This is how I see Moses, too. It was in fact THE service that made them humble. Perhaps part of the definition of humility is the ability to empathize with others, certainly something we gain as we service others. Empathy and love are so closely related and in the scriptures humility and love are often found side by side.

    I’d love to hear more from you both & other’s willing to put in their 2 cents. It’s exciting!

  4. Robert C. said

    Nanette, great passages on differing degrees of humility (esp. since I’ve tended to think of humility as an all or nothing thing more along the lines of what Joe said): have “ye been sufficiently humble” in Alma 5:27, and “they did . . . wax stronger and stronger in their humility” in Hel 3:35. This latter one is particularly interesting to me: stronger in humility? What a provocative word choice, since we usually think of humility as being weak, not strong.

    I think humility is a great topic to carefully have in mind as we study the NT this year. I was recently looking at Phillipians which I think is a great place to study humility (and how it facilitates oneness with each other and God). In particular, I think the admonition in Philip 2:3 to “regard others as better than yourselves” (NRSV) is quite interesting in terms of understanding what humility might entail. To address Joe’s concern, my view–which I think is quite common in the Church–is that humility entails a feeling of inadequacy about yourself by yourself, but which leads to a oneness with God that makes it possible to do “all things” (“through Christ which strengtheneth me” in Philip 4:13).

    I’ve heard people praise the common LDS picture of Christ in his red robe b/c it portrays Christ as strong and confident instead of meek and weak “like other Christians tend to portray him”–I’ve often wondered if there’s much truth in this generalization. I also wonder how most Christians tend to read the Beatitudes. The scholarly commentary I’ve looked at tends to emphasize the actual poverty and oppressed condition of those that Christ is addressing without as much “ethical admonition” as I think we Mormons tend to read into this (largely, I think, b/c of similar ideas in King Benjamin’s address; also, I think “broken heart and contrite spirit” is common BOM phrase that influences our reading about the “poor in Spirit” in the Beatitudes as a similar admonition). That is, I think exegetes look at Matthew and see Christ as comforting the poor and oppressed, whereas Mormons tend to read this as an admonition to be more meek and humble–I’m curious which way lay-Christians are apt to read this….

  5. nhilton said

    The “poor in spirit” means to me a lack of THE Spirit. It has nothing to do with affluence or temporal conditions but rather a spiritual need.

    Then, moving up my diagram, our awareness of this lack (our humility) prompts repentance. Christ repeatedly tells those wanting to enter into his fold to give everything to the poor or provide service prior to their entering into that kingdom. The Samaritan woman at the well provides service and is then taught the things of the Kingdom. Peter’s mother-in-law is healed and promptly provides service.

    Repentance leads directly to baptism for a remission of the sins we’ve acknowledged and which are blocking our ability to acquire/access THE Spirit. In Luke Jesus is immediately filled with the Holy Ghost after baptism and prior to experiencing the pivotal temptations.

    Next, according to the Beatitudes, blessed are the mericful. Is not mercy = service? Perhaps my diagram should be circular?

  6. Thank you for the references Nanette. Those do force me to rethink this question, though I’m not sure what to make of it yet. I’ll have to get back to this with some clearer thoughts. Or I probably ought to take up those two verses on the wiki, really.

    I am still uncomfortable with the phrase “feeling inadequate.” I don’t see its opposite (and I don’t know that anyone else here is promoting this, but, anyway) as feeling able, but feeling adequate: I’m nothing, but that’s adequate, because that’s all He wants. I suppose I sense a kind of pride in feeling inadequate because it betrays a focus on myself: if I feel inadequate, then I think this call has something to do with me, when it has everything to do with Him, as His call. I simply respond, and my response, because it is predicated on His perfect call, will be as perfect as it needs to be (it will be adequate) simply if I can respond.

    Hmmm. I definitely need to think about these things further.

    By the way, at times I’ve read “poor in spirit” to mean those who may not be poor in economic terms, but they make themselves such by the Spirit. That is, the wealthy who give away what they have just as fast as it comes to them would be “poor in spirit” if not in fact. I don’t know that I would stand behind that reading, but it is interesting. I think it certainly does some justice to the economic thrust of the first few beatitudes (not to mention the obviously economic, or perhaps anti-economic, reading of the beatitudes in D&C 88, first twenty verses or so).

  7. Robert C. said

    I just stumbled on this interesting passage on being more humble in Sirach 3:17-20 (I’m quoting the NRSV which reads slightly differently than the link; emphasis added):

    17 My child, perform your tasks with humility;
    then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.
    18 The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself;
    so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.d
    20 For great is the might of the Lord;
    but by the humble he is glorified.

    (Joe, I actually came across this in the WBC for Heb 1:4; the note there seems to be saying something about the same Greek “more excellent” phrase being used in both passages, though I didn’t quite follow….)

  8. nhilton said

    Robert, was that just something in your “daily” reading? How did you find that? Ha! That’s some apocrypha I’m not familiar with–not that I spend much time there anyway.

  9. Laura D. said

    I had never thought of humility as meaning “to feel inadequate” in the gospel sense before. Like Joe I wasn’t comfortable with it at first. But it occurs to me that feeling inadequate in the gospel sense is tied to the principle of grace. When we feel inadequate aren’t we in a sense recognizing that we can’t do it by ourselves, that we need the grace of God to make us adequate? Ether 12:27 says that God gives us weaknesses (inadequacies) that we may be humble and that His “grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” In other words, His grace will lift us to where we can’t lift ourselves.

    And when we feel overly confident in our own abilities, it’s hard to say we’re humble because we begin to think that we are self-sufficient and know it all, or maybe a lot more than we do. That in turn makes us not want to listen because we don’t think we need to. Which in turn makes us eschew the grace that we need so much. So, good thought, Nanette.

  10. nhilton said

    Thanks, Laura, for your comments. The grace connection is fabulous! Too many of us focus on working our way to Heaven, thinking the ‘grace’ concept only applies to Born-Agains. We are, indeed, a Grace & Works church. The older I get, the more I value the Grace aspect. I think it goes hand in hand with learning how much we don’t know…or how inadequate we really are. Your last paragraph certainly fit right in with Pres. Benson’s famous “Pride” discourse where he articulated the sin of “this generation” as being Pride.

    Christ certainly wasn’t inadequate, yet he was the most humble of all and, likewise, he performed the greatest service of all. I think there is some point where “feeling inadequate” is consciously replaced with “being inadequate.” A difference, as Joe put it, that takes the focus off of oneself. Its symantics and I’m probably not expressing it well at all, but Christ, who’s will was certainly adequate, subjugated himself to the Father doing not his own will, but the will of the Father. This is where humility steps in, I believe, as a door to allowing God’s will to be paramount. When God’s will IS paramount, we serve. The Christ-like act of serving is a catalyst in developing Christ-like humility. Perfect service evokes AND requires humility. Again, the diagram might be circular. I find support for these ideas in Mosiah 2:17; Acts 20:19; D&C 4:6 (note the progression here, if it’s sequential).

  11. Robert C. said

    [Nanette #10: I hope you don’t mind, I keep adding links to the scriptures you post in the new handy-dandy lds.org search site.]

    I’m a little nervous about dismissing this idea of feeling inadequate. What is “fear of the Lord” if it isn’t feeling inadequate? (I’m not saying these are the same, I just want to carefully think about the difference; I think Mosiah 4 is one of the best places to take up this question: the people experienced a fear of God, then recognized their own nothingness, and then were admonished to “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and [their] own nothingness”….)

  12. Aha! I think I just sorted out what my discomfort was! Thanks, Robert, for going to Mosiah 4 on the subject. I think the word “nothingness” is what is important to me here. I’m uncomfortable with exalting “feeling inadequate” because it still assumes we are “something” and not “nothing” (at least it does in my own vocabulary… I’ll be interested to see the response to that claim!). That is, in feeling inadequate, I still feel I ought to be adequate, I’m trying to hang on to something of myself. But when I recognize my own nothingness, that question of adequacy entirely disappears, and then I will always rejoice.

    And this makes more sense of the verses that stress levels of humility. When I say there is either humility or no humility, I think I’m talking about this question of nothingness: one either recognizes one’s nothingness, or one still regards oneself as something (to whatever degree). But perhaps these verses are pointing towards one’s increasing disregard of oneself. That is, feeling more and more inadequate, I grow humbler and humbler. But there comes a point where “absolute” humility comes (and I think it is a clean break, not the peak of a mountain), and that is what I was calling humility (the complete absence of pride, of self-regard).

    I think it is on the grounds of all of this that I feel a kind of impatience with those who feel inadequate: if they would let themselves go entirely, recognize completely their own nothingness, they would be adequate (in the overwhelming grace of Christ) to do whatever task (parting the Red Sea as much as teaching nursery this week).

    Anyway, so it seems to me as my own thoughts become clear to myself.

  13. Robert C. said

    Joe, after reading your comment and then looking again at Hel 3:35, I’m more fascinated with the wording there. There, the stronger humility and firmer faith described is a result of the people’s fasting and praying “oft.” This temporal word strikes me, precisely b/c of the temporal aspect of the Alma 32 tree metaphor. My thinking is that it’s not so much about becoming more humble, it’s about being humble more often.

    I can’t find anywhere in scripture that is says “more faith.” Rather, faith increases. So, like humility, if you have it and continue to have it, then the word will continue to grow in you, which is described as “stronger humility” and “firmer faith.”

    Not sure if anyone’s following me on this, or perhaps it’s one of those things that’s obvious to everyone else, but this is a pretty major shift in my thinking–a subtle difference perhaps, but seems to have major “theological” implications….

  14. nhilton said

    As I’ve been reading in Luke 4-5,8 today I’ve noticed a considerably different option in reading the title of my post, in that it’s service we receive, rather than service we give, that increases our own humility. Those to whom the Savior ministers appear to have an increase in humility after the service is rendered. They clearly “feel inadequate” before the service is received but afterwards they express a different kind of feeling that might be best labled: humility.

    Joe, It’s a tall order to expect people to consider themselves as “nothing.” What about all those self-help books on increasing our self-esteem? Not that I subscribe to those, but taking a different, approach, what about the Young Women’s Theme that is so personally validating? You can’t recite that theme without feeling that you’re really something! I agree with your definition & think “nothingness” is a perfect goal in the journey. But when do we get off the “inadequate” track and step onto the “nothingness” track?

    Robert, is humility a trait that is so fickle that it can come and go, requiring that we are humble “more often?” What’s the trick for maintaining humility?

    I’m thinking of Peter here and how he was warned by Christ that he’d deny him 3 times. Peter was incredulous, but he did it anyway. Did Peter’s humility depart during those moments of weakness? And Joseph Smith, his lack of humility resulted in a great loss of the spirit when he lost the manuscript to Harris. These were both THE leaders of the church who stumbled. They certainly had to EQUALLY be examples of the height of mortal humility.

  15. Should I be glad that I was never in the Young Women program?

    More seriously, I think C. S. Lewis does a good job of thinking in very simple terms about this question. I would suggest three of his books particularly: The Great Divorce, Till We Have Faces (among my favorite books of all time), and A Grief Observed. If anyone has read any of these books, I will offer some thoughts on how Lewis takes a look at this question of “nothingness.”

  16. Robert C. said

    Regarding Young Women’s, I’d forgotten about this, but I hashed this very issue out with my wife about a year ago (since she’s in the YW presidency). Fortunately she agreed with me (in other words: she completely changed my thinking about this but made me think that this is what I thought in the first place…), so we’re still happily married. In short, my (our) take is that Divine Nature and Individual Worth are emphasizing the fact that God loves us despite our nothingness, and that we have the potential to be born again as children(/inheritors) of God(/’s kingdom). So our truly infinite worth is completely a function of God’s infinite love and condescension, but this worth is ultimately contingent on us being born again (this may be too strong; the perhaps the worth/potential is always there, but it will not be actualized until we are born again in Christ).

    nhiltion #14, I think that indeed the trick is to maintain humility, and is very much tied up with why remember/remembrance is so frequent in scripture (BOM esp.). And so we are to pray always, take the sacrament weekly, attend the temple as often as possible, constantly where the temple garment which reminds us of the constant need of spiritual nourishment, etc. all so that we will “retain in remembrance our own nothingness” (which I think is approximately King B’s phrase).

  17. nhilton said

    How did the YW Theme come into this?…tho I thinks its relevant & important…Oh, yes, I mentioned it. : ) Well, I’m the mother of 5 daughters so I’m pretty well-versed on Young Women(s). Robert, I like your comments along this line, especially “worth/potential is always there, but it will not be actualized until we are born again in Christ.” I’ve seen a lot of young women make poor choices that alter their life path and defeat them, at least in the short term. I belive that the values are sequential and building, much like the diagram with the Beatitudes I’ve posted here. Even if you’re male, its significant for you to understand this theme since 50% of the church is indoctrinated with it for 6 years of their lives. When else do you see church members standing and reciting something as long as the YW theme at least once a week en mass & aloud? You’re either one of these people, married to one or the father of one or the son or brother of one. It’s bound to affect you, is my point. So, back to the them, faith is first and the prerequisite for making the others valid. Then the “divine nature” and next the “individual worth.” I used to think one of these two would have been adequate. But no. Our daughters’ values are so debased by this world that both are necessary and empowering. There is the reason we must see ourselves as divine & worthy…not nothing. This word “nothing” has been twisted by Satan to smear our divinity and value, two things that are eternal and not contingent upon being born again. When our daughters (& sons, too) feel worthless or “nothing” by the world’s definition they act in ways that reinforce their unworthiness. To feel divine and valued promotes divine and worthwhile behavior. Remember, these are 12-18 year old girls who are being fed this ideology who will be responsible for the souls of future generations. Clearly self-esteem (as the world calls it) is essential to self actuation in an agency setting. It would take a strong & well educated leader and an attentive young woman to make the quantum leaps of ideology discussed in this post; however, this would be the optimum course of teaching in the YW program if the participants were able.

    Robert, I hope your good wife is one of those rare leaders who has taken up this cross within the YW program to appropriately and effectively teach these concepts. I know it’s a challenge…I find it so on my homefront.

  18. Matt W. said

    nhilton, thanks for this, I will use this handout in SS this year. One note though, sanctification is mis-spelled…

  19. I’m trying to think about how to explain this.

    While I think that high self-esteem (as the world calls it) is better than low self-esteem (as the world calls it) for the LDS youth, there is something far better: absolutely NO self-esteem (not, however, as the world calls it). Now, I know that we talk about someone with “really low self-esteem” has having “no self-esteem,” but we don’t really mean that at all. What we mean when we talk (generally) about having “no self-esteem” is that some has an overabundance of self-esteem; the problem is that all of the self-esteem that person has is negative (one esteems oneself as bad, lower, lesser, etc.).

    In fact, let me suggest three degrees of glory among the youth. There is the telestial glory: low self-esteem (as the world calls it). There is the terrestrial glory: high self-esteem (as the world calls it). And there is celestial glory: no self-esteem whatsoever (not as the world calls it). My experience with this in YM, in seminary teaching, and myself has universally confirmed this.

    So a little bit of explanation. The person with low self-esteem regards him/herself constantly, is continually focused on his/her self (and hence, how others see that self). The problem is that they regard that self as something deplorable, and so they are constantly trying to do anything to win acceptance from other selves. This makes them very susceptible to negative influence. Interestingly, it makes them very susceptible to positive influence as well. But even if they fall in with the right friends, it will take a major change for them to become “converted,” because they have to stop worshipping their idol: themselves.

    The person with high self-esteem also regards him/herself constantly, is always focused on his/her self (and hence, how other see that self). The good about this kind of a person is that they are not very susceptible to negative influence. But the problem is that they are, for the same reason, not very susceptible to positive influence (ooh, I hate the attitude of these kids when I teach seminary!). If they are being generally righteous, then everyone thinks they’re doing fine, when they spend morning and night bowing before the god of their selfhood. And because they esteem that self so highly, it is very, very difficult for them ever to be converted (these kids are more of a headache to me than the telestial ones: they are far harder to teach).

    The person with absolutely no self-esteem does not hate her/himself. Rather, this kid simply does not care about selfhood. This is the kid who, if he does something stupid, doesn’t even think about blessing the sacrament but goes straight to the bishop to take care of things (he never asks, “What will my parents/friends/leaders/etc. think?”). This is the kid who loves and befriends a newly activated/baptized girl for three months before she even realizes that anyone thinks she’s a fool for hanging out with her. This is the kid who is over things quickly, who is always happy, and who is genuinely seeking answers. Though I think these kids are not always angels or perfect Latter-day Saints, they are easily taught, and they come to Christ running.

    This has gotten too long, but I think my point is clear. What Benjamin means by remembering one’s nothingness is not self-loathing, ascetic zeal, or depression. He means to speak of that condition where your “self” is nothing: there is nothing there because it is the empty site of so many activities, an open place of loving engagement (charity), the field where real work happens (the philosophically inclined might call this a Hegelian reading of Benjamin). We are (or become) nothing when we finally leave ourselves entirely in an unending pursuit to bless, to uplift, to strengthen, to love, to teach, and to work.

    My thoughts for the moment.

  20. nhilton said

    Joe, Great thoughts.

  21. Robert C. said

    If you haven’t read Jim F.’s “Self-Image, Self-Love, and Salvation”, I highly recommend it. I think it’s very similar to Joe’s #18. This was the first thing I remember reading by Jim, and ever since then I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by him….

  22. kenr said

    For me, this discussion seems to have gotten very close to what the Brethren have been saying about the only true gift that we can offer is our will. Laying our will on the alter then becomes the indication to ourselves and to God that we have no self esteem – that we view ourselves as “less than the dust of the earth”. Our will becomes swallowed up in the will of the Father, and we closely match the dust of the earth. It has no will; it has no self esteem; it fulfills the measure of it’s creation.

    But it seems to me that we can only do this when we have a deep understanding of our own potential as sons and daughters of God.

  23. jim said

    I’ve enjoyed reading these posts. For anyone that is interested in this topic, I highly recommend Ester Rasband’s “Confronting the Myth of Self Esteem: Twelve Keys to Finding Peace.”

    It touches on many of the ideas that have been posted here. It is very well written and is one of my all-time favorite books.

  24. nhilton said

    As lesson #8, Sermon on the Mount, approaches, perhaps it would be helpful to revive this post and ask how others see the beatitudes as sequential. One perspective is that the first four are focused on our relationship with God and the next four are focused on our relationship with other people. Likewise, the ten commandments follow a similar relationship pattern.

  25. Robert C. said

    nhilton, I’ve been thinking about this more, esp. in terms of the sequence of the covenants in the temple–I think there is indeed an interesting sequence to all of these things, but I don’t have a lot to say about it yet, the ideas are still germinating I guess. I do like how you tie this into the sequence of the 10 commandments (Cheryl’s outline I think complements this notion).

    Also, on another thread Joe gave a link to some symoblism that took an hour glass shape, and that’s got me thinking more about this: Being poor in spirit is the first step, and (with the Telestial of D&C 76 in mind) some knees will not bow till the very “end.” Others will learn to mourn their own sins, the Terrestrial. But it is the truly meek (I have Alma 32 in mind here–those that humble themselves without being compelled) and those that hunger and thirst after righteousness that will be merciful and receive mercy, enter into God’s presence, and then be sent out as “peacemakers” to declare the Gospel (I have Isa 6 in mind here), and they will be persecuted. Parts of this sequential way of thinking seem a bit forced, but other parts are very helpful and interesting for me to think about….

  26. m&m said

    I’m coming late to this discussion, but I appreciated especially the ideas on self-esteem, which were first introduced to me by M. Catherine Thomas at BYU. Even still, it wasn’t until recently that the message really hit home in my heart. (FWIW, I wrote about it here). My natural creature of habit still wants to vacillate somewhere between Joe’s telestial and terrestrial persona. :) I find it difficult to consistently turn to the Lord rather than to my own strength (or lack thereof) to define myself to myself.

  27. nhilton said

    m&m, thanks for your inclusion & link here. I like your last line, “to define myself to myself.” So much of our life seems to be aimed at “discovering who we are,” “coming into our own,” or whatever cliche you want to use. I think this is the main point of the temptations of Christ, his identity in question–not in HIS mind, but in all others’. In raising children I wonder how I can “cut to the chase” with my kids, helping them get to the heart of their identity and bypass the world’s self-esteem byway.

  28. BrianJ said

    nhilton, et al: thanks for the thoughtful post and the discussion. I’ve been thinking about the “progression model” for the beatitudes, and like Robert (#25), I think it is useful to read it this way, except that in some part it seems a bit forced:

    1) Poor in spirit: after looking in the Greek lexicon, it seems that “poor” here is used in the sense of begging; i.e. those that are “begging for the Spirit.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have little of the Spirit, are not spiritual, etc. They could have an abundance of the Spirit in comparison to most men, yet feel a lack in comparison to God. Hence, they plead with God that he will impart more of his “wealth.”

    2) The word “mourn,” in the Greek lexicon, seems to mean those who are lamenting loss—such as a loved one or some personal misfortune. I don’t see any connection of this to godly sorrow; i.e. the way one might “mourn” for their sins. So I think it is a stretch to equate this with repentance. Instead, this is a promise from God: “You will be comforted/consoled.”

    3) I don’t see the connection between meekness and baptism. True, one who is meek will probably be baptized because they will meekly follow the promptings of the Spirit, but then we could connect meekness with any sort of obedience. Also, I don’t see how the reward for meekness—inherit the earth—relates to baptism at all. Rather, I see Jesus making a point: “The spoils of war, competition, and aggression ultimately go to those who didn’t fight or compete.”

    4-8) I think these flow very nicely in the pattern you suggest, especially with the added words in 3 Nephi for point #4. I will say just one thing about #7: Peacemakers/Share Gospel. I hope you meant this in a broad sense of “let you life so shine” rather than in the narrower, missionary-minded sense of “go out and get people baptized.” In the broad sense, I think this is exactly what Jesus had in mind: those who live the Gospel are peacemakers.

  29. nhilton said

    BrianJ, Thank you for your interpretation. I really like your addition to #1 in the “progression model.”

    In considering your comments I turn to Mosiah 18:8-10 and see that it basically encapsulates this model I’ve drawn. Perhaps it better connects for us the relationship between mourning and baptism.

    Bearing one another’s burdens (or mourning) is a corollary to being poor in spirit and seeking baptism. V. 10 is a beautiful entreaty to be meek and enter into this covenant. I can’t read that verse without “feeling” the meekness required to undergo this ordinance. Perhaps this is why we must become as a little child before we can enter into God’s kingdom. The last line of that verse spells out the effect of baptism, being #4 in the diagram, a pouring “out (of) his Spirit more abundantly upon you”.

    I do think #7 means being a peacemaker by letting our light shine. But I think this title “Peacemaker” can include many things: temple work, being a friend and, indeed, declaring the gospel with the intent to baptize.

  30. brianj said

    nhilton: I didn’t mean to suggest that proselytizing can’t part of peacemaking, I was just double-checking that you were not suggesting that proselytizing was the full meaning of peacemaking. Based on #29, it appears that we are in agreement.

    I think we are still in disagreement, however, over the pattern of the first beatitudes. I see what you mean about Mosiah 18 (I edited your link, by the way, to incorporate all three verses) pointing to baptism, but I do not see the beatitudes doing this. To be clear, I do not think that the beatitudes are at odds with a faith-repentance-baptism motif, nor are they at odds with Mosiah 18, but the later clearly is about baptism while the former…well, I don’t think it is.

  31. nhilton said

    Brianj, if the Beatitudes are truly “the blueprint for perfection,” then how can baptism NOT be part of the meaning? Especially in light of the literary placement of the sermon, soon after John the Baptist & Jesus’s baptism. It seems that w/o specifically mentioning baptism, it’s certainly inferred.

  32. brianj said

    nhilton: Let’s clarify what is meant by, “…baptism NOT be part of the meaning.” I think it’s fine that you read the Sermon and think about baptism. If one is going to be a true follower of Jesus—which is what the Sermon is all about—then almost certainly baptism will come into play. So here is how I see where we differ: You are saying that a complete reading of the beatitudes must include thoughts on baptism (your words: “[baptism is] certainly inferred”), whereas I am saying that baptism is not central to Jesus’ message here (baptism is just one of many, many outward signs of obedience).

    Replace “baptism” with paying tithing, attending church meetings, etc., and that may make my point better. They are all signs of obedience, which is brought about by meekness, but they are not the point that Jesus was making. Yet, your post equates meekness with baptism.

  33. nhilton said

    Brianj, I think baptism is all about being meek. I agree that there are other ways to be or exhibit meekness, but when we accept to die & be reborn, give up our name & be called by another with all the ensuing obligations of baptism, I think it requires mightly meekness. :) Also, I don’t think the Beatitudes could progress without the requisite baptism being part of the process. Somewhere baptism must come into play if progession is to continue. The only other option is that baptism ALREADY occurred before the first step of the sequential climb.

  34. brianj said


    “Somewhere baptism must come into play if progession is to continue.”

    “Somewhere paying tithing must come into play if progession is to continue.”

    “Somewhere obeying the Word of Wisdom must come into play if progession is to continue.”

    I don’t see the difference between those statements. They all require meekness, but none of them encompass meekness entirely, nor are any of them entirely defined by meekness.

    “Also, I don’t think the Beatitudes could progress without the requisite baptism being part of the process. Somewhere baptism must come into play if progession is to continue.”

    I agree. And many good people (who are poor in spirit, mourn, and are meek) live without the Gospel, and so have no access to baptism until after they die. Are they “stalled” at step #3 during this life?

    “The only other option is that baptism ALREADY occurred before the first step of the sequential climb.”

    Unless it’s not sequential. Can I be a peacemaker (step 7), even though I’m not so pure in heart (step 6)? Can I endure persecution (step 8), even though I struggle with being merciful (step 5)?

  35. brianj said

    Let me try to make another point clear: I think it is a very good idea to look at our ordinances, such as baptism, and ask, “How do these relate to the beatitudes?” I just don’t think the beatitudes fit into the same linear progression as the ordinances.

    How does baptism relate to meekness?
    How does the sacrament relate to being poor in spirit?
    How does the temple endowment relate to meekness?
    How does baptism relate to being pure in heart?
    How does temple marriage relate to being a peacemaker?

  36. nhilton said

    Brianj, you make good points and offer me food for thought. Thank you.

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