Saturday, May 14, 2011

To Be Less Proud: The Danger of Over-Applying Fore-Ordination

I want to make and discuss one simple point this weekend, as I have been contemplating being less proud this month.  It relates directly to a long conversation I had once with a friend about pride.  It is this:

Pride has nothing fundamentally to do with one's strengths, weaknesses, material possessions, social status, or any other "objective", measurable criterion.  Pride is an attitude - an internal outlook.  The weak, poor, uneducated, lowly, incapable, etc. person can be just as proud as the strong, wealthy, educated, prominent, capable person.

Pride is not a recognition of one's strengths.  Rather, it is a valuing of one's self over the value placed on another - a view that I am better than someone else intrinsically.  ("vaunting" one's self above others)  It is not understanding that I am better "at" something than someone else; it is a belief that I, as a person, am better "than" someone else - that my strengths make me a more valuable person than someone who is not as strong as I am in those areas.  It is a focus on elevating myself over others - and it is every bit as prevalent in the religious as in the irreligious, unfortunately. 

My biggest concern in this regard is that members of the Church too often accept the natural tendency to adopt the philosophy of "the Prosperity Gospel" at the individual level and too often make value judgments based on financial success, career paths, callings in the Church, etc.  Most members I know don't do so consciously, but there is a current coursing through much of the Chosen People rhetoric that carries a constant temptation to succumb to the notion that God chose us for a reason - and that reason must be because of some inherent "betterness". 

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the way that too many members assume that those who are born in the covenant or who convert at some point from another religion or denomination were foreordained in the pre-existence to do so - the extrapolation of passages in Alma and Abraham, for example, to all within the Church.  The flip side of this coin is the unstated assumption that those who are not born in the covenant or who do not convert are not foreordained to that - that they are not deserving of it for some reason.I don't know for sure about such things, but I am concerned about the subtle, pride-inducing justifications underlying such extrapolations. 

Those same justifications were used to explain the Priesthood ban before it was lifted, and Elder McConkie's admonition to "forget everything we have ever said about it" with regard to the judtifications for the ban has a place, I believe, for consideration when we view how close our statements about special valiancy in the pre-existence are to those justifications we have been told to forget with regard to race and the Priesthood.   

I'm NOT rejecting the concept of foreordination - not at all.  I do believe in it - to some degree and for some people.  However, it's a fine line between foreordination and predestination, and it's a fine line between foreordination and arrogance - but it's not a fine line between a theology that offers salvation and the opportunity of exaltation to all and one that posits special status for some based on pre-existent "betterness" that elevates them above others in an important way. 

That is pride, plain and simple, and it's something of which we need to be aware and which we need to fight in all its manifestations.