What if we were all infected with a disease that was so contagious that just sitting in the same room would infect anyone that entered? How could it be cured? What steps would we take to keep ourselves from those infected by the disease and protect not only ourselves but also our family from contracting it?
We are going to call this contagious disease PRIDE. Ezra Taft Benson calls pride the "universal sin." Each one of us is affected by it in some degree. Just like any illness, we must first understand the symptoms in order to find the cure. Here are some of the "symptoms of pride" that might help each of us diagnose this disease in ourselves.
Self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, haughtiness, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, sign seekers, rebellious, conceit, self-pity, self-gratification, self-seeking, arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, divorces, spousal abuse, riots, disturbances, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude, praise that might lift another, being unforgiving, jealous, faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring and living beyond our means
I will just point out one example from the long list above, "easily offended." Regarding being "easily offended" President Brigham Young once said that he who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is usually a fool. It was then explained that there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may in anger, fear, or vengefully pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it." ("Even as Christ Forgave," New Era, June 1974)
Now that we have identified what causes this "disease" let's take a look at a few examples from history regarding pride. First, we know that we all lived with our Heavenly Father before we were born. We were his spirit children. Because he wanted us to be like him, he created a plan for us to come to earth, gain a physical body and have experiences that would help us grow. In the end, our Heavenly Father wants us to choose Him and return back into his presence. To do this he needed someone to carry out that plan. Let's say, he needed a "doctor" to make sure that it was taken care of properly. Lucifer or Satan wanted to execute the plan, but he wanted all the glory. He was infected with pride. Then, there was Jesus Christ who also volunteered to become our "doctor" but would not claim any praise for himself. He wanted all the praise and glory to be given to God, the Father.
The next example we have is found in the Book of Mormon. President Benson says that it is a "record of a fallen people." What caused the fall of the great Nephi nation as well as the Jaredites? This very same disease, pride. The Nephites lived for many years after the Savior appeared to the people in peace and righteousness. The scriptures teach us that there were no "ites" among the people that they were all one in Christ. After 200 years it says that "there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world." (4 Nephi 1:24) The spread of this great disease of pride eventually destroyed the entire Nephite nation.
Another example is of our Savior, Jesus Christ and his earthly life. He claimed to be the Son of God, but most did not believe him. Nathanael said in John 1:45 "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Christ performed miracles, healed the sick, taught with power from on high and walked a humble life yet others were so infected with pride that they were unable to clearly see that the Messiah was the Christ prophesied by prophets of old. President Benson said, "It was through pride that Christ was crucified. The Pharisees were wroth because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which was a threat to their position, and so they plotted His death." (See John 11:53.)
We can see from these examples that pride can and will eventually destroy us. Pride was the reason that in Joseph Smith's time, Zion could not be established. President Benson says that, "Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion." If we are called to be a Zion people, then we must cure the epidemic that is amongst our people and within ourselves.
Now, that we understand a little bit about what pride looks like, let's take a look at how we can heal ourselves from this "universal sin." Just as a doctor would use a stethoscope to check the condition of a patient's heart, we too need to take a moment to listen to our own hearts and see what kind of shape they are in. Do we "hear" within ourselves these symptoms of pride? Do we find ourselves with a hard-heart and stiff-neck? Just like medicine has specific directions that must be followed in order for us to cure ourselves of a physical ailment so does overcoming pride. President Benson said that the antidote for pride is simply humility. Only through humility can we achieve a "broken heart and a contrite spirit."
To cure ourselves of pride, the prophet has said that we must CHOOSE to be humble by…
1. conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are.
2. receiving counsel and chastisement.
3. forgiving those who have offended us.
4. rendering selfless service.
5. going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others.
6. getting to the temple more frequently.
7. confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God.
8. loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.
May we all CHOOSE to follow the Master, Jesus Christ and choose to follow him with a humble heart. Only then can we be truly "pride-free!"
Here is a handout I used while teaching this lesson. I cut out the medicine bottle and attached two lemon drop candies that were placed in a small bag. My grandmother use to call lemon drops "medicine" when we were kids and didn't feel well. She playfully said it would cure all things.