Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NOVEL

A friend asked me to read a manuscript for a novel. A large one. The basic story line is of a teenage girl suddenly becoming a queen (of course complete with fantasy worlds,  peoples and things).  It actually was OK – not bad, really – quite readable.  I encouraged the author to seek a publisher.  Later the author asked if I would read the sequel – Part II of 3.  It is like most sequels. And larger. I am struggling to read it despite the story being mostly an extension and expansion that fleshes out the worlds, peoples and things – it is months and I am still not finished!

In the novel the young queen is – well – young.  That makes for adventure right there does it not? Terrific and terrible all rolled into one.  She has wonderful abilities to heal and help people and also conceal that it is her that is doing it but they all know she is a ‘healer’ and that her touch can heal.  Of course, they don’t know the extent of her power.  She doesn’t either – and parenthetically neither, apparently, does the author as it never quite gets to where this reader thinks the natural, if this then that, extension should lean.

As the various people meet their ‘queen’ they close their eyes and drop to one knee.  I ponder in my mind, “Whom would I kneel to?  And would I be willing to close my eyes while doing so?” Anyone? Symbolically? Do I submit my own selfishness for the good of my husband? my family? Am I obedient to good and appropriate council? The queen meets with a race of giants – they willingly kneel and close their eyes.  They are some of her friendliest, wisest, kindest people. 

This morning as I dozed at the edge of awakening I considered this story and the giants.  They were among the wisest of the wise, and by sheer size some of the most powerful.  To kneel before someone is to acknowledge someone as greater than I, myself, am.  My pondering thoughts wandered and mingled into short and silly dreams. I got up earlier than necessary in disgust. Yet my mind holds to the thought thread – I kneel when I pray.

To kneel before their young and sometimes foolish/impetuous queen, and close their eyes the giants  gave their safety and well being to her.  What or whom do I give myself to? The giants were not too proud to acknowledge her power AND her position.  I consider, “Am I too proud to ________” but the list I begin to debate in my mind must be set aside to answer the phone.

I find those same lists again in a 1989 General Conference talk (reprinted in part for the October 2003 New Era) by Ezra Taft Benson about pride. It is only a few keystrokes away on lds.org and easily perused.  
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The Heart of Pride
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” Ezra Taft Benson
These are strong words. This is definitely not milk for babies. He continues at length and finishes with even meatier words, 
“Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.
The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness.  It is the broken heart and contrite spirit.”

Am I humble? Meek? Submissive? Will I kneel to God? Close my eyes and beg his mercy? Am I full of enmity? Or any of these other ‘elements’ listed? -  towards you, my family or fellow human beings? things like hard-heartedness, being easily offended, or competitiveness that pits my intellect, opinions, work, wealth, talent, or any other thing against you in attempts to elevate myself or diminish you, or in other ways make you feel like an adversary?

Ezra Taft Benson states that, “[Pride] can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.

Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him. He thinks this lowers his position. …”
GASP!!!! There are those lists again. The ones I personally struggle with.  And he is far from finished.  He continues by listing the
“Forms of Pride.
Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking. …
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.
Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. Contention ranges from a hostile spoken word to worldwide conflicts. The scriptures tell us that “only by pride cometh contention”

The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures.

The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure…
Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.”
I hope you can forgive me for all the times I have been or may ever be puffed up in pride, full of selfishness, disobedience, mockery or contention. I am working on it. I will continue to do so. 
Ezra Taft Benson is a prophet of God.  His words stir my heart. I want to do better.  Perhaps I can start by remembering to always kneel before God and close my eyes as I pray for his forgiveness and yours. 

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