Camina Conmigo Message from Presidente Bruce
I don’t know how you feel but I get a little restless in my seat whenever I hear a prophet say something like; “I have been meditating” or “this has been on my mind” or “I feel inspired to say” or words to that affect. Whenever I hear these words or similar unto them, my ears perk up and I listen, obey and follow the counsel of my leaders. I recall one experience when President Hinckley said words similar to this when he said: “I am not prophesying here, but dark economic clouds are on the horizon and we need to be prepared”. Boy was he right! I went home and within a week had sold a big, fancy car that I had just recently purchased because I wanted to follow the prophet and did not want to be in debt!
These past few conferences, many were the inspired words that were spoken but one of the talks that penetrated my heart and remains with me today was delivered by the same apostle that called Sister Bruce and I to serve in this marvelous mission with each of you, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. In Priesthood meeting session of General Conference, President Uchtdorf said: “I have felt a similar burden during the past few months”. President Uchtdorf was referring to President Ezra Taft Benson’s landmark talk of 1989 entitled “Beware of Pride” where President Benson commenced his discourse by stating: “this topic has been weighing heavily on my soul for some time”. Time to sit up straight and listen right?
As I think about the greatness and wonder of the Chile Antofagasta Mission and the inspiring and dedicated missionaries that have been sent to us, I often say that I am proud to be associated with this blessed mission, our celestial missionaries and the people living within the boundaries of our mission. Like Ammon (Alma 29), I could say: “What great blessings has he bestowed upon us” and “behold the number of our sheaves” whereupon his brother Aaron stated: “Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting”. Ammon’s response to his brother in Alma 29: 11-12 is the perfect answer as he says “I know that I am nothing” and “I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things”. So it is with my pride for our mission, our missionaries and our placement here in this mission at this time for in his strength we can do all things. Nonetheless, I feel that it is important to follow the counsel of President Benson and most recently by President Uchtdorf in being aware of Pride and as President Uchtdorf says: “Every mortal has at least a casual if not intimate relationship with this sin of pride. No one has avoided it; few overcome it”.
As all of us will be confronted with the sin of Pride and I testify that each of you will, I want to bring a few ideas to your attention and ensure that each of us is fighting to place our strength in the Lord for in him we can do all things. Many years ago, I was praying fervently to find a new counselor in my Bishopric. As I prayed, meditated and sought divine assistance on this matter, a name came frequently to my mind and I continued to dismiss the name due to the perceived personality of the individual being directed to me. After careful and prayerful consideration, I recommended this humble brother to the Stake President and shortly thereafter he was called to serve as my counselor. A short time later, we were traveling with several youth through Utah and I noticed that none of the youth would travel with this newly called counselor and his wife and thus I decided to turn our car over to Sister Bruce so that I could travel with this good man and his wife and get to know them better. As I jumped into his car and in an act of “smoothing things over” I remarked, “wow, this car is lovely and comfortable, the youth have no idea what they are missing”! This good man looked back at me and said words that I will never forget: “Oh Bishop, we are not cool, fun or exciting. In fact we are kind of nerdy. The youth don’t want to be a part of our car”. His expression of self-doubt, humility and selflessness where evident as I fought back my own tears and thought how prideful it was that our youth would not learn and be edified by this great man and his wife. In humility and without guile this man served by my side for 5 years as my counselor teaching me ever so much about placing the will of the Lord before our own.
Reading through President Uchtdorf's talk, he makes some very valid and extremely poignant points that we must consider especially in our mission where the Lord has smiled so brightly upon us. He says: “Pride is a sin of comparison. Pride is the great sin of self-evaluation”. He goes on to say: “When we focus on our own importance, power, or reputation; when we dwell upon our public image and believe our own press clippings- that’s when the trouble begins; that’s when pride begins to corrupt”. As we are in a field of labor wherein our sheaves are numbered, measured and compared, we too must be cognizant of this self-evaluation and ensure that we place the Lords will before our own and make sure that we are not caught up in self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance or haughtiness. After May’s experience of reading the Book of Mormon together, we all now are ever more aware that Pride is what brought down the nations of the Book of Mormon (see Moroni 8:27) and a recurring theme throughout the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 23:1, 25:14, 38:39). Interestingly, President Benson states that the central theme of Pride is enmity which means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition” which is the method by which Satan attempts to reign over us.
As you can imagine, this is constantly on my mind since I am extremely competitive by nature and Pride is also competitive by nature pitting our will against the will of the Lord. C.S. Lewis once said: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it then the next man”. Reflecting upon these words and analyzing my competitive spirit, it makes me ever on the guard to insure that our mission continues to great heights but at the same time we stay humble and meek as we endeavor to lift all the missions in our beloved country of Chile and throughout Latin America. I testify to you that God is pleased with our efforts, with our success and with our efforts; however, in a united fashion we need to be aware that it is the Lord who has given us our success and we are nothing without his infinite power upon us.
Lastly I wanted to touch on a final aspect of Pride that not only affects our mission but all missions throughout the world and unfortunately, the church in general. As President Benson says: “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, 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”. Elders and Sisters, my heart aches when missionaries write to me, call me or interview with me and share their tears of disappointment because another one of their fellow missionary brothers or sisters in our mission has said something derogatory, inflammatory or degrading toward them or has spread falsehoods about them only to lift up and elevate themselves. Elders and Sisters, please refrain from such actions as “Unity is impossible for a proud people, and unless we are one, we are not the Lord’s”. As stated in our Mission Vision, we must be united to draw upon the powers of heaven and receive of the Lords goodness. As Elder Uchtdorf says: “When our heart is in the right place, we do not complain that our assigned task (sector, companion, assignment) is unworthy of our abilities. We gladly serve wherever we are asked”. He also calls us his “beloved fellow disciples of the gentle Christ”. Can you picture President Uchtdorf with his handsome smile and wonderful demeanor saying these words to each of us here in our mission? Let us be beloved fellow disciples of the gentle Christ, humble, submissive and meek in putting the will of the Lord before our own.
I pray that each of us can be like my former counselor who is humble, meek and always without guile. I always tell him that I hope he smiles upon me when I am judged so that his righteous ways will provide trailing glory to bring me up also to his high standing in the kingdom of God. May we be of the same mind and attitude is my prayer for all of us.