Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Envy and Selfishness

                    Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when we realize the dangers of envy and selfishness in our midst and work to eliminate them.  Parents as well as leaders and teachers are in good positions to catch envy and selfishness in their infant stages and destroy them.  Envy and selfishness divide individuals and groups of people; they destroy unity.  These are universal sins that lead to greed and covetousness - which often lead to even more serious sins such as adultery, robbery, and murder.

                    President Barack Obama and the Democrats have embarked on a course of class warfare and increasing envy in certain groups of citizens because of the achievements of other groups of people.   Through class warfare, they are dividing our nation between the "haves" and the "have nots" - those who have received many blessings (earned and/or unearned) and those who are not so obviously blest.  Just as class warfare is dividing our nation, these same tactics divide communities and families.  Their origin is Satan.

                    We must not listen to the "sirens" of those who seek to divide us and focus our attention on the counsel of prophets and apostles who teach us how to have unity.  On May 21, 1989, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at a Fireside at the University of Utah Institute of Religion:  "I wish every one of you might have some of the good things of life, but I hope your desire will not come of covetousness, which is an evil and gnawing disease….
                    "Let not selfishness canker your relationship.  Let not covetousness destroy your happiness.  Let not greed, for that which you do not need and cannot get with honesty and integrity, bring you down to ruin and despair….

                    "Of course, none of us ever has enough.  At least that is what we think.  No matter our circumstances, we want to improve them.  This, too, is good if it is not carried to an extreme.  I am satisfied that the Father of us all does not wish His children to walk in poverty.  He wants the best for them.  He wants them to have comforts and some of the good things of the earth….
                    "It is when greed takes over, when we covet that which others have, that our affliction begins.  And it can be a very sore and painful affliction" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 252). 

                    Envy and selfishness are the roots of more serious problems.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about envy in his conference address in April 2012 and explained why we should not harbor it or let it take root in us.  He reviewed the Savior's parable about a householder who "went out early in the morning to hire labourers." The householder hired the first group at 6:00 in the morning and promised to pay them a certain wage.  Recognizing that he needed more workers, he hired another group at 9:00 a.m., another group at 12:00 noon, and another group at 3:00 in the afternoon.  The householder came back "about the eleventh hour" (approximately 5:00 p.m.) and hired still another group. 

About 6:00 p.m. all the workers came to the householder to receive their day's wage and received the same wage.  The workers who had been laboring since 6:00 a.m. were quite upset that they received the same wage as those who had labored only one hour, and they voiced their disapproval, saying, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."  (See Matthew 20:1-15.)  They obviously felt that an injustice had been done.

Elder Holland explained that "no one has been treated unfairly here.  The first workers agreed to the full wage of the day, and they received it…."  The householder had treated the first workers with justice and the latter workers with compassion.  Elder Holland continued, "It is with that reading of the story that I feel the grumbling of the first laborers must be seen.  As the householder in the parable tells them (and I paraphrase only slightly):  `My friends, I am not being unfair to you.  You agreed on the wage for the day, a good wage.  You were very happy to get the work, and I am very happy with the way you served.  You are paid in full.  Take your pay and enjoy the blessing.  As for the others, surely I am free to do what I like with my own money.'  Then this piercing question to anyone then or now who needs to hear it:  `Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?'"

We have all experienced seeing someone receive an "unexpected blessing" "or special recognition."  Elder Holland pleaded with us "not to be hurt - and certainly not to feel envious - when good fortune comes to another person?  We are not diminished when someone else is added upon.  We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed.  The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.

"Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving.  Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know!  What a bright prospect that is - downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!  To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him `all that he hath," [see Luke 12:44] as the scripture says.  So lesson number one from the Lord's vineyard:  coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image.  So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind.  It is a happy way to live."

Elder Holland's second lesson is that it would be a "sorrowful mistake" to "forgo the receipt of their wages at the end of the day because they were preoccupied with perceived problems earlier in the day….
"My beloved brothers and sisters, what happened in this story at 9:00 or noon or 3:00 is swept up in the grandeur of the universally generous payment at the end of the day.  The formula of faith is to hold on, work on, see it through, and let the distress of earlier hours - real or imagined - fall away in the abundance of the final reward.  Don't dwell on old issues or grievances…. 
"We consume such precious emotional and spiritual capital clinging tenaciously to memory of a discordant note we struck [in the past]…." 

Elder Holland's third and last point was:  "This parable - like all parables - is not really about laborers or wages any more than the others are about sheep and goats.  This is a story about God's goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a story about generosity and compassion.  It is a story about grace.  It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don't expect it and often feel they don't deserve it…." 

Elder Holland concluded his remarks by speaking "to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you - members and not yet members - who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God's love and the miracle of His grace.  His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there.

"So if you have made covenants, keep them.  If you haven't made them, make them.  If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them.  It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time…."  (See Ensign, May 2012, pp. 31-33.

There is no need for any of us to feel that injustice is being done because we perceive that other people receive more blessings.  We have a loving Father in Heaven who watches over all His children and blesses us according to our needs.  We will also receive the rewards which we have earned and can receive all that the Father has if we are worthy.  The Father has enough for all of us! We must strengthen our homes, communities, and nations by casting out envy and selfishness.

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