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.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

How Does God Deal with Wayward Children?

             My studies of this week’s Come, Follow Me lesson took me to the book of Judges. The lesson was aptly titled “The Lord Raised Up a Deliverer.” The book of Judges is a testament of Jesus Christ and God’s love for His children. After Joshua and his generation died, the Israelites had a challenging time staying faithful to God. Through many years, the Israelites went through a cycle similar to what is known as the Pride Cycle in the Book of Mormon.

            Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy spoke about the pride cycle at Brigham Young University in November 2017. He called pride “a serious sin” and likened the pride cycle to a clock. 

Using a clock as a metaphor, let’s say that the pride cycle begins at twelve o’clock – the pinnacle of pride. When we are at twelve o’clock on the pride cycle, we … feel so successful, so intelligent, and so popular that we begin to feel invincible. We enjoy it when others compliment us on our successes, and we are irritated when others around us receive compliments on their successes. At twelve o’clock we tend not to listen to the counsel of others. We don’t need others. Sadly, we often conclude that we don’t even need God or His servants….

We can choose our conduct, but we cannot choose the consequences of our conduct. At four o’clock on the pride cycle, we experience the painful consequences of our foolish pride. We may lose the job. We may lose the girlfriend or the boyfriend. We may lose the respect of those who matter most to us. We may lose the respect of those who matter most to us…. We come face to face with our own inadequacies….

Failures and afflictions are not happy thoughts for any of us, but, ironically, we often find that they are great blessings because they tend to push us on around the pride cycle toward six o’clock humility. Our journey from four o’clock failure to six o’clock humility can be strangely exhilarating. We begin to lose our pretensions. We are no longer trying to impress those around us. We begin to see things more clearly and more honestly. We are more comfortable with criticism and can smile at our own mistakes and weaknesses….

At six o’clock on the pride cycle, when we are truly humble and meek, we turn back to God because there is often nowhere else to turn. Our hearts are now broken and our spirits are contrite….

At six o’clock we yield our broken hearts to God, and because we are humble, the Lord begins to “lead [us] by the hand, and give [us] answer to [our] prayers.” With His guidance, we continue around the pride cycle toward eight o’clock, when we invite the Spirit of the Holy Ghost into our lives once again….

Our humble obedience to the commandments powers our progress around the pride cycle toward ten o’clock, when we find ourselves in a state of blessed happiness. We experience success….

Ten o’clock on the pride cycle is a pleasant and wonderful place to be, but unfortunately it is also a very dangerous place to be. Our associates begin to pat us on the back and to compliment us for all our successes. Unfortunately, we begin to believe them….

Slowly – and without fully realizing it – we once again approach the twelve o’clock pinnacle of pride, so busy looking around for accolades that we fail to look ahead at the precipitous fall that awaits us…. And so, the incessant cycle continues

            The children of Israel followed the pride cycle for hundreds of years. When they were ready to turn to God, He provided a deliverer. Some of those deliverers – known as judges – are Gideon, Deborah, and Samson. The lesson was introduced with the following paragraph:

We all know what it’s like to make a mistake, feel bad about it, and then repent and resolve to change our ways. But in some cases, we forget our earlier resolve, and, when we face temptation, we may find ourselves making the mistake again. This tragic pattern is typical of the Israelites’ experiences described in the book of Judges. Influenced by the beliefs and worship practices of the Canaanites – whom they were supposed to drive out of the land – the Israelites broke their covenants with the Lord and turned away from worshipping Him. As a result, they lost His protection and fell into captivity. And yet each time this happened, the Lord gave them the chance to repent and raised up a deliverer, a military leader called a “judge.” Not all of the judges in the book of Judges were righteous, but some of them exercised great faith in delivering the children of Israel and restoring them to their covenant relationship with the Lord. These stories remind us that no matter what has led us way from Jesus Christ, He is the Redeemer of Israel and is always willing to deliver us and welcome us back to Him.

            Most of us have traveled the pride cycle numerous times. The length of time spent in each time period is not constant as we travel around the “clock.” On one trip around the cycle, we may take five years or more years, and another time we may travel the distance in minutes or hours. Another fact that we should all understand is that we are not stuck in a groove and forced to travel around the pride cycle.

            Elder Anderson taught that “there are two points on the pride cycle where we can exit – one to our eternal destruction and the other to our everlasting happiness.”

At four o’clock, when we are facing failure or affliction and feel like all is lost, if instead of becoming humble we become angry; if we lose hope or give in to self-pity; or if we begin to blame others – including God – for our misfortune, then we will exit the pride cycle. But we will exit downward to destruction, as did the Nephites of old.

But at ten o’clock, when it seems like we can do no wrong, when all I s going well, if instead of becoming proud we become thankful, then we will exit the pride cycle. But this time we will exit upward toward God. To exit the pride cycle at ten o’clock, we must recognize that every blessing we receive comes from Heavenly Father. He is the source of all that is good in our lives – the fount of every blessing. We must embrace King Benjamin’s teaching that we “all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind.”

A successful ten-o’clock escape from the powerful pull of the pride cycle is not easy, but it is possible.

            The principle that I wish you to remember is that the Lord offers deliverance when we stray. The book of Judges can serve as a warning to us: even after we experience the Lord’s power in our lives, it is always possible to fall away. The book can also provide encouragement to those who do fall away, for the Lord offers a way back.

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