Thursday, November 12, 2015

Joseph F. Smith on the dangers of ignorance and of pride

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
"Among the Latter-day Saints, the preaching of false doctrines disguised as truths of the gospel, may be expected from people of two classes, and practically from these only; they are:
"First—The hopelessly ignorant, whose lack of intelligence is due to their indolence and sloth, who make but feeble effort, if indeed any at all, to better themselves by reading and study; those who are afflicted with a dread disease that may develop into an incurable malady—laziness.
"Second—The proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamp of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings. More dangerously ignorant than the first.
"Beware of the lazy and the proud; their infection in each case is contagious; better for them and for all when they are compelled to display the yellow flag of warning, that the clean and uninfected may be protected."
- Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor vol. 41 (Mar. 1906), p. 178; see also Gospel Doctrine p. 373

This is a classic warning from President Smith, now well over a century past. We sometimes view our own time as so much more sophisticated, and don't realize how similar the problems of the past were to what we experience today. But this caution seems so very applicable to our own modern-day challenges.

A good "personal evaluation" in this situation would be:

  1. What am I doing to make sure I'm not "hopelessly ignorant"? If I am one of those who "make but feeble effort, if indeed any at all, to better themselves by reading and study"—then I am afflicted by the dread disease of laziness. I should be working to improve my understanding and knowledge!
  2. What am I doing to make sure I'm not "proud and self-vaunting"? Do I resist counsel and advice, preferring "the lamp of [my] own conceit" to give me understanding and direction? If so, I've fallen into the trap "more dangerous" than the one of ignorance.
I am forever grateful for reminders from inspired leaders that help me in the quest for discipleship.

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