Reg Christensen lives in the Midwest with his wife, Carol. They have seven children and seventeen grandchildren. Reg has fulfilled a variety of callings in the Church and he and Carol have been blessed with many service opportunities as Pathway missionaries and service volunteers at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, to mention a few. While living in Jerusalem, they served in the Bethlehem branch, Carol as the Relief Society president and Reg as the branch president. His happy times come from being with family and friends, reading, writing, woodworking, leathercrafting, exploring nature, and blessing lives with his handyman skills. He has published several books including, Unlocking Isaiah: Lessons and Insights that Draw Us to the Savior.
Over the decades I’ve tackled a variety of home improvement projects. While working on enlarging a window opening in our basement bedroom, it was rather humiliating to not be more skilled than I was, considering the number of years lived and the opportunities I have had to learn. One of my life fantasies is to have a fully-equipped wood shop and a master craftsman to teach me, but it is not likely to happen in this life—perhaps in the next.
With this repair project, as with so many things in life, I relate well to what Elder Neal A. Maxwell described as “divine discontent.” He taught,
“It is left to each of us to balance contentment regarding what God has allotted to us in life with some divine discontent resulting from what we are in comparison to what we have the power to become. Discipleship creates this balance on the straight and narrow path.”
A Fully-Equipped Shop
Although my skill level in many areas falls far short of where I often wish it were, I am grateful for the things I am able to do and look forward to ongoing eternal progress. In making such life-progress, we do have a fully equipped shop—life on planet earth. We also have a master teacher ready to assist us—our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will tutor us as we invite Him to do so. He invites us to learn of and from Him. He has the qualifications—humility and meekness—to properly guide us. He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Our task in the tutoring process is to “[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit . . . and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.” (Mosiah 3:19)
Humility and Meekness Invite A Happy Life
Humility and Meekness are two great essentials of a happy and productive life. In my understanding of the terms, humility is how we respond to our Heavenly Parents and Their plan for us. Consider these questions as we evaluate our humility:
- Do we seek to learn of Them and Their ways?
- Are we grateful for all They provide for us?
- Do we show our gratitude by sharing our gifts?
- Do we pray?
- Are we working to improve our shortcomings?
- Do we seek to follow the Lord’s example in all things?
Meekness is how we respond to those who live with us in our “workshop”—our planet. Let’s consider a few questions about our involvement in meekness:
- Do we seek to get genuinely acquainted?
- Do we value each child of our Heavenly Parents?
- Do we withhold unrighteous judgment?
- Do we seek to use our gifts and talents to serve others?
- Are we willing to share with others the source of our joy and peace?
- Do we mourn when others mourn?
- Do we offer positive recognition and encouragement without envy or jealousy?
One of the most sublime examples of the doctrine of humility is found in the Lord’s revealed vision to the prophet Abraham about the creation and purpose of the heavens and the earth. The Lord discusses His various creations and describes how the stars and planets vary in glory and placement in the universe, even describing one celestial orb that is the “greatest of all” and is “nearest” unto Him. He then shifts the discussion from stars and planets to spirits—to human souls.
“And the Lord said unto me. These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.” (Abraham 3:16, 19)
That statement—“I am more intelligent than they all”—would not be a statement of humility but rather of arrogance were it to come from any mortal, but coming from God it is a simple, honest statement of fact without pride or pretense. And not only are our Heavenly Parents and our Savior more intelligent than any individual—They have more intelligence than the combined knowledge of all people of all the universe. We find the supreme humility in the declaration when we consider what it is that They do with Their superior intelligence:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
The Impact of the Atonement
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the central occurrence of the plan to bestow eternal life upon us. In the fulfillment of the Atonement, Christ demonstrated the ultimate humility in His descent “below all things.” Elder David A. Bednar said,
“Humility generally denotes dependence upon God and the constant need for His guidance and support.”
The manifestation of our humility comes when we lay aside the darkness and temptations of our mortal, fallen world and come unto Christ in willingness to accept His gospel and live as He invites us to live. In so doing, we realize that we are not in competition with others for the prize of eternal life—there is ample provision for all to attain such glory and blessing. There is no maximum seating capacity in the celestial kingdom. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught,
“Our only valid spiritual competition is with our old selves, not with each other.”
Humility Is a Byproduct of Our Striving
A grand key in our quest to gain eternal life is how we regard and serve others. If we really understand humility and strive for it, we naturally engage ourselves in the well-being of others and lose ourselves in service to them. C. S. Lewis said,
“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
Rather than obsess with our own humility, we do best to go about living as Christ would have us live and let humility develop as a byproduct of our striving. And when we do receive compliments, we do well to remember that such are not necessarily what we are, but rather what we should be, and so we keep striving.
We may remind ourselves to be grateful for the talents we have been given and for our opportunities to use them to love and serve others and then continue to do so.
In the workshop of life, we encounter every imaginable sort of person who will challenge our patience and test our humility. Real tests come as we are mistreated by others. It is relatively easy to love those who love us, but let someone get under our skin and expose our weaknesses or malign our strengths or accomplishments—therein come our real tests. But therein also come some of our most valuable opportunities for growth.
A wise author, James Ferrell, wrote this about finding peace in Christ through our growth opportunities:
“Being mistreated is the most important condition of mortality, for eternity itself depends on how we view those who mistreat us.”
When we are mistreated, as we all are, we do well to remember with gratitude the blessing of living in a workshop with Christ as our mentor. He taught us how to handle our mistreatments and natural weaknesses:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)
Understanding True Meekness
The character trait of meekness is properly developed as we strive to put into play the humility we gain by learning of and following our Savior. Elder Bednar said,
“The Christlike quality of meekness often is misunderstood in our contemporary world. Meekness is strong, not weak; active, not passive; courageous, not timid; restrained, not excessive; modest, not self-aggrandizing; and gracious, not brash. A meek person is not easily provoked, pretentious, or overbearing and readily acknowledges the accomplishments of others.”
When we someday reunite with our Savior, we will recognize Him as meekness in perfection. Elder Maxwell taught,
“Meekness, however, is more than self-restraint; it is the presentation of self in a posture of kindness and gentleness, reflecting certitude, strength, serenity, and a healthy self-esteem and self-control.”
Our Standing Before God
As we develop in our humility to live as Christ would have us live, we find a lessening of our desire for the praise and recognition of the world. It is a great thing to come to wonder more about our standing before God and less about how others see us. We learn how not to approach the development of meekness from one of my favorite classic movies, Camelot.
Sir Lancelot was a strong and capable knight in King Arthur’s court. He was obsessed with his own perceived humility and made sure everyone knew that he was fast approaching a perfect state. The advice he received from Queen Guinevere is apropos for all of us:
“For I would not have you declare yourself to the world until you have proved your worthiness. Wherefore do not yourself proclaim your name, but wait until the world proclaimeth it.”
Our Savior taught,
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” (Matthew 6:3)
Gratitude For Humanity
Essential to growing in humility and meekness is developing gratitude for the vast melting pot of humanity of our earth, the intimate circles of our own families, and the limitless opportunities we have to learn and grow from our interactions one with another. Elder Maxwell taught,
“It is clear that in our daily labors, in our families . . . is a significant share of the clinical material that God has given us to practice on. This means we will experience at each other’s hands some pain, some lack of finesse, and certainly some genuine mistakes. In fact, as we see each other developing and growing (as well as sometimes when we are not at our best), we are privy to an intimate and precious thing.”
A few years ago, as we lived and served in Jerusalem at the Brigham Young University Center, I was “privy to an intimate and precious thing” through my friendship with one of my fellow volunteers. His wife was the organist for the Center, and he helped with the many music programs. Each Sunday evening, the Center hosts a free classical music concert for the community, attended mostly by a consistently packed house of our Jewish neighbors.
At the direction of the professional program director of the center, renowned musicians—not only from Israel but from Europe and beyond—are scheduled a few years in advance to perform. My friend, with his happy countenance and lingering remnants of the southern Idaho twang still in his speech, took his turn announcing the programs. I sensed that he occasionally struggled to properly pronounce the names of the musicians, composers, and selection titles. One day the program director, who had served faithfully for over a quarter-century in her post and worked with many volunteers like us, demonstrated her vintage Israeli in-your-face manner as she commented to my friend, “Of all the volunteers through the years, you are the very worst at pronouncing names and titles.”
He was completely unruffled and his constant happy countenance and bright smile seemed to not even slightly diminish as he replied, “Isn’t that wonderful!—you will always have something to remember me by.” With that, he went about his business, not seeming to give the rebuke a second thought. I am sure he tried to do better and that he still made some mistakes, but he was in tune to where he stood with God and seemed to look at his temporal interactions with others as just that—temporary growth opportunities in the workshop of life. He was a humble and meek man. My life is better for the blessing of having known him.
Note: I do not want to give a wrong impression of the program director. She is a warm, friendly, and wonderful person who seemed to have a good rapport with everyone—particularly with my friend and his wife as they worked so closely together with the music. Her seeming brashness in this example was, in my opinion, mostly just a reflection of their culture. She may have even been speaking somewhat lightheartedly and certainly did so with love and respect for my friend and for all people.
The following hymn offers a good summary of the doctrines of humility and meekness. Enjoy your pondering of it and consider how embracing these attributes can impact our leadership in our homes, community and church:
“Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee, Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers.
Be thou humble in thy pleading, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee, Shall bless thee with a sweet and calm assurance that he cares.
Be thou humble in thy calling, and the Lord thy God shall teach thee To serve his children gladly with a pure and gentle love.
Be thou humble in thy longing, and the Lord thy God shall take thee, Shall take thee home at last to ever dwell with him above.”