The Proverbs are ascribed to Solomon. How did Solomon get so smart?
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. (1 Kings 3:5-12)
And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore.
And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country and all the wisdom of Egypt.
...And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom. (1 Kgs. 4:29-34)
"Question: How did proverbs come to be-and how were they used in olden times?
"Keith H. Meservy: Proverbs belong to a literary classification known as wisdom literature: sayings of wise men who crystallized their advice into short, pithy statements. These were usually, but not necessarily, expressed in two-line couplets, the second of which emphasized the meaning of the first by an antithetical statement ('A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother' [Prov. 10:11]); or by a complementary or parallel idea ('The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding' [Prov. 9:10]).
"The distillation of a wise idea into a succinct, well-expressed form made it easy to remember; if it were easier to remember it would be easier to pass from one generation to another. And this was the intent-to pass wisdom from the parent to the child.
"'A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and [decorative] chains about thy neck.' (Prov. 1:5-9.)
"At least five different collections of proverbs are contained within our book of Proverbs: three of Solomon's (Prov. 1:1; Prov. 10:1; Prov. 25:1), one of an unknown Agur (Prov. 30:1), and one of an unknown King Lemuel (Prov. 31:1). Solomon is given credit for having spoken three thousand proverbs. (1 Kgs. 4:32; cf. Prov. 25:1.)" (Keith Meservy, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Oct. 1973, 60)
Wisdom to govern the house of Israel was given to Solomon, and the Judges of Israel; and if he had always been their king, and they subject to his mandate, and obedient to his laws they would still have been a great and mighty people-the rulers of the universe, and the wonder of the world. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 251)
Section 1: Wisdom
Proverbs 1:7 the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge
The fear of the Lord is only the beginning. Wisdom, the correct application of knowledge, is even greater than knowledge. It belongs to those who have the fear of the Lord with them by the exercise of faith and have taken the next steps. They have added virtue to that faith; "and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge" wisdom and temperance (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Hence, the scripture later reinforces the progression "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Prov. 9:10). This passage further elucidates the difference between knowledge and wisdom. The wise gain their understanding because they have obtained knowledge of that which is holy, not because their knowledge was sequestered in a moral vacuum. The sequence can thus be rendered: faith, followed by knowledge, followed by understanding (knowledge of the holy), followed by wisdom (application of understanding or correct application of knowledge).
Joseph Fielding Smith
We know that the Lord is merciful and kind and that he does not rejoice in causing fear in the hearts of the righteous; nor does he command them to approach him in the spirit of fear in the sense in which this term is usually interpreted. It is true that the wicked will fear and tremble before him in that great day of judgment and that he is angry with the wicked, and dreadful fear and trembling will fill their hearts at his coming. The fear spoken of in these passages is in connection with the spirit of obedience, and the seeking of knowledge is quite a different thing. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 2: 2)
Spencer W. Kimball
[The fear of God is] not a superficial, intellectual kind of acceptance, but a deep spiritual inner feeling of dependence and closeness; not a fear composed of panic and terror, but a fear of the Lord composed mostly of intense love and admiration and awesome nearness in a relationship of parent and offspring-father and son-father and daughter. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 73)
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding
The person that applies his heart to wisdom, and seeks diligently for understanding, will grow to be mighty in Israel.
Let wisdom be sown in your hearts, and let it bring forth a bountiful harvest. It is more profitable to you than all the gold and silver and other riches of earth. Let wisdom spring up in your hearts, and cultivate it.
After all our endeavors to obtain wisdom from the best books, etc., there still remains an open fountain for all; "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God." Let every Latter-day Saint constantly practice himself in the performance of every good word and work, to acknowledge God to be God, to be strict in keeping his laws, and learning to love mercy, eschew evil and delight in constantly doing that which is pleasing to God. This is the only sure way to obtain influence with God and all good men. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 261)
Section 2: Trust in the Lord
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding
M. Russell Ballard
We mortals have a limited view of life from the eternal perspective. But if we know and understand Heavenly Father's plan, we realize that dealing with adversity is one of the chief ways we are tested. Our faith in our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, is the source of inner strength. Through faith we can find peace, comfort, and the courage to endure. As we trust in God and his plan for our happiness with all our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding (see Prov. 3:5), hope is born. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all we do. It can give us comfort in the face of adversity, strength in times of trial, and peace when we have reason for doubt or anguish. ("Answers to Life's Questions," Ensign, May 1995, 23-24)
Richard G. Scott
This life is an experience in profound trust-trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Prov. 3:5-7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience.
To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we knew it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love. ("Trust in the Lord," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17)
Thomas S. Monson
In August of this year, there occurred a tragedy in Salt Lake County. It was reported in the local and national press. Five beautiful little girls-so young, so vibrant, so loving-hiding away, as children often do in their games of hide-and-seek, entered the trunk of a parent's car. The trunk lid was pulled shut, they were unable to escape, and all perished from heat exhaustion.
The entire community was so kind, so thoughtful, so caring in the passing of Alisha, Ashley, McKell, Audrey, and Jaesha. Flowers, food, calls, visits, and prayers were shared.
On the Sunday after the devastating event occurred, long lines of automobiles filled with grieving occupants drove ever so slowly past the Smith home-the scene of the accident. Sister Monson and I wished to be among those who expressed condolences in this way. As we drove by, we felt we were on holy ground. We literally crept along at a snail's pace along the street. It was as though we could visualize a traffic sign reading, "Please drive slowly; children at play." Tears filled our eyes and compassion flowed from our hearts.
At the funeral, as well as the evening prior, thousands passed by the caskets and expressed support for the grieving parents and grandparents. In two of the three families, the deceased children were all the children they had.
Frequently death comes as an intruder. It is an enemy that suddenly appears in the midst of life's feast, putting out its lights and gaiety. It visits the aged as they walk on faltering feet. Its summons is heard by those who have scarcely reached midway in life's journey, and often it hushes the laughter of little children.
At the funeral services for the five little angels, I counseled: "There is one phrase which should be erased from your thinking and from the words you speak aloud. It is the phrase, 'If only.' It is counterproductive and is not conducive to the spirit of healing and of peace. Rather, recall the words of Proverbs: 'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.' "
Before the closing of the caskets, I noted that each child held a favorite toy, a soft gift to cuddle. I reflected on the words of the poet Eugene Field:
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair,
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of the pretty toys.
And as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue,-
Oh, the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face.
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through,
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue
Since he kissed them and put them there.
The little toy dog and the soldier fair may wonder, but God in His infinite mercy has not left grieving loved ones to wonder. He has provided truth. He will inspire an upward reach, and His outstretched arms will embrace you. Jesus promises to one and all who grieve, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
There is only one source of true peace. I am certain that the Lord, who notes the fall of a sparrow, looks with compassion upon those who have been called upon to part-even temporarily-from their precious children. The gifts of healing and of peace are desperately needed, and Jesus, through His Atonement, has provided them for one and all. ("Think to Thank," Ensign, Nov. 1998, 19-20)
Section 3: The words we speak
Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things doth the Lord hate... he that soweth discord among brethren
Sterling W. Sill
There is an interesting passage in the scriptures in which it is said:
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running into mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Prov. 6:16-19.)
I suppose that no matter where one might go or who might be selected to put names on the seven deadly sins, one of them would always be listed as discord. In the world today we find a lot of discord-discord between nations, discord in marriages, and discord among individuals. We often allow emotional conflicts and mental strife to cause individual internal troubles. When our appetites pull in one direction and our reason pulls in an opposite direction, we feel the division and frustration of discord.
Almost all of our sins come at least partially from discord. In the scriptural statement above, the Lord mentioned first a proud look as a sin. When one is infected with conceit and has a distorted opinion of his own importance, he sows discord not only among his brethren but among everyone else. An old proverb says that "pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov. 16:18.)
Second on the Lord's list is a lying tongue. Few things cause us more problems than lying tongues. Lying, dishonesty, and deceit have become so common that we have almost forgotten that they are sins at all. But lying is one of the most deadly of the seven deadly sins. In fact, the Lord actually mentions it twice in this particular scripture. He mentions a lying tongue as number two, and as number six he lists "a false witness that speaketh lies."
A large part of our international difficulties come because in so many ways nations try to deceive one another. Being deceitful is also one of the chief causes of both divorce and business failure. If everyone was strictly honest in meeting his responsibilities, then everyone would be far more prosperous and happier.
The Lord also hates feet that are swift in running to mischief. Many of our individual and group problems come from our self-assumed roles as troublemakers. We gossip, we quarrel, we seduce, we accuse, and we set a bad example. Someone said that the first part of his life was spoiled by his parents and the last part by his children. We often literally fulfill that awful scripture that says that a man's foes shall be those of his own household. We often act in the role of community mischief-makers and cause trouble for our neighbors and our friends. We maintain armies, police forces, and a system of courts in trying to control the troublemaking inclinations of human beings.
The Lord's list of deadly sins also mentions evil imaginations that may be centered in lust or crime or sin or sloth. No matter what they are, evil imaginations produce discords, break up families, and ruin friendships. They also cause us to lose the spirit of righteousness. They set us at odds against God and work from within to make us our own worst enemies.
Under various headings, anger and sloth (having a high content of discord) are also frequently included among the deadly sins. Jesus said:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill...
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment... (Matt. 5:21-22.)
It might be helpful for us to try to inventory all the damage that is done, the unhappiness that is caused, and the estrangements that are brought about by angry people who allow such sins as dissension, bickering, name calling, envying, jealousy, disputations, and temper tantrums to grow in their lives. These awful sins are all the offspring of anger.
In trying to justify his temper, one man said that he had to relieve his tensions by blowing his top occasionally. He thinks it helps him relieve his occupational problems by overwhelming his wife and kids with a deluge of angry, hateful, dirty words. Frequently one allows himself to become insane with anger; and after each attack of madness is past, his spirit never quite returns to where it was before. Anger breeds a whole posterity of hate, revenge, and sin.
Sloth is another of the deadly sins. Probably the highest rank that Jesus ever gave to any of the virtues was to ambition and industry, which are the opposites of sloth. Jesus came seeking the doer, the thinker, the one who was faithful to his duty. He loved those who went the second mile, those who did more than was required of them. He said that those who would inherit the celestial kingdom were those who were valiant in the testimony of Jesus. I don't know exactly what the word valiant means, but it might be a pretty good idea to look it up in the dictionary and see if it accurately describes our religious activity.
The most bitter denunciation that ever poured out upon the head of anyone was that which was poured upon the unprofitable servant who said, "I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth. . . ." The Master said, "Thou wicked and slothful servant. . . ." Then he said to those who were with him, "Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which hath ten talents. . . . And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (See Matt. 25:14-30.)
The religion of the Master has to do with love, peace, beauty, righteousness, happiness, and success. He said that we should love God with all of our hearts, and that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. He has given us an unlimited opportunity to develop harmony, contentment, obedience, and fulfillment in our own lives and make them grow there as vigorously as we choose.
If we would all declare an effective war on the deadly sins and cultivate the virtues that should grow in their places, this earth would be God's paradise, and his will would be done upon the earth as it is in heaven; then all of us would be well on our way toward the celestial kingdom.
The dictionary describes discord as a lack of agreement, disharmony between people and things. Discord is the absence of unity. It is always identified by diversity, disagreement, contention, and unhappiness. We use the term musical discord to indicate that some of the participants are out of tune. Consequently there are combinations of musical sounds that strike the ear with a harsh unpleasantness. Whether one is concerned with music or with success or with a happy life, discord identifies those jarring combinations that prevent us from obtaining our goals.
Discord distracts us from doing our duty, cuts down our profits, and destroys our happiness. It can cause us to lose the spirit of worship. We can get about as much harshness from personal disagreements, quarreling, dissension, rebellion, anger, and jealousy as from the din of some savage military conflict. The reason for discord usually comes from our lack of conformity to truth and our disobedience to God.
God has said, ". . . the spirit of contention is not of me. . . ." (3 Ne. 11:29.) God is love, peace, beauty, and a happy conscience. One of the most important objectives for our lives should be to protect ourselves against the deadly sins by replacing them with the opposite virtues and abilities, including harmony, unity, concord, agreement, happiness, and peace. (Thy Kingdom Come [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975], 117-119)
Proverbs 15:1 a soft answer turneth away wrath
President Hinckley quoted from a letter written by a woman who outlined her own marital troubles. There was "bitter tragedy" in the letter, he said, because it indicated a relationship very far different from what our Heavenly Father desires for men and women. It was similar to other letters he has received telling of unloving relationships and cruelty in the home.
"To men within the sound of my voice, I say, if you are guilty of demeaning behavior toward your wife, if you are prone to dictate and exercise authority over her, if you are selfish and brutal in your actions in the home, then stop it. Repent. Repent now, while you have the opportunity to do so.
"To you wives who are constantly complaining and see only the dark side of life, and feel that you are unloved and unwanted, look into your own hearts and minds. If there is something wrong, turn about. Put a smile on your faces. Make yourselves attractive. Brighten your outlook. You deny yourselves happiness and court misery if you constantly complain and do nothing to rectify your own faults. Rise above the shrill clamor over rights and prerogatives and walk in the quiet dignity of a daughter of God."
He listed four cornerstones on which a marriage must be built if life is to be full of joy. The first is mutual respect.
Each married person should develop respect for his or her partner and for the other's differences, he said. These should, if necessary, be resolved, but some differences can make a companionship more interesting.
"I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one's companion," an ability to look for a spouse's virtues, and a desire to encourage each other to grow and develop in many ways. Men, he advised, should encourage their wives to develop their talents; the family will be blessed by the result.
"I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It's a clever phrase, but it's false," President Hinckley commented.
"Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord." He pointed out that the Church has advised husbands to be considerate of their wives' health and strength in creating a family, and has advised couples to seek inspiration in all decisions about family matters.
The second cornerstone of marriage is the "soft answer." Couples sometimes complain that they cannot communicate with each other, he said. Yet the simple kind of meaningful conversation they had before marriage must continue afterward as well. "Can they not discuss with one another in an open and frank and candid and happy way their interests, their problems, their challenges, their desires? It seems to me that communication is essentially a matter of talking with one another. But let that talk be quiet, for quiet talk is the language of love, it is the language of peace, it is the language of God. It is when we raise our voices that tiny molehills of difference become mountains of conflict." ("News of the Church," Ensign, Apr. 1984, 75-76)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Emma was called, in the words of this revelation, to be "a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness." (D&C 25:5.) That is interesting language. She was his wife, his companion, his strength in his afflictions. She was to comfort with consoling words, given in a spirit of meekness.
I see in that the challenge to every woman who is a wife to set the tone of that which is spoken in the home. It was said of old that "a soft answer turneth away wrath." (Prov. 15:1.) It is interesting to me that in this revelation the Lord spoke of consoling words in the spirit of meekness.
There is so much of argument in the homes of the people. It is so destructive. It is so corrosive. It leads only to bitterness, heartbreak, and tears. How well advised we would be, each of us, when there is tension, when there is friction, when there is affliction, to speak with consoling words in the spirit of meekness. ("If Thou Art Faithful," Ensign, Nov. 1984, 91)
Marion G. Romney
My appeal in this message is that we control our tongues, and by speaking kind words to each other emulate in our relationships with each other the loving kindness the Lord has for his people
...In his general epistle, the apostle James gives this counsel:
Be swift to hear, [but] slow to speak. (James 1:19.)
He then thus contrasts the outspoken pretender with the man who has so bridled his tongue as to in truth control his words:
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, ... this man's religion is vain.
And then he adds:
If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 1:26; James 3:2.)
This bridling of the whole body is a lofty objective. To reach it requires a real struggle, however. For notwithstanding the tongue is a small member of the body, it is very effective and it seldom wears out. James reminds us that as with a small bit in a horse's mouth "we turn about [his] whole body" and with a very small helm great ships driven by fierce winds are easily controlled, so with the tongue, a little member of the body, great things are boasted and great fires are kindled. He charges it with being "a world of iniquity," with defiling the whole body and setting "on fire the course of nature," pointing out that although "every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." (See James 3:2-8.)
Although nearly two thousand years have passed, the evils against which James so forcefully, counseled are still with us; but they are no more consistent with the life of a Latter-day Saint than they were with the life of a former-day saint.
Long before the time of Jesus and Paul and James, the Old Testament prophets were expounding the same doctrine and giving the same advice:
"A soft answer turneth away wrath," said the wise author of Proverbs, and added, "but grievous words stir up anger.
"The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. ...
"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. ...
...The Prophet Joseph Smith told the Relief Society sisters of his day that "the tongue is an unruly member" and gave them this counsel: "Hold your tongues about things of no moment-a little tale will set the world on fire." (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5:20.)
Let us, therefore, resolve to control our tongues and by speaking kind words to each other emulate the loving kindness of our Lord. ("Speak Kind Words," Ensign, Aug. 1977, 2-3)
Robert D. Hales
Remember, "a soft answer turneth away wrath" (Prov. 15:1). When my sweetheart and I were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple, Elder Harold B. Lee gave us wise counsel: "When you raise your voice in anger, the Spirit departs from your home." We must never, out of anger, lock the door of our home or our heart to our children. Like the prodigal son, our children need to know that when they come to themselves they can turn to us for love and counsel. ("Strengthening Families: Our Sacred Duty," Ensign, May 1999, 33)
Section 4: Pride
Proverbs 13:10 only by pride cometh contention
"Contentions result from the prideful power struggle that comes from pitting ourselves-our possessions or our intellect against others. The proud are easily offended, hold grudges, withhold forgiveness, and will not receive counsel or correction. All of these internal traits become a fertile seedbed for the external manifestation of contention. The Savior warned of the evil of contention (see 3 Nephi 11:28-29), because it repels the Spirit of the Lord and opens the door to other 'fiery darts' of the adversary. 'Contention does not usually begin as strife between countries,' Elder Russell M. Nelson declared. 'More often, it starts with an individual, for we can contend within ourselves over simple matters of right and wrong. From there, contention can infect neighbors and nations like a spreading sore.... The work of the adversary may be likened to loading guns in opposition to the work of God. Salvos containing germs of contention are aimed and fired at strategic targets essential to that holy work. These vital targets include-in addition to the individual-the family, leaders of the Church, and divine doctrine.' (CR, April 1989, pp. 85-86)" (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987-1992], 3: 348)
Proverbs 16:18 pride goeth before destruction
Sylvester Q. Cannon
There is a tendency very often for men, when they are elected to positions in public office by the people, to consider that they possess some superior power as a result thereof. I am reminded of a statement made by former President Calvin Coolidge. He said:
"It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshippers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation, which sooner or later imperils their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant."
Surely we should ourselves maintain, and we should influence not only all of the officers and members of this Church, but also, as far as possible, the people of this, the greatest nation upon the earth today, to cultivate and maintain a spirit of lowliness of heart, in the midst of prosperity. If the people of this country will but recognize the source of the blessings which they enjoy, realize that intelligence, judgment and ability are given them of God, and that they should use them for the welfare of mankind, and not solely for their own selfish aggrandizement, then this nation will continue to grow and prosper, and will be able to overcome the present unfavorable conditions. The result will be to promote greater equality among men, and finer consideration for one another. On the contrary, if the spirit of pride and vain ambition shall prevail throughout the country, then the future welfare and progress of this nation, or any nation, trader such conditions, will be seriously endangered. (Conference Report, April 1931, First Day-Morning Meeting 17)
Section 5: Friendship
Proverbs 17:17 a friend loveth at all times
Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of "Mormonism;" [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers... Friendship is like Brother Turley in his blacksmith shop welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 316)
Those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; it brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes the present with the avidity of lightning; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it moves the mind backward and forward, from one thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 3:293)
L. Tom Perry
Proverbs we read, "A friend loveth at all times" (Proverb 17:17). One of the great blessings of mortal life is good friends. President David O. McKay said:
Among life's sweetest blessings is fellowship with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble. Next to a sense of a kinship with God comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends. Friendship is a sacred possession. . . . One of the principal reasons which the Lord had for establishing His Church is to give all persons high and low, rich and poor, strong and feeble an opportunity to associate with their fellowmen in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship. This [association] may be found in Priesthood quorums, Auxiliaries, Sacrament meetings. He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, to that extent starves his own soul.
President McKay also said, "True friends enrich life. If you would have friends, be one." The friends with whom we choose to associate are major contributors to the formation of our character. We form social habits by association with our friends. Good social habits can be useful and become the bases of wholesome personalities, but bad social habits can lead to antisocial attitudes and behaviors. Gradually, bad social habits tarnish our characters and severely limit our potential as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father...
My school days offered significant opportunities to build friendships. Growing up in a Mormon community sometimes presented conflicts when choosing friends. School boundaries were usually much larger than ward boundaries, so on occasion I had to choose between school friends and Church friends. I was blessed to have both kinds of friends, but I usually found that Church friends were more reliable. They had the same ideals I was trying to maintain in my life. As I have attended some of my class reunions and renewed my acquaintance with my former schoolmates, I have found that friends who have maintained the Church standards have had richer, fuller, and happier lives than those without the light of the gospel in their lives. (Living with Enthusiasm [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 49-50)
Section 6: Raising Children
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it
Gordon B. Hinckley
There is an old and true proverb which says, "As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined." May I repeat a story I have told in general conference. Not long after we were married, we built our first home. We had little money, and I did a lot of the work. The landscaping was entirely my responsibility. The first of many trees that I planted was a thornless honey locust, and I envisioned the day when its shade would assist in cooling the house in the summer. I put it in a place at the corner where the wind from the canyon to the east blew the hardest. I dug a hole, put in the bare root, put soil around it, poured on water, and largely forgot it. It was only a wisp of a tree, perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It was so supple that I could bend it with ease in any direction. I paid little attention to it as the years passed. Then one winter day when the tree was barren of leaves, I chanced to look out the window at it. I noted that it was leaning to the west, misshapen and out of balance. I could scarcely believe it. I went out and braced myself against it as if to push it upright. But the trunk was now nearly a foot in diameter. My strength was as nothing against it. I took from my toolshed a block and tackle, attaching one end to the tree and the other to a well-set post. I pulled the rope. The pulleys moved just a little, and the trunk of the tree trembled slightly. But that was all. It seemed to say to me, "You can't straighten me. It's too late. I've grown this way because of your neglect, and I will not bend."
Finally in desperation I took my saw and cut off the great heavy branch on the west side. I stepped back and surveyed what I had done. I had cut off a major part of the tree, leaving a huge scar about eight inches across and only one small branch growing skyward.
More than half a century has passed since I planted that tree. My daughter and her family now live there. I recently looked again at the tree. It is large, its shape is better, and it is a great asset to the home. But how serious was the trauma of its youth and how painful the treatment I had used to straighten it. When the tree was first planted, a piece of string would have held it against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort, but I did not. And it bent to the forces that came against it.
Children are like trees. When they are young, their lives can be shaped and directed, usually with ever so little effort. Said the writer of Proverbs, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). That training finds its roots in the home. ("Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations," Ensign, Sept. 1996, 6-7)
Gordon B. Hinckley
The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find their roots in the teaching of children by fathers and mothers.
The very structure of our society is now threatened by broken homes and the tragic consequences of those homes.
I believe that with effort we can change this course. We must begin with parents. We must provide understanding on the part of every man and woman of the eternal purposes of life, of the obligations of marriage, and of the responsibilities of parenthood. To men who beget children and then abandon them, I say that God will hold you accountable, for these are also His children, whose cries over what you have done reach up to Him. With the obligation to beget goes the responsibility to nurture, to protect, to teach, to guide in righteousness and truth. Yours is the power and the responsibility to preside in a home where there is peace and security, love and harmony.
I remind mothers everywhere of the sanctity of your calling. No other can adequately take your place. No responsibility is greater, no obligation more binding than that you rear in love and peace and integrity those whom you have brought into the world. ("Bring Up a Child in the Way He Should Go," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 60)
Section 7: Happiness and good humor
Proverbs 17:22 a merry heart doeth good like a medicine
Brethren and sisters, the thing you should have in your mind, and which you should make a motto in your life, is this: Serve God faithfully, and be cheerful. I dislike very much, and I believe people generally do, to see a person with a woe begone countenance, and to see him mourning as though his circumstances were of the most unpleasant character. There is no pleasure in association with such persons. In the family it is always a good thing for the parent to be cheerful in the presence of his wife and children. And out of that cheerfulness may arise many good gifts. The Lord has not given us the gospel that we may go around mourning all the days of our lives. He has not introduced this religion for this purpose at all. We came into the world for certain purposes, and those purposes are not of a nature that require much mourning or complaint. Where a person is always complaining and feeling to find fault, the Spirit of the Lord is not very abundant in his heart. If a person wants to enjoy the Spirit of the Lord, let him, when something of a very disagreeable nature comes along, think how worse the circumstance might be, or think of something worse that he has experienced in the past. Always cultivate a spirit of gratitude. It is actually the duty of every Latter-day Saint to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
We should enjoy our religion. No religion has in it such prospects as has the religion of the Latter-day Saints. Nothing was ever introduced to man equal to it in its grand and glorious advantages. We ought to enjoy our religion to such an extent as to be happy most all the time. (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984], 62)
Sterling W. Sill
The purpose of the gospel is to bring to men the greatest happiness. That is also the chief end of life. One of our scriptures says, ". . . men are, that they might have joy." (2 Ne. 2:25.) And Jesus said, ". . . I have spoken unto you . . . that your joy might be full." (John 15:11.) Solomon pointed out that "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine." (Prov. 17:22.) A merry heart also contains one of the finest beauty treatments. Cheerfulness puts enthusiasm in one's heart, a twinkle in his eye, a glow on his face, and a radiance into his soul.
Abraham Lincoln was once urged by a senator to appoint a certain man as postmaster. But after the interview, President Lincoln turned him down. The senator asked him why. President Lincoln said, "I did not like his face." The senator said, "You can't hold the poor man responsible for his face." But President Lincoln said, "Everyone is responsible for his face." And everyone is responsible for his attitude, his faith, his industry, his dress, his posture, the spring in his step, his honesty, his disposition, and the effect he has on other people.
To make people happy is one of the main duties of life. (Thy Kingdom Come [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975], 58)