Quotes on Humility

Humility is that quality that permits us to be taught from on high through the Spirit or to be taught from sources whose origin was inspiration from the Lord, such as the scriptures and the comments of the prophets.  Humility is the precious fertile soil of righteous character.  In it the seeds of personal growth germinate.  When cultivated through the exercise of faith, pruned by repentance, and fortified by obedience and good works, such seeds produce the cherished fruit of spiritual direction.  Divine inspiration and power then result – inspiration to know the will of the Lord, power to provide the ability to accomplish that inspired will. — Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Transforming Power of Faith and Character,” Ensign, November 2010, p. 43-46

A story is told of an encounter between the Prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  In the presence of a rather large group of brethren, the Prophet severely chastised Brother Brigham for some failing in his duty.  Everyone, I suppose somewhat stunned, waited to see what Brigham’s response would be.  After all, Brigham, who later became known as the Lion of the Lord, was no shrinking violet by any means.  Brigham slowly rose to his feet, and in words that truly reflected his character and his humility, he simply bowed his head and said, “Joseph, what do you want me to do?”  The story goes that sobbing, Joseph ran from the podium, threw his arms around Brigham, and said in effect, “You passed, Brother Brigham, you passed.” — Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown – Youthful Veteran,” New Era, April 1976, p. 16

A story contained in the family lore of Brigham Young’s descendants illustrates the submissive nature of humility.  It recounts that in a public meeting the Prophet Joseph, possibly as a test, sternly rebuked Brigham Young for something he had done or something he was supposed to have done but hadn’t – the detail is unclear.  When Joseph finished the rebuke, everyone in the room waited for Brigham Young’s response.  This powerful man, later known as the Lion of the Lord, in a voice everyone could tell was sincere, said simply and humbly, “Joseph, what do you want me to do?”  (See Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown – Youthful Veteran,” New Era, Apr. 1976, 16.)

The power of that response itself brings a feeling of humility.  It reminds us that the greatest act of courage and love in the history of mankind – Christ’s atoning sacrifice – was also the greatest act of humility and submissiveness.  Some may wonder if those seeking to become humble must forever defer to the strongly held opinions and positions of others.  Certainly the Savior’s life evidences that true humility is anything but subservience, weakness, or servility. — Elder Marlin K. Jensen, “To Walk Humbly with Thy God,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 10

I resonate to the English author John Ruskin’s memorable statement that “the first test of a truly great man is his humility.”  He continued: “I do not mean, by humility, doubt of his own power. . . . [But really] great men . . . have a curious . . . feeling that . . . greatness is not in them, but through them. . . . And they see something Divine . . . in every other man . . , and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.” — Elder Marlin K. Jensen, “To Walk Humbly with Thy God,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 11

Humility is an attribute of godliness possessed by true Saints.  It is easy to understand why a proud man fails.  He is content to rely upon himself only.  This is evident in those who seek social position or who push others aside to gain position in fields of business, government, education, sports, or other endeavors.  Our genuine concern should be for the success of others.  The proud man shuts himself off from God, and when he does he no longer lives in the light. — President Howard W. Hunter, “The Pharisee and the Publican,” Ensign, May 1984, p. 66

The Lord has said that no one can assist with this work who is not humble and full of love.  But humility does not mean weakness.  It does not mean timidity; it does not mean fear.  A man can be humble and fearless.  A man can be humble and courageous.  Humility is the recognition of our dependence upon a higher power, a constant need for the Lord’s support in His work. . . .

To the humble the Lord has given this promise:

“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 12:17) — Ezra Taft Benson, “Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work,” Ensign, September 1990, p. 5

Humility is essential to the acquiring of spiritual knowledge.  To be humble is to be teachable.  Humility permits you to be tutored by the Spirit and to be taught from sources inspired by the Lord, such as the scriptures.  The seeds of personal growth and understanding germinate and flourish in the fertile soil of humility.  Their fruit is spiritual knowledge to guide you here and hereafter.

A proud individual cannot know the things of the Spirit. Paul taught this truth, saying:

“The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. . . .

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:11, 14). — Elder Richard G. Scott, “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, November 1993, p. 87

Humility is teachableness – an ability to realize that all virtues and abilities are not concentrated in one’s self. . . . Humility is never accusing nor contentious. . . . Humility is repentant and seeks not to justify its follies.  It is forgiving others in the realization that there may be errors of the same kind or worse chalked up against itself. . . . Humility makes no bid for popularity and notoriety; demands no honors. . . . It is not self-abasement – the hiding in the corner, the devaluation of everything one does or thinks or says, but it is the doing of one’s best in every case and leaving of one’s acts, expressions and accomplishments to largely speak for themselves. — President Spencer W. Kimball, BYU Speeches of the Year, January 16, 1963

Humility does not mean weakness.  It does not mean timidity.  It does not mean fear.  A man can be humble and fearless.  A man can be humble and courageous. — President Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents Seminar, June 1979

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less. — Anonymous

Pride is concerned with who is right; humility is concerned with what is right. — President Spencer W. Kimball

A good man said:  “I believe the test of a great man is humility.  I do not mean by humility the doubt in one’s own personal power; but really, truly great men have the curious feeling that greatness is not in them but through them and they see the divine in every other human soul and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.” — Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, Ensign, May 1992, p. 55

Humility is the beginning virtue of all exaltation. — President Spencer W. Kimball

Humility is to joyfully, voluntarily and quietly submit one’s whole life to God’s will, to finally use the gift of agency to give one’s life back to Him. — Virginia Pearce, 1994 BYU Women’s Conference

My children must see themselves as of infinite worth because they are, like every other person, a child of God.  But they can’t lift anyone else toward eternal life without humbling themselves beneath the person who needs the lift.  (Journal entry) — Elder Henry B. Eyring, Church News, April 15, 1995, p. 7

God will have a humble people.  Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.  Alma said, “Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.”

Let us choose to be humble.  We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are.

We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us.

We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service.

We can choose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others.

We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently.

We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God.

We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.

Let us choose to be humble.  We can do it.  I know we can. — President Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989

If the Lord was meek and lowly and humble, then to become humble one must do what He did in boldly denouncing evil, bravely advancing righteous works, courageously meeting every problem, becoming the master of himself and the situations about him and being near oblivious to personal credit. . . .

Humble and meek properly suggest virtues, not weaknesses.  They suggest a consistent mildness of temper and an absence of wrath and passion.  Humility suggests no affectation, no bombastic actions.  It is not turbid nor grandiloquent.  It is not servile submissiveness.  It is not cowed nor frightened.  No shadow or the shaking of a leaf terrorizes it.

How does one get humble?  To me, one must constantly be reminded of his dependence.  On whom dependent?  On the Lord.  How remind one’s self?  By real, constant, worshipful, grateful prayer.  (Spencer W. Kimball, “Humility,” BYU Speeches of the Year [16 Jan. 1963], pp. 2-3) Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 27

Jesus also exemplifies meekness and humility. Though ever supernal in His achievements, Christ always, always gave the glory to the Father whether in the first, second, or now in the third estate.  He was and is Lord of the universe, who under the direction of the Father created “worlds without number”  (Moses 1:33).  Yet, He was willingly known as  Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son.  The Lord of the Universe. He always knew who He was!  He meekly partook of history’s most bitter cup without becoming bitter.

Can we, in turn, partake of our tiny, bitter cups without becoming  bitter?  What a wonderful way for us to witness, especially to those we love the most!  Can we overcome our drives for status and preeminence or our mundane desires merely to be one up on other people? — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Women’s Conference 2002, May 3, 2002

In this discourse on humility we find one of the keys to Benjamin’s greatness. Humility is not a mental groveling about our worthlessness.  We are the children of God and the crown of his creations.  True humility is a recognition of our actual position in relationship to God.  If we truly sensed our total dependence upon God, as Benjamin did, it would profoundly affect our daily living.  It is when we forget our position in relationship to God that we begin to trust in our own wisdom, pursue our own course, abuse our rights, and ignore our blessings. Book of Mormon Student Manual, 1981, p. 155

Many of us live or work in an environment where humility is often misunderstood and considered a weakness.  Not many corporations or institutions include humility as a value statement or a desired characteristic of their management.  Yet as we learn about the workings of God, the power of a humble and submissive spirit becomes apparent.  In the kingdom of God, greatness begins with humility and submissiveness. These companion virtues are the first critical steps to opening the doors to the blessings of God and the power of the priesthood.  It matters not who we are or how lofty our credentials appear.  Humility and submissiveness to the Lord, coupled with a grateful heart, are our strength and our hope. — Elder Richard C. Edgely, General Conference, 5 October 2003

Now, humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit.  It seems to me that it is rather a right and proper estimate of what one is in the sight of God.  When we have that estimate of ourselves, we become as children, and we realize that he controls the universe.  We learn then, to appreciate even the very air that we breathe, and our ability to go and come and to see and to do, and to accept and to reject.  But until he can submit himself to this status, man is an “enemy to God.”

True humility, in my opinion, implies acknowledgment, thanksgiving, prayerfulness, all those virtues which become a Latter-day Saint.  It is becoming to an individual no matter what his status in life, to acknowledge the Lord for his goodness and for his mercy, to be humble and prayerful and submissive to his will.  True humility is uplifting, ennobling. –– Elder ElRay L. Christiansen, Conference Report, April 1953

“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]

There are interesting things about that scripture, one is that the Lord gives us weaknesses – not sin, but weaknesses – so that we may be humble.  Think  about that for a moment.  If we were perfect in every respect, it would be hard to be humble.  Even in specific things, humility comes harder to those who are very strong in one area or another. The woman or man who is remarkably beautiful or handsome can easily become proud of her or his appearance.  A brilliant scholar may look down in condescension on those less intellectually blessed.  Our weaknesses help us to be humble. — Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Strong in the Lord, and in the Power of His Might,” March 3, 2002

Humility is essential to the acquiring of spiritual knowledge.  To be humble is to be teachable.  Humility permits you to be tutored by the Spirit and to be taught from sources inspired by the Lord, such as the scriptures.  The seeds of personal growth and understanding germinate and flourish in the fertile soil of humility.  Their fruit is spiritual knowledge to guide you here and hereafter. — Elder Richard G. Scott, “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, November 1993, p. 87

The antidote for pride is humility; meekness; submissiveness. . . . Let us choose to be humble.  We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service. . . . We can chose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives. — President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1989, pp. 6-7

Many Latter-day Saints know the Church is true but have unhealthy feelings about their own inadequacies, real or imagined. The scriptures inform us that we all have weaknesses and that there is a place for them in our spiritual progress:  “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).

Too often we wallow in our weaknesses so much that we do not allow “weak things” to “become strong.”  Our condition is frequently misdiagnosed as humility, when in reality it is a lack of confidence.

What is the difference between the two?

To be humble is to recognize our utter dependence upon the Lord.  We are conscious of our strengths, but we do not exalt ourselves and become prideful, for we know that all good things ultimately come from God.  We are conscious of our weaknesses, but we know the Lord can use those very weaknesses to bless our lives and that through Him, as we learn from the book of Ether, our weaknesses can become strengths. 

To lack confidence is to have feelings of low self-worth.  We are preoccupied with our weaknesses, and we lack faith in the Lord’s ability to use those weaknesses for our good.  We do not understand our inestimable worth in the eyes of God, nor do we appreciate our divine potential.  Ironically, both pride and a lack of self-confidence cause us to focus excessively on ourselves and to deny the power of God in our lives. — Glenn L. Pace, “Confidence and Self-Worth,” Ensign, January 2005, pp. 32-35

The way of the gospel is a simple way.  Some of the requirements may appear to you as elementary and unnecessary.  Do not spurn them.  Humble yourselves and walk in obedience. I promise that the results that follow will be marvelous to behold and satisfying to experience. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, November 1976, p. 96

Pride is the switch that turns off priesthood power.  Humility is a switch that turns it on . . . . Some suppose that humility is about beating ourselves up.  Humility does not mean convincing ourselves that we are worthless, meaningless, or of little value.  Nor does it mean denying or withholding the talents God has given us.  We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves.  It comes as we go about our work with an attitude of serving God and our fellowman. — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2010 General Conference

Humility is the essence of repentance.  Humility is selfless, not selfish.  It doesn’t demand its own way or speak with moral superiority.  Instead, humility answers softly and listens kindly for understanding, not vindication.  Humility recognizes that no one can change someone else, but with faith, effort, and the help of God, we can undergo our own mighty change of heart.  (See Alma 5:11-12, 26-31.)  Experiencing the mighty change of heart causes us to treat others, especially our spouses, with meekness.  (See Moroni 7:43-48; 8:25-26.)  Humility means that both husbands and wives seek to bless, help, and lift each other, putting the other first in every decision. Watch and learn: repentance and humility build happy marriages. — Elder L. Whitney Clayton, “Marriage: Watch and Learn,” Ensign, May 2013, p.84