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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why the Word "Kintsukuroi" Means So Much To You

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

But it's something more than that. An important something.

When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay.  The bowl is formed to the potter's liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees.  Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art.

Now, let's say the bowl broke.  Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken?  Of course not!  We (especially in the Western world) demote and dishonor it, throwing it out in the trash.

But others would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation.

The Origin of the Repaired-Ceramics Artform 


We'll have to go back to mid-1500 Japan for that.  The story is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day during a gathering, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces.  Everyone paused, fearing for the young man as the military leader was known to possess a quick,  harsh temper.  Then one of the guests improvised a comic poem about the incident, provoking laughter all around and restoring the leader to good spirits.

This story goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights."  The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken.  The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"

From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished for generations.  In Japan, cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold.  The Japanese believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful (see here for more detail).

"Bruised, Broken, Torn for us..."


Almost 2,000 years ago, someone once was bruised, broken and torn...for you.  Shortly afterwards, His body was cast aside.  Even though He soon resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars -- for you -- remain.

It's because of Him -- Jesus Christ -- that we experience new vitality, new resilience and new life at greater heights.

Human Kintsukuroi


I have many friends who have been literally beaten, broken, torn up and kicked to the curb like trash.  Some, for years.

Yet they get up again, stand tall, and praise His name for His wonderful example of overcoming all things.

They have been healed with gold (the metal of the Celestial realms; D&C 137) and leave me with profound appreciation for their example, too.

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy).

It's the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

It's also a reminder that all those cracks, lines, chips and breaks in your life are what makes you beautiful and far more valuable to your Creator...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

16. Spiritual Land Mine #4: Building a Second Residence in Babylon

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 16th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

How serious you are about calling upon the Lord’s name (D&C 93:1)? If so, then I invite you to take a pop quiz.

Ready?  Set?  Go!

Your Pop Quiz About Your Seriousness on Calling on the Lord


Set of questions #1: Do you trust in the arm of flesh?  Do you adulate other mortals?  Do you accept (or extol those who accept) praise without redirecting it to God? 

Set of questions #2: If the Savior were to visit your home today (ignoring any messes), what would He say about the value of your home electronics, your jewelry, your clothes, your cars, your home(s)?  What about those “big kid” or family toys of yours?  How would you feel while showing him these “things?” Would He leave your property convinced of your humility?

Set of questions #3: How about the organizations that you are a member of, or promote? How about its products -- can you honestly say that they are not grossly overpriced? Do its corporate executives and top associates lead lavish lifestyles (and entice you with prospects of the same)?  Do those same corporate executives hold conventions and conferences, and distribute marketing materials, that link words like “elevate” and “inspire” with making more money?

OK, Pop Quiz is Over


So, how did you do?

If you got a less-than stellar score, may I ask: If you’re here to prove yourself to God, then what are you proving to Him?
“Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” (Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”)
True, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25), but other scriptures repeatedly tell us that “the natural man clearly prefers perishable pleasure” (Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light, BYU Devotional, March 26, 1989).
“Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to the place [of Babylon]. Even if we leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there...or we commute on weekends.” (Maxwell, ibid).
(Or, as Lot’s wife, we move our bodies in the direction of safety, but our hearts and minds are actually tied to that which condemns us).

As President Marion G. Romney described it, 
“Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.” (“The Price of Peace,” Brigham Young University Devotional, March 1, 1955, p. 7)
The Savior put it more eloquently:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24; 3 Nephi 13:24).
Hence, you and the Lord may be worlds apart: you and Babylon (and possibly your excuses why Babylon should have a toehold in your life), vs. the Lord (and His true disciples) who are “not of the world” (John 17:16).

Babylon Does Not Give Exit Permits Gladly

“Babylon is also a noisy, distracting place.  No wonder, therefore, some who live therein are called many times, and would not hear.  No wonder Jesus’ marvelous invitation to leave Babylon’s slums and join him in the stunning spiritual highlands goes largely unheeded.” (Maxwell, ibid)
Do not believe that you can continue your luxurious, materialistic lifestyle and hope to hear His voice, let alone effectively call upon Him with an expectation of being heard.  As stated in my previous post, our God is a jealous God, and if you are slow to hear His importunings to join Him, He will likewise be slow to hear your cries -- even in times of trial, tribulation and trouble (Mosiah 11:24; 21:15).

Take it from me: There are a few alive today who are amazed at how soon “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (D&C 88:91) immediately prior to His Second Coming.

Why will all people fear? Because they have procrastinated the day of their repentance, even until death (Alma 34:35).

Yet the Lord’s "...disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved..." (D&C 45:32; Psalms 16:8, 55:22, 62:2,6) because they have faith in Jesus Christ, have heeded His words and therefore know that He, too, will hear their prayers.

Indeed, real eternal glory requires real humility.

An Invitation


No matter how much you blew the above virtual exam, despite all your failure and flaws, relapses and rejections of Him, please know that a redeeming Jesus waits with open arms to receive you. 

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.

Therefore, I invite you to pass this virtual quiz by not only turning your back, but also running away from the philosophy of “...eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” (2 Nephi 28:7).

Ask God for opportunities to praise Him.  He will deliver...in spades.  Put Him to the test.

Stop confusing wants and needs.  Avoid the temptation to say “There, there, little luxury, don’t you cry. You’ll be a necessity by and by.”  Alter your lifestyle - today.  Sell those needless things “where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal” (3 Nephi 13:19) so that you can return to this virtual quiz and, perhaps, feel more confident that the Lord would find your lifestyle less like a cottage in Babylon and more like an appendage of the Temple.

Re-evaluate your allegiances. As one inspired blogger stated, “We've got to stop pointing our fingers at other people's materialism and recognize our own.”  Seriously question if "elevation" and "inspiration" are truly tied to money (because you can buy anything in this world with...what?).  Also seriously consider the fairness of selling products that are grossly overpriced. Avoid being accused someday as one who empowered someone else’s Babylonian lifestyle.

Instead, truly elevate yourself in the scriptures and in meditation (“one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord" -- Pres. David O. McKay). In return, you’ll not only find yourself far more elevated and inspired than you supposed possible, but also brought closer to the veil which separates you from God -- an accomplishment anathema to Babylon. 

Your spiritual task is to make God’s work your own, and not the other way around.

I promise you that as you do so, you will have taken a huge step in consecrating yourself to Him.  And you will be more confident in calling upon the Lord, because you will more easily hear His voice in your heart and mind.

Oh it is wonderful...wonderful to me.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

15. Spiritual Land Mine #3b: The REAL Heroes in Your Midst

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 15th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, 32:16, 32:21; Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 19:10, 19:14; Ezekiel 8:3, 36:5-6, 39:25; Nahum 1:2).  He is saddened when we praise, honor and glorify his creations, not the Creator:
"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood" (Isaiah 10:15)
Conversely, He delights in those who delight in Him, praise His name and add glory to Him (Jeremiah 9:24; D&C 41:1, 76:5).  Indeed, It's been my experience that my ability to enjoy a meaningful relationship with Him is enhanced when I praise Him, and not others.

So, in my last post, we discussed our predilection to praise -- or to be praised by -- other mortals.  We do it by [1] seeking praise and the honors of men, [2] not openly seeking praise, but never turning it down when it's given, and [3] never redirecting that praise to the Father.  Those who consistently display such behaviors can be found in all walks of life -- even in places where you’d least expect them.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a different kind of personality -- those who typically display none of these behaviors. They shun praise and are quick to deflect it to God when they do receive it.

Interestingly, these “praise shunning” people often differ from the “praise embracing” people in another way: They have lived through some truly hellish experiences, and afterwards, they can be found quietly praising God.  And in most cases, you'd never know what they've gone through.

Rocky Balboa, Profound Philosopher
.

"Rocky Balboa" was the last of the Rocky series (well...so far; I don't discount the possibility there could be a future one where he battles Clubber Lang in a nursing home).  In it, Rocky is coaxed from retirement into an exhibition match against the heavyweight champ, Mason 'The Line' Dixon.  Before the match, Rocky has a little chit chat with his son, who is floundering in life. Rocky says:
"Let me tell you something you already know:
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.  You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life.
It ain’t about how hard you can hit -- it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done!
Now, if you know what you're worth, then go and get what you're worth, but you have to be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t who you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t YOU.  You're better than that."
I repeat: "It ain’t about how hard you can hit -- it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward."

The Heroes Who Really Aren't


I recently noticed that an anonymous LDS bookstore carries quite a few biographies.  Practically all of these mortal biographical subjects (who have been called a "hero" at some point or another) had impressive titles and/or sports stats, and brought about good works which were highly touted...chapter after chapter.

Yet, to a one, these people lacked an essential element most (fictitious and real) heroes exemplify: They never really were dealt some serious hits in their lives.  Accomplishments?  Ohhhh yes, they had oodles of those.  But true, devastatingly horrible, nightmarish events that impacted them to the very core?  Nope, not a one.  They either didn't experience such an event[s] or didn't share that (potentially inspiring) portion of their biography.

The Real Heroes


I think the time has come for us to "get real" and reevaluate who we consider to be true heroes.  In my opinion, heroism isn't about titles or biographies or awards or number of wins or anything even close to any of that "stuff."  Because that's all it is -- stuff!  Rocky was right: it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.

Try comparing those world-defined "heroes" with these friends of mine:
  • The woman who grew up so abused (in ways too horrific to mention), that she should have died long ago.  Yet she not only lives, but shines with a spiritual radiance that your soul can perceive it, even from a distance.
  • Another woman was raped in college one night after Family Home Evening by one of her FHE brothers.  After meeting with a college bishop, she was not consoled, but instead, instructed on the proper repentance steps she needed to take.  She was also denied the ability to take the sacrament for a year after her rape.  Today, she's still getting arrows slung at her...for showing unwavering, unashamed compassion to those who are also shunned.
  • One good (anonymous) man has been repeatedly, viciously, publicly, unjustly ridiculed, mocked, judged and condemned for his spiritual experiences, yet leads a very quiet, unassuming life dedicated to helping those in pain.
  • A man who followed his mother's example and led a drug-induced lifestyle as a teenager, and because of it, now suffers from a rare, highly debilitating form of manic depression.  Yet today, he spends his life trying to edify others and bring them to the feet of the Master.
  • Another woman told never to participate in church meetings because "she knows the scriptures too well."
  • A husband and wife who used to be drug dealers, but converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Shortly after their conversion, they were shunned by ward members.  Still, they would give their last dollar to someone in need, without hesitation or reservation.
  • A woman was raped repeatedly as a teenager by her stepfather.  Today, she is raising her sons in the gospel with so much enthusiasm, that they are truly modern-day stripling warriors.
  • Another woman who was violently beaten and raped by her (now ex-) husband, and now wonders each day if he will come to do more harm to her and her child.  She, too, is raising her son as a modern-day stripling warrior.

In all the church-based biographies I read the other day, not one of them even came close to describing the absolute hell that these real people went through (who came out the other side of the event[s] praising God and leading quiet, humble, unassuming lives).

Common Denominators


I've found that these friends of mine have some common denominators which have both inspired and humbled me:

Hold the praise: They don't seek praise, honors or awards.  They don't want them - at all.  In fact, they tend to shun spotlights and stages.  Any praise which does come their way is not met with silence or nice words, but instead, immediate, natural deflection to Heavenly Father.  They simply want you to honor and know He who has sustained them through all their years, and perhaps decades, of hell.

When they look hell in the eyes, hell blinks: They have walked (most often, on several occasions) the fiery hot coals of trial, tribulation and (in some cases) torture.  These experiences have been balanced with a quiet, sweet, serene, personal knowledge of (not belief in) the Savior, who has personally comforted them in a way that no mortal ever could.  They sometimes exhibit a soft-spoken, meek demeanor and voice.  But don't let their softness fool you; they also have a toughness, a rigidity, that not even the powers of hell can bend or break.

Genuineness:  They don't talk about humility.  They don't have a feigned, fakey humility. They ARE humble. They commonly don't have the biggest homes, the nicest cars, the fanciest clothes, the highest titles or offices.  They have little or no jewelry, motorcycles, ATVs or motor homes.  They often struggle to make ends meet.  Yet even in their less-than-prosperous circumstances, they share what little currency and coins they have on hand with a beggar.  They're prone to say, ”Hey, its not my money, its God's.  He tells me how to spend it.”  When they witness any degree of suffering, they expend a tremendous amount of compassion and sensitivity.

They're not of this world: They are commonly despised by others -- even church leaders/members and their extended families.  Those who are acquainted with them often falsely accuse them of sin, call them names behind their backs and look for ways not to include them in...well, anything - even family and church activities.  Those who don't know them are even more harsh, spewing judgment upon them in self-righteous superiority.  Yet these victims return the ugliness with forgiveness and prayers on their tormentor's behalf.

They have the right perspective: They know they must "go the distance" and "be strong," facing the harms of the world while traveling "down an unknown road."   They know it might take a lifetime, but they won't accept defeat.  Despite life's uphill slopes, they don't give up hope -- especially of one thing: a hero's welcome in their Heavenly Father's loving arms.

Perfection: Are they perfect in these behaviors?  No.  They struggle with consistency, and have as many imperfections as anybody else.  They are keenly aware of their inadequacies, and it bothers them to the core that they aren't more Christlike.

The Lord's Definition of a True Hero


It's an eternal principle (and the central theme of the Book of Isaiah): He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. I think Rabbi Nachman put it best:
“Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent:
When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt.” (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, “Restore My Soul” [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17).
The ultimate exemplar of this is Jesus Christ, who descended below all things.  He was born in the lowliest of circumstances.  He went among the sinners, was despised, betrayed and ultimately killed.  "He comprehended all things" by suffering every individual act of frustration, sadness and pain ever experienced in the history of earth so He could know how to help us rise above our daily difficulties (D&C 88:6; see also D&C 122:8).

In so doing, a magnificent outcome emerged: he ascended above all things...to the right hand of the Father.
"Therefore, let us not resent those tutoring experiences which can develop our own empathy further (see Alma 7:11-12).  So being admitted fully to 'the fellowship of his sufferings' requires the full dues of discipleship (Philip. 3:10; see also 1 Cor. 1:9)." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope", April 2001 General Conference)
So it is with us.

True, we don’t seek out tests, trials and tribulations.  Life provides us with just the right amount for our needs.

But those who are dealt the severest tests, trials and tribulations -- yet overcome them with their faith intact, praising God and seeking His will -- qualify them as "more than conquerors" with "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" with He who overcame all:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"These things remain to overcome through patience, that such may receive a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, otherwise, a greater condemnation. Amen." (D&C 63:66)
I love the words of Paul:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:35,37; emphasis mine)

An Invitation


Man has always defined praiseworthiness by those who get the most awards, the most honors, the most touchdowns/rebounds/home runs, give the most philanthropic donations or get a building named after them.  We count these people as our examples.

But somewhere along the way, we've lost sight of who the true heroes are.

Tonight, before you go to bed, I'd like to invite you to ponder true heroes.  Then thank Heavenly Father for bringing them -- the people who really take some (spiritual) body blows in life, yet keep moving forward -- into your life.

Then, from that moment on, commit to always keep in mind who true heroes praise and glorify: God.

As you do that, in that moment where mortality meets eternity, where there are no cheering fans nor autographs, your light -- and the light of that hero -- will burn even brighter before He who is the source of all light.

Monday, December 2, 2013

14. Spiritual Land Mine #3: Encouraging or Accepting Adulation

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 14th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

About two years ago, I was traveling down one of Utah's interstate highways when I recognized a very interesting trend:

About every sixth billboard praised a particular BYU basketball player.

Because I frequently needed to travel this stretch of highway, I passed by these billboards over...and over...and over again (I think the Latin term is "Ad Nauseum").

The billboards (kind of) worked.  I researched this player, and discovered he had worked extremely hard and clearly had a lot of talent.  He even signed -- and publicized -- a self-contract to do what?  Draw closer -- and bring souls -- unto Christ?  Do proxy ordinances for his dead ancestors?  Support and do missionary work?  No.  It was to play in the NBA.

Bookstores which specifically catered to LDS customers converted this basketball player's fame into five star-rated hardcover books, paperback books, e-books, DVDs, documentaries, LDS magazine covers and posters.  Sweatshirts, jerseys, t-shirts, book chapters, hats, stickers, custom iPhone cases, endorsement deals, autographed basketballs and pictures, trading cards (using the term "immaculate" in their descriptions) and more followed.  I highly doubt these efforts (in general) would have proceeded without this player's permission or foreknowledge.

All these "things" featuring a man who describes himself -- and wants us to consider him -- as "just a normal guy."

Despite the aforementioned basketball player's "good works" (and I admit, his stats are impressive), there are other good works which motivate many to praise others...

...for example, doing the works of righteousness.

The True Definition of Alms You've Probably Never Heard


In Matthew 6:1-8, the Savior gave true workers of righteousness a terrific strategy: "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven."

The word alms is mentioned in three of the Standard Works (D&C 88:2; 112:1; 3 Ne. 13:1-4; Matt. 6:1-4).  The giving of alms is most often associated with money, such as an offering or donation to the poor.  However, the Greek word for "alms" means something more universal: righteousness or acts of religious devotion (see the footnote for Matthew 6:1b).

Christ's injunction is unmistakable; our alms (any act of religious devotion, including fasting or prayer) should be in private, not shown off in pious exhibitionism.  Our focus can be on God or mammon, but not both.  We lay up treasures on earth or in heaven, but not both:
"Notice how often the word reward is repeated in [3 Nephi] chapter 13. Verse 1: If you give your alms before men, you'll have your reward here, but don't expect any reward there. No reward of your Father in Heaven. Next verse: "Verily I say unto you, they have their reward." He doesn't resent their having it. If you want rewards for being famous-if you want to become renowned in Hollywood or something like that-you're welcome to it. But that's all you're going to get; you're not going to get anything further out of it." (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988-1990, p. 97)
In other words, true greatness belongs to humble people.

So, as a people, how are we doing (in terms of our humility)?  Well, if the Lord's observations in Doctrine and Covenants are still applicable (which I think they are), we're not doing too well:
"The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which speaks of people in the last days, gives a description that seems to include those who serve for hope of earthly reward of one sort or another: 'They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.' (D&C 1:16)" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Why Do We Serve?" Ensign, November 1984
"In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had — in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people — a condition most repugnant to the Lord."  (Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, "The False Gods We Worship", Ensign, June 1976)

Latter-day Almsgivers, Their Publicity and Praise


"It seems as though only an exceptional few put their hands to the plow and move forward without reaching back to grab a reward for efforts expended (Luke 9:62)." (Elder Carlos E. Asay, "The Seven M's of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary," Deseret Book, 2011).

Those who seek honor and gain for themselves in doing the Lord's work are guilty of what the scriptures call priestcrafts.  They "preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." (2 Ne. 26:29; emphasis mine)  These efforts are often preceded by the "sound [of] a trumpet" before them (Matthew 6:2; 3 Nephi 13:2) -- which I suppose in today's world could include a pretty well-orchestrated PR effort like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail pieces, e-mail and websites.

In referring to priestcraft, Elder Oaks continues:

"Unfortunately, not all who accomplish works under that heading ["seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion" -- D&C 6:6] are really intending to build up Zion or strengthen the faith of the people of God. Other motives can be at work."

"Some may serve for hope of earthly reward. Such a man or woman might serve in Church positions or in private acts of mercy in an effort to achieve prominence or cultivate contacts that would increase income or aid in acquiring wealth. Others might serve in order to obtain worldly honors, prominence, or power." (ibid)  

Does this mean that there is a danger of priestcraft within Christ's church?  Absolutely.  Here are two examples:

  • Thomas B. Marsh, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: On July 23, 1837, the Lord gave a revelation to Thomas B. Marsh (who was at this time President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) via the Prophet Joseph Smith.  In it, the Lord said that Marsh's alms had "come up as a memorial before me" [D&C 112:1].  Marsh's deeds at the time included prayers of unity among the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, over which he presided.  Yet later in this revelation, the Lord repeatedly warned Marsh to check his motives and stay humble:
3 "Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted..."
10 "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers."
15 "Exalt not yourselves..."
  • Martin Harris: 16 months after being baptized and two months after he was made a High Priest, the Lord (through the Prophet) told Martin Harris that he needed to repent, "for he seeketh the praise of the world."  (D&C 58:35,39)
If we are not careful, we, too, may be turned by the praise of the world and lose not a manuscript, but our humility and perspective.

Question: How did the Savior consider those who publicized their good works, or permitted them to be publicized?

How To Spot Adulation-Seekers (and Prevent Giving Them What They Want)


Elder Oaks outlined some things we can be aware of in preventing ourselves from engaging in -- or enabling -- priestcraft:

"Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest.
A gospel teacher does not preach 'to become popular' (Alma 1:3) or 'for the sake of riches and honor' (Alma 1:16).
He or she follows the marvelous Book of Mormon example in which 'the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner' (Alma 1:26). Both will always look to the Master." (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Gospel Teaching," Ensign, October 1999 General Conference)

Here are some more factors to consider:
"I have many times turned aside from the company of those who were highly esteemed in the world, and sought the society of the poor and humble, those who loved the ways of the Lord better than the praise of the world." (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 17-18). 
"Those who choose not to follow Him are sometimes quick to say 'Follow me'; they enjoy being a light, and the accompanying recognition and reward are not unpleasant." (Neal A. Maxwell, "Plain and Precious Things," p. 87) 
"When we seek to serve others, we are motivated not by selfishness but by charity. This is the way Jesus Christ lived His life and the way a holder of the priesthood must live his. The Savior did not care for the honors of men." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Lift Where You Stand," October 2008 General Conference
"It is never about me and it is never about you. In fact, anything you or I do as an instructor that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self — in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor — is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost." (Elder David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning By Faith," Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion, February 3, 2006)
Additionally, those who receive praise or adoration should be quick to redirect that praise to the Father (in other words, all credit belongs to the Giver of Gifts, not the receiver):
"To come to earth with such a responsibility, to stand in place of Elohim - speaking as He would speak, judging and serving, loving and warning, forbearing and forgiving as He would do - this is a duty of such staggering proportions that you and I cannot comprehend such a thing. But in the loyalty and determination that would be characteristic of a divine child, Jesus could comprehend it and He did it. Then, when the praise and honor began to come, He humbly directed all adulation to the Father.
'The Father … doeth the works,' He said in earnest. 'The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever [the Father] doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.' [John 14:10; John 5:19] On another occasion He said: 'I speak that which I have seen with my Father.' 'I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me.' 'I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.' [John 8:38, 28; John 6:38]" (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Grandeur of God," October 2003 General Conference
"We must be meek even in our minor developmental successes. A difficult situation may have actually been resolved by the grace of God 'after all we can do.' To recognize this fact inwardly is good, but to confess it openly is even better.    
After His moment of great personal triumph and of supernal service, when in supreme success Jesus had "descended below all things" and "below them all," in order to comprehend all things (D&C 88:6; 122:8), when He had "trodden the winepress alone" (D&C 76:107), He nevertheless said, "Glory be to the Father" (D&C 19:19). He claimed no glory for Himself.    
By our giving the honor, praise, and glory to God, we are actually being intellectually honest; unprofitable servants had best not claim too much credit. Similarly, giving deserved credit to others not only enhances our graciousness but it also can help us to steer the narrow channel between the dangerous rocks of self-adulation and destructive self-criticism." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Men and Women of Christ," p. 29; emphasis mine)

In Summary


We bring onto ourselves a certain amount of condemnation whenever we praise, promote, highly esteem or elevate another OR when we choose to follow someone who shows no interest in deflecting such adulation.
"Most of us do not engage in priestcraft, which Nephi defined as the practice of setting ourselves up for a light to get gain and praise of the world. But some of our attitudes and behaviors may fall dangerously close to the practice of priestcraft, for priestcraft is surprisingly easy to embrace." (Elder John K. Carmack, "The Zeezrom Syndrome", A Bright Ray of Hope: The Perpetual Education Fund).
While we can't know the motives behind others' actions, and although we may not be embracing priestcraft, we can certainly avoid it -- or avoid those engaged in it -- by taking the apostolic statements (above) seriously.  Using their words (not mine) as a guide, and hearkening to the Holy Ghost as a testifier, we may recognize active priestcraft when a teacher or leader engages in any of these actions:
  1. Directly or indirectly trumpets their good works.
  2. Seeks not the welfare of Zion, but instead, preaches "to become popular" or "for the sake of riches and honor."
  3. Is sometimes quick to say "Follow me."
  4. Accepts (or allows) "recognition and rewards," praise or adulation, without redirecting the praise to whom it should rightfully go: the Father.
  5. They become highly esteemed in the world while not being "poor and humble."
  6. Their pride is fueled and ego enlarged to where they consider himself/herself (or allow others to consider them) as better (even more Christlike) than the hearer or learner.
  7. The light of "self-promotion or self-interest" -- in the messages they present, in the methods they use, or in their personal demeanor -- obscures others' view of the Master. 
"Praise of world a bad sign. It is no good sign for us to be beloved by the world, and to be spoken kindly of by the world, however pleasant it may be to us, and however much we may shrink from the opposite condition of affairs, and dread its manifestation, and wish that it could be otherwise - and it is natural to human nature to shrink from these trials - nevertheless, it is one of the worst signs for us as a people to be spoken well of by the world, and to be free from threatenings, from opposition and from hatred. It is not the true condition for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be in, to be petted by the world, to be fostered by the world, to be spoken well of by the world, to be welcomed by the world, to have favor showered upon it by the world, because we ought not to be of the world, God having chosen us out of the world." (George Q. Cannon, "Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon," Jerreld L. Newquist, ed, p.305; JD 24:360)

"look to God...and live." (Alma 37:47)