One of the remarkable things that Ezra Taft Benson taught in his famous April 1989 talk “Beware of Pride” was about pride looking up:
Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See 2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up.
He was speaking at the time about being proud about being uneducated – despising people just because of their education – or being proud about being poor – despising others just for their wealth. This sort of pride has, tragically, integrated itself into our very notion of spirituality. The pharisees in the scriptures are portrayed as being very obedient despite Christ’s plain words to the contrary, and consequently, in order to not be a pharisee, many have taken on some level of “pride looking up” with regard to keeping the commandments and studying the scriptures.
We seem to have taken on a measure of pride in our imperfections.
I recently quoted from Moroni 7.
Moroni 7:30 For behold, they [the angels] are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
I am quite sure that in older days that to be of “strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness” would have been something many, many people sought for.
Now, it is common to treat such a thing as unattainable, and even undesirable.
These days many members, through a horrible misunderstanding of the atonement, actually feel that to strive to reach such a point is somehow denying the atonement itself. To seek to be like God has turned into challenging God.
The Lord says he gives us weakness that we may be humble. This attitude reverses weakness into a source of pride. It holds animosity toward those endorsing following the Savior and striving to obey all the commandments, thereby overcoming our weaknesses.
All these attitudes are just a form of pride looking up. In reality this verse should be a pride antidote. I can read it and know that I have not reached the point that I am of “strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness”. It is good to know, with such perfect finality, the answer to such a question. It opens the door to repentance. But it isn’t meant to be gratifying to realize that.
Nothing in the atonement is meant to limit our desires to be good.
My understanding of the gospel is that all of us should be seeking to be of “strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness”, and that nobody that wants to some day live in the presence of the Father and the Son should be surprised if there are smaller spiritual experiences between here and something that grand.