Today’s Relief Society lesson was taken from Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ April 2009 General Conference address entitled “Unselfish Service,” in which he quotes C.S. Lewis. As mentioned in my first post, I am impressed with the number of Church leaders who quote Lewis. I believe it demonstrates the kinship between Lewis’ Christian beliefs and Mormon doctrine. Lewis also had a talent for expressing truth in simple language that is easily understood.
Just for fun, I checked out other Lewis quotes mentioned in the Ensign and New Era. There were so many that I restricted my search to quotes from one book, Mere Christianity. Of the 36 listings, here are my top 10 favorites.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Unselfish Service,” Ensign, May 2009: A selfish person is more interested in pleasing man—especially himself—than in pleasing God. He looks only to his own needs and desires. He walks ‘in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world’ (D&C 1:16). …Those who are caught up in trying to save their lives by seeking the praise of the world are actually rejecting the Savior’s teaching that the only way to save our eternal life is to love one another and lose our lives in service.
C.S. Lewis explained this teaching of the Savior: ‘The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. … What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come … the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989: The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
Pres. James E. Faust, Councilor in the First Presidency, “The Forces That Will Save Us,” Ensign, January 2007: Agency—Satan does, however, perform an important negative function. In the book of 2 Nephi we are told, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” Indeed, Peter warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
C. S. Lewis, a Christian author, gave us a keen insight into devilish tactics. In a fictional letter, the master devil, Screwtape, instructs the apprentice devil Wormwood, who is in training to become a more experienced devil: ‘“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. … It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. … Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Elder Dale E. Miller of the Seventy, “Bringing Peace and Healing to Your Soul,” Ensign, November 2004: C. S. Lewis put it this way: “[God] has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man [or woman] in the world.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, 1997: C. S. Lewis has said that only those who resist temptation really understand the power of temptation: “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. … You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.” Because Jesus resisted it perfectly, He understood temptation perfectly; hence He can help us. The fact that He was dismissive of temptation and gave it “no heed” reveals His marvelous character, which we are to emulate.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “True or False,” New Era, 1995: I feel about this as C. S. Lewis once said about the divinity of Christ: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: [that is,] ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life,” Ensign, April 1995: C. S. Lewis, who had such unusual insight into “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13), had this to say about what we can do once we get the perspective of immortality clearly in our minds: “The command be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He [Christ] is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”
Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Seventy, “Greed, Selfishness and Overindulgence,” Ensign, May 1999: In addition to paying an honest tithing, we should be generous in assisting the poor. How much should we give? I appreciate the thought of C. S. Lewis on this subject. He said: “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. … If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, … they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Value of Home Life,” Ensign, 1972: C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, describes our relationship with God in a special way that can help us to appreciate how submitting ourselves to his will is the only way that spiritual growth can occur: “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”
Elder Robert L. Backman of the Seventy, “Jesus the Christ,” Ensign, November 1991: What Christ desires from each of us is surrender, complete and total—a voluntary gift of trust, faith, and love. C. S. Lewis captured the spirit of this surrender: “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. … Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’”